Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Teaching the Digital Generation By Kelly, McCain & Jukes

Teaching the Digital Generation: No More Cookie-Cutter High Schools by Frank S. Kelly, Ted McCain and Ian Jukes. Corwin Press (2008), Paperback, 280 pages 978-1-4129-3927-0

The basic premise of this book is not new by any stretch, but interestingly still needs to be said, over and over. Our schools are not functional in teaching our students what they need to be successful in the 21st century. Our student's brains are wired differently due to early and consistent exposure to digital media and we need to get on board. I agree completely and appreciate that the authors take a very bottom up approach in that they focus on the physical design of learning spaces as being the first step. If we don't change the spaces we teach in, we will have a much harder time changing our teaching. They are also very clear that a community vision must exist before design and construction begin and they do not mince words when they say that it will "take great courage, steadfast commitment, and a lot of just plain hard work to sustain the vision.” (67). After laying out their reasoning, the authors elaborate on 11 different school designs with the emphasis on the fact that there is no one right answer for every kid. Each of the 11 designs is preceded by a two-page graphic of the concept which is then followed by a short elaboration and a rubric which each design is evaluated against. While the need for professional development is stressed and the resistance of teachers, parents and administrators being asked to move out of their comfort zone is addressed, the book is focused on the physical design of the learning spaces.

The authors explore how the physical design of the school must support 21st century curriculum, but how that curriculum is designed would very much depend on the vision that the community creates and the specific model or models that used. The authors address many aspects of the digital age high school but as a school librarian, I am concerned that most of their models do not have an information center (library/commons) and that while there is much mention of online access to library materials and information there is no discussion of how those materials will be selected, evaluated, and where students are to get voluntary reading material is left out entirely.

I would highly recommend that anyone contemplating a school remodel or construction read this book immediately. If nothing else, it will make you question your assumptions and “the way we have always done it” which is not a bad thing at all.

Related Book: The New Learning Commons: Where learners win byDavid V. Loertscher, Carol Koechlin and Sandi Zwaan; ISBN: 978-1-933170-40-4; Hi Willow Research and Publishing; 2008

Related Websites: No More Cookie Cutter High Schools

Review by Ann Morgester Library Curriculum Coordinator, Anchorage School District

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