Open Internet Tests

When I was in high school, we lived in fear of open book tests. They were  much harder than “regular” multiple choice tests. The teachers that gave them were also well known for asking us to really think and analyze.

Now, there are open internet tests! Seriously – what a great idea. This post by Jonathan Martin shows exactly why. A theater history teacher did an open internet test with great results. See the post for student comments – seems they all thought it was harder — and better.

…taking the time to think through as a teacher what kind of questions can we ask which will continue to be meaningful assessments when Google and Wolfram Alpha are available is, I think, a highly productive exercise, and, of course, will generate a more authentic assessment experience far more well aligned with the real world of professionals for which we are preparing our students

The teacher’s rationale for doing this test:

did I really need the students to regurgitate information or could I ask them to utilize  Internet resources and their class notes to compose essays based on questions that they helped craft?


It’s a great idea. It’s more closely aligned to what will be expected of them — yes, in college, and ultimately, in the working world. It’s teaching critical thinking, analysis, digital literacy, writing. The list gets long…. much better test of what students know and how they think than picking a letter on a multiple choice test.


Student Technology Bill of Rights

Ran across this incredible concept, the Student Technology Bill of Rights, by Brad Flickinger. Check out both Post 1 and Post 2. I won’t quote him here, but just highlight my favorites. (And will be taking them along to kids schools. Wish me luck!)

#3: “I have the right to submit digital artifacts that prove my understanding of a subject” hits home at our house right now. Many previous posts have discussed the Pre-AP World History class that my daughter will take next year. Text. Text and more text. Nothing wrong with some text, but we have decided that she will just do projects visually and digitally. I’m tired of having to constantly advocate for digital/visual assignments. It’s just what’s going to happen.

#5: “I have the right to access social media at school. It is where we all live, it is how we communicate — we do not use email, or call each other. We use Facebook, Twitter and texting to talk to each other. Teachers and schools should take advantage of this and post announcements and assignments using social media — you will get better results.” This is so true.

#7: “I have the right to be taught by teachers who teach me and demand that I use 21st Century Skills.” So true. My kids’ assignments should not look like the work I did 30 years ago when it is so clear that teaching to all kids modalities and using 21st century tools work better.

#9: “I have the right to be protected from technology.” Yup. It is now the school’s responsibility (along with home) to teach digital citizenship. Teach kids to start building a positive digital footprint.

#11: USE THE CLOUD. Yes, please. I almost cried when my son said he had to buy a flashdrive for school. REALLY???? I refused. And this when the teachers use Google Apps for Education daily. Why not the students? (footnote: this will be changing soon!!)

#12: Let them text: if a kid wants to write by texting, why not? It’s EXACTLY the same argument I heard when I was teaching, although in this case is was whether to let students write in the cultural dialect they spoke at home. I let them. They were writing, communicating, thinking. We also taught “educated” English, but didn’t cut them off from who they were.

These are great. Thanks, Brad!


Bold or Old?

HT to Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) for this great 5-minute excerpt  from a talk by Will Richardson. Mr. Richardson challenges his audience, Are you going to be BOLD or OLD?

I found two takeaways:

FIRST POINT: The 21st Century Literacies from the National Council of Teachers of English. The three of these I find most compelling, largely because they are not being met in the two schools I know best,

  • Develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts
  • Attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

It’s not easy to develop proficiency with anything if you can’t use it. If you have a computer in your pocket that gives you access to libraries full of information — yet you aren’t allowed to use it during the day? How can you learn how? You learn on your own, without the guidance of teachers and adults in your life.

How can you learn to create and critique multi-media texts if you aren’t allowed to use these tools for assignments? If you aren’t allowed to look at them?

Let’s not even start with learning the ethical responsibilities. In some schools, it’s like plugging their ears: if they can’t hear it, it’s not making a sound! If you never let the kids use the tools of technology (which, right now, are social media, cell phones, mobile devices, etc.,) then there’ll never be a problem. Right? Nope – wrong.

SECOND: Mr Richardson is addressing a room of teachers. In his remarks, he tells the teachers that they should be the “Learning Leaders” – they can convince parents that the kids will be ok, that they’ll get into college. That it’s the right thing to do to have kids who are passionate, deep learners – kids that love to learn.

But what about my situation? I’m the parent. But in our case, it’s the schools that need convincing. I’m not having much luck at this. I’m met with comments like, “If we let them use their phones, they’ll text the answers,” or “We can’t do projects (digital, multimedia, etc.) because that won’t help them get ready for the AP test.” Or teachers who can’t see any reason a student should get an iPad because all the apps are games that aren’t helpful. Or a principal who leaves all technology innovation to the teachers, who’s never been on Facebook. A school district where webpages are three years out of date. A high school that doesn’t require – or even encourage – teachers to post homework, test schedules, etc. online for kids to access.  High school current events classes that only use the print newspapers. A district that won’t look at BYOD because it won’t be equitable – instead of figuring out how to make it work

Mr. Richardson – what would you advise me to do? My kids are moving along through school quickly. They don’t meet any of the NCTE standards of literacy. I shouldn’t have to disrupt them from their friends — and yes, from the other very good things that do happen in these schools — to get them to schools that do understand that it is not a “fun” thing to incorporate the tools of technology into schools, it is the RESPONSIBILITY of schools to do so.

I leave you with this quote from Mr. Richardson,

It’s not about passing a test, it’s about solving the problem, about sharing something with the world that changes the world.  It’s about doing meaningful, real work. School should be real life.