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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Federal Money for Technology in Education

The National Center for Research in Advanced Information and Digital Technologies plans to award grants this fall for innovative education programs that use technology. The Center will Work with the Department of Education.

"To build support for the project, the group created three prototypes: an educational video game for biology students called Immune Attack; a game for museums, called Discovering Babylon; and a computer simulation to train firefighters in high-rise fires. They typify the projects the center will be looking to finance." I would have hoped for more ambitious applications, These are simply glorified webquests and SOSO. We have to move beyond "Math Blaster" educational game programs, "Where's Carmen San Diego" and even SimCity. We have these things. In the new age of assessment and accountability, I'd hope to see more projects using cloud computing and incorporating it in assessment via archive technology so we can grow a way to collect student data for authentic assessment.

I'm not sure the three prototypes are going to address the educational divide we have between the baby boomers and the digital natives. This is the crux of the problem in education as I see it. We, the baby boomers, are still trying to control an environment that is peopled by digital natives. We approach the problem from our point of view and not from theirs. Therein lies the rub, methinks. Advanced technologies allow the user to be in control, more control than baby boomer teachers are accustomed or ready to acquiesce. In the end we are assessing the digital natives by baby boomer rubrics, which is why we are so lost. We are in an apples and oranges situation.

One of the key points the proposal makes is that "improvement in education and training has been slow." Yes it has been and I'm not quite sure why, except for the layers of bureaucracy we have. I would say that "Advanced technologies have the potential to make learning more productive for students of all ages and all backgrounds and are an essential part of meeting the nation's education and training challenges. " is the strongest and most accurate statement. I would say that "advanced technologies" could be the game changer in improving education and training. The technologies would help the baby boomers learn how to let go and trust the digital natives, while documenting everything so the boomers can assess on their own time. We need to rethink, we need to leave our baby boomer comfort zone since we are in the way.

Were I to submit a proposal, I'd seek funding to create a computer system that allowed us to archive our student work and then use it for their future years in school, for college admission, for employment. I did this on a one school level, then on a multiple schools level when I used linux. Our server archived our scholars work, both teachers and students. Over the years the archive grew and we had years of data on teachers and students. Then the computer was sabotaged, destroyed, vandalized. Yes, we backed up. We need a better archiving system. As models, we have Google tool, Docs and Spreadsheets, which is a good example of cloud computing. For a good example of archiving we have The Wayback Machine. I would want to develop servers across a district and archive the work of all of the schools' teachers and students' work to serve as ways to do proper assessment, to see growth or lack of it and use months of work as a way to assess student progress and even teacher effectiveness. This would be a very transparent assessment tool. As we collect student data we will have necessary baselines of the students for assessment and for informing instruction. We would not only collect student data, but also teacher data and this would be a good method of teacher evaluation. Since we aren't doing a good job at assessing progress in education, I'd propose methods to make assessment more transparent and effective via archiving. I see this as good middle ground betwixt the digital native and the baby boomer.

As I read Duncan's piece in the Winter 2009-2010 edition of American Educator, I found this passage as support of a reliable archiving system of student work as the way to gather the data and the method he describes here:
Our guiding principle is simply that teachers should be treated as professionals: They should have the support, tools, and opportunities to perform at their full potential by having timely and accurate data about their students to inform instruction; they should have time to consult and collaborate with their peers; and they should be evaluated, compensated, and advanced based in part on student learning.

Student growth and gain, not absolute test scores, are what we are most interested in - how much are students improving each year, and what are teachers, schools, school districts, and states doing the most to accelerate student achievement.

Further on.. It defies common sense to bar all consideration of student learning from teacher evaluation. But it is time to move past the over-reliance on fill-in-the-bubble tests to richer assessments of successful teaching and learning...
Duncan has argued well for and even asked for innovative ways to evaluate the educational experience for all involved and I exclaim that archiving and webpages are a very real and good method to gather this data.

Another report from the federal government "Use of Education Data at the Local Level: From Accountability to Instructional Improvement" tells me we aren't quite sure what data we need nor how to collect it and use it. What Happens in CyberEnglish is a good model that may be useful in helping to solve this problem of data collection and use.

Let me provide a real world example demonstrating the difference between baby boomer thinking and digital native thinking. One is waiting for the daily newspaper for job opportunities while the other is using Twitter.

Schools have to change. Maybe this new book by Louis Menand is a good place to start.

Good luck to all who submit for this grant, think like a digital native.

No comments: