Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Opportunity Knocks...

A few weeks ago, while watching the Masters golf tournament, I couldn't help but notice Exxon commercials touting their support for the Common Core standards.

It's interesting that people from the leftthe center, and the right,  have lambasted the Common Core, stating that it will move us away from progressive, student centered learning, contain too much detail and will micro-manage the teaching profession, and dumb down the curriculum respectively. 

I find it interesting that Exxon spent millions of dollars promoting their support of the Common Core, and other initiatives. My skeptical nature makes me want to follow the money. Perhaps they are getting into the publishing business, or more likely are diverting our attention from the latest toxic spill

Personally, I'm not sure whether a standard core curriculum is just a way to make money for publishers, or could ultimately level the playing field by making sure ALL students have a high quality curriculum. But regardless, a couple of posts over the last few days have me thinking about opportunities

The first, came from my friend, Scott King, one of the most eclectic, thoughtful people I know. Scott is a poet, book publisher, and in his spare time, a "citizen scientist volunteer for the Minnesota Odonata Survey." 
On his blog, Of Books and Bugs, he writes about his travels and observations. On Flickr, you can see the collection of images that reflect his passion. Here is an example of his writing:

Scott has been able to combine his passions for science (he studied chemical and environmental engineering in college), writing, and publishing into both a profession as well a hobby. He is exactly the type of person that Edward O. Wilson appears to be writing to in his new book, Letters to a Young Scientist

Wilson was interviewed on NPR last weekend, and talked about the importance of encouraging students to follow their passions, balancing science with the humanities. He was asked whether students today should study science or the humanities. His response:
"And I do then want to answer this by saying [to] this young lady, 'What do you really love? What do you really want to be doing?' 
The Opportunity
So how does the Common Core fit Scott's story and helping students following their passions?
You see, embedded in the Common Core standards for Language Arts are many digital literacy standards that are supposed to be taught not in Language Arts courses, but in other content areas. In Minnesota, the common core language arts standards embedded into science and social studies include reading and writing benchmarks for both print and digital material and incorporate both text and multimedia content. 
While some may see this as an additional burden for content teachers, I see this as an opportunity to clearly identify ways for students to utilize the technology tools provided by our eLearning2 inititiative for students to consume and create content in the core subjects and greatly enhance their learning. By helping students access content, write well, and create meaning from their learning, like Scott, they will be able to share their passion with others in authentic ways. 

This is an opportunity for curricular areas to break down silos, and collaborate with one another on student assessments. Of course, this will require time to plan for creating these interdisciplinary opportunities. We also need to give staff instruction to HOW to effectively collaborate. This fall, our district will be spending time learning how to be an effective Professional Learning Community. I hope that will get the ball rolling. Once staff are on board, Caitlin Tucker has a great post that shares examples of what this collaborative integrated approach might look like.

David Jakes recent post about "Cutting Edge" gives additional guides to how we can take advantage of the opportunities of student devices as a way to find ways to become more interdisciplinary with our instruction. 

Regardless of your thoughts about the Common Core, opportunity is knocking....Will you answer the door?
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