I was fortunate to share a meal with a group of educators in Marietta, Georgia recently. The journey from New Zealand had been long, and naturally my first impression was of the many differences between our education systems. But not long into our (delicious) lunch I was struck by the similarities of the challenges we face. I’ll highlight just three:
- New Standards – in the US, the new Common Core Standards are challenging states to provide literacy experiences for students that will prepare them for college and later life. In New Zealand, the new standards movement is also challenging educators. As we sat and discussed CSI Literacy, the resources I’ve spent the last 5 years co-developing, it was clear that in Georgia and New Zealand we share great concerns for underachieving students. We talked at length about the need for rich pedagogy for our strugglers – not the usual diet of stodgy workbook activities – so that they receive explicit instruction and cooperative learning via peer interaction as they come to grips with the strategies that good readers use automatically in their reading.
- Content, or disciplinary, literacy. The research evidence is clear, and in Georgia and New Zealand the need is being recognized more and more that students in grades 3 to 8 need explicit instruction with text other than fictional narrative. CSI’s engaging digital science, math and social studies texts are acknowledged as being at the cutting edge.
- Technology for learning. We acknowledged the monumental impact that Steve Jobs had on the world of technology, but we also sounded a caution. Technology needs to sit alongside pedagogy, i.e., it needs to be “teachnology”! Or all we have is edutainment – and more edutainment we do not need! I shared the challenges we had in developing the first ever digital shared-reading interface for CSI Literacy, and how excited the students are when they can read, think, talk and write about digital texts in a learning community with their teacher and their peers.
Yes, in both Georgia and New Zealand it all comes down to student achievement in the end – but when the journey is rich, the outcome is not just good test-takers, but thinking young people, ready to claim their place in the world.
This blog was originally posted on http://literacybraintrust.com/?p=107