21st century science, geography

Partnership for 21st Century Skills has come out with science and geography road maps that show how to integrate “new” skills into old subjects. Last year’s maps covered English Language Arts and social studies. Math is in the works.

The science and geography maps provide educators with teacher-created models of how 21st century skills can be infused into instruction and highlight the critical connections between science, geography and 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication.

There’s no content, complains Common Core. Instead, P21 explains that learning skills is more important than “acquiring information” and “assessing to learn what students do not know.” 

So, under P21’s plan, students will learn less and their knowledge gaps will go undetected. 

Common Core also wonders how students can learn from the suggested activities if they haven’t acquired any information.

The fourth-grade science activity is light on science:

 Students in the class role-play citizens in a town meeting where members of the community express different points of view about a local issue, such as the location of a new school, building a bypass for traffic, or a re-zoning of downtown to be “pedestrian only” without vehicles, etc.

Eighth-grade science focuses on how a citizen evalutes scientific claims, not how to be a scientist. Most of us will be, at best, informed citizens, but what about the students who want to do science?

Students view video samples from a variety of sources of people speaking about a science-related topic (e.g., news reporters, news interviews of science experts, video podcasts of college lectures, segments from public television documentaries, or student-made videos of parents and professionals in their community). Students rate the videos on the degree to which the person sounded scientific…

A proposed 12th-grade geography activity asks students to conduct a survey to “test the law of retail gravitation (i.e., the number of visits a resident makes to competing shopping centers is inversely proportional to the distances between residence and center and proportional to the size of the center).” That is, people will travel longer distances to visit a large shopping center with many choices than to go to a small shopping center.

Given the percentage of young Americans who can’t find Iraq and Iran on a map — much less tell the difference between them — mastery of retail geography seems a bit esoteric.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. thaprof says:

    “Students in the class role-play citizens in a town meeting where members of the community express different points of view about a local issue, such as the location of a new school, building a bypass for traffic, or a re-zoning of downtown to be “pedestrian only” without vehicles, etc.”

    What about the students who role-play the organizers and astroturfers who hand-pick the participants, plant the questions, etc.? These appear to be among the most important skills in Obama’s 21st century America.

  2. Tracy W says:

    There can be a very big difference between sounding scientific, and actually making comments based on science.

  3. These children are being “taught” ignorance of any actual knowledge. It’s an obscenity.

  4. Homeschooling Granny says:

    “21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and communication.”

    Critical thinking, problem solving and communication are 21st century skills? What did people spend their time on in all the preceding centuries?

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    The Core Knowledge folks talk out of both sides of their mouth on this one. Most folks, including the 21st Century folks point to the need for both skills and knowledge. And yet, the folks at Core Knowledge, while claiming to support both, are the strongest (and perhaps the only) voice claiming that 21st Century wants to ditch content from the curriculum. And then they present a snippet of a lesson plan, removed from context, to support their view. One could play the same kinds of games with their curricula if one wanted to make the case, perhaps, that they are light on applications.

  6. This is insane. Lots of idiots can “sound scientific”, which is why intelligent design has gained a foothold. Teaching kids to evaluate media sounds great, but as anyone who’s watched An Inconvenient Truth can tell you, great graphics and nice HD footage can go a long way towards persuading an audience.

  7. Barry Garelick says:

    And yet, the folks at Core Knowledge, while claiming to support both, are the strongest (and perhaps the only) voice claiming that 21st Century wants to ditch content from the curriculum.

    Do you know if 21st Century’s curriculum does indeed teach the content people say is lacking?

  8. I’m inclined to the opinion that 21st Century is edu-crap based on no more then its name since that’s quite often about all edu-crap actually has going for it.

    The name “21st Century” is just so doggone sexy that it fairly screams of having been selected for that quality alone or rather to divert from the lack of any worthwhile qualities.

  9. Redkudu says:

    To be fair, Common Core’s snippets aren’t from lesson plans. They’re from P21′s “skills map”. It doesn’t appear to be removed from context, but it is removed from its more detailed Objective. All I can see is that the 8th grade snippet appears to be abbreviated. Any comparison to Core Knowledge’s materials would probably need to be a comparison to their syllabi, since it appears that’s what the “skills map” seems to be acting as.

    Speaking of the 8th grade snippet – it’s from the P21′s “Communication” section, and also says “Students rate the videos on the degree to which the person *sounded* scientific…” (Emphasis mine) I wonder if that lesson takes into account how speaker charisma can influence a listener’s opinion of their validity. Are 8th graders judicious enough to distinguish between showmanship and information that may not be presented as interestingly but more accurately? Is that part of the lesson?

    The “Outcome” portions of the skills map generally strike me as reasonable objectives. However, the “Examples” strike me as end projects – the culminating activity which will allow students to interact with each other and the knowledge they’ve acquired, and put it into play. However, as presented, the “Example” portions might appear to some readers to be *the* activity that teaches the objective.

    I don’t think any rational person would believe that 8th graders would be expected to “identify conventions for writing and speaking scientifically that distinguish scientific communication from other types of expression…” (the Objective) by only doing what the Example describes (“Students rate the videos on the degree to which the person sounded scientific, then identify characteristics of speech pattern…etc.”) without already having had some instruction in those conventions. The problem is, the example doesn’t mention teaching the content, or what specific conventions need to be taught for studying and rating scientific communication over other types. (Rhetorical devices? Logical fallacies? Questionable data?) The example mentions watching videos and making board games.

    My feeling, as a teacher, is that P21 will need to stop showcasing edutainment projects as examples of learning processes and start providing some details for scrutiny, at least for those of us who care to scrutinize and consider what they’re selling. Right now, I’m not buying.

  10. Parent2 says:

    I just glanced at the skills map for science. On a quick search, “collaborate,” or variations on that word, is used much more frequently than “lab” or “laboratory.”

    “Career” was mentioned more frequently than “physics” or “chemistry.” “Control” was not mentioned.

    Edutainment? Most of the member organizations depend upon the sale of hardware and software. This is a marketing organization–and they’re not selling education, they’re selling technology. “Member organizations include: Adobe Systems, Inc., American Association of School Librarians, Apple, ASCD, Atomic Learning, Blackboard, Inc., Cable in the Classroom, Cisco Systems, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Dell, Inc., Education Networks of America, Educational Testing Service, EF Education, Ford Motor Company Fund, Gale Cengage Learning, Hewlett Packard, Intel Corporation, JA Worldwide®, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, K12, Learning.com, Learning Point Associates, LEGO Group, Lenovo, McGraw Hill, Measured Progress, Microsoft Corporation, National Education Association, Oracle Education Foundation, Pearson, PolyVision, Quarasan!, Scholastic Education, Sesame Workshop, Sun Microsystems, THINKronize, Verizon, and Wireless Generation. Organizations interested in joining the Partnership may contact info@21stcenturyskills.org.”

  11. FuzzyRider says:

    Our bretren on the left, who control education, have always known (as Stalin did) that IDEAS are more dangerous to the leftist state than guns- that is why they are always trying to ban both.

    If we are to ever regain our status as a free people, we need to get education completely away from the government and back to a more free-market model.

  12. Diana Senechal says:

    If these were just “snippets” taken out of context, if the Skills Maps were actually challenging and coherent curricula with only a stray silly project now and then, I would be less concerned. As it is, the Skills Maps have many such examples, and subject matter seems to take a back seat to the array of “skills” (many having to do with PR, advertising, and so-called “collaboration”) that P21 seeks to promote.

    The examples are not taken out of context; they lack context to begin with. The 21st Century Skills Maps are not coherent; they present an array of projects with little connection between them and, little or no subject matter (or arbitrary topics–as though the “content” were just the filler, not the heart of the lesson).

    I am also concerned over P21′s technology push. I am not averse to technology; I have worked in the past as a computer programmer and electronic publisher. But I find that the “technology skills” promoted by many of the tech firms are superficial, and a lot of time gets devoted to them. Moreover, when schools buy these various items of software, hardware, and accessories, they then feel obligated to use them. This is wrong. Technology should serve the lesson and not vice versa. If a lesson has to use a SmartBoard simply because the SmartBoard is in the room and the school paid X dollars for it, we are in trouble.

  13. Margo/Mom says:

    Diana:

    I don’t see anything that indicates that the skills maps are intended to be a curriculum. They provide guidance for teachers who are willing (and it would appear to me that some are) to consider the importance of integrating the particular package of skills and abilities that falls under the 21st Century banner into the content focused curriculum. The particular snippet that has been offered up here is an example of an activity. The skill that this relates to (within the content area of science) is Communication. That skill is defined as follows: “Effective communication is central to scientific research practices. Scientists describe their work so that the research can be duplicated, confirmed, and advanced by others, but also understood by public, non-technical audiences. Scientific thinking is communicated in many different ways including oral, written, mathematical, and graphical representations of ideas and observations.”

    The learning objective associated with the example activity is: “Students can identify conventions for writing and speaking scientifically that distinguish scientific communication from other types of expression, and describe reasons behind those differences such as the need in science for precision, detail, and evidence over opinion.”

    Now, I am not a science teacher (although it appears that there were a good many science teachers involved in this project, as the science skils maps were presented by the National Science Teachers Association), but if I were teaching toward that objective, the learning that would need to happen prior to the implementation/completion of that particular learning activity would include such things as words (like “significant”) that have a much more specific meaning in the scientific realm than in others. It might include basic knowledge of the steps in the scientific process of developing and testing a hypothesis. We might spend some time as a class picking apart some blatant pseudo-science, as well as dissecting commonalities within examples of highly regarded works.

    Just as an example–parent2′s assessment has the “sound of” science. It counts things that seem to distinguish between science and not science. What one needs to ask is whether the presence or absence of the word “laboratory” and the comparative presence or absence of the word “collaborate” are valid indicators of the amount of science-related content in a document. Seems like this kind of understanding is pretty important whether one is aimed in the direction of producing or reading scientific matter.

  14. Ragnarok says:

    Margo,

    What on earth are you saying? Do you think that the 21st-Century people have a plan worth following, or not?

    And why are you picking on Core Knowledge, when Joanne’s post references Common Core?

  15. Diana Senechal says:

    Margo/Mom,

    I would disagree: Parent2′s comment does not have the “sound” of science, nor do I imagine he or she intended it that way. It reads as an interesting observation.

    And that is exactly what concerns me about this project: that students would look at the superficial attributes of a speech or article (does it involve stats of some sort?) and use that to determine whether or not it sounds scientific.

    Much sounder is the question: Is this scientific? To answer that, one needs to know a bit of science. A rubric won’t do the trick.

    A case in point: many people fell for Alan Sokal’s hilarious postmodern physics hoax in 1996. To figure out that it’s a hoax, you have to know something about physics or about the trend he is mocking. Otherwise it looks scholarly, plausible, and well researched.

  16. Ragnarok says:

    Diana,

    It’s extremely funny to see quotes from real science mixed in with pseudo-science. Thank you for the link.

    I found a PDF version which I plan to print out so I can enjoy it at leisure.

    On a more sober note, this isn’t much different from a lot of the pap that we run across in our everyday lives.

  17. Ragnarok says:

    Grrr, forgot to mention Karl Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery for a good explanation of what separates science from non-science.

  18. I think this is an indication that we need to get back to teaching more classical rhetoric (and not in science class…sheesh). I wonder if that will make the spiffy new national standards?

  19. “Effective communication is central to scientific research practices. Scientists describe their work so that the research can be duplicated, confirmed, and advanced by others, but also understood by public, non-technical audiences. Scientific thinking is communicated in many different ways including oral, written, mathematical, and graphical representations of ideas and observations.”

    I have a problem with that. Effective communication is NOT central to scientific research. It is simply helpful. Like many other helpful traits, from pleasant demeanor and good hygiene, through good grammar, and to orderly habits. Central to scientific research is the ability to think clearly, persist, and be able to creatively draw on broad knowledge from multiple domains. Effective communication is only central to making the teacher feel good.

    Yet another symptom of educrap thinking, brought to you courtesy of people who wouldn’t recognize good research if it hit them in the face.

  20. Tracy W says:

    Effective communication is NOT central to scientific research.

    Well yes it is, assuming that you are doing your scientific work along with other people, which is the norm nowadays and has been for some years. I remember in labs having plenty of problems caused by poor communication, for example once at school we were doing a titration in a group of four and the colour change never happened. The two students who had fetched the two substances swore up and down that they had not fetched the same substance, until the fourth of the group happened to ask them each to name the substance they’d fetched.

    And even beyond the lab, it’s no good discovering something if you don’t tell other scientists about it in a way that they can understand. And other scientists are aware of this – projects classically start off with a literature search to see what else has been done already on the topic.

    I’d say that effective communication is as central to scientific research as persistance or being able to creatively draw on broad knowledge from multiple domains.

  21. This was depressing. Science and geography are two of my favorite subjects.

    When high school graduates can’t tell you what the difference is between velocity, acceleration, momentum, force, work, and power, you’ve got a problem. When they also can’t find Iraq or Afghanistan on a political map of the Earth, you’ve got a BIG problem.

    It’s no wonder the last few Presidents and last several Congresses have been doing whatever they want without impunity – most Americans don’t know any better anymore! They’ll also believe anything that politicians, movie/TV stars, and pro athletes tell them.

    What is this country going to do in the next two generations? Not everyone can work at McDonald’s…

  22. I wanted to share this film I have found to be great for the classroom! I have just seen it and think it is an outstanding documentary of the Apollo 11 space mission. With the 40th anniversary of man walking on the moon coming up on July 20, I can only imagine that this is a hot topic for classrooms all over.

    The film is called Moonwalk One-The Director’s Cut and is a restored and remastered version of the director’s, Theo Kamecke, original documentary filmed in 1969. It is an amazing account of the Apollo 11 space mission in which man first walked on the moon! Not only does it capture the scientific accomplishments, but it also serves as an amazing time capsule of society at the time and their reactions!