Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: New Learners of the 21st Century

Rupert Murdoch, McGraw-Hill and Pearson have spent millions lobbying U.S. policymakers in order to develop and administer high stakes tests on unsuspecting American children.
I recently watched this PBS televised documentary and the production starts off with a quote by John Dewey, "If we teach today's students as we taught yesterdays, we rob them of tomorrow." I've heard education reformers shamelessly co-opt progressive educator quotes before and this is a good example of a shameless co-opt. The problem here is that one of the producers of this documentary, Pearson,  makes it's money by coercing children into taking standardized high stakes tests, turning them into tools in order to evaluate their teachers. This fact is omitted in the documentary and is something that would make Dewey roll in his grave.

New Learners of the 21st Century is a slick edu-propaganda piece to promote the message that creativity development is alive and well in this day and age of high stakes testing. The only problem with this message is that creativity development in schools is giving way to high stakes test preparation and the arts are on the chopping block. No doubt about it.

When teachers jobs depend on high stakes test scores, you can darn well bet, creativity development is going to take a back seat to test prep. The U.S. Dept. of Education has no comprehensive data on fine arts cuts or the amount of creative work children do in U.S. Schools and would not release such data because the American Public will shriek at the lack of such vital learning experiences.

One thing this documentary fails at is providing a comprehensive look at electronic portfolios. If the MacArthur Foundation is serious about creativity development, they will examine electronic portfolios as an alternative to high stakes testing.

The last time I checked the latest neuro-cognitive research, human beings still learn best through multi-sensory experience. Multi-sensory learning experience is something children are not receiving enough of in school. Instead they are working iPads and computer based multiple choice answers and other selected response assessments, a form of educational assessment John Dewey abhorred.

Another Dewey quote should really be examined by reformers: "Education is not preparation for life. Education is life."

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