Taking a Stand Against Standardized Testing

Recently, some students and their schools have been taking a stand against standardized testing in the schools. They have been protesting outside of Pearson Headquarters, the publishers of many of the textbooks you would be familiar with. Even though this is an event which is occurring in the United States and not Canada, I still believe that the implications are relevant. I believe that it is important that the students and the teachers are the ones who stand up for themselves. Too many decisions regarding what goes on in schools are made by individuals who rarely step foot in schools. The only way to get support from the larger public is to make them aware of the consequences of standardized testing, so they too can understand that we need to be focusing on learning experiences that benefit the students – which is clearly not standardized testing. Important decisions regarding the government who will influence the decisions in our own province regarding testing and our students future are made during the election time. If those who are not a part of the school system are not aware of the consequences of testing on our students, how will they know not to vote for those who support it? We need to stand up for the students and make the public aware, just as these individuals are here!

Schools Boycott Latest Round Of Standardized Testing – YouTube.

Exploring DS 106 Assignments

For Tech Task 5b, we were asked to complete two different assignments from the DS 106 Assignment Bank . The first assignment that I chose was in the ‘audio assignments.’ For this assignment we were asked to read one of our favourite children’s books. I read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Kevin Henkes was and is still one of my favourite children’s literature authors. I had fun using garage band to alter my voice after I had recorded the reading. I think that students could have a lot of fun creating their own stories on an audio program like this – it could be a very meaningful ELA project for students of varying ages. Check out the link to hear my reading of Chrysanthemum!

Sound Cloud – Chrysanthemum

For the second assignment, I chose to do one from the ‘writing assignments’ section. For this assignment we were asked to choose a movie and create a tweet that described the movie. I chose this one thinking it would be a fun task, which actually turned out to be a lot more difficult that I had imagined. Through the process of creating my tweet, I couldn’t think but how this could be a meaningful assignment for students to learn how to summarize and find the themes of books. In the end, I chose to do the Disney Classic, Aladdin.

My tweet is as follows: “One step ahead of Jafar, thanks to my #magiccarpetride”

Finding Truth

For the introductory segment of our tech task 5A, we were asked to read an article discussing the contradictory view points on drinking coffee, and essentially whether or not it will result in a longer or shorter life span. As I was reading this article, it became very apparent how one cannot believe everything they read. In addition, many times you will find that people are surprised when they hear an opposing point to a study that has been done. My question is, why are people so surprised that there is an opposing side? There will always be an opposing side. I would question that there has ever been a study/story/belief where there has been one side that EVERYONE agrees on. While I must add that without opposing sides we would not grow as a society and that there are many positive factors to having opposing sides… one being that it means we are all not robots… yet. Lastly, it apparent that it is always extremely important to learn who the source of the information is, and how credible this source may be.

For the next segment of this tech task, we were asked to dig deep into a blog post and decide and comment of what view we side with on the topic. I chose to dig deep into a post entitled, School isn’t Like a Job.

When reading this post, I found that the author made some very interesting points. Others must have also found his post to be of interest for, there were numerous comments resulting in where the conversation took off and got very interesting. This post stems from the scandal in Alberta where the teacher was suspended for giving out students’ zeros, and most importantly the reaction of the general public to this issue.

A quote that I loved from the post, which I must bring light to was, “The reward for going to school is not the grade. It’s the learning.” I love this. It would make a great “philosophy of education” quote. The problem however is, grades are an active and required element in our schools systems. If only we could have the power to eliminate the specific grades that we give to students and truly focus on the learning – what a powerful classroom that would be. However, currently that is not the case, so we must do the best with what we are given and figure out a way to use the grades in the best possible way that is meaningful for the students. A comment that another blogger left on this post also intrigued me. The individual wrote, “What does the grade communicate?” I think that this is such a powerful question. How can we use grades simply as a form of communication between the teacher and the student? How can we do this in a positive manner that will benefit the students learning experience? An example that I will use is this class ECMP 355. The grade that I will receive in this course is one that I will self-produce. What will that grade communicate to me as a student over a grade that I was given based off of three multiple choice tests? In my future I am definitely going to keep this question in the front of my mind. Whenever I am doing an assessment of any kind I will first question, what is the purpose of this assessment. By doing  so that I can be sure that I am “assigning” the grade to what I was in fact assessing. Secondly, I will ask myself “what is this grade communicating to the student?” Is it doing its job?

Overall, this topic of assessment is a touchy subject with both educators and non educators. As I said previously, I also do not think it is going to be something that everyone will ever agree on. That is okay too. In fact, the disagreement, as long as it is done so in a respectful manner, will also most likely help give educators a push to continue to improve their methods of assessment. Personally, I do think that we are in need of change of grading and assessing our students in the typical way we do using one single letter to represent a wealth of work that the student has done for us. However, I also realize that this is not something that is going to change overnight. In society the way that assessment and grading is done and thought of is so very superglued into peoples’ minds,  there will be a great deal of resistance. With that being said, I think that we may be closer to a change than it may seem. The fact that there re so many meaningful conversations between passionate educators regarding this topic is a huge sign that we are taking steps in the right direction.

Cheating? Who Needs It?

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 ClassroomWhat 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.

Educating Our Obstacles

Two days ago, my blog post discussed the teacher in Alberta who was suspended for giving students zeros. The news article that I found, agreed with the teacher. It was indicated that by not giving students zeros, teachers are simply letting the students off the hook. Over my years as a pre-service teacher, I have been creating my own educational philosophy. Many influential and amazing professors at the University of Regina have helped in doing so, and influenced me for the better. There have been many times that my thoughts and beliefs have been challenged. Over the years this has influenced me to become very critical – over absolutely everything that I do, see, hear, and learn about. Although this sometimes gets me into trouble –  for the reason that I seem to have an opinion on everything, it also is what helps me continue to create my educational philosophy and understand what I believe my job to be as an educator.

In my opinion, there are many instances where teachers lose track of what and why they are engaging in assessment. This concept of testing students has become so “normalized” in schools that we don’t even think twice about it. What is its purpose? What are the benefits for the students? How is it going to help my students grow? I must be clear in that, I am not saying that I do not think that assessment is important. Assessment is the backbone to many aspects of teaching. However, what I am saying is that there are times that we have lost sight of why we are doing it. In my Assessment course that I took last semester, I had a professor, Dr. Marc Spooner, who made a comment about assessment that will always stick with me. He simply questioned our class to think about what we are trying to assess every time that we are assessing and evaluating a student. In regard to the handing out zeros policy, what was the teacher trying to assess? This is a very important question to consider when making a judgement about the situation. Was the teaching trying to assess the student’s ability to hand something in on time? Or, was he trying to assess the content of the work? From the reading that I have done, the teacher was trying to assess the content. Therefore, I do not agree with him giving the students’ zeros. What kind of learning does this provide for the student? Did the teacher take into consideration the context? What was going on in the students’ life that impacted whether or not that assignment was handed in? Now to these comments, you will hear many people say “in the real world you are not given second chances.” When I hear that comment, I have to beg to differ. When you are working in a work context and you have a deadline what do you do as an individual to meet that deadline? What are the indicating factors in your life that allow you to meet that deadline? Has not one person ever gone to a boss and said, “Things are crazy at home, the children are sick, I am sorry but I cannot meet the deadline.” Has there never been a University student who has emailed the professor with a reason as to why their work will not be handed in on time; and then when that professor responds by saying that there will be deductions made, I guarantee 90% of the time that student complains about how the professor does not realize that they “have a life.” I could go on and on with instances where someone in “real life” has been given a second chance, and I challenge you to think about if you have ever required one. Therefore, I must argue that it is not handing assignments in on time that is going to affect whether or not a student succeeds in their life however, I can bet that continually receiving zeros will.

A peer of mine linked as a comment on my initial blog post a Facebook comments thread of many thoughts regarding this topic. Some very scary comments are made here, I suggest you check them out. When I first read these comments, I was shocked. I was shocked by the amount of people negatively commenting about the teachers and how they are the reason that the up and coming generation is “lazy.” However, I had to contain myself and put myself in those people’s shoes. What type of education have these individuals making these comments had? Have they had the opportunity to have an education as I have been so fortunate to, with some amazing professors who have directly impacted my ways of thinking and helped me to be the pre-service teacher that I am? I question myself these things, and try to put myself in these other individuals shoes because I wonder if I had not gone through this education program what my opinion would be? Everyone is in titled to an opinion. What our job is as future educators, is to educate our own obstacles (individuals)  about our beliefs. Sometimes that is all it will take, is those individuals being able to see the other side to a situation, being able to see why giving students zeros is not  the best decision. Many people will not have their opinions changed, just as I do not think that my own opinion on this topic will change. However, we must try. In addition, think of all your future students that you will be teaching. If you can affect them, then maybe when they are older, the kind of comments that we will be seeing regarding a topic such as this will be significantly different.

Another blogger who I have become very fond of reading their posts, has their opinions on this topic as well. I suggest you check them out, some very insightful points made by this gentleman. As always I love to hear thoughts and opinions, especially if they are contradicting. How do you think that we should go forth with this understanding that there are many individuals in society who believe that zeros should be handed out?

LiveBinders… cool!

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!

Organize your resources in an online binder – LiveBinders.