Thursday, July 21, 2011

Partnership for 21st Century Skills

Reaction to the website:  This web site is dedicated to helping people understand what skills they need in the 21st century work force.  The work environment is changing and many of the blue collar jobs have been eliminated.  The 3R’s and 4C’s are the skills most employers are looking for and will be most in demand.  (As a side note, usually 3R’s refer to 3 words, each beginning with the R sound.  Not so on this web page.)  Many of these skills should already have been developed at home (parents) and throughout school (former teachers).  To be honest, are not any different than the skills from the 19th century.  However, more employers will be looking for these skills.  Therefore we need to make sure students acquire these skills.
Information that surprised me:  Nothing on the web site surprised me per se, with the exception that the impression is given that these 21st century skills have someone been created recently.  These skills have always been needed.  Many times they have been overlooked with a greater emphasis on content knowledge.
Information or opinions that I disagree with:  “Every child in the U.S. needs 21st century knowledge and skills to succeed as effective citizens, workers and leaders.”  This statement is part of the mission statement.  There are many effective citizens, workers, and leaders who do not possess 21st century knowledge.  You don't have to have these skills to be successful in the real world.  The workers who collect my trash may not know how to turn a computer on, but could be very productive members of society.  I agree that the number of jobs available to people without 21st century jobs is dwindling and therefore it is more difficult to find a job.  It is not impossible, just more difficult. 
 Implications for me and my students:  21st century skills are in demand.  The more skills someone has, the better prepared they are to handle a job (and a family for that matter).  Teachers need to ensure these skills are being taught on an everyday basis.  Parents should also be teaching these skills at home.  However, as teachers, we have no control over how that is handled at home.  I have been teaching my students these 21st century skills for a while now.  I have always felt the ability to solve problem (and think critically) is one of the most important skills someone can have.  I feel my role now is to enhance the classroom so student can acquire these skills with more variation in the classroom.

Friday, July 8, 2011

When am I ever going to use this stuff?

One question students always ask is, “When am I ever going to use this stuff?”  The same can be said for this blog.  A blog can be a great tool, but if nobody uses it, then what benefit does it provide?  Today, I will attempt to answer this question.  As I stated in my first ever post, I plan to start small.  Once I get comfortable in the blogging world, I will expand it to include all of my classes.  For now, I want to limit it to my AP Physics class who are all seniors.  This should be a relatively easy transition to my other physics classes once I achieve a certain level of proficiency.  The content (at least initially) will be similar.
I see this blog having a few purposes.  First I see it as a means of communication.  When I assign certain homework assignments, I can post them here.  I could also use this space to elaborate on the details of the homework assignment.  I could include due dates for assignments and post test reminders.  I could also announce pop quizzes on the blog.  Students who visit the blog get a heads up about an upcoming quiz.  Students who complain they did not know about the quiz are basically announcing that they did not visit the blog.
Along the lines of communication, another area where this blog may prove useful is when I am out of school one day.  When I am out, I am required to submit an assignment to the office for students to do while another teacher babysits, ahem, I mean proctors them.  I could save a lot of work for the office and the sub if I could just say, “Students should check the course blog for their assignment for today.”  I could post the assignment on the blog, writing to them in a manner they will understand.  There is nothing like trying to explain a physics lesson to an English, history or math teacher who knows nothing about physics.  I mean no disrespect to educators of those disciplines, just that many are not familiar with physics jargon.  This is no different than me trying to help students in a history or English lesson.  Assuming I am able to do so, I could be logged on to the blog during class in case there are questions about the assignment. 
This blog will also be used as a venue where students can interact and ask questions of me and each other about content area.  This could include homework assignments or general questions about the material we covered.  Having students interact like this allows them to learn from each other, and not just from me and the textbook.  Students may also feel more inclined to post an answer to a blog than to raise their in class to answer a question.  In class, there is also the fear of answering a questions wrong and feeling embarrassed.   A blog can help alleviate that to an extent.  There is one drawback here, however, in that the blog is asynchronous.  Students may have to wait for their answers unless other students are online.  An RSS feed may help with this.
A third use of this blog could be for AP Exam review.  I am looking for ways to improve my AP Exam review.  Printing out old exam questions and telling students to work on them does work to an extent.  However, there may be a better way.  I am thinking about printing out an old AP Exam questions to post on the blog.  Students should attempt to complete the problem.  Students are free to discuss it on the blog, but each should post a solution to the problem with explanation.  AP Exam questions recently including “explain” and “justify your answer” type questions where students need to write out an explanation.  This could be a great place to practice this writing skill.  To be honest, our school has undertaking an initiative to increase student writing abilities.  A blog may be the perfect place for this to happen.  I think I will pass this on to my principal to see if we could incorporate it into our school.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tim's 1st Blog Post...Ever!!!!

This is my first blog.  Who knows where this will lead.  To do anything well you need to practice.  Many people think practice makes perfect.  Cal Ripken Sr, a former coach and manager of the Baltimore Orioles, coined the phrase, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”  Hopefully, I will be able to make this blog into something useful.  To do this, I will need to practice.  I have wanted to try new things in my classes, but it is very difficult to do this during the school year.  So here I am, on my summer break, trying to start a blog.  For this blog, I am going to start slow.  I am hoping to incorporate my AP Physics class so this will be more useful.  Of course, it is summer time and many of my students are taking a break from school.  I have assigned them work to do in preparation for the rigorous school year ahead.  I hope they will complete the assignments on time.  Maybe I could use this blog as a means of communicating with them throughout the summer.  I would like to get up to speed on this so it can actually be useful in my class.