Saturday, March 17, 2012

Common Core

Hello Class,

This week's blog prompt is about common core standards. Common core standards are  national level learning standards that will soon be implemented in most states across the country. These standards will be implemented in grades K-12 in most all major subjects: math, English, social science and science. Before this common core initiative, learning standards were set independently by each state. In some cases, states copied the standards of other states; however, there was no mandate to do so. Each state could by choice devise learning standard different for all other states. 

We asked to view one of three videos regarding common core standards for elementary, middle or high school. Here are the corresponding links to the videos: 
Elementary School CCS:

Middle School CCS:
High School CCS:

My wife (a 3rd grade teacher) and I watched all three videos and were impressed. First, establishing nation-wide learning standards is a good idea. The essentials for students to know does not really vary from state to state; math, science and English, among other subjects, remain the same regardless what state  a students live in. The only thing that many vary between states that I can think of is state history, of course this varies state to state. Moreover, the common core standards emphasize learning based on evidence rather than students taking the information presented by the teacher as gospel. The strategy empowers students to learn how retrieve information and how to judge its reliability, rather than waiting for facts to be presented to them. Moreover, students learn to judge, in most cases, how reliable this information is and whether it will support any conclusions. 

Additionally, common core will emphasize quality over quantity. Student learning will focus on doing a few core concepts well and dropping some material traditionally covered in order to make this possible. At first, this may seem like a mistake. Students will not be exposed to as varied many concepts, so therefore will learn less. This is true to some respect; however, common core standards emphasize strategies than enable students to gather, judge and learn information even when they are not with the teacher. In limited time of grade school it really is not possible to learn everything well, but it possible to teach something well and give students the ability to learn more in the future. This makes sense. Students build a strong foundation on which all further learning beyond public school will rest firmly. Today's face-paced technological society requires lifetime learning. Of course, lifetime learning does not upon high school graduation. Common core will give student the power to continue a lifetime of learning.

I reviewed the California’s Common Core Content Standards for English Language Arts &
Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects at the California Department of Education at As described above, these standards for science demand students learn to base their learning based upon evidence. This is precisely the right perspective for science learning. Every scientific conclusion, all of science, is based upon evidence. Without strong supporting evidence no conclusion in science can be made. All science rests upon the foundation of evidence. This is clearly the right way to teach science.

It seems most of the teachers in the three videos were hesitant to can their methods for the latest flavor of the week learning tactic. However, it appears the teachers once comfortable with the new common core standards really felt they were an improvement. I am all for these changes and so is my wife, a teacher of 10 years.

Interesting stuff,


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Computational Thinking

Hello All,

I read article 1, "Computational Thinking: A Digital Age Skill for Everyone" by Barr, Davis and Conery. This article dealt how to best define the idea of computational thinking so that curricula utilizes its concept can be developed for the K-12 setting. 

Computational thinking relies on problem solving for complex issues where solution to the problem may be not readily clear, is often open-ended and not quickly answered by the student. The students must come to a solution to a problem by use of creativity and realization of the limits of the tools at their disposal to solve their problem. Student must first break down the problem into smaller parts and then decide how to solve these smaller parts in sequence that solve the larger problem. In solving these smaller bits of the larger problem, student must decide how to use the tools at their disposal to best solve their problem, likely deciding which ways would be most effective and perhaps, let's face it, easiest and quickest, while still accomplishing their set goal. According to the computational learning theory, computers and other electronic tools are essential this problem solving, though I believe computational learning techniques have been used to most-effectively solve large problems for millennia, regardless of the invention of computers. Computers now tremendously expand our toolbox of tools available to solve problems. 

It is an excellent idea to use computational thinking to facilitate learning as its concepts closely follow how work is done in the real world. The scenario above closely follows how a problem would be tackled from a very logical, engineering perspective. For example, this is just how we would solve problems at the civil engineering career I held for eight years. We would break our problems down into smaller pieces and come up with a way to solve these smaller pieces in order to solve the larger problem  with the tools at our disposal. 

Computational thinking appears to be a very powerful concept, as it encourages creativity and autonomy to find a solution to a problem that does not at first appear to have a obvious solution. This concept can allow students to build confidence in their ability to solve difficult problems on without  following explicit directions. Solving difficult problems without obvious solution by using the tools available to us is something we do in our adult lives all of the time. All to often, schooling has involved working on things that were to be only solved in the explicit way the teacher demands, such as solving an algebra problem in one way and only that way. This old algorithm describes how someone may work at a low-wage job, such as in a fast food restaurant where burritos and made one way and only that way. Higher-wage careers demand problem solving without explicit directions. Supervisors depend on those under them to solve problems without having to have their hands held. Computation learning follows how higher-wage careers work. I am very supportive of teaching in a way that uses computational learning. Awesome stuff!

Thanks for reading,


Barrl, D., Harrision, J. and Conery, L. (2011, March/April). Computaional Thinking: a Digital Age Skill for Everyone, 38 (1)