In the interests of transparency I must disclose that I was a bit of a sock whisperer in one of my past lives, and I have a shoebox full of disemboweled sock puppets hidden at the back of the wardrobe that I fully intend to repair the next time I have an urge to wield a darning needle.
Eddie Izzard’s - Never put a sock in a toaster - advice always captures me – this statement is overstuffed with potential – it is made for one of those collaborative online (e) quest 21st Century learner rich task inquiry thingees in that it offers an authentic relevant context, charged with emotional, social and political implication, with no definitive answers. It undermines basic assumptions, requiring the learner to grapple with rich content that is indispensable to understanding humanity. Although it will require careful and lengthy research, it is a statement that can be researched in the context of the learners available resources And best of all the performance for understanding just screams out for a MS PowerPoint presentation
Is why I was dead chuffed to read a Ministry press release this week stating that
“The latest findings from the ongoing national evaluation of primary and intermediate school students show they are making progress in key areas of mathematics, social studies and information skills, Ministry of Education Learning Policy Manager Steve Benson said today.”
I take this claim to mean that all those initiatives in information literacy, ICT connectivity and constructivist inquiry pedagogies since 2001 mean that my students have never been more able to research and make meaning of Izzard’s” Never put a sock in a toaster” rich task.
The media release from the Ministry of Education's latest national evaluation results 25th August 2006 goes further than simple claims of making progress. It identifies key findings from the research as ...
Comparing the NEMP results between 2005 and 2001, some other key findings are:
- Disparities have reduced between year 4 and year 8 Pakeha and Maori students, and Pakeha and Pasifika students in social studies and mathematics.
- Disparities between performance of students in mathematics in high, medium and low decile schools have reduced, particularly at year 4.
- Community size, school size, and school type (full primary, intermediate, or year 7 to 13 high school), and geographic zone were not important factors in predicting achievement in mathematics, social studies and information skills.
- Girls were slightly better at social studies, information skills and mathematics, with the exception of year 4 boys who performed slightly better in mathematics.
Emboldened by this optimistic press release I figure I will start the inquiry with some questions for students at the unistructural and multistructural levels of SOLO taxonomy. Getting students to define, describe, label and name both socks, toasters and the process of “putting in”.
Once they have had time to be fully immersed in the sock and the toaster contexts, they will be ready for some SOLO relational thinking. They will be ready to formulate some of their own questions using questioning frameworks like 5W&H, 6 Hats, open closed, Weiderhold Matrix, Fogarty’s three story intellect, etc. to develop questions that require the curious 21st Century Learner to
- sequence the significant events in the history of the sock,
- classify toasters by the variety of ways that socks are put in them
- compare stuffing a sock in a toaster with stuffing a sock in a sandwich maker;
- analyse part whole thinking about the toaster and or the sock,
- determine the events that might cause a sock to be put in a toaster,
- determine possible causes for pulling a sock out of a toaster
And then, well then they will be ready for some SOLO extended abstract thinking - ready to make generalisations about socks in toasters, draw analogies between socks in toasters and the 21st century Learner , make predictions about the insertion of other stuff into toasters and socks into other stuff, evaluate Izzards claim and create new sock toaster thinking.
You will have to imagine the Artichokean slough of despond after I downloaded the NEMP research reports and read the summary statements about “making progress” in information skills - statements like
- Many year 4 and year 8 students found it difficult to select/reject information relevant to a topic and to make decisions or develop arguments based on that information.
- More than 50 percent of both year 4 and year 8 students struggled to ask two or three ‘strong questions’ for an enquiry, even when working collaboratively.
- Few year 4 and year 8 students could describe a coherent process or strategy for finding and using information for a research or study topic.
- Year 8 students often performed well on simple single step task components but were challenged by tasks that required multiple steps and simple reasoning.
- The internet is seen as the most preferred source of information for students. The declining use of libraries is a concern given the value of resources they can provide.
- While the internet was the most preferred source of information, there is evidence in the report that students lacked skills of discernment and discrimination in their use of internet information.
Seems that I'm going to have to rethink this whole sock toaster thing - If this is Ministry speak for "making progress” in the key area of information skills I’d hate to see what students cannot do when they are described as “maintaining the status quo”.
Even more disturbing is the gnawing sense of disquiet that I might be illiterate.
Rosemary Hipkins (2006) in unpacking the new draft curriculum’s Key Competency Using language symbols and texts states
To truly read material from any semiotic domain is to read it as an insider would – that is, you would know the “rules of the game”. When you can do that, you can be said to be literate in that domain.
Predict I will have to put a lot more socks into toasters before I can be said to have competency in reading the Ministry of Education Media Release pages.