Give ’em paths

Authentic assessment is a key word these days.  How a student is assessed should be original, and the data that comes out of it clearly describes what the student knows.  Data can come in a variety of ways, but the data has to be real.  So how can students really show what they know in authentic ways?

I reflect on how students came into my classroom earlier this year with only know what a teacher tells them.  It was difficult at first to get them thinking for themselves, but once this happened, they came to understand that how they demonstrate what they know is up to them.  I recall being frustrated and anxious at the start of school; we all felt that.  The frustration wasn’t with the start of school but with how students think.  Many of them feel I should tell them everything and all they have to do is follow.  But, that only creates sheep in the education pasture with few shepherds.  My goal was to get them to see there are multiple paths to accomplish the same thing.  For example, a teacher says to students they are to present on a certain topic.  Students have multiple presentation options that range from PowerPoint to VoiceThread.  In other words, there are many ways to get there.  With many paths to demonstrate what they know, students can display an authentic work that creates new knowledge from what they had prior to learning.

How does the teacher know if the student has really understood the concepts being taught in class?  The learning product displays the concept in a way that makes sense to the student based on a clear description of  the highest level of talent.  I read “Understanding by Design” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  A bullet point summary:

Developed by nationally recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Understanding by Design® is based on the following key ideas:

  • A primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding.
  • Students reveal their understanding most effectively when they are provided with complex, authentic opportunities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess. When applied to complex tasks, these “six facets” provide a conceptual lens through which teachers can better assess student understanding.
  • Effective curriculum development reflects a three-stage design process called “backward design” that delays the planning of classroom activities until goals have been clarified and assessments designed. This process helps to avoid the twin problems of “textbook coverage” and “activity-oriented” teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
  • Student and school performance gains are achieved through regular reviews of results (achievement data and student work) followed by targeted adjustments to curriculum and instruction. Teachers become most effective when they seek feedback from students and their peers and use that feedback to adjust approaches to design and teaching.
  • Teachers, schools, and districts benefit by “working smarter” through the collaborative design, sharing, and peer review of units of study.
Teachers should begin with a backwards approach to clarify exactly what they are seeking.  Let’s be real though and that is that teachers don’t have this kind of time.  So, start with the end in mind asking the question, “What do we want students to learn?”  That solidifies the premise of assessment and that we have to assess.  I am a big proponent of talent based assessment for a variety of reasons but one that makes sense in this post is the concept that what kids know should be described vs. being a point or set of points.  Starting with the description allows a teacher to view student’s work as whether or not it meets levels of talent vs. an illegitimate point based system.

Giving students multiple paths to show what they have learned gives students a creative license to share their learning in authentic ways.  I hope students leave my first quarter class with the idea that there are a variety of ways to accomplish something.

How do you assess students in authentic ways?

The sandbox is open

At BBHMS we are moving in this direction though I haven’t come out and said this to the staff. I work with a Technology Committee and we are currently discussing what the tech culture should look like at our school. In our last meeting, all agreed there needs to be a wider array of tech being used and that tech is transforming teaching. We have not yet come to the point of researching the technology that should be used in our school as we are now beginning to phase in BYOD with a 1:1 in the future.

On Friday, October 19th part of the staff attended a tech forum that addressed BYOD and why we should use it. Some reasons we came up with were

  1. allows kids access to the Internet for information and webware
  2. opens technology to a wider range of teachers
  3. less expensive than a 1:1
  4. opens a culture of learning through technology
  5. kids are already using it

A step in the right direction
There has been a no cell phone use policy for years and for good reason. There is really no way to monitor what the kids are looking at or if they are accessing sites for information. This was a simple measure to keep students from doing what they should not. However, as a Cindy Hubert said in class, “…were born into the digital age…” and the students do not know what life is like without a computer. I recall my mother’s first computer which ran on DOS and had one stick of RAM. We had 5 1/2′ in floppy disks that sometimes worked and sometimes did not. The personal computer was beginning its way into homes. Now, the phones we carry in our pockets have the power and capability to do everything we need, and this is where we can leverage the power of BYOD.

Use it while you can
I cannot say that Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools will go to a 1:1 in the next year, though we are on our way with the purchase of netbooks for science and social studies, but I do know that students have access to the world inside their pocket, so why not use it and abuse it for all it is worth. Students are eager to pull out their wireless device – show and tell to everyone! With such eagerness schools can engage kids in learning while helping them to learn how to search for information and then use Web 2.0 technology to create a new piece of information that documents their learning. While we wait for a 1:1 to come, using BYOD is a great way to engage students.

Conundrum
Heading down this path is awesome and I am excited to see what comes of it when teachers and students construct new knowledge! There are a few barriers that I could use some help with and would appreciate some feedback:

  1. What policies should we put in place when in appropriate digital citizenship is inappropriate?
  2. What do we do when students do not have a wireless device?
  3. How can the teachers come to some consensus on this topic?
  4. How do you get teachers to buy in?

The sandbox is wide open because we don’t have a view of what webware and hardware is out there to use. The important part is that we are beginning to use it.

Do you use BYOD, and, if so, how?

Teacher Talking Teaching


As a result of many conversations with my colleague, Val Stowell-Hart, we decided to launch a forum for teachers to discuss relevant topics that are affecting us as a building and profession. Throughout the two years I have been at BBHMS, I have had many conversations about what is going on and how to change. Doing what is best for kids means educator discussions have to happen and when they happen some action has to come of it. It is our hope that this forum will allow the staff, whoever participates, to come to some real conclusions about issues we are facing and ways overcome these barriers.

Beyond this is a need to just get together to talk. This year, at least here, many teachers are running around frantically pulling together ideas for lessons, technology, and assessments while trying innovative ventures to enhance the learning experience for students. Ok, I have something to do with the innovative technology side of things as this is my role. Teachers here adopted new textbooks (Science and Social Studies) which included an online component and with this online component came a set of netbooks for every teacher who wanted them. So now, not only is there a new textbook series but another component online that still needs to be explored and integrated, and this integration will be a year long just to try and figure out how and where to use it. So, there is a good deal of stress right now.

TTT will give us a chance to talk through issues and find solutions.

If you have something like this at your school, send me an email so we can talk about how it is being implemented where you are. At your school, what is your forum for talking about issues and such?