#PostYourDrafts: Rant on Testing

This rant on testing is two years old.  To put it in context, I wrote this one morning when I was fed up, around the time when PARCC first hit many districts around the country.  I still feel the same way, and hope to see it become less of a time and energy suck.  The post may be a little stale, but unfortunately still relevant.  For your viewing pleasure, I #postmydraft.

Yesterday, in one of my Voxer groups, there was a heated discussion on standardized testing.  It was a discussion, not a debate, because nobody was advocating for the insane amount of testing currently going on in our schools.  Come to think of it, I’ve never met an educator who has said, “now now, guys, all this testing is really awesome!  Here’s why!”  *crickets*  Remember, we are the professionals, and often the adults who spend the most waking hours with children.  We teachers know what we are talking about; but I have yet to meet an educator who thinks all of this testing is reasonable.

Testing does have a place; this is not it.

Formative assessment on a classroom level is very helpful to see where students currently stand, and how to best meet their needs.  Even the occasional summative standardized test can serve a constructive purpose, to see how much students have grown over the course of a school year.  However, according to the New York Times, states such as Florida may devote 60 to 80 of the 180 school day calendar to testing.  This is an extreme, and thankfully most of us are not in this situation; however, I feel for the teachers and students of Florida.  Even losing a third of that time is a whole month of school.  Imagine what can be taught in one month…this could be an entire instructional unit.

If we must have standardized tests, can we at least get it right?  To me, the ideal standardized test would be short, sweet, formative, and low-risk for all stakeholders, as many factors can influence a student’s score.  For example, I’ve heard of students who traditionally scored high proficient fall to basic on an end-of-year test, perhaps because they were not feeling well that day.  This has a huge potential for negative implications, perhaps even relegating students to low tracks.  Even worse, I wonder how these scarlet letters of testing affect their self-image.  This kills me.

Why is there this war on our students?  I would say because of money, but that’s a whole different post.  Why aren’t the professionals being trusted to make the important decisions?  I hope to explore this topic more in a follow-up post.  I invite you to weigh in below.

Educational Technology Year in Review

Hey guys!  As of this writing, the time is currently 5:26 PM on December 31, meaning that we have roughly 6.5 hours left of 2013.  I’m super-geeked…how about you???  As I sit here, watching “The Sing-Off” on Hulu Plus, I figured that I’d share my thoughts about the top #edtech trends of 2014, as seen by this “teechur.”  Feel free to agree or disagree…it will just make the convo better!

Soooo…let’s get it on!  Here are the top 14 trends of 2014, for better or for worse.

The List

  1. OUT:  The teacher-centered model of instruction, also known as IRE.  “I” stands for teacher initiation, “R” stands for response, and “E” stands for evaluation.  This reminds me of the promoted model when I first started teaching, the 5E’s.  Don’t ask me what the 5 E’s are…I never had much of a clue.  Anyway, IRE includes all the boring stuff that we had to endure when we were kids, such as lectures.  Boooooo.
  2. IN:  Students take charge of their own learning.  The teacher’s role becomes more of a facilitator.  When done correctly, students will be the ones doing most of the initiation, and asking questions of each other.  Some ways to encourage this in the classroom are through student-led conferences, project-based learning, backchannelling, and flipped/blended learning.  Woot woot!  Que bien!
  3. OUT: Traditional professional development.  Let me be crystal clear…it is our job as educators to be life-long learners; however, we don’t like lectures any more than our students.
  4. IN: Hacked PD.  We live in the Information Age.  With access to the Internet, people can educate themselves on nearly ANYTHING, for little or no money.  There are tons of tutorials on YouTube  and many other sites, on all topics under the sun.  Many MOOCs  will give you free access to university classes.  In addition, #edcamps are a great way to “vote with your feet,” for the topics that you find important.  And, speaking of voting…
  5. OUT: Teaching in isolation.  Let me paraphrase an idea from George Courous’s keynote at #edcampnj: the room is smarter than the individual.  Think about it…collectively, we have so much more knowledge than each individual.  It’s a given, since the individual is part of the room…yeah, it took me far too long to pull out that bit of logic lol.  Long story short, you can only get so far teaching in isolation.
  6. IN:  Collaborative teaching.  Teamwork makes the dream work.  A big step to teaching in collaboration is to establish a PLN (Personalized Learning Network).  Sounds fancy, doesn’t it?  Lol.  Basically, a PLN is a group of like-minded people with whom you grow, personally and/or professionally.  Keep in touch with interesting people that you meet at conferences.  Participate in some edchats on Twitter.  Don’t waste any opportunities…the people that you meet are great resources.  Trust me!
  7. OUT:  Email.  Oooooh…this one may be controversial lol.  We can agree to disagree, but I rarely, if ever, go to my email anymore.  Truth be told, I would miss most of my messages, if I didn’t have them routed to my cell phone.  AOL…Yahoo…sorry, old buddies.  Instead, I’m using a lot more…
  8. IN:  Social Networking.  See Exhibits A and B.  This is pretty much where I live:  2013-12-31 17.59.42 2013-12-31 17.59.40
  9. OUT: Killing trees.  Gone are the days of dittos and other print-outs.  Well, they’re not totally gone, but if you go through a ream of paper per week, you, my friend, are not hip.  The paperless classroom is where it’s at!
  10. IN: 3D Printers/Augmented Reality.  These concepts don’t have very much in common, but I combined them to show the contrast between the old and the new-school ways of teaching (pun intended).  I haven’t tried 3D printers yet, but I heard that they are doing some amazing things.  Augmented reality refers to using devices to access additional information that is not visible otherwise.  I like to think of it as “Terminator technology.”  I want to get Google Glass in 2014…hopefully it will hit the market this year!
  11. OUT: ACLB aka “All Children Left Behind,” aka “No Child Left Behind.”  Thank God.  Now I know what you guys *think* I’m going to say, but I haven’t made my mind up about Common Core.  Instead:
  12. IN:  Gamification.  Extra, extra, read all about it!
  13. OUT:  Microsoft Office.  Oooh, more controversy lol.  I’m sure Bill Gates won’t be too happy about being unlucky #13.  Sorry, Bill!
  14. IN: Google Drive.  Almost all of the functionality of Microsoft Office, but without all of the pesky versions.  Also, many more perks, such as cloud storage, revision history, and collaboration.  Did I mention, it’s FREE?

So, there you have it folks.  Those are my picks for Educational Technology trends of 2013-2014.  But wait, there’s more!

Honorable Mentions

  • IN:  Teaching students to become consumers AND producers of digital content.  Three words for you…”Hour of Code.”  Enough said.
  • OUT:  Bad “Twettiquette.”  Ok, this is more of a pet peeve of mine.  I tend to follow most people who follow me, unless a) I can’t understand the language they tweet, b) their content is questionable, or c) they seem like a spam account.  I wasn’t always so open.  At first, I wanted my account to be totally dedicated to #edtech, so I never take it personally if someone decides that I’m not his or her cup of tea.  However, these three things in particular make me see red.
    1. Direct messaging  if you’re not following back.  Um, I can’t respond unless you follow back.
    2. Those stupid TrueTwit validations.  What is the point?
    3. Mentioning, saying “thanks for the follow.”  Then, not following back.  What is that supposed to mean?  Just don’t say anything at all.

I also get peeved when educators preach collaboration on social media, yet don’t practice it…but I digress.

Wrapping it Up

So, what do you think?  Agree or disagree?  Chime in below with a comment.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Happy 2014…wheeeeee!!!