A recent NY Times article reported that Dartmouth is no longer accepting credit for high scores on AP tests. According to Dartmouth, 90% of students who scored a 5 on the AP Psychology test couldn't pass the exam for Dartmouth's intro psych class. Now this is only my first year teaching an AP course, so I don't speak with a lot of experience here, but this only serves to feed this question that's been gnawing at me: Can a content-based AP course truly coexist with an innovative 1:1 iPad deployment?
During the five weeks that all of my students had iPads, we were reading the tail-end of the Julius Caesar portion of the AP Latin syllabus. After a semester of traipsing through Gaul with C. Iulius, my students, while good soldiers, grew noticeably weary of the material. The brief foray into the cultures of the Druids and their "wicker man" helped, but there's only so much one can do to make Caesar's genocide palatable for teenage girls. Since they all had the iPads, I tried to think of ways they could save us.
Unfortunately, I kept running into two problems. I will be the first to admit that these are probably just illustrations of my own limitations, as somebody still new to both AP Latin and teaching with iPads. Still, no easy solution presented itself.
The first problem I had was with time. Some of the ideas I had for ways to engage with the material would have necessarily meant slowing down the pace at which we moved through the curriculum. The AP syllabus is not a small chunk of reading, and while I am happy to slow down and look at a few sections in-depth, there's a limit to how much of that can be done while still getting through at least most of the syllabus–which is the expectation.
The larger issue I found myself running up against was the curriculum itself. My students had in their hands devices containing virtually every word ever written in Latin that has survived. Yet, they are stuck reading only the lines that the College Board has declared to be worthwhile. You love Ovid? Sorry, no time. You want to be a lawyer, so Cicero sounds interesting? No can do. The rigidity of an AP curriculum is not new, but it is highlighted when the students have these Internet-connected devices.
I realize I am teaching a dead language, but I like to convince myself that I can still teach important skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, etc. Based on what I've read and my limited experience, teaching those skills is vastly more palatable when the subject matter is something the students are passionate about. How great would it be to let the students choose which Latin authors they want to read and then teach some text to their classmates? The new technologies make that very possible, but what happens when curriculum stands in the way?
To paraphrase Fraser Speirs again, technology, pedagogy, and curriculum all have to adapt to really get lasting change. At my school, the technology is coming, I can learn the pedagogy, but what do I do when I don't control the curriculum? AP courses aren't going away any time soon, so is it possible to really change anything in that context?