A Closer Look at the History of Common Core: Phase 1
Out of nowhere, the microwave oven completely changed food preparation and storage forever. I don’t know about you, but I’m old enough to remember tossing out leftovers and popping popcorn on the stove.
In a similar way, Common Core Standards changed K-12 education. School, as we knew it, faded away as this wave crashed through 40+ states.
Although, little by little, the landscape was changing long before Common Core came along.
When I was a child school was simple. Adults understood education and, when necessary, could even help with homework. Learning was defined by how well students could memorize and reproduce information.
Before the Information Age, the teacher was the primary provider of information and knowledge. Deep education traditions developed since the early 1900s, which established the education culture.
Cherished education traditions include the following cultural norms:
* Student learning was primarily an individual activity, with students sitting quietly in rows.
* School had a one-size-fits-all approach with the goal of producing a labor force for the industrial revolution.
* Obedience was valued over creativity.
* Teachers taught to individual state standards with literature and textbooks.
* Children were expected to give one right answer with little explanation of how they attained it.
* Everyone measured school success by the attainment of high grades.
Back then, there were no media stories about ineffective teachers or rankings of schools. In fact, high-stakes-standardized testing didn’t even exist.
In a world where access to data was always limited, the ability to remember what you were taught, without fresh access to all the data, was a critical success factor.~Seth Godin, Stop Stealing Dreams
Personal computers, cellphones, and the Internet didn’t exist, either. In a life without Google, the primary avenues to information were teachers, encyclopedias, books, and libraries.
Fast forward to the highway of information as we know it today. Anything we want to know is immediately available at the tips of our fingers. We didn’t understand it then, but, bit by bit, instant availability of information forever changed teaching and learning.
In the early 2000s, educators wrestled with the shifts in access to information, use of computers, and new strategies the Information Age demanded. Teachers had to quickly shift teaching techniques to incorporate technology and the Internet.
Information Access Shifts
- Information management
Teaching students to sift through massive amounts of information and determine reliable and valid sources.
- Appropriate screening
Selecting child appropriate search engines and software.
- Basic skills
Teaching students to type on a computer keyboard, use a mouse, scroll, use headphones, share a computer, select answers, search for facts and many other skills millennials seemingly know from birth.
- Teaching strategies
- Teaching in a computer lab with and without a projector.
- Responding to the inevitable glitches of Internet access and technology.
- Keeping up with constant technological changes.
The changes brought on by the Information Age, combined with other political, social, and cultural factors, set the stage for new ways to define and measure school success.
Children today do not know a world without cell phones, computers, or Google. There is no doubt the introduction of the World Wide Web in 1991 necessitated a shift in teaching and learning.
While we more mature adults may think about school through a lens of reading, writing, and arithmetic; school today is more about facilitating learning environments that encourage deep thinking and collaboration.
Although change is uncomfortable and sometimes confusing, there are benefits. There is a certain amount of freedom that comes with instantly available facts.
Take the Civil War for example, children no longer have to memorize dates and names. Instead, they can spend time researching the political, economic, and cultural contexts behind the war. Then, they can show their learning through blogs, vlogs, presentations, or portfolios.
As we all know, change is challenging. The Information Age certainly paved the way for new ways of teaching and learning. But, there were additional factors that also contributed along this bumpy road.
The history and purpose behind the development of Common Core Standards are more complex than they seem at the surface.
Stay tuned for my next post in this series on Common Core Standards where we’ll explore the two decades since the Information Age. Hang onto your hats, there are surprises in store.
Do you see technology as a benefit or distraction to learning? Have you seen differences in how students learn today versus 10 or 20 years ago? Share in the comment section below.