During my pre-internship, my partner Brooke Alexander and I, co-taught and co-created a large unit on residential schools for our grade fours. During that unit, we engaged in Project of Heart, a nation-wide project that commemorates the lives of those who passed away while attending residential schools, with our students. Check out the website to see our students creations, and learn more about this amazing project!
I recently came across an article by Alfie Kohn, on standardized tests. I was introduced to Kohn’s work in a course at the U of R, and ever since have been intrigued by his compelling discussions on educational issues. If you have never heard any of his discussions, I strongly suggest you do – I have linked to his website above. You can also follow him on twitter!
What first attracted me to this article was its title, “Whoever Said There’s No Such Thing As a Stupid Question, Never Looked Carefully at a Standardized Test.” However, standardized tests is a topic that I will never get sick of discussing, I love to hear all of the varying opinions – they help me create what my own may be. In the article, Kohn questions the type of questions that we use to on tests for our students. He gave an example of math questions that essentially only assessing whether or not the student can follow a rule, not whether or not they are capable of doing math. Commonly, questions such as these – in all subjects, influence the students’ own perceptions as well as the teachers’ perceptions of how well the student understands the concept. However, more often than not this is a misleading perception.
After reading this article I began questioning my own beliefs. As I have previously discussed, I do not agree with standardized tests – for many reasons. However, I am now beginning to think that it is not the concept of standardized tests that I disagree with, but rather the tests that are created themselves. For, maybe it is not the tests as a whole that are the problem, but rather the questions. I find myself wondering if there will ever be a time where teachers and students can free themselves of standardized tests from the government. Therefore, the question then becomes, how can we adapt these tests into positive learning experiences for the students? What kinds of questions could we use that would be beneficial for the students? Moreover what questions could we use that would benefit the teachers, seeing as though standardized tests are really created to benefit the teachers as well as education administrators. If we have to engage in standardized tests, we mine as well create ones that will actually demonstrate student knowledge.
Today I am feeling very poetic as I am beginning to embrace the idea that spring courses are coming to an end and within a week I will have finished all required courses, excluding internship, for my education degree. I am going to share a poem that I was introduced to in my EHE 310 course in the fall. I found this poem to be very intriguing when I first read it. For every reader it may hold relevance in varying areas or contexts however, the strong message concerning whether to fix or prevent has interesting relevance in many areas of education.
The Ambulance in The Valley
Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
For it spread through the neighboring city;
A fence may be useful or not, it is true,
But each heart became full of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff;
And the dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds and gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
“For the cliff is all right, if you’re careful,” they said,
“And, if folks even slip and are dropping,
It isn’t the slipping that hurts them so much
As the shock down below when they’re stopping.”
So day after day, as these mishaps occurred,
Quick forth would those rescuers sally
To pick up the victims who fell off the cliff,
With their ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked: “It’s a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d much better aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he,
“Come, neighbors and friends, let us rally;
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
“Oh he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined,
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never!
He’d dispense with all charities, too, if he could;
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence,
While the ambulance works in the valley?”
But the sensible few, who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer;
They believe that prevention is better than cure,
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them then, with your purse, voice, and pen,
And while other philanthropists dally,
They will scorn all pretense, and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,
For the voice of true wisdom is calling.
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ’tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better close up the source of temptation and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley;
Better put a strong fence ’round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.
Through the use of twitter, I came across a video of youth speaking out about diabetes via Shelley Barthel, an education professor at the U of R. Shelley taught my section the EHE and EPE 310 courses. Throughout both of the courses Shelley continuously challenged us, pushing us to dig deeper into our thoughts. Well, here she is again, pushing me to critically analyze my philosophies. In our class in EHE 310, we had many meaningful and interesting discussions regarding the value of health education in schools. How do schools value health? How much time do they spent on health in the classroom? How much should schools value health education? Should health be above math and ELA? All of these questions are ones that as future educators, we should be thinking about.
When I was watching this video and started to consider what this video meant to me, it reminded me of a google survey that one of my peers, Lindsay Fuchs did. Her survey was on which subject is most important in the classroom. Interestingly enough, her survey found that 0% of us who did her survey, all future educators, put health at the top of the list. While watching this video it also reminded me of the Social Determinants of Health and their influence on daily life for all individuals. This is an interesting topic and I would love to hear your thoughts. How much should schools value health education in the classroom?
This morning when I was on my google reader, I found an article from another blog that I am subscribed to cooperative catalyst. It is entitled, 10 Ways to Cheat-proof Your Classroom. What I really enjoyed about this article was the philosophy of education that was hidden behind the list. I also found it interesting that within the list of ten, were two topics that myself and my fellow peers have had recent blog posts on; the controversy of no homework was listed, as well as not giving students zeros. At the top of this list it was discussed how a trusting relationship in itself will help reduce cheating. I do believe this to be true from my own personal experience of the effort that I feel the need to put forth, even at the latest hours of the night, when I will be handing it in to a professor whom I respect. Overall, the list covers many practices for a classroom that I believe would provide for an amazing learning environment for all.
Lately I have been trying to work on my technology skills and learning how to actually use my computer. I am definitely a handwriting notes type of person, I do not think that will ever change. I love my agenda, I love writing lists, and making notes here and there – it is a part of my learning style that I know works for me. However, there are many times when my lack of knowledge with technology hinders my ability to succeed at a task, or results in me spending many hours on something that should have taken me 20 minutes… cough.. my podcast… cough. Anyways, as I was exploring ideas and tools to use I came across this one. I have only played around and have not actually used it yet however, it looks like it would be interesting and useful. Essentially you are creating a binder online. It seems almost similar to some of the google tools that we have been learning about, just another option. There are many interesting ways that these could be used with your students in the classroom, if you want to expand your technological self – check it out!
In my education social studies 310 course two semesters ago, we discussed the use of “rich performance tasks” in the classroom. I do believe that the use of a project like this, or something similar can be effective in the classroom. When I think back to my schooling I remember a project from grade 7 that we were allowed to design on our own quite well. This was 9 years ago, and therefore, the learning that occurred there was very valuable. For this reason, along with the students taking ownership of their learning, allowing themselves to use their imagination and critical thinking skills, fostering to students’ personal interest, and many more, I believe that these types of projects can be very valuable tools in the classroom. The article linked below focuses on a school devoted to project-based learning. One concept that I really enjoyed from this article is captured in a quote from the principal of the school; “If you don’t have a relationship with the students, they’re not going to do anything for you; if it’s not relevant, you’re going to bore them. But when you look at relationships and relevance and then rigor, you’re going to hit all students.”