Tag Archives: Curriculum

Now In 3D!

3D is all the rage. Again. I personally find it difficult to sit through a 3D movie without way too much eyestrain but people seem to enjoy it so more multidimensional movies are being made and the process is creeping into our homes with 3D TVs and video games. But being an old-school kind of guy (I have yet to buy a cell phone. I am waiting for them to catch on…), I remember with fondness the red and blue glasses of my youth. They came in comic books and magazines and they turned those weirdly colored pictures into an adventure. Those old anaglyph images have regained their “cool” so I have been fooling around with converting some 2D photos into 3D. I would like to bring 3D creation into the classroom somehow but I am still working out the details.

I thought I might share some of the results from my little experiment. One little detail. You need some red/blue glasses to see the 3D effect. The pictures are 2D conversions and are the result of my very first efforts. I intend to refine my skills but these aren’t so terrible…Feel free to offer tips or tricks or to just be critical.

 

First we'll take Manhattan...

2D to 3D conversion.

Took this picture on the way home one day.

2d to 3d conversion.

2D to 3D conversion.

2D To 3D Conversion

Let me know if they work or don’t work.

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Fixing Education Part 3: Taking Back Kindergarten

Educators and legislators need to look back at their own education and try to remember what they did in Kindergarten. Once they do, they need to take a long hard look at what Kindergarten has become.

Kindergarten Is The New First Grade

When I was just starting out in school, Kindergarten was fun. As a child I looked forward to finger-painting, playing with blocks and learning all about numbers and the usefulness of the alphabet. I remember learning to print my name and I remember learning to count to 100. I still have crystal clear memories of the accomplishment of reaching 100 for the first time. That number was such a foreign concept to my 4 year-old mind (yes…4 years old) that I had honestly thought that it would take a week to get there.

So we spent the day coloring, tracing letters, learning numbers and understanding what they represented. The teacher read stories to us and I learned to fall in love with Dr. Seuss and, by extension, reading. She showed us how to draw and paint and I learned to love art. She showed us how to carefully craft our letters so that they could form our names and I learned to love writing. We also played with toys and each other and we took naps and ate graham crackers and milk. I checked with my mother. There was never a day when I refused to go to school. Kindergarten was fun. But it was so much more than that.

Learn By Playing?

It took me a long to time to appreciate the depth of the education I received during that first year of school. I thought we were messing with paint. Turns out we were learning about colors and aesthetics and even cleaning up after ourselves. While we thought we were playing house, we were actually learning how to interact with other human beings, all about gender differences and equalities, and about fair-play. While we were playing with blocks and toy cars and stuffed animals, we were also learning how to share, how to resolve our own problems and how to deal with conflict. Everything we did, learned and experienced had one simple outcome. We learned how to learn. The lessons were simple but lifelong. And they are sorely missing in today’s education.

Getting my son to go to school everyday was a chore. Every day was a battle. Every morning was filled with tears and pleading to stay home. It took me a while to figure out why my son was so against school. His school had taken the Kindergarten lessons and tossed them out and replaced them with a 1st grade curriculum. It might have been my fault he wasn’t totally prepared but an hour of homework a day in Kindergarten is just wrong.         ~Georgia Mother

If we refuse to acknowledge the importance of play-based learning, we may never reach all of our students. And instead of figuring out how to learn and to love learning, we set our kids up for failure at a very early age. Putting five year-old behinds into seats to teach them through traditional lectures flies in the face of everything we know about education. Children at that age just don’t work that way. Children learn by doing and through experience. David Elkind, author and psychologist wrote, “Learning teaches us what we know, play makes it possible for new things to be learned. There are many concepts and skills that can only be learned through play.” Social skills are first on the list.

So, instead of well-rounded eager students, many of us are getting frustrated, burned-out students who lack social skills, impulse control and simple conflict resolution skills. Instead of students who read for the sheer joy of it, who write because writing is fun and who can slog their way through Algebra and Trig simply because they can add, subtract, multiply and divide, we get students who can barely read, can’t form a sentence and can’t do simple two digit multiplication without a calculator. It is not the fault of the students. It is not the fault of the teachers. It is because of a system that has been redesigned over the past decade, not at the hands of educators but at the hands of politicians.

Fitting Into The Plan

In order to save our high schools we must start in Kindergarten. In spite of what politicians want us to believe, kids aren’t failing because their teachers are bad. They are not failing because they have failed the system. They are failing because the system has failed them. The system is flawed and it places too much emphasis on quantitative data and not enough on qualitative data. Sure, a kid could be terrible at math but that same child could grow up to be a great author or songwriter or artist. We will never know if that same child learns, in Kindergarten, that he or she just doesn’t measure up. And that would be the real failure of our education system.


“What Does ______ Mean?”

With the advertising simulation put safely behind us we have embarked on an analytical look at the news and current events. We are living in very interesting times. An election with historical impact, a global economic crisis, two land wars, a third of the country can’t get gas and Russia has decided to rattle their collective sword. All at the same time.

So I ask the students questions and they answer.

Q: Why are we at war with Iraq?

A: Because they attacked us on 9/11.

Oops. But something has given my students more political interest than they have had in their entire lives. The idea that, no matter which way the election goes, it will enter us into a whole new world. We will either elect the first black man to the highest office in the land or we will put the first woman ever in the office of the Vice-President. The informal polls in my classroom are overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama.

Current Events, Opinions and the Classroom.

In order to be good citizens, the people of the United States must be informed citizens. Right? So we have started looking at current events and how they are reported. Topics that the kids chose to talk about included the economy, teen pregnancy, gang violence and education. The discussions got pretty heated at times and hard to moderate but I felt that it was worth it.

Today I introduced editorials to the class. Rather than come up with a technical definition, I simply told them that an editorial is a persuasive essay that is published in the media. I then gave out a list of thirty questions to serve as an editorial essay. I didn’t write them. I found them on the Internet. Take a look at them if you want. The thirty questions are answered Yes or No without discussion and cover a broad range of topics from media violence and welfare to divorce and NASCAR. After everyone is done, we go question by question tallying the yeses and nos and one student is allowed to make a “yes” argument and another is chosen to give the “no” argument. I told the kids to work silently and to raise their hands to get clarification on a question. The clarifications are what brought me back to the blog today.

The Questions I Received.

  • What is capital punishment?
  • What does “abolished” mean?
  • What does “implement” mean?
  • What does “ethical” mean?
  • What does “moral” mean?
  • What is genetic engineering?
  • What do they mean by the insanity defense?
  • What’s a “salary cap?”
  • What is “euthanasia?”
  • What does it mean to “promote” something?
  • What is “death row?”
  • What’s an appeal?
  • What does “mandate” mean?
  • What do they mean when they say “pay for the cost of their own keep?”

Some of these questions I expected and had no problem with. Others troubled me a little.

Capital punishment? Do students really get to high school without discussing capital punishment? How can we expect our kids to behave in a moral or ethical manner when they don’t know what the words mean? Abolished? Implement? Mandate? Shouldn’t these words be a part of every high school student’s lexicon? Euthanasia I get because, while it might have been a hot issue a decade or so ago, we just don’t hear about it much any more. Salary Cap? It’s the business side of professional sports so I expected questions on that as well. Others I’m OK with are the insanity defense, genetic engineering and using the word “keep” instead of room and board or, even, clothing and food.

Should This Trouble Me?

So…why does this bother me? I think the answer is potentially complicated. Or I might just be saying that I have no idea. What really troubled me was the fact that a simple exercise, designed to fit into a single class, now has to be stretched into two days. The stop-and-start, ask-a-question breakdown coupled with WAY too many interruptions from the main office entirely diminished the effectiveness of the exercise. Seriously, our students should know what “mandate” means without having to ask.

What also troubles me is that somewhere along the line, we lost track of what we’re trying to do in our own schools. We have taken the kindergarten curriculum, thrown it away and replaced it with the first grade curriculum. But, by taking away things like blocks and finger painting and playing house and macaroni pictures, we have eliminated things like conflict resolution, working and playing well with others and respecting gender differences. In order to “graduate” kindergarten, all I was expected to do was count to 100, know what order the alphabet is in and write my name. What I thought was a bunch of simple activities that kept us busy were actually carefully controlled and well designed life lessons. Lessons we just don’t teach anymore. We are far too interested in testing and verifiable assessment. Life lessons may fit in a definition of citizenship but they just can’t be written into a multiple choice test.

Sometimes I feel as if we have taken away our students ability to think for themselves. Want to freak out a high school student? Tell them to write you a three page, double-spaced research paper. First question asked? “On what?” Now, answer that question with, “I don’t care. You decide.” Now sit back and watch the fear and confusion rise in their faces. My theory is that we have stopped the learning and started the memorizing. Teaching to the test is a very real problem. I have seen math classes that are really just about calculator keystrokes rather than learning concepts and problem solving. I have students who can’t tell time without a digital watch. My own children weren’t taught the multiplication tables. But they were told how to input the problems on a TI-30XIIS calculator. Great. But all math can be broken down into addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Learn your basics and know your basics and the rest is just using them in different formulae.

No. School isn’t about memorizing and it isn’t about exit tests. It is about learning to think and it’s about becoming a productive member of society. And I wonder if we’re doing that.


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