Door open or shut?

Posted by Michael Simkins on May 31, 2014

Door ajar“Mr. S, Mr. S, what should we do?”

That was the question my fifth-grade students asked after the second of two school assemblies we attended in close succession.  The first was about earthquake preparedness and the speaker told the kids to sleep with their bedroom doors open.  In the second, the fire marshal admonished everyone to sleep with their bedroom doors closed.   Good grief!  What’s a ten-year-old to do?

I was reminded of that dilemma recently when, on the same day, I read two interesting articles, one entitled “6 Shifts in Education Driven by Technology” and the other, “Instead of Getting Ready for the Tech Revolution, Schools Are Scaling Back.”

The first article summarized the latest Horizon Report, which predicts that within the next two years, technology will drive us all to “rethink the role of the teacher.” Teachers will be expected to be adept at all sorts of technology, adapt it to instructional uses, and use technology to extend learning “beyond the traditional school day.”

The second, on the other hand, proclaims that “The promise of digital education is still out of reach for most American students.” Why?  School Internet connections are too slow.  Even with access, kids are still sharing devices, the devices they share are old, and the bulk of new spending on technology is going into efforts to get ready for the new Common Core assessments.

My hunch?  For years we’ve known, “What gets tested gets taught.”  Now, we have a rhyming corollary: What the test needs gets bought.

The upside?  We really don’t have to test all the time, so I’m betting teachers will leverage any technology that may have been purchased primarily to get ready for Smarter Balanced or PARCC and make it serve a higher educational purpose.

 

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Next-Gen Assessments: It’s about more than devices

Posted by Geoff Belleau on April 27, 2014

Students looking at computer screens
It’s about more than devices!

Across the state of California and the whole country, purchase orders have been filled out and new devices are arriving in warehouses. Why? Because our students will be participating in the field test of the SBAC and PAARC “next generation” assessments. Gone are the days of fill-in-the-bubble answer sheets and boxes of standardized test booklets. The SBAC and PAARC assessments are all completed on computers. Here are four critical questions to consider before, during and after this field test.

Four Big Questions

First, has the network been updated? Is there the capacity to deliver the assessments. Think of it like a freeway. How many lanes are going out from your district. District administrators, here’s a practical experiment to try: for your next two district-wide principals meetings, hold one at a middle school and the other at an elementary school. Check how it is for everyone to get online with the iPads, laptops, and smartphones.  Compare the level of connectivity in each case to what you experience in central office.

Second, what is the inventory plan for the devices students will use to take the tests? Are they going to be checked out to the school, to the teacher, to the students? Something else to put on the list is what is the replacement plan? These devices may be purchased with one time money at this point.  Do you know their anticipated life expectancy?  Are they insured?

Third, what’s the quality of digital citizenship in the district, not only that of the students, but of the staff as well?  What are the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to technology use? Staff, parents and students are all really concerned about online life. Clear, accurate information for each of these groups will go a long way to alleviate concerns.

Fourth, where is your staff in terms of their readiness to implement new pedagogy, new standards, and new technology?   This almost should be the first question. What professional development have teachers had that addresses the new standards but also the appropriate integration of technology? Getting ready for SBAC is just the first step; developing TPACK is the journey ahead.

Bonus Round

OK, that’s the promised four, but here’s a bonus:  Has your LEA considered BYOD? Bring your own device (BYOD) is not requiring students to bring their own devices; it’s allowing students to use their own devices. Have relevant policies been updated to protect the district and the students?

This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but by answering questions like these, we have an opportunity for significant shifts to occur.  As educational leaders, we must be good stewards of the resources in our care. Having plans that thoughtfully address questions like those above is a great first step toward 21st century education.

 

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