A Costa Rican Experience

some follow up, and individualized learning plans

In my last post, I brought up the idea of teaching students how to properly research online. A major controversy between students and teachers is that, quite simply Wikipedia is so goddamn EASY– and teachers think it’s illegitimate. I will side with students in that when you Google anything, chances are the first link will be a Wikipedia article. But, just in case students don’t believe the illegitimacy of Wikipedia, here’s an expert critics opinion– with experimented primary sources. A Colbert Report on “wikiality”. It’s quick and a total worthwhile watch– possibly worth showing to students who still need convincing that Wikipedia is not a reliable source. That’s not to say I am against the use of Wikipedia in the classroom! I think for any project Wikipedia is a good place to gather background information about a topic, it should just never be written as a reference. A way to get students to think critically and even understand the concept of legitimate sources is by having THEM create a Wikipedia page. My LL ED 480 group is in the process of doing this and at first it was intimidating but it’s actually a pretty easy process (though that is exactly what makes it unreliable). To make this page we had to find other resources to cite and be confident enough in our work to actually “publish” it on Wikipedia. So far so good but we’ll see how it all plays out in the end.

Moving on to career-minded middle schoolers, yeah, you heard me! “Sixth graders at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, N.J., are charting their own academic path with personalized student learning plans — electronic portfolios containing information about their learning styles, interests, skills, career goals and extracurricular activities.” Teachers keep idealizing being able to teach to each individual students needs and how time-consuming it would be but what if each student came with their own little portfolio, with all the research on them having been done for you? This is something that’s implemented with special education students but was never considered for the greater masses… until now! Genius! The main difference for this plan is that it is meant to orient students towards what careers they may be interested. This not only instills in kids minds that yes, they can go to college, but it prevents students from wasting years of college aiming for a major they find out they don’t even like! They offer the students surveys– reminiscent of the old “career placement” tests they used to give people (which tended to just discourage those who received pitiful job placements back). Having students plan out their education based around possible career interests is a low-cost alternative to hiring more guidance counselors– who originally had this task.

Pilot schools were chosen and were given the funding to implement these learning plans, which require assistance from school staff, students, and parents. These will hopefully make the connection between classroom lessons and concrete career-goals, so as teachers we may never hear “what’s this gotta do with my life anyway?!” again. Woowee, the times they are ‘achangin’ indeed! What this MAY do is kill childhood outlandish fantasies of what you’ll be when you grow up– a lot less actresses and singers out there! But, what it can do is present kids who don’t know what else to do with their talents more realistic options they may have never considered. These plans are open-ended and change as the students come to really know themselves and find their strengths and weaknesses through their education.

What I’m interested in is how this new program may be meshed with the new idea of graduating high school in 2 years, moving on to community college for what would be their junior and senior years of high school. This program is supposed to encourage those who might not go to college otherwise to at least get 2 years of community college but it also connects with all the students who simply don’t think they can go to college. If you have career-minded students learning what they need for their futures in middle and high school, then moving on to a community college in 2 years to continue these career-oriented courses, the transition to 4-year-college-level work won’t seem so out of reach. I realize that various reforms have been floating in and out of the Education system for many years and more than many have failed, I am really excited to see that reforms have taken on a very “outside the box” approach– at this point, an effective change is going to be a drastic one. I am very curious to see how the structure of Education will change over the years. Hopefully if it comes to shortening high school to get students into 2 and 4 year colleges, there will be a greater demand for professors so all us secondary teachers won’t be out on the streets! There are implications for everything…

But on a brighter note for everyone, signing off with Colbert… sitting in my bed and getting ahead on school work is good enough, right?


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  1. PLN Day 64: LLED 420 Blog Digest « Whitneymeister's English Education Blog pingbacked on 7 years, 2 months ago


  1. * Jason Whitney says:

    That Colbert clip was hilarious. Thanks for sharing that, and I also like the idea of students providing their teacher with lots of useful information right from day one, which would surely increase the chances that the teacher would be able to connect with them on an individual level.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 2 months ago
  2. I thought the bit about having long term career planning is a great idea. I went through high school not really caring about anything because I had no idea where I wanted to focus my efforts. No one ever really pushed me towards anything. Teachers looked at my B or sometime Cish average and just kind of saw that as my potential. What I think they didn’t know is that I never did ANYTHING and somehow I still got B’s. Maybe they did know and just didn’t care–either way I wish someone had helped me figure out where I want to be in a realistic way. Those career placement tests were bogus–I was one of the ones with terrible placement.

    | Reply Posted 7 years, 2 months ago

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