Are high schools teaching science backward?

U.S. high schools are teaching science in a backward sequence of courses that is a remnant of 19th century thinking, says former Harman executive and New Jersey Teacher of the Year Robert Goodman—and changing the order in which science courses are taken and the way they’re delivered can lead to profound differences in both STEM interest and achievement.

Goodman was speaking July 22 at the Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston, organized by education thought leader Alan November. He talked about how he taught algebra-based physics to ninth graders near Newark, N.J., most of whom came from poor families—and many of whom went on to take (and pass) the AP physics exam. His approach was so successful that it has been replicated across the state and in countries around the world.

Goodman himself never took any science beyond biology in his own high school experience. Needing to fulfill a science requirement at New York University, he took a physics course because it was the only class that fit into his schedule.…Read More

This new tool makes the flipped classroom more social

Flipping your class by having students watch lecture videos for their homework can lead to richer discussions about the content, but only if students come to class prepared. And having them watch a video lecture at home “simply takes a technique that didn’t work in person and puts in online,” said Harvard University physics professor Eric Mazur.

During the 2016 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference organized by education thought leader Alan November, Mazur unveiled a free tool that he and a team of colleagues developed to solve this problem.

Called Perusall, it’s a social learning platform that will “essentially make sure every student is prepared for class,” Mazur said. It also makes sure teachers are prepared to address students’ key questions and areas of confusion—without creating more work for the instructor.…Read More

How technology has changed our idea of ‘knowledge,’ and what this means for schools

Before the internet existed, humans had a very different concept of what “knowledge” was.

Before the internet existed, humans had a very different concept of what “knowledge” was, says researcher David Weinberger. This concept was defined by the physical properties of the dominant medium for sharing information back then—paper—and the limitations it placed on this process.

For instance, we’ve tended to think of knowledge as something that was orderly: organized neatly into chapters and books, and sorted on shelves in the library according to a rigorous classification system. We understood it as something that was filtered, with writers, editors, publishers, and curators making conscious decisions about what to include and what to leave out.

We saw knowledge as a canon of generally accepted wisdom, Weinberger says, with less room for any difference of opinion: Think of the way a traditional textbook was laid out, with a shaded box set apart from the main text to explore alternate points of view. And we viewed knowledge as a system of artificial “stopping points”: Although footnotes could direct us to further study, eventually books—like all good things—must come to an end.…Read More

Zhao: U.S. schools focusing on the wrong skills

In an age when routine jobs can be outsourced or automated, it is creativity that will create a thriving new middle class, Zhao argued.

What is the purpose of our education system? If it’s to produce skilled employees, then we’re on the right path with Common Core standards and assessments, says education researcher Yong Zhao. But Zhao argues that it’s time to rethink that purpose—and with it, our present course of action.

Instead of producing employees who are capable of following directions, U.S. schools should be concerned with producing entrepreneurs, Zhao told attendees of the 2013 Building Learning Communities (BLC) conference in Boston. And this requires an approach to education that is radically different from the one most schools are taking now.

In an entertaining and thought-provoking keynote speech, Zhao—who is associate dean for global education at the University of Oregon’s College of Education—compared the current U.S. education system to a “sausage maker”: taking a diverse group of students with individual talents and churning out workers with desired skills. But in the process, he said, creativity is being lost.…Read More