Published October 31, 2009 by Rick Biche
Technology seems to be supporting two diverging paths in education. I am not sure these paths are anything new really. One represents a humanistic approach to learning while the other is focused on embedding itself within the achievement/testing model of education. Of course we know which one has been on top for the past decade or more.
I came across a reference to Adaptive Curriculum at Ed Tech for Science. I wasn’t surprised to hear the usual “asleep for 50 years” story that has become so cliche in the push for more technology in schools. New York city Ed Chancellor Klien is quoted as saying “It is time to use technology differently.” And there-in lie our two diverging paths.
I spent some time looking over the Adaptive Curriculum site. For the district level coordinator, what’s not to love? A highly standardized, gated environment with clear assessments of the product’s ability to meet its own goals (this is sometimes referred to as achievement, that is another conversation). Even better, students can just complete labs online. There is no need to get out lab gear. Besides, labs rarely produce the correct result with all the experimental noise that happens.
Before I go too far down this path I should reveal that I use modeling software with my students. I have found the software to be very effective at meeting the learning goals that I have set for students. But I only use it when a real lab cannot be done within reason. For example looking at heat, energy and molecular motion. If we need to understand temperature changes and state changes, we boil the real thing. The same goes for pressure changes. Make no mistake, kids get wet those days, lab gear gets broken and not everyone gets the same result. But we also go to the whiteboard, in dynamic groups, and write, hypothesize, erase, draw, explain, test, fail, try again…
From the Adaptive Curriculum website
Adaptive Curriculum for Middle School Science is the ideal solution to student engagement and making science come to life in a virtual environment.
If you want to bring science to life, do science. Get messy, fail, question, grow more questions.
More from the website
- Real-World Experiments
Aimed at improving student inquiry skills, these science Activity Objects create virtual experiments in a safe environment. Benefits of virtual experiments include::
- Comprehension. Students can perform the experiment over and over.
- Safety. Students are not exposed to dangerous situations and liability is reduced.
- Cost Reduction. Virtual experiments do not require equipment or supplies and can be repeated as many times as necessary.
- Resolution of ethical dilemmas. Virtual experiments eliminate objections to specimen dissection.
And there it is, hiding in the context of better comprehension (you know, if this didn’t work for you do it again and again until it does), this selling point has nothing to do with kids and learning and everything to do with ease of implementation, not having to think and of course, saving money.
I understand that there are things that cannot be taught through middle school labs. I also understand how decisions regarding curriculum packages can shift values.
Are there good things in packages such as Adaptive Curriculum? Sure, but these things worry me. If a school or district choose to use this type of program, what steps would be put in place to ensure that real science still happened? What discussions would be required to promote real solutions across all classrooms? And most importantly, how will the district support students asking questions the software cannot answer?
Filed under Educational Technology