I was engaged in conversation last night with one of my best friends in the world, Roger Wagner – the inventor of Hyperstudio (http://www.hyperstudio.com). One of the things we talked about was the shift in educational technology use from computers as tools of creation to computers as tools of consumption. Programs from technology in education conferences used to be filled with sessions on everything from Logo programming to how to help students create interactive multimedia.
Since the onset of NCLB, all that has changed. Our knee-jerk reaction to high-stakes testing has stripped creativity and curiosity from the the curriculum, and replaced it with just enough of the right content to get students to pass tests. Because it is not blindingly obvious how students knowing the intricacies of programming, or the ability to create multimedia projects, will improve test scores, these topics have fallen by the wayside, leaving the beautiful minds of our youth in tatters.
As for (currently) non-tested subjects (e.g., engineering,) classroom exploration is non-existent, providing no incentive for students to learn something about areas of study that can lead to very exciting careers!
Next week I speak at the International Space Development Conference (ISDC) and the International Space Society has just released the new roadmap for space exploration (http://www.nss.org/settlement/roadmap/). This is an amazingly bold document that anticipates a time when there might be more humans living in space than currently live on Earth.
Of course, without a large number of scientists and engineers, none of the proposed milestones will be reached. It took 400,000 people working full time to make the Apollo missions a success – and that was just to allow short trips to the moon. Any of the new space objectives will require even more than that – yet students entering college today have known nothing but NCLB’s test-driven mandates, and they arrive at college bereft of curiosity and creativity.
One of the handouts for my session at ISDC is an “incomplete” manual for an interplanetary spacecraft that has about 50 topics for students to explore in finishing the document. (I will post the document online for all to have very soon.) My purpose in creating this document is that it represents a standalone activity that can lead to an interest in students in topics ranging from life sciences, to physics and engineering.
We have a tremendous amount to do as we repair the damage of NCLB and prepare ourselves, and our students, for a delightful and exciting future.