Wheel Reinventors

All around the country thousands of teachers and educational leaders are doing the same thing this summer: working on teams to create materials, guides, plans for implementing Common Core within their curriculum. By August districts will be posting their creations on their websites then distributing them during pre-planning.

This is part of the crazy inefficiency of our educational system and part of our misuse of the talented educators within our system. We have so many people doing the same thing. It is a constant reinvention of the wheel because the communication links between districts, between states is in disarray.

Even worse, we often dismiss this teacher work in place of programs we purchase. We have enormous economic waste and have yet to truly rethink the spending in our schools. Don’t be fooled by claims of low budgets. Start looking into the numbers at your school or district. Where do they spend money? Specifically, look at the curriculum materials. What programs have your districts invested in? How much is spent annually on materials and programs that could just as easily be created or gathered better by teachers.

When I hear teachers complain, “we don’t have any textbooks,” I think “good.” Especially when it comes to English teachers, a textbook is nothing more than an anthology with guides telling a teacher how to teach. We could supply twice the content of anthologies and invest in teaching teachers how to teach with ANY text.

Instead we spend billions of dollars each year on companies that market and sell programs and texts to our schools when we could be creating this content, collaborating on it, and sharing with others. I-pad learning has become more popular so the salesmen respond with selling apps and textbooks for the I-Pad.

It’s an I-PAD—use it to create the apps or to find and collect your own resources. Better yet, ask the students to do it.
This is real world learning.

I wonder how long it takes for an educational paradigm shift to happen. When will we take full advantage of our technology and open resources? The materials that are available for FREE are endless, and honestly, in many cases they are much better than those texts we pay $80 a piece for. Imagine a school of 1,000 students each with an $80 textbook. Could we not find a better use for that $80,000?

But we spend money on programs for the simple fact that…why? The authors have PhD behind their names? The textbooks supply us with the most current, significant choices? The programs are based on research? And how has that been working for the past decade? Since we can’t renew the book every year, they are even outdated within a year.

More often than not we purchase because of quick fixes and slick salesmen. Pearson is a Fortune 500 company making millions of dollars every year in the name of public education.

The past five years has seen a massive boom in the resources and tools available for FREE to the public and specifically to schools. We need to take advantage of them. Not only is this a financial and efficiency issue, it is an educational one as well. We need to educate our students on how to find reliable information. We pay enormous bills for media center databases and want the students using them in our media centers for research. What happens when they go to college and they don’t use those same databases? What happens in work and personal lives when they want to research? They have to know how to use the internet wisely.

We need to get on board with this now. Kahn Academy did great work getting the public to pay attention to the value of Open Educational Resources. Higher learning is also paying attention. Take a look at this course—Writing About Literature—from MIT—yes MIT. All their courses are now posted for open access. And even though this is the college level course offered at MIT during Fall of 2010, take a look at the resources within the course. Look at the lessons. This is material we could easily adapt in our high school classes. I would have even used a lot of this with my lower level students—just would have used different texts.

Other sites like Flat World Knowledge  is collaborating with experts to create textbooks that are available online for free or reduced printed prices to make textbooks more accessible to everyone.

Of course, places like Yale, Harvard, MIT aren’t providing degrees or credits with their OER (Open Educational Resources) but there is a consensus brewing that learning is learning. I wonder how long it will be until we have a new wave of what we consider “educated” and “experts.”

Our investments should be directed towards the best educators creating and combining resources, sharing and collaborating on an on-going basis. Communication among districts and states must improve. And we need to stop spending money on STUFF.

At some point we will realize that teachers are the best tool in our classroom.


UPDATE 7/17– This in the Washington Post today.


Common Core Documents

These documents were created from the Common Core Standards. The standards have been condensed to single pages (front and back) to easier use and reference. The first group contains the Core WITH FCAT strands. The second group is just the Common Core.

Common Core and FCAT one pager grade 6

Common Core and FCAT one pager grade 7

Common Core and FCAT one pager grade 8

Common Core and FCAT one pager 9.10

Just Common Core

Common Core one pager grade 6

Common Core one pager grade 7

Common Core one pager grade 8

Common Core one pager 9.10

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