Tag Archives: standardized testing

Open Phone Exams


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Yutaka Tsutano

If I was to ask a question of an educator and they didn’t know the answer, the tendency would be to google it, or for some, to send out a tweet and ask the question.  If they find the answer, they would be considered resourceful.

If I was to ask a student a question on an exam, and they did those same things, they would be considered a cheater.

There is something wrong with this picture.

I have started to believe a few things on the use of mobile devices and their relation to learning, even when it comes to exams.

1.  If I can google the answer to the exam, the question is probably too simple and not that good in the first place.
2.  Finding the information does not show learning; it is what you do with the information that really shows a deep understanding.
3.  We have done “open book” exams for a long time, and this is the “new open book”, it just happens to have people as part of the book.

A couple of questions that have sprung from my own thoughts…

In a world where we are promoting collaboration skills, both online and offline, why is displaying this same ability with the use of mobile devices considered a bad thing?

Do exams have the same validity now as a project or capstone project if we are looking at students developing deep understanding and critical thinking skills?

What do you think?

Why (Learning) Diets Don’t Work


cc licensed flickr photo shared by alancleaver_2000

Struggling with weight for my entire childhood, I have done almost every type of diet that I could think of to shed pounds (and failed).  For the last eights years though, I have finally found a balance in my life and have stayed fairly healthy (no one is perfect!) for a consistent period of time.  Hearing about all of these “education reform” policies happening in the United States, it reminds me of a bad diet.

Standardized testing and judging teacher quality solely on test scores is similar to focusing on a strict diet for the sole purpose of losing weight.  You might hit your goal (your weight or your test score) but what happens when you do? When you are so focused on the goal, the journey doesn’t seem to matter.  It is like the “juice” diet.  It might get your to your goal weight, but after that, are you a healthy person? Will you maintain that diet once you have hit your goal?

More importantly, what happens when you don’t hit your goal weight?  Will you feel like a failure while also not having developed any healthy lifestyle habits?  I know that I can always be better, but the reason I have kept off my weight for such a long period of time was that I did not go on a diet.  I made lifestyle changes that I can consistently maintain.  I exercise regularly, eat healthier than I used to, while also ensuring that I maintain balance in other areas of my life (music, reading, social activities, etc.).

Should we not take this same approach with our kids in school? Should we not be more focused on caring about them and teaching them to be confident, respectful, thoughtful, and passionate about what they do? Should we not try to encourage an educational balance? When you are so focused on a few things, what essential human nutrients are we cutting out of the diet? Music? Art? Play? Physical Education?

My belief, is that if you can help a student develop these healthy types of habits, their results will inevitably increase as well.  However, I also believe that if they don’t hit the measure that someone else has determined to be “acceptable”, we will have still helped them develop tools for them to be successful in what THEY ultimately believe is important to them.  They will follow their passions and dreams.  Schools need to be the place where this spark needs to be ignited.  Ignited BECAUSE of school, not in spite of.

Should we not be focusing on healthy education lifestyles instead of standardized diets? I know where our school is going to be focused.  How about yours?

You Should Read…(August 18, 2010)

cc licensed flickr photo by schani

One of my favourite activities is going through tweet and my RSS reader to catch up on what others wrote.  This week I wanted to share stories on everything to technology, testing, and ultimately what is most important in our schools.

Books “are not the shape of knowledge,” he says. “They’re a limitation on knowledge.” The idea of a single author presenting her ideas “was born of the limitations of paper publishing. It’s not necessarily the only way or the best way to think and to write.”

  • It took an offer to appear on a national TV show for Wade Warren to reluctantly give up what he calls his “technology” for a week.  That was the only way, his mother says, that he would ever pack his 2006 MacBook (with some recent upgrades, he’ll tell you), his iPad tablet computer, and, most regretfully, his Nexus One smart phone into a cardboard box and watch them be hustled out the door of his room to a secret hiding place.
  • Wade is a “digital native” whose world – half in cyberspace, half on terra firma – is breeding what might be called a new species of thinkers. The early 21st century may be a watershed moment in how humans learn and communicate, a change perhaps not equaled since the invention of the printing press nearly six centuries ago.
  • “As we practice these very busy modes of skimming and juggling tasks, we think we’re being productive and, you know, sometimes it can be quite entertaining and quite fulfilling,” he says in a Monitor interview. “But what I don’t think we fully realize is that we’re altering in a deep way our ability to pay attention, our ability to be contemplative, to be reflective – the things that we might be losing.”
  • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: After a Thorough Battery of Tests We Can Now Recommend “The Newspaper” As the Best e-Reader On the Market. - A satirical look at E-Readers. This article has no relevance to education but is meant for nothing more than a laugh. Enjoy
    • Each device had its strengths. For some it was speed; for others it was capacity. Some were better with shorter articles; others with longer works. And cost, as always, was a factor. But in the end, one e-reader stood out. (And the winner is!?!?!?)
  • Pupils do better at school if teachers are not fixated on test results | Education | The GuardianAn interesting article that talks about how students better when they do not feel so pressured regarding test results.  Some of you may not agree with the article, but it definitely has an interesting viewpoint.
    • Children perform best in exams when teachers are not overly concerned about their test results, according to research published today.
    • Pupils show greater motivation, are better behaved and are more likely to be independent and strategic thinkers when teachers are not obsessed by grades, the study by the Institute of Education found.
    • “Nowhere is this more apparent than in science learning where relentless preparation for tests and exams drives out the important and engaging aspects, especially the practical work,” he said. “All the evidence suggests that ‘teaching to the test’ results in superficial learning and a level of boredom that can turn pupils away from science.”
  • Weekend Essay by Jonah Lehrer: How Power Affects Us – WSJ.comParaphrasing a quote from Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.”  It is important that as people gain leverage in the organizations they work, they continue to be respectful, kind, and moral.  A very interesting article from the Wall Street Journal.
    • There is no easy cure for the paradox of power. Mr. Keltner argues that the best treatment is transparency, and that the worst abuses of power can be prevented when people know they’re being monitored.
  • Blogging through the Fourth Dimension: Love Them Before You Know ThemI was so glad that someone who I have recently come to know wrote her first blog post and shared a story regarding her own education.  Greta Sandler (who I always refer to as Great!) touched many with her personal story about the importance of connecting with students.  The response to her post was absolutely amazing and proved to me that educators know that connecting and building a school on the foundation of relationships is key to continuous improvement.  All of the initiatives that we want to happen in our school will fail  if we have not connected to our students, staff, and community.  I am hoping that I will see more stories like this being shared in the future, as there is definitely the need to read them.
    • The secret for a successful connection with students is loving them before actually meeting them.”  For some reason, that phrase stayed in my mind. I wondered what she had meant by that, I couldn’t actually figure it out, but it just felt special.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

You Should Read…(August 11, 2010)

cc licensed flickr photo by schani

Some of the articles that I enjoy reading the most are the ones that either surprise me or challenge my notions of what I believe to already exist.  I was surprised to not only read that one of the greatest filmmakers of our time also is a giant supporter of education.

  • George Lucas Dedicates Majority of His Wealth to Improving Education | EdutopiaI have read Edutopia several times but I did not ever know that George Lucas was the driving force behind it.  I was glad I found out the way I did!
    • As technology changes, so do students. So should classrooms, and so should our methods of teaching. In a few short years, connectivity has gone from a technological novelty to a daily necessity. It’s how our culture communicates, and our children are at the forefront of its use. Understanding those tools and how to integrate them into learning — is an integral step in defining our future.
  • The valedictorian’s speech « Re-educateI have seen this speech posted several times on Twitter and if you have not read it, you definitely should.  I decided to link it to one of my favourite blogs as the author is definitely a strong advocate for what is in the best interest of students and writes so eloquently.
    • There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, “If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years . .” The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?” Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.” “But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student. “Thirty years,” replied the Master. “But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?” Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

      This is the dilemma I’ve faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

  • The Fischbowl: The Myth of the Echo ChamberI have heard about the “Echo Chamber” many times, but not in this light.  The author has a different perspective on the “echo chamber” or how it does not exist at all.  Thanks to Shelly Terrell for sharing this link with me.
    • On a regular basis on Twitter and on blogs and in books I read, people warn about not getting stuck in the echo chamber. In fact, I’ve said it myself more than once. While I value diverse and opposing opinions, and think they are necessary and critical, here’s what I think:

      There is no “echo chamber.” It’s a myth.

  • The Big Lie (Thoughts on Why School Is Not Only About Workforce Development) – Practical TheoryAn open and honest post about the importance of preparing our students to be strong citizens as opposed to prepare them for the workforce by Chris Lehmann. A definite must read when looking at what we are trying to provide for our students today in schools.
    • A frequent refrain of mine is that the purpose of public education is not the creation of the 21st Century workforce, but rather, the co-creation – in conjunction with our students – of 21st Century citizens. I really believe that “work” is a subset of “citizen,” and that if we aim for citizenship, we’ll get the workforce we need, but aiming for creating workers won’t get our society the citizens it needs.

    • A public education that centers first around workforce development will put a high premium on following directions and doing what you’re told. A public education that centers first around citizenship development will still teach rules, but it will teach students to question the underlying ideas behind the rules. Workforce development will reinforce the hierarchies that we see in most corporate culture, while a citizenship-focus will teach students that their voice matters, regardless of station.
  • Focus on writing blamed for fall in reading test results – Education News, Education – The IndependentWhat surprised me the most about this post was not the discussion of why students are not achieving the results that a Department of Education has set for them, but the backlash that many schools are having against these tests and actually boycotting them altogether.  Is this going to happen more in our schools?
    • According to the Department for Education, just over 4,000 schools, or 25 per cent, refused to administer the tests as a result of a boycott by both the
      National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Head
      Teachers (NAHT). They complained that too much teaching to the tests was ruining children’s education as schools strived to do well in league tables.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

You Should Read… (July 21, 2010)

cc licensed flickr photo by schani

Here are some articles that I really enjoyed reading (and watching) this week.  Thanks to my PLN for sharing such great articles:

  1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.
  2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
  3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

  • I Am A Teacher | Avenue4LearningMichelle Baldwin’s blog is becoming one of my favourites to read as she is passionate in her writing and has some amazing ideas.  This is a definite blog you should add to your reader and Michelle is a great conversationalist in her comment section.  If you ever have a question or comment on one of her posts, she always comes back with something insightful that will really make you think and learn along with her. Here are some highlights from this post by a very passionate educator:
    • How do we as educators change the public view of what we do in the classroom?
      1. Contact the media more often. Invite them to my classroom (again). Share, through multiple methods, what it is we’re doing.
      2. Bring parents into the classroom more. The parents in my school are already welcome in my classroom, although not many of them take our offer to visit. I want them to share their expertise in my classroom more often. Side note- I actually have really great and appreciative parents in my school, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
      3. Bring more attention to other teachers and students who are doing great things. Not every teacher has a powerful network where he/she can share successes. I have a great learning network of people who love to share ideas, collaborate, and celebrate with each other.
    • My action plan is not that complicated:

  • I am a teacher. By choice. Not because I was incapable of doing anything else, but because I couldn’t imagine doing anything else that would make me as happy as teaching does.
  • Re:Focus: I Hate You: A Tale About Advertising -Simon Sinek wrote this great article about the advertising industry but it could definitely be about our focus at schools as well.  There are many things that companies can learn from schools, and vice-versa.  It is always important how we use business messages though since we are in the business of children and learning.
    • The reason we hate advertising is because the ad industry has no idea who its customer is
    • Steve Jobs recently shared his thoughts about how the entire music industry failed to innovate something like iTunes. His answer was as profound as it was simple (fancy that). The music industry, he expounds, thought their customer was Tower Records or Virgin MegaStore…but it never was.  Those were their distribution channels. The actual customer is the person who consumes the music. And it is the end user, not the intermediaries, whom Apple focuses on in all they do.
    • Producing a product for the consumers who are the ones actually consuming the product makes more business sense, too.
  • Least Restrictive Environment – Practical TheoryChris Lehmann wrote this short but important article on giving our students the best opportunities in the classroom to create an environment that helps them feel comfortable in their learning.  As bringing Ipods into our classrooms this year came with many questions, it is articles like this by proven leaders that show me that we are on the right path:
    • I was thinking about the Special Education concept of Least Restrictive Environment and the idea that many of the concepts of special education, such as an Individualized Educational Plan, are concepts we should want for every student.
    • …there are some kids who struggle – despite many opportunities to figure how to manage it – to use technology in a classroom without it serving as a distraction…But banning their use or locking up every laptop would hamstring so much of what we do, and it would not be, for the overwhelming majority of students, the least restrictive environment in which they could – and do – learn.
    • Let’s take a tip from Special Education and in the coming school year, try to make sure our schools are the least restrictive environments for learning they can be.
  • On Education – A Popular Principal, Wounded by Good Intentions - It is articles like this that scare me about the impact standardized testing has on our schools.
    • It’s hard to find anyone here who believes that Joyce Irvine should have been removed as principal of Wheeler Elementary School.
    • Ms. Irvine wasn’t removed by anyone who had seen her work (often 80-hour weeks) at a school where 37 of 39 fifth graders were either refugees or special-ed children and where, much to Mr. Mudasigana’s delight, his daughter Evangeline learned to play the violin.
    • Ms. Irvine was removed because the Burlington School District wanted to qualify for up to $3 million in federal stimulus money for its dozen schools.
    • under the Obama administration rules, for a district to qualify, schools with very low test scores, like Wheeler, must do one of the following: close down; be replaced by a charter (Vermont does not have charters); remove the principal and half the staff; or remove the principal and transform the school.
    • even she understood her removal was the least disruptive option.
      “Joyce Irvine versus millions,” Ms. Irvine said. “You can buy a lot of help for children with that money.”

    • Under No Child rules, a student arriving one day before the state math test must take it. Burlington is a major resettlement area, and one recent September, 28 new students — from Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan — arrived at Wheeler and took the math test in October.
  • This is part of the “you should watch” portion of the post. To end off, here is a school division that is really pushing technology integration and sees teachers and students as learners.  Is this something we want our schools to look like?  If it is, how do we get there?