Wednesday, April 08, 2009

There's Nothing Useful to Me on the Internet

A few days ago, Dangerously Irrelevant asked teachers to identify their grade level / subject area's top ten websites.

Lots of interesting buzz surrounded this, but today Scott posted the opinions of a couple naysayers. The opinion of one was that there was a paucity of quality
"lesson plan ideas, handouts, and audio/video resources"

on the Web.

I've heard this argument before. And it ticks me off.

No one promised you that the Internet would be your own personal grab-bag of ready-made lesson plans, handouts, and a/v. Rather, the Web contains tons and tons of resources for MAKING YOUR OWN THINGS.

Handouts? Really? You can get all the 'handouts' you need at your local big-chain bookstore. Copying handouts from the Net isn't 'effective use of tech in education'. Rather, use a bit of the 'synthesis' skill we are supposed to be instilling in our students and mash up the best of some of those web standards like History Channel's History Classroom, Nova, PBS Teachers, and NASA kids with all the user-driven offerings of Web 2.0.

But just Googling 'lesson plans for _______' doesn't cut it. Of course you are going to be disappointed with the results. But that's hardly reason to criticize what the Net's got to offer.


  1. I think...could it be? I agree on you about this! Creating curriculum for the classroom is absolutely about picking, choosing, synthesizing, creating, "remixing," and reinforcing US as the teachers. Even with handouts (or whatever people want to call them school likes the term "graphic organizer"), we have to take ownership of the information..."make it your own," as repeated by my credentialing supervisor, and restated above.

    But...I see this, in a way, as a growing trend that we probably need to teach to in our classrooms and our new teachers.

    First, that not all the answers are on the internet. I obviously don't think so, but it seems like if something doesn't appear on a search engine, it doesn't really exist for our students...and some of our teachers.

    Second, those lesson plans...many of them are actually what grad school students had to turn in, as their homework. That should shed some light as to why the lessons may be "half-baked"...because they are! I wouldn't just take my old homework, at face value, and use it in my classroom! Neither should anyone else!

    Lastly, the high teacher turn-over rate (low retention) creates desperation for materials. Lack of school organization may mean that a new hire comes in a few weeks before school starts...if not in the middle of the school year. Materials?! Curriculum?! It's easy to search on the internet, but it's more effective to ask colleagues for what works, for them and the student population. It'd also just be nice to talk to other adults in an otherwise student-dominated day.

  2. Not sure what bookstore you're going to, but I don't see any high-quality lessons, handouts, or audio/video resources there. I also think you're interpreting my words a bit literally when you suggest that I Google for "lesson plans for ________." That's not where I stop my search. It's rarely where I even begin my search.

    When I'm asked to point out sites that relate to my subject area and to specific units I teach (in essence, to share that very grab bag you say the Internet was never promised as), there aren't such sites because I'm still just trolling the Internet/TV/discussions/movie theater/magazines/novels/comic books/etc. in that effort to find enough to mash together. But there's no set of sites where I always find reliable material.

    As far as sites that are targeted at providing such things, there is a paucity of quality. Sure, the quality is out there in separate pieces, but it's up to the teacher to put it together. That's just like saying that anyone can build an atomic bomb: the pieces are out there, all you have to do is put it together.

    Nothing does that for me and just about every places that tries does the job horribly -- not because it's necessarily impossible, but simply because they don't do it right.


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