Sunday, July 18, 2010

Common Core and the 21st Century Student

by Tara Seale

On June 15, 2010, The Learning Institute brought a panel of experts to the Bryant School District to discuss the National Common Core Standards. Educators and educational leaders in Arkansas attended the event to listen to Carol Jago and Dr. Sandra Stotsky discuss the English Language Arts Common Core and Dr. Stephen Wilson and Nancy Livingston discuss the Mathematics Common Core.
NCTE President Carol Jago's presentation focused on the 21st Century student. She said that webpages are teaching us to read in an F pattern. We read across the top, down the side, across the middle, and down the side again. Quick skimming works for online content, but not for great works of literature. Jago also referred to an advertisement that said, "Read Less, Know More." I Googled this ad and found out that it is the slogan for a company called Newser. I am not sure if this is the same ad that Carol Jago referred to, but it seems like it could be. Newser summarizes news stories for people who do not want to struggle through a lengthy article in the New York Times but only want to know the gist of the article as summarized by an employee from Newser. The founder of Newser, Michael Wolff, claims that he is going to put newspapers out of business, which seems to contradict the strategy of his business enterprise. You can view Mr. Wolff explaining the value of Newser in this CNBC interview below.






Carol Jago said that this generation may be too distracted to read. She provided a handout that included startling statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation Study, such as, the average 8-18 year old spends approximately 7 1/2 hours utilizing electronic media during a 24 hour period. Carol Jago claimed that our youth is paying a "mental price" as they "twitter away their focus," but the National Common Core Curriculum may provide some hope by bringing what Mark Bauerlein called the The Dumbest Generation back into focus. Jago shared several lessons aligned with the National Common Core Curriculum that would force students to focus. For example, she used artwork from Jacob Lawrence This is a Family Living in Harlem and the poem "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden to compare the details and images used by the artist and poet. This lesson corresponds with the National Common Core Reading Standard for Grades 9-10:Literature on page 38 of the Common Core:

7. Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment (e.g. Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" and Breughel's Landscape with the fall of Icarus).


In my classroom, I've discovered that this multi-tasking generation would prefer not to focus and would rather read short snippets and move on, but when provided direction and encouragement, students maintain concentration as they try to decipher difficult text, and the Common Core looks promising for providing a curriculum that encourages students to deepen their comprehension. Unfortunately, this skill is threatened by Newser and other 21st Century distractions. If Newser has its way and manages to change an entire generation into skimmers who let others do the heavy thinking, I wonder who they will employ to condense those lengthy articles?

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