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Posts Tagged ‘politics’

In a corporate setting, it’s rare to find someone who is good at curriculum design, writing training and presenting training in a classroom.  They are very different skill sets that take a long time to get really good at.  As a result, most organizations hire different individuals to fill these roles.  Traditionally teachers have done all these roles and I would suspect, some are better and some of these than others.  It also leads to making every classroom different.  And based on normal statistical distribution, some are excellent, some are mediocre and some are really bad.  Therefore, I think it only makes sense to reexamine what teachers do to see if the quality can be more consistent and that teachers focus their time on what they do best or that we find teachers to fill much more defined roles.

Since my degree was in teaching history, I’ll use it as an example.  However, what I purpose should work for anything.  First, there is a lot of history that is simply about telling the story.  While there is a lot of disagreement about interpreting the story, that basics of what happened are fairly standard.  So what’s the best way to tell the story about the War of 1812.  I think the worst way would be a lecture.  For one reason, once you’ve heard it, it’s gone.  And second, half the class is already nodding off.  While there may be great lectureres, the vast majority of history teachers probably don’t hit that standard. 

Last week I saw a history channel special on the War of 1812.  Because of the reenactments and the high production values, I really learned a lot that I had never heard before.  While these are expensive to produce, if the cost is divided among 150,000 classrooms each year, year after year, it’s probably not.  The idea of giving the same content in a high quality is attractive to me.  Maybe if you identified the best lecturer or the top 10 and they gave all the lectures via web conference that might work as well.

No the teachers role is to discuss how to intepret are to apply the lessons of the events.   However, every teacher doesn’t need to figure out how to do this.  This can be standardized using the best practices and creative input of the best of the best.  A teacher can focus on practicing and getting really good at being a discussion leader and coordinating the learning activities recommended.  If this is structured well, class should seem more similar than different.  I shouldn’t make that much difference which school you were in.

I know your saying, but what about the differences in students.  While some students do need more help that others, they all need to learn the same things.  I think it’s important to not affect those who are doing just fine by those who aren’t.  Other teachers could specialize in helping those who need more.  Some may simply need to repeat things two or three times.  Trying to do everything for everyone in each classroom is a losing proposition. 

Finally, let’s talk testing.  For history at least, I’m in favor of eliminating all multiple choice, fill in the blanks, matching and true/false tests.  While  they are easy to score and compare, they really don’t test deep understanding and the ability to apply what’s learned.  Tests should all be writing and speaking on a topic.  In fact, I don’t like to do these as a surprise.  I think students can be told on day one what they will need to write and speak about so they can prepare along the way.

If these same type of testing is done year after year, students ability to write and speak about history will greatly improve and that’s really the point of teaching history.  This does put the pressure on other classwork to teach writing and speaking but I’d say that was a good thing.  Learning how to write well takes a lot of practice and it’s not just English classes.  Think about how many pages a student should write in K-12 to become a good writer.  If everyone wrote a page a day, that would be about 2,400 pages.  Maybe about 500 presentations.  I think that might do it.

Bottom line until we challenge the idea of teachers doing traditional things in traditional classrooms we will always have the good, the bad and the ugly of education.

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The model of a teacher in a classroom repeated 150,000 times is so highly variable that it’s virtually impossible to deliver consistent, high level education.  Imagine going to 150,000 factories that make something like beer.  You’d get some great beer, some mediocre beer and some terrible beer.  Sit in 10,000 1oth grade history classes.  Some would be great, some would be mediocre and some would be terrible.  With the current model of education, this will happen no matter what you do. 

Often teaching is geared toward teaching one student or one class.  That’s fine in a small world.  But the task is to educate millions at a time.  Ironically the strength of education in the past, buildings, teachers, school boards, etc. have become the immovable object to change.  So my prediction is that real change will come from outside the system.  It will come from the world of better, faster, cheaper where the innovators and entrepreners live.  Things like IPODS, Google, Facebook, etc. didn’t result from gradual improvement, they came about from completely changing the game.

When the model of teacher and classroom ends, real innovation will happen.

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trade.jpg
Uploaded by philbeth

 If you were going to teach a lesson about U.S. trade, a good place to start is to ask the question, “What do you believe is true about U.S. trade with other countries?” 

Write down what everyone says or a least the key ideas on a white board without comment.  Whether these ideas are right, wrong or somewhere in between they can prevent learning something new on the subject.

You could expand this by asking questions like,

“Who is the U.S.’s largest trading partner?” 

“What’s are biggest import from China?”

“Who do we buy more from France or Korea?”

 You get the point.  Now present some facts from a reliable, non-bias source.  I prefer getting raw and mostly unfiltered data from places like the Bureau of Labor Statistics or the US Census Bureau.  Usually what you read elsewhere is analysis of this data.

Here’s a great site for US Trade numbers.  US International Trade Commission.

They list every country in order and then break it down by product and services area.

You can also see how much they buy from the U.S. and the balance of trade numbers.

So here’s the big question, “who buys more from us than anyone?”  Do I hear Canada?

I also found it fascinating that in 2006 the second biggest category of imports from China were listed as: nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances; parts thereof

Be warned..a quick visit before you’re next political discussion will make you look like a smarty pants.

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Vince McMahon Vince McMahon,
originally uploaded by dwyatt1.

How many times do you see politicians with low approval ratings? They don’t seem to have a clue on how to turn things around. Here is the guy I think they all could learn from Vince McMahon. He can turn a bad guy to a good guy and back again in less than 5 minutes.

It’s a simple formula to go from bad guy to good guy you need to come to the aid of someone everyone likes. To go from a good guy to a bad guy you have to turn your back on your friends. However, to make all this happen in front of millions of people takes a master.

So if you’re candidate is in the dumps with high disapproval numbers, forget the political pundits and call Vince McMahon.

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There’s always a lot of controversy about our public school systems.  Part of the crisis comes from the fact that it’s part of the political system where the money goes to the loudest squeeky wheel.  All the focus goes to failing schools instead of the stand outs.  There’s also a lot of nostalgia.  “The old days were better.”  I think I heard this outside the second little red schoolhouse.

 Anyway, I’ve put together a short list of questions I have about schools.  Maybe you’d like to add a few.

  1. Why is k-12 the only time in your life that you’ll spend all your time with others of the exact same age?
  2. Why do we have k-12 instead of some other number of years?  I know the historical reasons, but haven’t things changed?
  3. Why do we teach subject by subject, in silos, rather than cutting up and sorting what needs to be covered in other ways?
  4. Why are teachers basically at the top of their profession the day they start?  (There’s a very short career path for teachers.)
  5. Why are schools all inclusive, one-stop shopping?  Couldn’t kids go to multiple schools at the same time?
  6. Why don’t schools teach life and work skills? 
  7. Why do we have homework instead of having kids finish their work in school?
  8. Why do schools need to have their own buildings?  Couldn’t they rent out space in the community?
  9. Why do schools promote a social system that is so clickie and unlike what people experience out of school?
  10. Why is it so hard from one school to learn from and adopt the best practices from others school?

I think asking a lot of whys is a good process.  In fact, that process may be more important that the actual questions.  I think a lot of the answers to the “whys” are, because that’s the way we’ve always done them.

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In the business world, we are always looking for ways to increase output while decreasing costs.  This is what the whole quality movement is about.  So how do you apply these principles to increase education funding.

First, for the sake of argument let’s just freeze education funding at current levels.  If we can provide the same or better education for less money we’ll free up money to do other things.  Second, we let’s assume we can change the funding from “butts in the seat” to some other formula we’re the level of quality of education equals funding.  I’ll come back to this.

Okay, so what we focus on is dramatically reducing time to proficiency for the middle 60 to 70% of students.  I’m leaving out the top and the bottom for right now because the real big dollars are in the middle with all the average kids. 

The first step is to define proficiency as the education the average student gets from K-12.  At the start, whatever the school system defines as proficiency will be our target.  Now, we measure the current time to proficiency.  It may be more or less that 13 years but we want a real time to proficiency not just the day you get the diploma.

Now through applying process improvement techniques that allow us to drive out waste and reduce time on the first pass I guarantee you will find 50 to 100 quick hit improvement ideas.  A quick hit is anything that reduces time to proficiency and that doesn’t require a lot of time or money.  These quick hits come from looking at the current curriculum in depth.  (By the way, my definition of waste is anything a student doesn’t remember after the test.)

A lot of quick hits have to do with our courses are arranged, rearranged, combined, modified and deleted.  You tend to break down subject and grade barriers and instead start to think in terms of start to finish.  For example, you set a reading level and you continue the education until the student reaches that level.  Instead of teaching reading in the first grade it may take several year to reach a certain level of speed and comprehension.  Quick hits are also trying to match the way people actually learn versus they way we traditionally teach it.

Through this effort you will reduce time to proficiency.  Some students will finish in 10 years, some 11, some 12 and some might take 14.  In the business world, we’ve always gotten a 30% reduction initially.  But let’s say you get a 5% reduction.   That means we cut an average education by about 6 or 7 months.  What does it 6 to 7 months of education cost a school system?  It’s a lot.  Now you can take the money and spend it on something like higher teacher salaries or a music program. 

You can read all about how this works in a business environment in my book Learning Paths.  I’ve also posted a whitepaper in my blog. 

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