5.01.2007

it's a bird, it's a plane...

it's another piece of digital technology banned from schools!

what?

the ipod (and other digital media players)

why?

b/c it has the potential to be an instrument of cheating.

seriously?

seriously.

at least seriously according to the principal at mountain view high school in idaho. the article also notes:
"The practice is not limited to the United States: St. Mary's College, a high school in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, banned cell phones and digital medial players this year, while the University of Tasmania in Australia prohibits iPods, electronic dictionaries, CD players and spell-checking devices."

wouldn't it be lovely if we could be ahead of the curve on this one and think creatively about what assessment means in an age of instantaneous information acquisition and dissemination? at a dissertation hearing this morning, a committee member posed the question of assessment this way:
how can we assess what kids are doing (and learning) in this digital age?

to that i would add the following:
what are we assessing? and what does it mean to assess?
who is assessing what?
what do tests and other measures actually test and measure?
who is being evaluated when a student's performance on an instrument is measured?

codes are published for quicker advancement through levels of video games. we learn shortcuts for making simple things simpler. you can buy precut, pre-marinated, pre-cooked vegetables at the super market and live a completely heat-n-eat lifestyle. we live in an age of the spanx revolution, SAT tutoring franchises, and professional editors. where do we draw the cheating line? and who draws it? i'm not wholly anti-test or timed assessments. they're clearly helpful for olympic training and i was certainly the beneficiary of numerous 1st place "wins" on timed multiplication tables (the external motivation that always worked on me was the promise of leaving the classroom with a library pass or a resource room getaway - that made cramming for fierce competition with my fellow 3rd graders seem like a small price to pay). still, i wonder whether we sacrifice real meaning making and engagement with texts for the sake of time and curriculum coverage. at the dissertation hearing today, the issue of "real deadlines" in the "real world" came up, and naturally we all agreed that sometimes all of us must negotiate multiple timelines - and timescales - in our everyday lives. but are multiple choice tests or other "easily cheatable" tests the answer? the *only* answer?

and is it just coincidence that if we switch the 't' and the 'ch' teaching becomes cheating, and vice versa?

3 comments:

Wendell said...

Well said.

This year I had several adult (basic education) learners acquire a variety of skill-sets valuable to themselves and employers, but completely unmeasurable using standardized tests. The program they were involved in adopted a narrow, online registry system that further limited how I/they could formally document their progress. In fact, I was unable to document any progress for two learners, though progress they certainly did!

None of this is new, of course. Everyone knows standarized tests are only useful for competition. I take that to mean that the powers-that-be are deliberately choosing to view education as a contest.

lmv said...

thanks for your thoughts, wendell. your statement about not being able to document progress that you knew was happening is a phenomenon that i can definitely relate to - as a teacher as well as in my current research.
i also wonder: by naming "powers-that-be" as such do we - educators and researchers - relinquish the power that we have? i've often heard individual teachers fantasize about a large scale denouncement of standardized testing. what might that be like? look like? after all, there are more teachers than policymakers....

Wendell said...

I like your last question. I'm reminded of James Herndon's comment on those middle-school test scores that no teachers believe in but all teachers use. In The Way It Spozed To Be he wrote, "What you need is something to back you up if you're in trouble, and perhaps the scores will do it." I don't have any kind of professional association or union to back up my crazy left-wing humanistic ideas. If I want a paid position in literacy or adult ed, I need to fill out the forms according to plan.

Otherwise, my option is to forego (sp?) the money and work as a volunteer in my own creation. I do that too; it's very satisfying! But it doesn't get the rent paid.

Power's real. So's money. Where I live, money for education - even charitible, private donor, meant for non-profits money - is almost totally controlled by less than 3 dozen like-minded civil servants. And they love standardized tests.

Big, interesting topic - which I am now completely stealing for my own blog! :)