When we started putting together this issue of the Teacher PD Sourcebook, our working editorial theme was “Innovative Practices in Math and Language Arts.” The idea was to explore ways in which top educators were bringing new life to these central, time-honored subjects.
As you’ll see, we didn’t abandon that plan. But in talking to teachers and researching projects, we began to think that “innovative” might not be the right word to fully capture the ideas and practices we were learning about. In education today, “innovative” tends to be synonymous with cutting-edge use of technology. And while all of the teachers and programs we feature in this issue are using technology in creative—and, indeed, innovative—ways, that isn’t necessarily their central goal.
Their deeper objective, we’ve realized, is to bring greater authenticity to math and literacy instruction. These educators want to help students make connections between math, reading, and writing and their own lives. They want to exhume their subjects from the realms of test-prep monotony and “cookie-cutter” assignments and show how they resonate beyond the classroom.
This emphasis on authentic learning is highlighted throughout the issue. In our feature Q&A, teacher-author Kelly Gallagher decries schools’ tendency to focus on “academic and functional reading” and to neglect books that might hold greater meaning for young adults. Likewise, our profile piece on Dan Meyer examines the celebrated math educator’s philosophy of presenting math to students as a “way of making sense of the world.”
Other articles explore how educators are using advances in—yes—technology to help students explore the real-life uses of algebra and writing. Still others present instructional ideas intended to highlight the relevancy of math and language arts to students’ own lives.
More than just innovation, then, it’s about “keeping it real.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2011 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook