Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, July 21, 2008

A doable Challenge not mission impossible.

Who doesn't love a challenge? Heck when we do something, someone always asks us, "Why did you do that?"

"Because someone dared me," might be the response.

It is part of our nature I think. "Oh you can't do that," someone might say to us, and before you know it we are trying to do it.

Recently, I listened to the 27 minute DC Environment speech given by Al Gore on July 17, 2008, who challenged us to power our nation on clean energy in ten years. He cited President Kennedy's challenge to get a man on the moon and back within ten years. We did that in eight years and a couple of months. Gore's challenge: "America must commit to producing 100% of our electricity from cheap, clean renewable energy sources like solar and wind within 10 years." He spelled out the problem as "over reliance on carbon based fuels as the core of our environmental, economic, and national security crisis. We must end reliance on carbon based fuels." Simple, isn't it, and it can be done.

Now I considered what he said and realized the correlation to education. We have become over reliant on the standardized tests made by companies not associated with our schools. The results of the tests, drive our curriculum and educational policy. In order for us to be rid of these odious tests, we must develop a solution. I have studied and practiced such a solution as have other teachers. One I proposed to Vice President Gore when I was fortunate to have had a few minutes with him when he was running for President. I suggested as a means of fostering Authentic Assessment, we have the scholars produce web pages that are public and can be peer reviewed. The work of the scholars can be digitized and copied to CD's, DVD's and flashdrives. A national clearinghouse could be established for archive purposes. They can be sent to colleges as part of the entrance application. They can be used when a scholar moves from town to another across state lines or within a state. The work of the scholar tells us more than any test score ever will. We didn't make the test, we don't have the answer key, we don't grade them, we can't use them as ways to inform our instruction because the test makers shred them after collecting the data they need.

The challenge is simple and very doable right now and for the future. All of our scholars are producing work. They may already be using a word processor, presentation program, or database program that are digits. The scholars than prints these digits to make atoms for the teacher to read, write on, and assess. The scholars could video tape a science project, a play, a performance, or any project for any class. They can do an podcast. Pictures can be taken of work. In short all the work of all the scholars can be digitally captured and then archived. In a short eight years a scholar could have eight CD's of hir work to show another teacher in another school. Now the teacher has benchmarks, work that shows the capability of the scholar and data that informs future instruction. Then who needs these tests? Not us.

Sure bugs have to be worked out like security, but that is simple and cheap compared to what we do now with the tests, the amount of time used in preparing for them, and the angst involved with the whole process. Were we simply to digitize all the work, we would now have it for evaluation, analysis, and an informed instructional plan for each scholar based on hard data and not abstract data the tests produce. This can be done now because of the advances in technology. Schools would need a Cybrarian, a person or persons responsible for overseeing the archiving of each scholar's work and then sending it to a secure national data base for other schools, colleges, and employees to access as needed. Lots of technology would not be needed. This is very doable now.

So the challenge is to begin constructing local databases of the scholars' work and then generating CD's, DVD's at the end of the year so the school has a copy of each scholar's work for next year and beyond. And if the scholar should move to another school, the archived digits can be forwarded. Now each school would begin establishing a database of each scholar for future use within the school to assist teachers with each scholar via the hard data collected and archived. Colleges would now have access to better data to determine acceptance. It is better for the scholar, for education, and for learning.

And we don't need ten years, this can be done now. Good luck. This post will not self destruct in 10 seconds.

1 comment:

C Linn said...

Ted Nellen's blog on authentic assessment has compounded my frustration.
Something we can do now? Of course. Are we using the resources that are already in place? No!

Are any of your systems keeping digital files that follow students?

For some time now,my school system has had an individual digital file on each school server for every student to save work during the year. Every year I have asked if files can follow students to the next grade level; the answer has always been "that is not possible". We can't even keep the file two years in a row at my 7/8 middle school? Word is "they"(someone out in cyberspace?)"wipe all files and start over" which is what every teacher has to do with every student every year! How I would love to have a Digital Portfolio of what my students have built in the years before I see them. And I don't mean just for English/language arts either. Looking at grades (from different teachers/systems) and test scores (most of them SOLs) gives a picture of just what?

Yes, I do recognize that there would be some students with more or less of a portfolio depending on how much of their work had been digitized, but at least we could make a start. I'm definitely going to make a start by writing a proposal to send to our Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and use some of your comments to shore up my argument.

Thanks, Ted, for getting me off the dime!

Cindy Linn