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

Friday, January 8, 2010

We need a student archive NOW!

For many years now, since 1993, teachers have been publishing their scholars' work and yet we still don't have any kind of archive or clearinghouse that provides access and examples for teachers new to the concept. So many times we see teachers having to go it alone, in spite of the fact that so many teachers in the past seventeen years, we all seem to be working in our own vacuums. We don't have a common list, blog, or website that helps keep track of all of this. I'd say we should start at the US Department of Ed and then filter down through each state, that would be responsible for recording the sites that pop up in each state. Another reason we need an official place to collect all of this work is that teachers who do this use a college account that will expire and be wiped, a free site that will go out of business and disappear, a school site that will wipe a teacher's site when that teacher leaves, or a teacher simply stops supporting a site s/he paid for when the teacher retires. Digitized work is fragile and needs a more official place to store this valuable work. In my own case I have had servers crash and the result has been disastrous as I lost years of work, which I was fortunate to recover because of the Wayback Machine. I did lose work prior to the creation of the Wayback machine and also work my scholars created on Geocities when they closed down their site and wiped all the work there. That was a crime against scholarship and this is why the US Department of Ed must begin such an archiving program that trickles down through the states to the local school districts.

Top down won't work unless current users in the classroom are consulted. This is always a problem when government considers a new policy, they rarely consult the users. Current data farming is mired in political and technical difficulties. This is not surprising. The political hurdle seems to be in assigning students an ID. The social security number, which would be the logic choice is not allowed in K-12 environment though it is used in higher ed and in the military. Other political hurdles probably rest in method of collection and the vendor that will do it. Too bad, since a conclusion that web based methods would be the most efficient which would solve some of the politics and most of the technical difficulties. What we need is a common language, not many different ones so integration becomes easier. "technical challenges can arise when figuring out how to exchange the data, the state has decided to share data through a Web-based exchange that is compatible with each data system." Also I'm not sure what data is being considered to be collected and shared with higher ed. It sounds like test scores and not the actual work of the student. I don't like this and find it useless in the end and to any teacher who could use this data collection for informing instruction. It seems quite obvious that these efforts will always fall short since the politics of vendor, (there's money to be made in data collection) and a lack of consensus in which technologies to use. This is why I encourage my scholars to own their own webspace and to publish all of their work for college admission and to pass on to their next teacher. Some good questions were asked, " Who owns the data? Who can query the data? What kinds of questions can we ask of the data?" from a Maryland representative. The student owns the data. The student and anyone the student authorizes to access the data may access the data. If the data is the work of the student then use email. If the data is test results then we need the test, the answer key, and the student's test. In too many cases this information is destroyed or not available, which will make much of this data collection useless because we have to trust a company out to make money and not be advocates for the students. After reading this article, I was not encouraged that we will ever get a good data repository of student work. Consider how easily and quickly data collection happens with a program like TurnItIn. Students or professors submit student work to check for plagiarism, the company keeps the work and uses it as part of its repository for further checking of submitted papers. No one seems to be questioning this process for ethical reasons. Certainly the private sector like TurnItIn, the Wayback Machine, Google and others have figured out how to collect work and archive it. Methinks states are looking in the wrong place to figure out the technology and incompetence always becomes political.

This difficulty was borne out in a recent Big Ideas Fest when even they had trouble communicating, "In order to get participants to suspend judgment, let go of their agendas, listen to others, build on what they received, look for connections, and support their partners, much of the conference activities centered around improv." I was glad to hear that Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, (The Wayback Machine) spoke, since he has solved a valuable problem and is a good model of how this can be accomplished. It is all about the X's and O's, not the $'s. CalPASS shows some good promise.

Involving students in their own assessment has long been a successful practice. Recent research shows that when students are involved in their own assessment. Part of the work of portfiolio/webfolio assignments. This kind of research underscores the uselessness of any other kind of assignment, yet we continue to use it. Anecdotal evidence is always good and works well with other forms of assessment, but is too often left out.

Three recent examples of work being done in schools across the country help to support the argument for a national archive or clearinghouse for all teachers to see them and to follow as an example instead of having to reinvent the process over and over. Remember the three tenets of scholarship: 1.) publish it; 2.) engage in peer review; 3.) pass it on. The purpose of archiving work is to satisfy these three tenets of scholarship.

Two art teachers in two different schools in UTAH have created a website for their classes and scholars where they publish assignments and the work of the scholars. "The program is an example of how collaboration and technology can be used to enhance the learning of students." The major problem is that it is in isolation from the school, state, or any other official entity that can guarantee its permanence and credibility. "The bottom line is, give students a positive experience with art. You see it in their face when they create something they didn't think they could create. It's rigorous, but there is nothing like it in the world." Actually there are lots of sites and programs like this all over the world. See the problem, these guys think they are the only ones doing this, the first. Sorry guys, you aren't the first nor the only ones doing this. What happens to this site when the teachers discontinue supporting the site or maintaining it? They have provided a good example of scholarship. They have published the scholar's art work, they have them engaging in peer review, but I'm not sure I see how they are passing it on. "Students can also respectfully critique the art online. The site contains more than 800 pieces of student art." One point I really liked, "The teachers operate under the philosophies that everyone is born an artist; imagination and creativity can be developed; and all ideas are welcome." Excellent just like many teachers use the Habits of Mind in their classes or Thomas Armstrong's Awakening Genius. This is an admirable and valuable project in UTAH, I just wish it were more connected to the world and not merely suspended in its own little world.

Perhaps a place to consider starting the archive process would be through journalism. Just as the major publishing companies in the world are moving their print publications more to a digital version, school newspapers, too, should and have to consider this move if they plan to continue in budget cuts and lack of advertising revenues, even for school papers. In addition, school readership would probably prefer a digital version to the paper version. It certainly is a more green choice as well. "The staff struggles with how to adapt to an evolving media environment and keep the attention of an elusive audience." Schools are struggling with journalism, yet they push on and hopefully employ more technology to publish. After all, web publishing is the future, if not already the present. The struggles of journalists and journalism in general may provide answers to what schools can do in archiving their students' work. An example of a school that went digital.

I was intrigued by an article about how the Socratic method is used and though how this could be done with technology. Certainly a webpage provides the start of a comment, but is cumbersome for a conversation. Then of course there is the blog, but still a bit cumbersome. Then twitter came to mind and how this is environment would be ideal in a Socratic methods class. Arching a traditional Socratic method session is nearly impossible unless we think ipod. Recording the conversation via ipod or doing it in Twitter or a like technology would allow us to archive these conversations for future use and reference.

So much is being lost to document what is happening in schools. I have written to Karen Cator, the new director of education technology about the idea of digitizing all student work as a hub to the four point ed-tech plan being considered right now.

No comments: