This is my blog of reflections, musings and ideas. Originally started as a requirement of the Graduate course "Seminar in Educational Technology" at the University of Manitoba. Now that I have finished my Ph.D., I will use the blog explore ideas as I proceed through my work in education & educational technology.
Recently a few items have popped up about grades, grading, and assessment. A few years ago, I also wrote a post about my going to - what our university calls a pass-fail system. Basically, I view it as a growth model and a 'mastery' model. In some cases I want to simply have students explore a topic or try something they have not tried before. I have had more than a few comment that they like the comfort to try things without fear of a poor grade. In a few recent classes, where I had reverted to the usual letter grade system, the students asked me to reconsider - which I happily did. A few weeks ago grading and assessment came up in conversation with a participant in one of my research projects. This high school teacher was talking about how he 'knew' where students were at and did not need a bunch of tests to tell him. We talked about formative assessment and outcome based assessment. It was an interesting discussion, but he still has to give a grade. Also recently a slideshare from a presentation was shared by Jesse Stommel (a slide from another if his decks is with this post). Later, a blog post by Maha Bali (also related to this slide presentation) appeared. Maha wrote at one point; "I do think that people who are not educators have difficulty listening to these voices that are anti-traditional forms of assessment because they are indoctrinated by the hegemonic discourses they have been surrounded by all their lives. They can’t imagine alternatives to homework and exams, so they assume they must be good, or at least the only options." So true, some educators still cling to these ideas. These items brought me back to my thinking on this issue. As I proclaimed on twitter, I 'hate' grades and giving them, as I mused in the old post, I was brought up in the grading system, I understand why they are used, I have struggled in my thinking about them ... but I doubt their value for motivation - not real motivation anyway, and definitely not for learning. They can be used to rank and sort, but is that the purpose of education? I guess in some instances it is - but I would call that training. In the area in which I teach - teacher education - isn't growth as a (potential) teacher most important? I would rather students engage in deep, meaningful discussions, I would rather my students go outside their comfort zones to try things, to reflect, to learn, to grow. If, for example, we are telling a story by video - isn't the experience and thinking about how the idea can be used for learning in a classroom situation more important than how great the video is (especially if it is the first time making one)? Isn't the discussion and exchange of views and ideas about an issue, like digital citizenship, lead to more learning than telling me what it means in a paper? These recent conversations and readings have renewed my thinking about grading - since I am currently on sabbatical it has not been in the forefront ;-) - and helped reinforce my thinking on the non-use of grades in my own practice.
Late last year my colleague, Dr. Rennie Redekopp (University of Manitoba) and released a new free eBook we edited title Education and Technology: Manitoba Action and Reflection. This book consists of 15 chapters written by Manitoba Educators. The book is divided into 4 parts: Current Trends and Issues, Connecting and Sharing , Stories of Personal Transformation, and Where Do We Go From Here?
The book was an idea I had over a year ago and Rennie agreed to help out. The chapters paint an exciting portrait of educational technology use in Manitoba schools. The editors hope that it can act to inspire others to implement educational technology in thoughtful and meaningful ways.
In a recent TED talk (below), Sugata Mitra contends that schools are not broken, they are obsolete: "I said schools as we know them now, they're obsolete.I'm not saying they're broken.It's quite fashionable to say that the education system's broken.It's not broken. It's wonderfully constructed.It's just that we don't need it anymore. It's outdated." He then goes on to describe his famous 'hole in the wall"experiments and his vision for schools in the cloud or Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLE), that is, schools in which children explore and learn with and from each other. While this is an intriguing idea - and might have some merit, kids should learn from and with one another, the thing that struck me in his description of the current school system - with which we are familiar, was his contention that they (schools) are not broken, they work in the way they were designed, but rather they are obsolete or out-dated. The…
So, I have signed up for Digital Writing Month. During the month of November various digital writing challenges will be given. It sounds like fun, and I would love to play with some other ways of writing, and improve in this area. The first task is to create an unofficial CV. I considered a way to be a little creative, and decided to make an infographic. I have my students make them to explore ways they can be used in the classroom, so I thought I should give it a try as well. I used Piktochart - it was fun to do and here it is: