I recently wrote an article for the India Education Diary in which I argue that a holistic, progressive approach to education is preferable to the testing-focused model most educators are familiar with.
When students experience learning in personally meaningful ways – through service projects, by designing solutions to issues in their local communities, and by demonstrating artistic, literary, or musical creativity – their learning not only goes deeper, it helps differentiate them from the thousands of students whose perfect SAT, ACT, or A-level scores show that they may have mastered test-taking skills but indicate nothing about their competency to function in non-academic settings.
Some of my key points:
- Standardized tests are merely hurdles that students must overcome in order to get into universities and earn a degree. In general, standardized tests focus on memorization and regurgitation skills, and it may be argued that these tests don’t translate into real workplace skills.
- Tests and exams are not inherently at fault. They serve as useful benchmarks which ensure students have the foundational elements of basic knowledge and skills. However, they do not generally address the creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking that employers seek and which are necessities of entrepreneurship.
- Alternative assessments such as portfolios, community action, and engagement with genuine audiences throughout the learning process give a more complete picture of students and allow them to highlight the things that make them uniquely qualified for coveted places in universities.
- High-stakes testing imposes a massive mental health toll on students, as evidenced by the wave of suicides that happen when results are released and some students inevitably don’t hit their targets.
You can find the full article here.
For some educators, the term ‘21st-century learning’ indicates a heavy reliance on teachers’ use of technology to deliver lessons or students’ demonstration of learning via podcasts, videos, animations, and other products that didn’t exist when we old-timers were in school. Others claim that ‘21st-century learning’ refers to skills that apply not only to school, but to life in general. Collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving are generally at or near the top of this skills list.
I would argue that modern education requires a focus on competencies rather than skills, and that technology should simply facilitate the learning process instead of being its focus.
Check out the post I wrote for New Nordic School in Finland, in which I discuss the importance of competency-based learning in a real world framework.
Posted in Edtech, Education, Random Thoughts, Uncategorized
Tagged competency, cool stuff, Edtech, education research, innovation, learning, news, technology
The Cult of Pedagogy article “How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching” appeared in my Twitter feed recently. While cooking dinner last night, I listened to the embedded podcast and realized that I’ve been using this great tool for a while without even realizing it has a proper name!
My enthusiasm for the Google for Education universe is based primarily on the following reasons:
- GAFE allows for an almost entirely paperless classroom. Documents, presentations, diagrams, drawings, and data sets can be emailed, shared with peers, and/or published online with only a few clicks and keystrokes. This cloud-based connectivity also makes it a lot more challenging to lose work!
- Collaboration among teachers as well as students is incredibly easy and intuitive, especially since there’s no downloading required, training others how to “track changes” and return an updated file is no longer necessary, and each user’s favorite operating system is irrelevant because each person can keep using their platform of choice without inconveniencing others.
- Personalized, differentiated learning is more achievable through what I’ve always referred to as a “menu” of activity choices provided to students: a selection of relevant YouTube videos, online learning games, animations and simulations, traditional worksheets, and news articles about recent scientific developments in the current topic of study. The menu concept allows each student to engage with a unit of study at his or her own pace and preferences.
Early versions of my HyperDocs were less open-ended and quite sequential: “First, complete these two activities and email your teacher when you’re ready to share your work. Then complete the following worksheet, and after that….” It was a great way to use the hyperlink feature of Google Docs to keep students organized, but there wasn’t really much choice involved.
As I became more and more competent with the Google platform (I’m now a Google-Certified Educator), I began to use hyperlinking differently: “If you’re curious about X, click here. If you’d rather learn about Y first, follow this link. When you’re ready to develop your final product, make a copy of the document linked here and follow the instructions within it.” My team-teaching colleagues and I started using Docs to develop entire units of study in which we collectively shared and used all the resources we’d found individually, and that was really empowering as an educator.
In the Cult of Pedagogy podcast, Jennifer Gonzalez interviews Kelly Hilton, Lisa Highfill, and Sarah Landis, authors of The HyperDoc Handbook. All 3 women teach outside Silicon Valley, and they summarize the benefits of HyperDocs as:
- Fewer lectures
- More face-to-face interactions with students
- Multimodal opportunities
- Student privacy
Listening to their story, and the way they describe these benefits, I think they’re onto a truly transformative teaching tool. Even though I’d already developed my own approach to this idea, these 3 educators have refined some “best practice” approaches that I’ll be incorporating into my Chili-pepper menus from now on.