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This is the picture of an off-ramp taken from the rear window, and cropped out of the picture is a car that has been totaled. A car in which a group of teens were killed when they got on the highway going the wrong way. If you were to get on an offramp, going the wrong way, how would you know? The clue is the yellow line on the right side and white line on the left. The white line should always be on the right-hand side, and the yellow on the left. I’ve found that most people don’t know this, and yet that piece of knowledge can be a matter of life and death.
If this piece of information is critical, then shouldn’t it be taught in driver education? And, if it is taught in driver education should we make sure it is assessed? A common method of assessment is the use of quizzes constructed of random questions selected from a larger test bank. This type of assessment does not guarantee that the student will be assessed on critical information. If the drivers test consisted of a subset of random questions selected from a test bank, students may or may not get a question on white lines. Should they? And, if so, should it matter if they get it correct?
These are the kinds of things we should consider when constructing assessment. What is it that students need to have mastered in a course in order to pass? Do we directly assess it, and do we insure students are not passed along until they actually master it? If a course does not have specific competencies that a student needs to master, as some individuals will claim about their course, then why are we asking students to take it? There must be some skill or knowledge, at some level of mastery (even if it is on the beginner level) that we want students to get from that course.
Today, I came across a wonderful document on CBE posted on the Merrimack High School web site:
I took a screenshot of one of the slides, because I think it illustrates an important point about the weights we assign to various
assessments. I’ve seen a good many rubrics, and far too many of them don’t weigh the most important items properly. I’ve seen a good many category weights that allow students to completely fail the final exam and still pass the course–sometimes with a grade as high as an B.
A good part of the problem education now faces is due to the way we assess education, the way we credential it as well, and maybe even the way we think about it. Much more thought needs to go into what we assess, how we assess it, and how much weight we put on those assessments.
When I started teaching Middle School, in 1998, I was introduced to the idea of ePortfolios by an expert in education. At that time, there was a great deal of interest, in the State of Vermont (where I was teaching), around the idea of implementing them into the classroom. Well, here it is 14 years later, and the talk of ePortfolios from K-20 is still a topic of discussion, and something we’ve yet to implement well, particularly in K-12, not just in Vermont but nationwide. Why so? There are a few reasons why this is the case.
The first is that Higher Education departments of education primarily implemented systems specifically designed for meeting accreditation standards. They were difficult to use and definitely not something you’d use in a K-12 classroom to get kids excited about learning. Yet, these were the only eportfolios pre-service teachers were familiar with using.
Second is that the cost of proprietary systems are generally out of the reach of most school districts, especially when there is no mandate to have them. Even when there is a mandate, it is usually not followed by money to help with the implementation. Open Source options are often frightening to districts, and there are no salesmen at conferences pitching their products. Schools have been on there own to come up with a solution, and then try to help the teachers learn how to build ePortfolios into teaching & learning in the classroom.
All of which leads to the third reason: teachers were never taught how to use ePortfolios, nor the purpose of them. To me, this is the most troublesome thing of all, because ePortfolios can be extremely powerful tools when used properly.
And finally, ePortfolios aren’t easily ported from one system to the next, but students are. And this is the primary reason that a state-wide portfolio system K – 20 is the ideal way for these to be implemented, most especially if this is taken on by a State University system that could host the application for all schools in the state. AND, if it was an Open Source solution, students of the system could have access for life. The State could host it, and charge a cost recovery fee for schools to use it. Precedence has already been set in New Zealand where the entire country is on the Mahara system. The social networking components of the system allow educators and students to interact with each other on a national basis as well as a regional basis. Students can move from school to school and their work follows them.
The benefits to the State System would be the ability for students to move throughout the system, from Kindergarten through life and take their portfolios with them wherever they went. They would have a complete record of their learning, their skills, even their dreams. Pre-service teachers would be using the same system their students would use. Portfolios could be used to meet entrance requirements for the University system. And the list goes on and on.
In the fall of 2010, while I was at Plymouth State University, we hosted a state-wide K-20 ePortfolio Day. It was extremely well attended. It was clear that educators from Elementary, to Secondary, to Tertiary education needed to collaborate with one another in the effective use of ePortfolios and participants expressed an interest to keep the dialogue going. http://www.plymouth.edu/office/online-education/531/eportfolio-day-2010/
There are a number of states that are currently poised to take this on: Being that I’m now in New York State, my hope is that NY State will see the value in this idea, and it will be the first state in the nation to implement a state-wide comprehensive K-life ePortfolio system that really works. NY’s current system (MyPortfolio) is focused on career and technical abilities, and is set to fail because of this. ePortfolios can be used for teaching & learning, for building projects, for critical thinking skills, etc. Here is a perfect example of what can be done on the K-12 level: http://myportfolio.school.nz/view/view.php?t=TpvU3eGSIOzy64aP7Kbn
Every year, at about this time, I make a list of all the things I accomplished during the year. It helps me to reflect on the year, stimulates my memory, and encourages me. So, as the New Year has arrived in various parts of the world already and is moving around the globe, I wanted to add my two cents to all the other two cents on what were the big “things” in education this year. My vote goes to the continued development around open education and the particular focus on credentialing: OER University which held its first meeting of the anchor partners this year, the Badges for Learning (Open Badges) initiative, and the announcement of the certificate program soon to be offered as MITx. I believe these will impact education in ways we’ve yet to imagine. There are some tides of change that happen regardless of those who would like to stop it. The cost of education, and the importance of it, are driving new ways of achieving what’s necessary. The future, though it is right outside our door, is yet to be seen.
Happy New Year everyone!