Tech Ed 4 Kids Partners with Parents, Students, and Teachers to Measurably Propel Student Achievement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math
One of the school districts near us just voted to remove gifted education and combine it into classrooms that are meant to teach at every child’s own level. I can see a LOT of problems with that, starting with the teachers are already overworked. The school district argued that the gifted classes in the district are lopsided with a top-heavy amount of Asians in the classes, then Caucasians coming in second. Black and other people of color came in last with a very (and I really mean very) low percentage. I do think that’s an indication something is broke in the system. The district originally was working to increase participation (2004), then built a magnet school (2019), and now is phasing out its a gifted program completely planning to integrate gifted education into the classroom?
Issues I see with this include:
- Teachers are already overworked trying to juggle new forms of teaching, keep up with remote and in class students with an environment that is changing all the time.
- Students that are gifted in a subject may be asked to help with or tutor the students that are behind, taking from their own instruction time and also creating an uneven power dynamic in the room and also anyone remember ‘teacher’s pet’
- Students become bored without new information, just reviewing information they already have learned in the past.
- Students that do need extra help are left behind while trying to meet the needs of the students that are so far ahead of the rest of the class.
Education in general does end up skewed toward the students that receive more resources and support at home. Students that lack even such basics as nutritious meals on evenings and weekends will fall behind their peers. Frequently left to care for younger siblings, parents with different priorities, no role models in the home, and more can all affect how students score when being tested for gifted programs.
Even stereotypes can play into who gets into programs. I remember when my youngest first started school he attended for speech delay. We knew he was bright and good at math and science even before school started. As he reached first grade we started to noticed that he would never get a grade of Excellent on anything. His score was always marked as Satisfactory. Items like counts to 100 for a child that could count over 1000 were being marked as Satisfactory as opposed to Excellent and when we questioned this, the remark was that he didn’t improve at it or something like that…. We had many more instances like this to come throughout our time there. Finally after relocating, grades suddenly turned to straight As – immediately.
We also had noticed that during the time we were at the school that my son had started with an IEP, he was never chosen as student of the month, yet he was chosen at the new school soon after we moved. We’ve seen student of the month a couple times since then for his class as well as him winning the highest score for math and reading in his class during testing.
There is no simple solution to gifted education. I’d like to say that students that are gifted are more likely to find a way to succeed if they do not face challenging material in school. In reality I personally think that students that face a challenging home life and come to school to be bored are more likely to start acting out as they reach higher grades and then start falling behind, treated as the troublemaker in the classroom. As opposed to cutting programs, providing programs for early intervention and recognition. Improving detection methods as well as resources to make sure younger changing have tools to be successful early.
It’s hard for parents to be concerned about signing their young children up for resources like Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to receive free books when they are homeless and trying to figure out where their next meal will come from. Students that go from home to home or are living in a domestic shelter, or even worse, still in an abusive relationship. There are so many issues to take into account.
Additionally I’ve seen some schools choose to keep sports programs over academic programs. Sports programs garner the publicity. Recently during the pandemic I noticed a post by a parent suggesting that students had to be allowed to play sports because it was risking them their chance to go to college – as if the only way those students would be able to go to college was on a sports scholarship. As a parent of children that all went on academic scholarships, that just boggles my mind. What if your child gets an injury that disqualifies them from sports permanently?
Recently parents wrote in to the paper voicing thoughts about why the program was cut, some thought it was reverse racism which I don’t think applies – what I do see is a money decision with academics coming out at the bottom again…. And if any racism is involved, it’s really the fact that the effort isn’t being put into the younger grades to make more effort to find, identify, and supply resources to minorities.
One of our choices for math this year was Life of Fred. Really we are using a few things, but we all love math! We have the Art of Problem solving (Prealgebra), the Go Math 6th grade book that the local school uses – (we have the 7th-grade book also), and we are using IXL. Life of Fred was the choice that came with our boxed curriculum choice for the year We are adding a lot to it, but it’s so nice to have a set path with materials to work through.
Our Life of Fred prealgebra came with three books and we added a book with Zillions of Problems to help practice. Originally we had no clue what to expect, but the Life of Fred program turned out to be a math textbook that read like a book. It’s about a teacher at Kittens University that has to solve problems to complete tasks and walks through experiments to solve the problems that he runs into. The first book focused on physics and started with a safe that was too heavy to move being dropped off in the hallway. Fred had to find a way to get the safe moved down a hallway and into an office. Force, mass, coefficient of fiction all came into play in the calculations. There was even an accident that Fred had to work out that left the reader feeling for Fred. After physics, we’ll work through economics and biology with Fred.
We enjoyed making it more interesting by trying some of the experiments. Our table was soon covered with all sorts of interesting sets to measure resistance and calculate force! White boards were hung on walls to leave up formulas and words like potential and kinetic were thrown around…. We are also including the other math books and we are including a lot of experiments, so three months in we are still on the first of the three Life of Fred books… but so far we like it. In my opinion the books the books are also working toward answering that popular question of why do I need to know this? and what will I ever use this for? Most people would never actually take the time to calculate the exact force needed to move a safe, but it good to know that it’s possible.
Pre-Algebra Life of Fred With
Last year when we took a break to go remote our local school decided that they didn’t want to pressure the kids with learning anything new. The grade school, we were doing 5th grade, simply wanted to work on keeping up the students social emotional learning. My little one though really liked his schedule. He wanted to stick with doing all the same things he did at school each day and that started with homeroom! Homeroom at school included watching some sort of news program that the school must have subscribed to and I’m sure they had their school report telling birthdays, lunch and more.
To add that to our day as the school ‘break’ stretched we would watch the news here together, which we were sure to discuss. Once in a while I felt we would need to censor it a little, but it helped keep up with what was going on in the world and in our area. We’ve continued it on into this school year as we’ve homeschooled. Now we’ve added some extra things like the debates.
Finally I added in a news story each day from the site Newsela. It lets me print stories with questions included. We can discuss the articles and go over the questions. I created an account with my Google sign in and am able to choose what articles my son might be interested in. The articles include word counts and could be shared onto google classroom if I wanted to create sets that are related to topics we are researching.
There are also teacher sets that can be used, put together by teachers that curate articles related to a pertinent topic. I’m looking at one now on To Kill a Mockingbird – ‘Do We Still Need Atticus’ Lessons Today? The set includes 23 articles that include ‘Recalling An Era when the Color of Your Skin Meant Paying to Vote’ and ‘Redlining Prevents Minority Families from Becoming Homeowners’. There are also sets on topics such as Math in the Real World and Women History Month, even programming a school’s basketball team against the Pick and Roll Defense (I have no idea what that is!)….
We stick with one article per morning and add a discussion. There are additional sites that offer news. We haven’t tried them, but it’s good to find the one that works for you and stick with it. Some include videos like the National Geographic site for kids, and others are articles like you would find in the paper. Speaking of which we have also been pulling out the paper and my son currently grabs the comics. Originally he stuck with the comics, but has slowly added puzzles to his interest in the local paper. Over time we will add articles that are more interesting!
There are so many ways to make learning fun. One of the things we’ve tied in is CodaKid (besides Tynker). On a side note though, last night we were watching the new Netflix documentary on the Social Dilemma. A documentary-drama hybrid that explores the human impact of social networking, with tech experts sounding the alarm on their own creations and calling it dangerous. I don’t know how many of you have noticed the posts by people saying their kids can’t sit in front of the computer all day for school. Kids in tears because school has gone remote and is all online. I have to admit I’m confused by the contradiction saying that we can’t get our kid’s off technology because they are addicted …. but wait they can’t be expected to use the computer for a few hours each day for remote learning, they can’t handle it….
Codakid has several cool classes on coding. My youngest is currently sticking with the Minecraft with Java, but I’ve pulled up the Cart Racing with Unity and he’s been working through it with me at the same time. There are so many things that can be tied into coding! Math, reading, and it even can count as a foreign language. There are clubs that get together for coding and competitions. Scholarships that can be applied for that link in, and that’s not even counting the logic skills that are acquired. There are so many ties with coding to additional topics:
There are so many ties with coding to additional topics:
- Math: Scaling
- Math: Logic
- Social Studies: Can be tied in with the history of languages, programmers, and more
- Science: physics of motion
I’m not an expert at curriculum development, but the more we homeschool, the more I see overlap between subjects allowing learning to happen throughout the day, no matter what we are doing! I have to admit that I enjoyed CodaKid as much as my youngest seems to. The only complaint that I’ve heard so far was that on the Java and Minecraft class, was that it’s moving a little too slowly and he would like to get to coding faster. The set up stage of the lessons is very detailed and walks through every step. In the class that I was using with my youngest I have to admit I tended to skip portions where I could guess what was going to happen and just ‘do it’ and then come back in after. I’ve used several of the tools already though and have installed development software many times before. It seemed to work for me, but for my youngest who felt that he had to watch everything and go step by step…. that portion was a little boring and led to a hiatus.
Students can also take those skills as they enter college and use them to either volunteer or better yet, find a paying job to help work after they have finished. There are even sites dedicated to small coding and design jobs like fiverr and frelancer. My own first paid job in college was writing an inventory system on the Commodore 64 for a small business to just keep track of their products. This was back in the time of floppy disks (5 1/4″) and the DOS operating system and WINDOWS weren’t even a thing I’d used yet.
Debating what to study for homeschooling, one of our thoughts was ‘We need a language!’. We discussed every option of language we had some experience with and looked at what colleges are accepting. Interestingly enough some colleges now are taking programming languages in place of a foreign language. In the end, for our house we chose both foreign language (Spanish) and to look at computer coding. Personally I really like computer code, and to me it seems like it may help with employment in the future more than a foreign language…. but having both skills is a large benefit.
The younger kids learn another language the easier it is, and what we have been finding is that Spanish is not something that our son is going to pick up easily (and isn’t too willing either). Currently I’m working on slipping Spanish words into conversation as they fit and looking at labeling some things around the house to help make it a little easier to make the Spanish ‘common place’.
For programming my youngest enjoys Minecraft and we’ve found a few places that include programming mods for Minecraft. One of the first sites we decided to try was Tynker which included a lifetime subscription. The site also allows programming from the web or a tablet through an app. Besides Minecraft programming they include several other options, so it looked like a great place to start. We’ve slowly been working our way through, but from what we’ve seen so far it was worth the subscription we went with. We’ve since added another coding tutorial site also, but tynker was a great place to start. The site even starts with younger grades and looks like it would work starting with first or second grade.
Students love playing video games, what’s better than letting kids work on writing their own games to play. Coding teaches logic skills that help with future math and science (as well as some design thrown in).
We were needing a break a couple days ago during homeschooling and making cookies seemed to check all the boxes. I was reminded of the old skit by Bill Cosby where he discussed cake for breakfast…. eggs, milk…. yep it’s breakfast! Making cookies is fractions! We now have a math activity that ends with a snack and to top it off we are up and moving around the kitchen using some fine motor skills. As my husband came in he reminded us there was chemistry involved also. Perfect! If you really want to cover the bases it had reading too because of reading the recipe…
We ate the cookies to ‘Would you Lie to Me?’ a recent show that was on TV and learned something about human behavior. My son joked that would be social studies and we had covered the day. My thought was that he works so hard normally it was a good day and he needs the flexibility once in a while.
There are so many things that you can do with fractions and cooking. Look at adjusting the recipe to make more, or make less, convert the measurements to different units….. there are options, or just measuring with fractions. Then how many cookies fit on a sheet, how many sheets do you need, how much time, changing the cooking time if you change the temperature….
One of our ‘experiments’ with cooking involved accidently putting in too much baking soda. (A tablespoon instead of a teaspoon) So we had the discussion about what will that cause to happen? What does baking soda do in a recipe?
In cooking, baking soda is primarily used in baking as a leavening agent. When it reacts with acid, carbon dioxide is released, which causes expansion of the batter and forms the characteristic texture and grain in pancakes, cakes, quick breads, soda bread, and other baked and fried foods.Chemical formula: NaHCO, ₃
Our cookies came out of the oven and were almost immediately pounced upon as snacks. I’m pretty happy that my little one this year has been ore willing to try knew new things. I think this was our second time making cookies and he was willing to eat them both times. For someone that doesn’t like broken cookies or cookies that aren’t round from the store I consider that a win!