Posting this quote today for my high school age daughter who is taking a number of long multiple choice finals this week.

I guarantee that she will not remember what she learned for these tests more than a short time. If, however, she was able to build projects, research, create and communicate content, then she has a fighting chance to not only retain the content but to have learned a skill she can use with other content.


Ran across another great infographic and post, “The Inside-Out School: A  21st Century Learning Model,”  from

Here’s the infographic:

More on this later, but I particularly want to point out #7: Climate of Assessment. The first bullet point is, “Constant minor assessments replace exams.”

This is what I see happening in education reform – the move to continual formative assessments, rather than one big culminating assessment, such as an exam or final exam. I suppose people argue that the final exam is a way to make sure the student retains all the content from the term, but I wonder if this is ever really successful. I’d think a more successful model for ensuring a student retains content is to constantly build on it, week after week. Cramming for one exam doesn’t ensure that the content is learned beyond the exam. Yet, working with content, either building on it or doing more project based learning where the content is lived, may better ensure that the content sticks.



Last week, I experienced a morning of contradictions.

I was asked to present at an Apple iPad event that happened to be hosted by our school district. I presented about the work I’m doing with digital content.

The audience included all the administration folks I’ve been (unsuccessfully) talking to about allowing personal devices, integrating technology into the classroom, and strengthening 21st century skills.

The opening talk illustrated my contradiction. The Apple education rep gave a motivating presentation about exactly why devices should be part of the classroom. She focused on the learning, not on any devices.

She talked about the reasons for needing change. The learning style of millennials: immediate, random, social, collaborative, experiential, exploratory. She talked about gamification, and how it impacts education with its reward – not punishment – of failure. How do we learn games? By failing. We try again, and again.

She referenced the eSchoolNews from Sept 2011, about what kids want from school:
5. To work with interactive tech
4. Their teachers to be mentors
3. Learning to be interesting
2. To have choice
1. To do real and relevant work

I was so very happy to have all these administrators at the session. Hopefully, hearing this from “legit” people – not someone who is just a parent – will help. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Independent Study?

As I struggle with what I see happening in education through my work as compared to what I see happening in my daughter’s classes, I have to come to some place of peace. It isn’t easy to hear about kids doing video lab reports, and then seeing my daughter’s fill in the blank worksheets.

She’s frustrated too, although for a different reason. She is not the kid they built traditional schools for. She thinks and communicates in pictures, not words. She sees all the letters, days of the week, and months in color. To her, numbers have spatial relativity. While I don’t know if her synesthesia has any impact on how she learns, I can’t imagine it helps in a world based on print and linear thinking.

We came up with an action plan that feels right to both of us, at least for one class.

She is taking French 2 right now. Tests and based on minute concepts in grammar. Points are taken off for spelling or accent errors. Vocabulary is a game of rapid memorization. These are not her strength. Yet, we know she can learn new language quickly and easily, as she has done repeatedly. She frequently sings in other languages, usually its Latin, French, German or Italian.

We have decided that she’ll do the 2nd trimester (at her school 2 tris of a class equal a full year) of French as independent study. I was a licensed French teacher, and can easily help and direct her. We have already identified community and online resources that can help her learn. We have project ideas that are engaging, use new language concepts, reinforce vocabulary and grammar, as well as use all four language components: speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Now, the challenge will be to get cooperation from the school. Fortunately, there is a law in our state that allows partial homeschool based n curriculum review. Allowing independent study means the district keeps all her money. If they don’t allow that, then we’ll go the partial homeschool route – which they cannot deny – and they lose state payment for that course.

Will keep you posted.

It’s all about the Points

It’s nearing the end of the trimester at my daughter’s school. She is diligently, if reluctantly, looking through the online grading system to see where she’s at. It’s been a difficult trimester academically.

The conversation is always about getting her grades up – a good thing? I suppose. But the conversation is never about learning. It’s all about getting points. School focuses on the need to get grades up, not on learning.

No More Bubbles!

Image from Beyond the Bubble

I have previously expressed my dismay with the amount of multiple choice tests I see at my daughter’s high school — the “Scantron” tests. Even then name says something…..  Tron? Seriously?

I’d post some of the questions from her tests, but the tests aren’t allowed out of the classroom! When I have seen them, the vast, vast  majority of the questions are, as described below, random fact recall. When I’ve asked teachers why they need to ask these questions, it’s because the “kids need to know this by memory to access higher level classes.” Wow – I’m doing professional history, and I couldn’t answer some of the definitions/rote memory questions on those tests, yet I am successful. I could, however, find those answers in seconds because I know where/how to look, how to analyze sources and how to think creatively.

It was with great pleasure that I found  Beyond the Bubble today. This is an alternative history assessment concept, based on Library of Congress primary sources. I have to dig a little deeper, but at first glance, I love the concept. Assessment based on direct primary source analysis, not rote random fact recall.

Check out their amusing little video: