Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tests Don't Measure This

Unfortunately, I've been having what seems to be endless conversation about test scores lately. At work the meetings are countless- what our scores are, where we need to be, who to target, etc. etc. etc.

On Twitter the other day I engaged in a conversation around whether national standards are needed. In short, my answer was no since I fear that this will only lead to some inane national exam, which will undoubtedly measure one type of intelligence- good old paper and pencil.

My problem with the America's ongoing fascination with standardized tests is this- how do you measure:

* collaboration
* critical thinking
* problem- solving
* curiosity
* artistic/musical intelligence

The answer- you can't. It's really that simple. My 8th graders in this photo are engaged in a design project in which they are required to do all of the above things are more. They're designing a real project for a real- world reason. If their product is chosen by Mark Ecko, their t-shirt design has the possibility of being sold in stores across the world. The lessons they're learning about design, marketing, economics, branding, etc are invaluable and traditionally not addressed in classroom. Tell me, how do you measure this??

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reflections on Online Instruction From an Online Learner

First off, I am beyond pleased to have found this photo and even more thrilled when I found it was part of Wes Fryer's photo stream. I thought it was perfect given my current experiences with tech, both as a teacher and a learner.

I recently completed my 1st semester of doctoral work at Pepperdine University. I'm studying educational technology through a hybrid program which requires me to attend several face to face meetings throughout the next few years, as well as complete an online component.

My classmates and I chat regularly about our readings on social learning theory, leadership, school reform and a slew of other topics related to technology and education. We use a variety of forums to accomplish this including google groups, BlackBoard, and a few web-based collaboration tools like Etherpad

Still a relatively new phenomenon, online education has recently been the topic of numerous research studies, attempting to prove ( or disprove) its overall value and effectiveness for learners. Since this area of education is also a research interest of mine, I decided to weigh in citing my personal experiences thus far.

Here are my initial thoughts, reflecting, rantings etc:

1) Online instruction is not "easier" than attending a traditional graduate school program, in fact it can prove to be more challenging since you're not physically in contact with your instructors as much.

2) You must be disciplined to have success with online schooling. If not, you'll find yourself falling behind and there's no one there to push you, except yourself!

3) Research! Research! Research! I looked at several programs during my application process, both traditional and blended. Some required lots of face to face interaction, while others had relatively little. Find one that fits your needs and be honest with yourself.

4) ASK ABOUT ACCREDITATION! Surprisingly, not all programs with an online component are fully accredited. I actually know someone who earned an MBA from an online school, only to found out it meant nothing- what a waste of time and money!

5) If possible, find students who are or have attended the institution the schools you're interested in- I found some useful information simply by googling- student reviews and the institutions' names.

6) Dig up information on graduates of the programs you're looking at- Pepperdine readily provided this information on their website. I was, (and still am) impressed by the accomplishments of Pepperdine Alum, and it keeps me motivated when I feel frustrated.

7) Use common sense- if something sounds to good to be true it usually is.

8) Be patient but honest- most schools are still trying to "work out the kinks" in terms of what works when delivering content online. Speak up if something isn't working for you- remember your are making a valuable investment and deserve a top-notch education for the time and money you're putting in.

9) Remember that no man is an island- my programs is a cohort model and my classmates are awesome! Find a network to help you get you through the tough times.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kudos 2 Common Craft!!!

Okay, this will be a short one. But after viewing Common Craft's latest addition to its "in plain English" series, I simply had to acknowledge them. In short, "Protecting Reputation Online", is the most concise, kid-friendly explanation I've ever seen covering a touchy, yet important, topic.  Working with tech savvy middle school students, I have had more than my share of experiences with young people who fail to realize the implications of posting questionable images and comments on the web. 

I've actually had a conversation with an admissions counselor at one of the city's most selective high schools, who admits regularly searching for applicants' names of facebook and other social networking sites when attempting to make admissions decision.  I've also had to deal with numerous episodes of "sexting", young girls sending inappropriate images to boys they like, which inevitably end up in the hands of every student with hours.

It's available as always for immediate download for just $20.  I'd like to thank my twitter friends for this one- as always you are one of my best resources!

Interested in other videos in the series?  Try:

wikis in plain English

blogs in plain English

twitter in plain English

google docs in plain English

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 Resolutions of an Educator on the Verge of ????

Again, I find myself reflecting on myself professionally and personally as this New Year takes off. So here's my list of things I resolve to do in 2010

1) I will not teach force every student in my charge to read the same book. This has been a huge "aha" for me as an educator. As an adult, I have certain interests that will keep me reading despite of being tired, overwhelmed, or downright frustrated. Besides, my kids will get plenty of opportunities to be told exactly what to read when they get to high school and college.

2) I will hold all my teachers to high standards even when they resist- no excuses.

3) I will honor my students' voices and choices even when the control freak that resides in inside me tries to take over.

4) I will stop complaining about what's wrong with education and focus on what's working.

5) I will not allow anyone to drown me with negative energy even if that mean walking away for awhile!