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:

 

Internet is like Electricity…

An article in today’s StarTribune discusses a battle over putting broadband into rural Lake County, Minnesota.

I don’t have the background on this story, but it seems to me that the business interests missed the boat on this one, thinking only of their bottom line. Now the county is saying it needs broadband to stay competitive – -just like happened when electricity went in — so they’re taking action. The county is stepping up to provide a service that has been deemed essential, especially in an area like the North Shore.

What isn’t mentioned in this article is that if businesses don’t have broadband, neither do the schools. That means students in the rural areas don’t even have the option of becoming better connected students, of taking advantage of the learning opportunities that having internet access to the world provides.

Rural students deserve better. Thanks, Lake County, for picking up where the businesses failed you.

 

Media Focus on Tech in the Classroom

Two media articles about technology in the classroom yesterday.

Does More Tech in the Classroom Help Kids Learn?” from Mashable lays out simple, but poignant arguments about how technology in the classroom can add to student achievement. Simple things like letting kids learn at their own pace, promoting active rather than passive learning, and real world learning are things that should happen anyway – it’s just that technology finally allows them to happen easily. It’s a good quick article, and I’ll be keeping it in my list of articles I send administrators and teachers to.

An article, “Schools See a Tech Revolution but will Students See Results?” in the St. Paul Pioneer Press is, of course, more skeptical. The newspapers always are. The article starts out with the premise that tech is expensive, and only focuses on that. It treats is as a fad, and of course, measures all results based on standardized test scores. Getting that to change as the only measure of success is a whole different ballgame, but it certainly obscures the other positive outcomes.

I do find it interesting that St. Paul schools have been working on this for over a year. I have a coworker whose son attends a St. Paul school. She’s been asking for a couple of years about St. Paul’s plan, and has heard nothing. Which is St. Paul’s loss, as she could be a huge asset to them in this planning.

The article does have some strong arguments for positives, such as a quote from Peter Beck, a high school history teacher: “More and more, we’re facilitating learning rather than being the ultimate keepers of information and knowledge.” The tech director for Edina is also strongly stating that we can’t stop while we wait for evidence through tests.

It’s obvious the paper and the general public hasn’t embraced this paradigm shift yet. Just the tone of this article makes it clear that they don’t approve.

Sigh.

The Head Geek Speaks on Education

Robert Stephens, the founder of the Geek Squad, gave the keynote address at Minnesota’s e-Learning Summit in July. I was happy to know that they posted the keynote. If you are involved with technology in education, this is worth a watch.

Not only is the keynote amusing, it’s a trip through history and a fascinating story about how he built the Geek Squad. The majority of attendees were involved in post-secondary education – which is important to remember as he talks about the importance of a college education.