Wednesday, November 21, 2007

AP Labs Under Fire

According to THIS article The College Board has singled out an AP Curriculum created by Aventa Learning because many of the labs are done virtually instead of in person.

At first thought I believe that labs should be done in person because having the hands on experience is incredibly valuable. Technology is great, but it can't take the place of everything, can it?

The issue here, in my mind is: can virtual labs and field trips be as effective as hands on experiences of the same thing?

In a recent study Nickerson et al (2007) explains that students learn equally well whether they are actually there or visiting via an electronic learning laboratory.

This study shows then that technology and societal aspects of learning go hand in hand. Students still learn when technology is used in conjunction with learning through the community. Therefore, the “community” can be expended beyond what a school bus is able to take students to. As with Dierking’s 1997 study, field trips could be more beneficial if these field trips can be done electronically. It could expose the students to new groups of people and ideas beyond just the local community.

Many schools may not have the resources to complete complicated AP designed labs, so perhaps using technology is another effective way to expose students to these types of experiments that may not ever have the opportunity.

The College Board, understandable, wants to maintain its high standards. However, they should also be concerned with making AP classes and information available to as many people as possible.

Dierking, AuthorL.D., & Falk, J.H. (1997). School field trips: Assessing their long-term impact. Curator. 40, 211-218.

Nickerson, J, Corter, J, & Esche, S (2007). A Model for Evaluating the Effectiveness of Remote Engineering Laboratories and Simulations in Education. Computers & Education. 49, 708-725.

Cell Phone Nuisance!

We all know it exists...the cell phone problem in the classroom. But how do you deal with it when the distraction is hidden?

Just about every student has a phone, but most turn them off during the school days, we can only hope. Phones can be silenced, and now they have the ultra high-pitched ringtone that only those under 18 can hear, but they are still a huge distraction to the entire class. Even when a phone does ring, it is hard to tell where the ring is coming from most of the time.

The ringing of the phones isn't even nearly as bad as texting that can so blatantly happen. Gone was a time when passing notes was a problem. If I am in the middle of a lab, demonstration, or activity how is one supposed to spot a student texting, since they can do it will relatively little movement? Should the cell phones be confiscated immediately after they are found?

Most teachers must ignore the problem, or risk losing control of the class. The only thing I have heard from teachers is to be vigilant that they are not using them during tests and assessments. There has to be more we can do then just try and watch that no one brings one out during a test. Are there any better ideas for combatting this nuisance? Any new ideas or things you have tried?

Obama Unveils New Education Plan

According to THIS post, Democratic Presidential hopeful, Barak Obama unveiled what would be his educational policy. He says that he would...

--not abolish the No Child Left Behind Act
-- Get rid of standardized assessments of the NCLB Act in favor of more complex assessments.
--consider funding for schools that experiment with longer school days and years.
--Experiment with merit based pay for teachers.

Only Richardson said he would abolish the NCLB act, of all the democratic candidates

I'm all for the experimenting and better assessment materials...but merit pay for teachers??