Education ∪ Math ∪ Technology

Month: November 2010 (page 2 of 3)

You have to give the path

We have been having a lot of discussion on #edchat and in the educational blogosphere about the state of education. We basically have two camps, one of which believes that what we need is more accountability and assessment of students. We’ll call that camp A. The other camp believes we need a model which includes more personalized instruction, a focus on skills more than content, and that we need to use of real world tools in education. We’ll call that camp B. You might be somewhere between camp A and camp B, but most people I’ve heard give an opinion are either in A or B.

The path from A to B

The problem is, I don’t see many people talking about how you get from camp A to camp B. We need to talk more about the route between what we are doing and what we would like to see. You can get people to agree with your vision, but unless you give them some idea on how to get there, they aren’t going to follow you.


Formative assessment and Summative assessment

I think that the relationship between formative and summative assesment looks like the following.

Formative assessment vs Summative assessment overlapping Venn diagram

According to Wikipedia:

Formative assessment is a self-reflective process that Intends to promote student attainment. Cowie and Bell define it as the bidirectional process between teacher and student to enhance, recognize and respond to the learning. Black and Wiliam consider an assessment ‘formative’ when the feedback from learning activities is actually used to adapt the teaching to meet the learner’s needs. Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick have re-interpreted research on formative assessment and feedback and shown how these processes can help students take control of their own learning (self-regulated learning).

Summative assessment (or Summative evaluation) refers to the assessment of the learning and summarizes the development of learners at a particular time.

Summative assessment is characterized as assessment of learning and is contrasted with formative assessment, which is assessment for learning.

Is my graph appropriate? Is it possible to have an assessment which is both used to guide the learning process and help the learner is therefore formative and also be a snap-shot of what the learner knows? Or are formative and summative assessment mutually exclusive?

Bad PowerPoint

I’m presenting to a 5th grade class this Friday on using PowerPoint as a presentation tool, most of whom will have never used PowerPoint. I’m going to start with a discussion of what a bad PowerPoint presentation looks like, using the model I’ve created below (which I have in video format). Later on in the year I’ll be presenting on a variety of different presentation tools. We are just starting with PowerPoint because it is on each of the computers in our mobile lab.

The next step, I’m going to give the students a few pointers, via laminated diagrams, on how to do a few basic things in PowerPoint. After that, the students will be given a PowerPoint scavenger hunt, basically a "Figure out how to make this slide" series of activities.

I see two flaws with this lesson plan so far so I have a couple of questions.

What can I do to extend this for students who finish early? How can I build more inquiry into this lesson?

Conrad Wolfram: Teaching kids real math with computers

One of the parents of a child I taught last year shared this with me. Here is what I think the math class should look like. Forget teaching kids computation, especially when a computer can do it faster, cheaper, and more reliably.

This classroom more closely resembles Dan Meyer’s math classroom where students are expected to formulate problems but taken to a further degree. Let’s do away with the repetitive tasks that a computer can easily do by hand, make sure all students have those devices that they need to do these repetitive tasks, and then focus on how to use the computations in the real world.

Messed up priorities

If a person can be arrested for making a claim on Twitter that they will "blow up an airport", how can it be okay in our society to incite hatred against a group of people? I saw the comment below on a story on Yahoo about the courageous kid, Graeme Taylor, who stood up for his teacher.

Comments from Yahoo!

This kind of hatred is unacceptable in our society. It is unacceptable to me that we will prosecute and incarcerate someone for what is obviously a joke, but that we let millions of hate-filled comments about the #LGBTQ community pass. There is something wrong with a free speech law which will let hatred stand uncontested and unprosecuted.

We live in a messed up world and need to rethink our priorities.

Forget the future: Here’s the textbook I want now

The old paper form of a textbook is certain to die. I’m sure of it.

The new form of a "textbook" has a feature list that turns the textbook from something people read to something people experience. Note that this feature list isn’t fantasy, nearly all of these features already exist in some form.

Here are the features I think every textbook should have.

  • The textbook should be 100% searchable. No more wondering where eukaryotic appears in the text. You’ll just be able to quickly type in a search term and find all of the places it appears.
  • Key words in the text should be linked to explanations of these key terms. Click on the word, find out what it means in this context and what other resources exist to understand it.
  • The readability of the text should be individually customizable. Want to challenge yourself and improve your vocabulary? There’s a setting for that. Feel like taking it easy on the reading? There’s a setting for that too.
  • Everything in the textbook should allow annotations which should appear as a user generated summary of the textbook itself in another location.
  • Users should be able to add bookmarks and tag parts of the textbook with terms so they can self-classify the information. These tags should optionally appear for other users of the same textbook.
  • You should be able to comment on any part of the textbook. This could be used to flag out-of-date content or just to ask questions. Each user of a textbook should optionally be able to see everyone else’s comments on various sections of the text. These comments should happen in real time so that users can chat in real time about what they are examining.
  • Videos and other multimedia should be included in the textbook where appropriate. Want to talk about MLK’s I have a dream speech? You can include the entire video of his speech as part of the book.
  • The textbook should be customizable. Users should be able to edit the content of the textbook and share the updated version of the textbook with other users. When a customization occurs, the original author(s) of the textbook could optionally be notified so they can either accept or reject the changes to the original work.
  • The textbook needs to be open source and free. No longer bound by restrictive and antiquated licenses, institutions can create their textbooks and share them with the world.
  • Textbooks need to be translatable if they are really going to be free to use for everyone. No longer would the language learners in your class be forced to struggle in your subject just because of a lack of knowledge of the language of instruction. Optionally you could have the textbook display in the language of instruction and have real-time translation services available for any section on demand.
  • For any section of the text, real time search of other resources or references needs to be available. Instead of relying on just the opinion of the author(s) of the text, now you can look at other (optionally screened) resources that could help understand some perspective on the subject of the textbook.
  • The textbook should be device agnostic and mobile-ready. It shouldn’t matter if the person is reading it on an ereader, a netbook, an iPad, or a cell phone, the textbook should be available anytime, anywhere to anyone.
  • The textbook should be built with multiple models of pedagogy in mind. Instead of flatly stating the "facts" for the student reading the textbook, there should be opportunities for experiments, simulations, 3rd virtual worlds, or whatever other alternate forms of representation are available. Inquiry should be built into these textbooks.
  • Students should be able to click anywhere in the book and ask the question, "where is this used in the real world?" No more students asking why they are learning this stuff, because the entire learning process would be transparent.
  • You should be able to ask an expert on the topic from your textbook. Need more help with the topic than the textbook is providing, or have some more questions? You can call someone for help and ask for advice right through your textbook.
  • Your textbook could be a centre of a community of people who are all learning the same material. Not all of you need to be in exactly the same class, but as you work through the textbook and make comments, the textbook learns from you about your learning habits, strengths, and weaknesses, and connects you to the people and resources that you need to understand.
  • Any practice or other tasks that need to be done through the textbook should be included, if appropriate, and immediately assessed. No more waiting for feedback.
  • The textbook should be modular. This would allow for construction of textbooks from many different sources, potentially choosing the most effectively created resources for each section. Students could create their own textbooks for their personal study, selecting resources that they find to be the most effective for them. In fact, students could contribute modules to a textbook as part of a capstone project for their course.
  • The textbook content should include metatags, which should be searchable, so that over time related content can be found, and some of the connections between different content areas are made more clear.
  • Update: Thomas Baekdal reminded me of a couple of more important features: First that the textbook be non-linear so that the learner can access it in any order, and that the textbook should allow for embedding from sources anywhere on the web.
  • The most important feature I can think of in a textbook should be that it should be at most a place in the learning process, and help the learner develop further questions that they can explore for themselves. It should not be something that stops a learner from wondering.

What else would you like to see in a textbook?

What do we need to know for this test?

Our students need to move from a world where this is the test for which they prepare:

Girl holding a scantron sheet

into a world where this is the test for which they prepare:

This idea and these two pictures are part of an amazing TED talk at TEDxKC given by Dr. Michael Wesch which you can watch below.

You may remember that Dr. Michael Wesch is the same person who organized the terrific video "A Vision of Students Today" which I have embedded below.

We need to recognize as educators that our duty is to prepare students for the world, whatever that may look like. We can give them as much content knowledge as we like, but if they don’t have the literacies described in Dr. Wesch’s TED talk, they won’t be successful.

Edublog Award Nominations 2010

I’m posting this to publicly nominate some efforts for the Edublog awards.

Best group blog: Cooperative catalyst
This group blog has really helped me start to transform my practice. The in depth conversations which happen for each post are awesome, and I wish more blogs could discussions like this one rather than a series of rants. I should probably not include this blog as some of my own entries and comments are on it, but the work this group has done has been so valuable, I can’t not nominate it, even if it doesn’t "count". The work I’ve done has been very minor, but the work the collective has done has been amazing and I want to publicly acknowledge their effort.

Most influential blog post: My son is gay
This blog post has generated over 44,000 comments and 3 million hits as of the posting this nomination. The topic, which is not controversial in my opinion (I’m in 100% agreement of the poster), has ignited a firestorm of discussion about an important issue.

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion: #edchat
As usual #edchat has been a great place for educators to meet online and discuss issues.

Lifetime achievement: Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken Robinson has done more to promote the cause of transformation of education than anyone I know. His TED talk has been seen by millions of educators and has sparked conversations all over the world.

Classrooms as buses

I’m not sure where I’ve heard this analogy before but I was reminded of it as I sat on the bus this morning.

Most classrooms are like buses with the teacher driving & students as unwilling passengers, able to see the world through the glass, but not touch it. When we put Internet filters in schools we are placing screens on the windows of the students. When we decrease teacher autonomy, it is like we are fogging up the front windows of the bus, making it hard for the teachers to figure out where they are going. No wonder students are bored and teachers feel like they lack control.