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

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Living Documents

The scholars are creating living documents when they create webpages, revisit them, and edit them. Unlike the days of paper or notebooks on which authors/scholars wrote, the webpages they create rarely leave a paper trail, unless the user does something to make this happen. The user could archive hir work on a regular basis, like at the end of every month. By doing this each scholar would be recording a record of hir work over a period of time. This becomes an excellent way a school could document the progress of each scholar. The problem with webpages is that the current page has overwritten the old one and a record of the old one might not exist, except through the WayBack machine. That is not always reliable, archived on a regular basis, or guarenteed to be archived. In order for the scholar's webpages to be used for usable documentation of the scholar's work, a procedure for archiving the work on a monthly basis should be instituted.

One way I have done it was when I maintained my own server. At the end of each month, the scholars would create a new directory like 103108 to represent Oct 31, 2008. They would then copy the contents of their working directory into the new directory. Then at the end of November we would do it again and continue this process to the end of the year. We would have a monthly record or benchmark of each scholar's work throughout the year. This became a good tool to use in assessment and in evaluating what the scholar did and plan next steps.

Schools could institute this quite easily if the school has a central server and each scholar has an account. The contents of their folders could be archived on a monthly basis and then used at those crucial times when assessment was done, at conferences , and in end of year portfolio sessions. Having documents that represent the academic progress of each scholar would provide great fodder for those of us arguing for some, maybe 50% of scholar's assessment be done via a portfolio, while the other 50% be done by those tests we now give that represent 100% of a scholar's achievement.

I know I learn nothing from those tests the scholars take. They don't inform my instruction since all I get as a result is some number that needs translation and explanation. I still don't learn any specific needs of the scholar that informs her education. On the other hand, by looking at a scholar's webpage, I learn a great deal about that student and learn what hir specific needs are and what hir strengths are.

Our scholars are in need of better assessment tools then those currently being used as prescribed by NCLB. Yes, we need to assess our scholars, but why do we have to use these tests that do not provide the necessary information teachers need in the classroom for their scholars. When we have documents to observe, we have better tools for assessment. The reason I love the webpage so much is that the work is public, available to the scholar, the teacher, the parents, the administration anytime, anywhere for assessment of the scholar and of the class. These living documents become useful for the next teachers, for employers, for college admissions, and for the scholar hirself.

This is how we should be assessing our scholars, not with tests made by for profit companies, graded by them and then destroyed. I am not happy with the current state of affairs as created by NCLB. The idea may be worthy, but its execution is horrendous and useless. It has dumbed down education in America. I hope we see some serious revision in the educational practices in America in the next four years and that it involves technology in a huge way. That is the most important change we have to see.

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