July 24, 2007

New lows reached

Here we go again:

Jonathan, 10, and Ankur, 11, were among about 85 students from Jefferson and surrounding counties who participated in this year's Pepsi Summer Portfolio Institute at the University of Louisville last week.

The institute, which began about 13 years ago, is a place where students entering grades four through eight and teachers of elementary through high school classes creatively combine math and writing skills, often using technology that would intimidate the average adult.

The tech might, but I bet the math won't. Assuming there is any math, which there probably isn't.

In other classrooms, students and teachers used graphing calculators to visualize what happens as they time a bouncing ball, employed animation programs and storyboards to create Claymation movies, and used computers to work out story maps before composing reflective writing assignments.

Chanel Acklin, 9, hasn't started fourth grade at Jeffersontown Elementary yet, but she already knows how to use PowerPoint because of the institute. Her group took up-close photographs of themselves, combined them in a slideshow and had other students guess which photo was of which student, she said.

"That was pretty fun, but using the calculators is pretty hard because sometimes I forget things," Chanel said. "I'm glad I can do this though, because I'm pretty nervous about fourth grade and maybe since I've done it a little now, it won't be so bad."

See? No math. Just graphic calculators. And, the kids can't remember enough math to use them properly.


CrypticLife said...

Great. Teaching kids to use powerpoint. Seems the educational establishment is not aware that in terms of knowledge most likely to be outdated in ten years, specific computer apps tops the list.

Learning powerpoint has virtually no value in math or computers -- it's main value is art.

Anonymous said...

OK, we now know all the failures of our educational system. Is any place out there doing something right? How about the year you spent teaching your son. Thought we were going to hear about those experiences. Are you doing it right and what can we learn from you?


Math Teacher said...

I wonder if the kids used sound effects when doing their Powerpoint slide. Maybe they had their bullet points slide in from the left...or spiral in from the background. Good stuff...good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Wrt powerpoint, what's to teach? Click to add title. Click to add text. Double-click to add graphic.

Anonymous said...

Powerpoint may have no math value, but teaching kids to use computer applications is useful.

Willard Daggett, a nationally-recognized researcher for the Bill Gates Foundation, says that our biggest failing as educators is not keeping up with technology -- the skill kids need most.

Math Teacher said...


Nothing wrong with teaching Powerpoint. It's just that stuff like that is often pushed on schools and classes where the children are functionally illiterate and innumerate...as if the use of technology in the abstract will somehow improve academic outcomes. The result? Lots of neat-o projects with little or no educational value.

Tracy W said...

Willard Daggett, a nationally-recognized researcher for the Bill Gates Foundation, says that our biggest failing as educators is not keeping up with technology -- the skill kids need most.

30% of American kids are failing to reach basic proficiency in reading - that's the biggest failing of educators.

Kids need to be able to read far more than they need to learn computers. (And they need to breathe far more than they need to be able to read). Technology education is a distraction until all kids bar the severely-cognitively disabled can read.

le radical galoisien said...

The need to use computers is becoming well-tied with the need to read.

90% of my math and science knowledge comes not from print, but through the internet, and communicating with peers, and interesting blogs that include the ones written by educators such as this.

I have to admit that during third grade when my parents still forbade me to go on the internet by myself this was not the case, but still.

If you want your child to read, an interactive medium like the internet is a sure benefit. And after learning about safety and learning how to sift through sources and eat the meat and throw away the bones and all that (things that actually most of my peers learnt themselves).

Penmanship and handwriting, for example, can be a great barrier to writing prolifically, and early. If I were a first grade teacher, I'd make all of my pupils keep blogs.

Math Teacher said...

If you want your child to read, an interactive medium like the internet is a sure benefit.

How about...a book. From the library. They're free.

What is it about the interactivity of the Internet that benefits readers? It's not that the Internet is a bad thing vis-avis reading, it's just that it's not necessary, and the emphasis on technology (for technology's sake) is a major distraction.

Mz.H said...

This stuff seems to be across the board in academics. I teach Social Studies and was horrified the first time I assigned a 5-paragraph essay to my seniors in Govt class. 70% of them didn't even know how to write a thesis, much less a basic essay. But they all knew how to create REALLY PRETTY papers with Word! My courses now include massive amounts of basics along with content. Just like you can't replace math with computer applications (though the latter are important), you can't replace basic literacy with being able to write in a cool font.

Anonymous said...

mz.h -

You may have already done something like this, but I know several teachers (high school and college) who have saved their sanity with the following two rules:

1. All papers will be either typed, double-spaced using Courier New 10pt or hand-written, double-spaced legibly on college rule paper.

2. No pictures will be included in any paper.

Taking away the option of prettying up papers made the students actually think about what they were writing.

bell work online -

While computer applications in general have value, Powerpoint is one that actually encourages shallow, bullet-point thoughts. The end result is slide after slide of nothing. Working in an environment that thrives on PPoint presentations, I witness this constantly. Not all technology is created equal, and PPoint is, in my experience, a bottom-of-the-barrel tech product.

tracy -

Right on target with that one. One of the basic things many people don't get about technology is the principle of GIGO, or garbage in, garbage out. If the kids aren't thinking clearly or don't know much, technology won't help. If they're thinking clearly with sufficiently deep and broad knowledge, technology can help focus and expand that knowledge.

Jo Anne C said...

"and the emphasis on technology (for technology's sake) is a major distraction."

Not only is the focus on technology a major distraction, it is a hefty financial drain. There is no shortage of costly, unproven, and ineffective software programs being peddled to gullible administrators.

The classroom time wasted on using unproductive computer programs would be better spent on the basics.

Independent George said...

Willard Daggett, a nationally-recognized researcher for the Bill Gates Foundation, says that our biggest failing as educators is not keeping up with technology -- the skill kids need most.

[cheapshot]You mean the Gates foundation thinks that kids need to learn Windows?[/cheapshot]

More seriously, though, technology can only ever be as good as its user (and is often a good deal worse). Forget Powerpoint; just about the entire world runs on Excel. Excel, in turn, is utterly dependant on its end user understanding algebra - knowing how to enter a use the formula bar is completely worthless if you can't identify what quantities you're measuring, how a nested function works, or how to organize a shapeless mass of data into a useable form.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Please consider checking your state's civics, english, and technology ed standards for evaluating the reliability of sources. Then share your evaluation of Willard Daggett.

You might also check whether professional development performed by Daggett is legally reimbursable using tax dollars raised for education in your state.

Tracy W said...

If you want your child to read, an interactive medium like the internet is a sure benefit

I don't believe it's a sure benefit. I don't believe it's any benefit compared to some suitable books and a teacher who knows how to teach.

I encountered telnet and bulletin boards when I was 13. I encountered Archie and Veronica for the first time when I was 16, when I could already read. I encountered the Web for the first time when I was 17 (I didn't grow up in a third world country, I'm just old). I needed some instruction on how to use Veronica, but you know what, I could read every word on the computer screen without a moment's problem. This was because I had already been taught how to read. And clearly the people who first developed computers and developed the internet used a form of communication that they could already understand - text.

Kids don't need an interactive medium to learn how to read.

I do agree that kids need to be able to read to make use of the internet. This is a different thing from being able to make use of the internet to be able to read.