Linda links over with her own “Careful Now” admonishment, probably best expressed by this poster, which she recommends her readership paste above its school copiers.
She describes, but doesn’t elaborate on, a set of decent handouts she made in her early career, which she recently discarded. However, it isn’t hard to infer from these bullets …
- In years to come will you be stopped in the street by an ex-student and they will bow down before you and thank you for all the exciting worksheets they gave? I don’t think so!
- Please challenge your students and teach them to think.
- Please give your students a 21st Century Literacy skillset.
- Please hang this poster next to your school’s photocopier.
… that she finds worksheets unchallenging and unrepresentative of the skills kids need in the 21st century.
Let me say, first, that I think there is a decent heart here, something that may rightly rattle those teachers who content themselves cranking out worksheet after worksheet, passing them out after a rote opener, and then receiving questions at their desks.
But I think her post also reflects:
- the 21st-century-learning crowd’s total misapprehension of how students learn mathematics, particularly of how students who don’t understand mathematics at all learn mathematics, and
- the 21st-century-learning crowd’s haste to throw out old mediums along with their bathwater.
This blog hasn’t always been above confronting (c) the tendency of enlightened 21st-century-learning educators to alienate those they should support.
Unsurprisingly, Linda teaches (or at least taught) English, which lends itself so well to a substituted set of 21st-century activities (eg. instead of printing an essay out in hard copy, blog it and let your classmates comment; instead of taking hard copy notes on Chuacer’s Canterbury characters, set up wiki pages for each) that she’s developed a familiar myopia.
I mean, it’s gotta be that easy for other subjects, right?
But no. Set aside for a moment the hair-pulling difficulty of entering equations and math notation into a blog interface. Math is skill-based in a way that few subjects are. And skills demand practice
Aside from that: worksheets are only a medium, empty pieces of paper, and anyone advocating that we chuck an entire medium in the name of progress would do well to justify it.
For example, what quality of paper prevents challenging exercises from adhering and allows only the lame, rote stuff to stick? What quality of paper insists on empty thought?
Once we exit that dim thought-corridor, the good times roll, and we can investigate the issue which deserves investigation: what we put on the worksheets.
Today’s worksheet is worth posting. We’re learning entirely new skills. By the end of today’s class, students will go from outright befuddlement at this …
… to a tentative ability to solve beasts like these
We did it with four carefully selected problems, problems which I delivered on a worksheet, each problem eliminating units of mental scaffolding so precisely that most of my desk-help topped out at the question, “How is this problem different from the last one?”
My ongoing question for the 21st-century crowd is:
- how do I perform that same feat (again from scratch) using blogs, wikis, podcasts, Skitch, VoiceThread, or whatever, or alternately
- should a student’s compulsory education even include that knowledge
From experience, I don’t anticipate much response to the first question. Ex-blogger Chris Lehmann recently put some screws to that second question, though..