Is it a test such as WKCE or another state test?
Is it a grade?
Is it a reflection?
What is learning and how can we measure it?
Can learning be...
A. New information that is acquired - I never knew that there was a piece of land located on the Missouri side of the Mississippi River that belongs to Illinois. Thanks to the History Channel - How States Got Their Shapes, I learned about a city and place that I had never heard of before today.
Check it out for yourself - http://www.prairieghosts.com/kaskaskia.html
B. Previous information that is altered to correct misinformation - I was brought up thinking the United States government was a democracy. It turns out that recent events by Governor Walker have brought out discussions about what kind of government we do have. Is it a true democracy or a constitutional republic or an oligarchy? I still have more research and learning to do in this area, but my point is that my previous understanding of the US government is not as straightforward as I previously understood. Not only that, there are sites such as this one also discussing the topic - http://www.basicsproject.org/constitutional_literacy/government/types_of_government.htm
C. More information that is added to existing information previously acquired - I knew that there was a difference in Japanese culture as compared to American culture. They have different views on education and community and their language is complex. I learned in a recent conversation that communication in America is more direct. This is not the case in Japan. The styles of communication are more subtle to an American.
Are there more? I'm not sure, but the significant piece is the timeframe. There is a specific point in time that separates the before and after.
My question then is about assessment.
How do we assess students to know if they are learning? Is the point that separates the before and after significant in reporting out learning? Is it a pre-test and post-test? Is it application of content? Where does mistake making fit in?
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Teachers and administration are kind of like detectives or scientists who use the most powerful microscope. They look deeply into the nature of thinking, teaching and learning. They are always internally focused on what is happening inside their living and breathing organization.
But I don’t often see them taking a look at what’s happening outside of the school. Yes. Schools have great pressure from external forces. Yes. Schools respond to those forces. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about taking a look at what we, as an educational institution, can learn from society.
Have you watched what is happening on TV lately? I think it’s a direct reflection of the society we serve. When our students go home at night, one of the things they do with their families and friends is watch TV. Even at school, we talk amongst ourselves about the shows we watch. It is bonding, but I think there is more to it. One of the things I love about being a mom is that I get to spend time with my daughter. I have always thought that I am her first teacher and take much responsibility for trying to do a good job with this. I love that we can watch and show and talk about it. She was the one who got me interested in watching Clean House and to date, I now have a much nice kitchen because of it. My daughter is 11.
Take a night to watch TV show with someone in your family or a friend and think - Wait a minute, did I just learn something? Does this show relate to something I do in my life or job?
(Hope you got the significance that this is not about watching TV.)
A question has been lurking in the back of my mind these days especially with all the buzz and anxiety being triggered from the state’s decision to get rid of unions.
The questions being asked are, “How are we (public schools) going to survive?” I ask, “How are we going to do things differently?”
In a recent conversation, blended learning or virtual environments came up. What if students worked at home some times and then came to school for face-to-face discussions?
I started to put this idea together with another project I have been thinking about - using Facebook in schools.
Let’s start. There are traditional virtual environments. Worksheets, tasks and assessments are posted online - with a threaded discussion here or there. Links to resources are also available.
Then multimedia comes into the scene and students and teachers alike can post videos of themselves or others. Discussions are grown and get to deeper understanding.
All good stuff, right?
So recently, I have been using Facebook to learn. The significance to this is I get to choose my “teachers” and what I am learning. I also get to participate although not as directly as I’d like yet. I think that is more my comfort level though.
I know teachers have a lot of expertise. A teacher can explain things in ways like no other. But so can sources that are not teachers, like National Geographic or my buddy Scott. I even learn from people I don’t agree with - won’t mention those names here though.
What if teachers used Facebook as there means to teach - anyone. And then students friended their face-to-face teacher - yes, relationships and the human connection will never go away - in addition to other teachers, like their friends or the teacher in Finland or Japan, and what about friending pages like The Learning Channel or PBS History Detectives, or The National Parks or - wait - this list could get really long. Do you see what I’m talking about?
The face-to-face teacher would be the one to teach the skills and knowledge when needed by posting good thinking questions and screen casts of how-to’s, but also to facilitate and guide the learning for their students and support their learning.
Going public is something that is a little scary for teachers even though they have been on stage their whole life in the classroom. I always thought there was a direct link between the entertainment industry and teaching.
Don’t you think it’s time for a little drama, suspense, comedy of the educational kind? I say open the curtains - it’s showtime!
Every single year I have taught and it’s been 20 years now, learning targets have been a hot topic. Whether you call them Standards of Learning, learning targets, objectives, Common Core Standards - they are all the same. They are a list of things that adults choose and prioritize in importance for students to learn.
What do you want your students to know and do?
In my experience, have a clear, well-written objective for students to learn does in fact make for good instructional design and assessment. In other words, activities can be structured to engage students in learning and an assessment can be made to determine if the student really mastered the content.
Okay - that’s good news. But something has been nagging me and it has to do with the choice of targets. If a different group of people were chosen to determine what is important for students to learn and know how to do - wouldn’t we have different targets?
And who’s to say who is right?
*Side note - as I’m thinking this, I do think this may apply more to students in grades 3 and above. There is a difference in learning to read and reading to learn as applied across all the content areas.
Second, I have wondered if having common targets actually cap our potential as an education institution of learning. I started to think about the idea of targeted learning. What if students had more choice in their learning targets and teachers facilitated and provided support throughout the process. In the end, the student would actually have to show that they met their target.
Recently, I have been wondering about a different frame of thinking. What if we asked the student to choose something that they want to do and then document all the learning that took place along the way? Can’t we call these learning targets? In other words, do we have to start we the target or can they be developed along the way?
To come back to my original statement, a lot of time is spent on identifying, writing and rewriting standards. Why?