Day 112 (of 184) twitter blogs & stuff are glitzy but do they help student learning
This was the comment shared to me about discussions of change (vs change for sake of change) held in a school. So I’m going to take a pause & talk about my ‘big 5’ changes I am pushing (and get the most pushback & support on) and vent a bit:
1) Technology – while an advocate for blending technology and education (technologization) I try to make it clear that I am more focused on ‘the right tool for the right user’. I make no secret of my preference for Apple products – right from the Apple II that my dad brought home (and was yelled at by his superintendent about bringing in computers instead of the more productive typewriter) which allowed me to focus on the content of my creations rather than the neatness that always eluded me. But through first generation of iPod touches and to the current generation of iPads, I continue to be supportive of these devices for their ease and intuitive nature. For me. For others, I know the Apple OS grinds on them like nails on a chalkboard. Different tools for different learning/creating styles. It is why I do not advocate single platform methodologies (not even mac). I have seen and continue to see technology further personalize the education experience (input & output) for learners. But personalized does not support ‘one size fits all’.
2) twitter, blogs, and SM oh my! – glitzy? Ooookay I guess. All I know is that I get more professional growth through one night of A discussion thread (tonight at #anxietyined ) than sitting through any traditional lecture. The interactive nature allows for asynchronous discussion debate and sharing. The linking allows educators to connect across communities, across time zones and knows no borders. Without a doubt I am supremely confident that this is a great time to be involved in education IF you are ready for schooling to NOT look like it did in the 1980s because like-minded education ‘disrupters’ have an immediate way to network and share ideas and support each other’s changes. Instead of ‘trying out an idea I read about in an education magazine’ I am involved in discussions that allow for a sharing of ideas (& successes & failures) that connect me to specific groups. If not for twitter my #geniushour would not have the framework and ‘trust in the process’ that it does. If not for Social Media I would not have connected with the work of Sugata Mitra and his Self Organized Learning Environments and his “Hole in the Wall” project and TED Talk. And my blog has been effective as a reflection tool AND as a way to challenge myself (and blogging each of the 184 days of learning is a challenge)
3) differentiation & descriptive feedback – I mean it makes sense doesn’t it? Learners learning (and showing their knowledge) at different rates and speeds. Different reading levels = different texts to acquire information. Different methodologies to share learning.
But not easy.
And even more difficult: descriptive feedback. So….two challenges: take a golf lesson but have instructor only give you scores out of 10. As a football coach I sneak this analogy in when I am coaching techniques – the kids prefer verbal description. As a teacher when my students have said “I just want a score out of 10” I do provide it but then question them as to what they need to improve. They never see what they need to improve until I provide: descriptive feedback. Challenge 2: (I did this and it freaked me out) don’t put a mark, score or anything onto a weeks worth of assignments – descriptive feedback (start with 2 stars and a wish) only. Fun with math (this was where it ‘clicked’ for me and I’m a librarian/language guy!)
4) eportfolios (vs report cards) at the same discussion about ‘change for the sake of change’ my schools shift from report cards to eportfolios was indirectly referenced. I have long been disenfranchised with the value of report cards since my own children entered school and I more closely saw parents count the number of 3s 4s As and Bs and glance at teacher comments. I’ve also seen a devaluation of letter grades where “C+ is the new F” – I’ve seen a student make great work to get into the C+ range and then burst into tears wondering why her two teachers “don’t like her”. I see teachers create % based on tests from textbooks rather than learning outcomes. I’ve asked if and how “end of year exams” are linked to the learning outcomes and then have conversations stop or change direction… Instead of reporting ‘achievement’ based on tasks, we want to show the learning process that a student is taking. Not a change for the sake of change, but a change to a methodology that has been continually tweeked for a century + without true ‘success & contentment’ by learner (stressor) parent (not seeing beyond letter/number) nor teacher (not showing whole picture) and now looking at something different that can show pictures…and videos…and…
5) anxiety awareness: simply enough go to day 107 of my 184 days of learning: here’s my recent blog of ‘my steps’ (generally)
Day 110 (of 184) Anxiety 107 (a blunt approach to anxiety) http://t.co/nG5cYPRffF
But I’m only too aware that not everybody is ready for the work involved in dealing with anxiety. It’s why I start with an eye on success being four years down the road (knowing it is likely 6 years and maybe fluke out and have a one year miracle change).
Am I using the ‘glitzy’ mechanisms of twitter and blogging? Darn right! Best connection tool I’ve ever had to work with brilliant educators.
Am I following ‘trendy words’ like differentiation, descriptive feedback, anxiety (educations #2 issue behind “engagement” – we won’t go into similarities here) and ‘programs’ like geniushour? Sure. For the past 10+ years. Nothing new, just understanding each better week by week.
Am I trying to start a trend by “killing report cards”. I’m good with this one. I got caught in ‘completing assignments to earn a mark’ – I’d much rather have my kids (home & school) be proud of their actual learning rather than completing a worksheet for bonus marks.
Am I going to get eye rolls. Yep. I’m good with that. I’ve been right more than I’ve been wrong (and yes, I’ve been wrong on a couple things but I stopped those – I’ve made mistakes on some successes but haven’t let those stop a good idea, just tweek it). Means I’m not satisfied with the status quo and want next years learners to have a better experience than this years. Every year.