Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An 8th Grade Test - Historical

The following commentary is based on the a historical test given by the state of West Virginia in 1931. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/education/v/tests.pdf

(Disclaimer: If you have never come across this blog i would recommend opening and scanning the article.)

The question, which was posed to me earlier, was to critique it based on current practices.


The test is broken down (much the way we still do) into 10 subsections:
     English Grammar
     Physiology and Hygiene
     Civil Government
     U.S. and (State Specific) History

Note the sections here. The questions are, for the most part, critical thinking questions (short answer) to test your own understanding and knowledge on the topics above. No where do you see multiple choice. there is one matching section, and one correct the sentence, but there are no multiple guess scenarios. 

Furthermore, the content is broad, i myself would not have passed this test with an acceptable grade. where as our tests focus on content, it is apparent that the questions here apply, to a much greater extent, to context. This is not so much a preparatory test, but a skill check. Is the student prepared for the workforce, does he or she understand the context of the state, its history, government? Can he or she relate this ( Orth. Pen.Gram.) and work out difficult tasks with others? It appears to be a well rounded exam. 

Our current tests seem ghost-like in comparison. The student sits down after a night of cramming to work on a page of multiple choice questions, a page of fill-ins (with word bank), a math section of non-contextual numbers, and maybe two essays (choose one). 

I cannot speak to 8th grade tests for certain, as they are not in my field, but this is what i remember. Irrelevant questions, whose answers i knew for the hour and left me quickly there after. There were certainly no sections on civil gov. or penmanship, and state history... that would have been at the very least, interesting, but no. 

Could it be used now? I believe it would take time to prepare the students for such a test, but yes. It is clear to me that this type of testing is rooted firmly in a meaningful context and that is always preferable to irrelevant trivia.        

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Storify Intro --- Debate 2012

Reflection - 10/25/12 - Technology in Education

It would seem that we find ourselves at the end... but where then should I begin? So far, Collins has discussed the evolution of technology both in the classroom and out, the development of the information age, and the transition that the current, historically rooted, educational systems are working through. However, I have felt somewhat strongly that his arguments thus far have been aimed more at congnition than application. This was to change in his final few chapters.

His initial thoughts, beginning where we left off (p.104), offer us a bilateral argument about technology. The simple fact is that as we spend more time socializing virtually, we are slowely losing our interpersonal, real life, social skills. It is by far a simpler way to text message someone, than to call them, or even to meet in person. We can even now work collaboratively, via the internet, on any number of projects, across any length of distance. Is the trade off worth it? Possibly. Human beings have a psychological need for company, but we need to moderate the physical with the virtual or we become isolated. Even a virtual community can become a lonely and desolate place to exist. Even the skills we may aquire (time management, marketing, prpbability, group dynamics...), as he points out, from utylizing the gaming industry can lead to such places. MMOS and forums can only take us so far.

The next point that really stood out for me was his throry about the acquisition of credentials to build our experiences. It reminded me of the educational system found in Lois Lowry's, The Giver. Although a distopian novel, the schooling was based in first observations of the youth's apparent interests and strengths, followed by matriculation into a graded system of specialization, culminating in an apprenticeship and a career. I remarked, while discussing the book, that it sounded like it could work and I second that upon hearing Collin's ideas. The main concern is how to transition into such a system when even now we have no alternative routs for students, save high school.

Lastly, cultivating a culture of life long learners is a noble endeavor. I believe that such a system, as described by Collins, could very well bring about the future he paints, but it will be a hard pill to swallow for many families. Even if we manage to get individual laptops fro every child, and provide adaptive software, individualized learning programs, and career councilors, until we have a multi generational understanding of comprehension and learning, it won't succeed to the extent that we so desire. We need a comprehension generation to grow up and instill what they've learned to their children,. I feel that such a generation could easily adapt to changing media and create a homogeneous culture of competent, critically thinking, individuals.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Reflection "Learning, Innovation, and Digital Literacy Skills"

Knowing where to begin, when writing, is most often the hard part for the students I work with. This being said, I've fallen into the same trap. The article, broken into two consecutive chapters, is focused on the 4 c's of learning; critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity.

 Furthermore, it identifies the previously held conception of learning ("knowledge --> comprehension --> application --> synthesis --> evolution") and offers the modern taxonomic equivalent, "remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, and create."

It then goes into a practical explanation of both via a group competition from ThinkQuest 2003


Personally, i found the project, which crosses time-zones and continents to be fascinating. To effectively work together, the students had to utilize numerous live applications (not specified) to create a well informed and effective teaching tool in order to educate readers about Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)

It also included an explanation of what it called the 21st Century Skills Rainbow (seen below). I've also included a link to their website for further reading.  


The second chapter focused on digital literacy and began with a brief narrative about what happens when revolutionary ideas come before their time... ie. disaster in the form of, from the story, riots) the warning was clear and it made sense to me in many ways. Information overload can lead to any number of possible troubling situations. there are times in a foreign language class when ive heard the teacher exclaim, "why did i tell them that?" in response to, of course, mentioning off handed, a word or phrase that was not  appropriate. But can we expect the populace not to do very much the same thing with the internet. In a few seconds you can find the means to making bombs or your first souffle. Being able to manage and be responsible for your actions in the age of digital technologies is a key skill... Digital literacy is more important than ever and students need to be able to network, sort through, analyze, and relate what they find.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Learning like Spock - A Teaching Perspective

The main argument, as i see it in the reading (Collins, 94-104), is for a system of education based more in apprentisship than mass schooling. The fact is that it works, i cannot deny that a system of close observation by an expert on a small group of individuals works well. It is the very reason why small workshop classes tend to learn well even if the class only meet once. the visceral experience combined with a guided practice is a good formula. Like the section said, we can keep the students on task, in this scenario, by keeping the level of difficulty above boring and before frustration... but does such a principle work as an alternative to our current system?

The shift from such tactics to mass schooling was because of population size. we recognized that such methods become problematic as the class size increases so today it is largely part of OJT. we simply don't have the kind of early specificity we used to. The blacksmith trained the next blacksmith from youth, but how many such fields do we have today? How many pharmacy techs do we need? And furthermore, how are we supposed to apply this to high-schoolers?

Yes, the author gives us ideas, using distance learning, networking, and virtual aids, but how long before we run into the social problem. The very nature of apprentiship is the isolation. Small group to one on one training leads to social withdrawal. I'll close with a link (since the embed code is disabled) to a clip from Star Trek 2009. Do we really want to become Vulcans?