What Have We Learned from Digital Learning Day

The tweets have slowed to a trickle.

The webcasts are all archived.

And the proclamations about the power of digital learning are a distant memory in our multi-tasked lives.

Digital Learning Day 2013 is in the books.

The post that follows is, really, in two distinct parts. First, I summarize my cynical vision of what DLDay was designed for as a front for the corporate education machine trying to sell software and computerized assessments.

Then, I summarize just a few of the thoughtful, engaging, and useful ideas from teachers. If you want to skip the sarcasm, then scroll down to “What Really Matters about DLDay.”

What Really Bothers Me about DLDay

Although, it’s important to note that Karen Cator — director of the Office of Educational Technology — would have us believe that “Every day should be Digital Learning Day.” In fact, ““Access to technology has become as important to learning as access to a library, yet teachers remain the critical link between students and the content.” (eSchool News, 2/8/13)

Indeed.

Any chance that teachers will remain the critical link, or — as I have posed before — is there another underlying agenda related to technology and its place in corporate education reform?

I am, at the very least, quite concerned about the implications of Digital Learning Day, because we are now left with Project 24, “an urgent call to action for systemic planning around the effective use of technology and digital learning to achieve the goal of “career and college readiness” for all students.” It’s terrible that no one has thought that technology could change education in powerful ways before, especially our government officials, in recent memory. Another unfunded initiative is bound to help.

And, if the call to action itself isn’t enough, there is now a law introduced to Congress to make sure that this happens. Thank goodness that H.R. 521: Transforming Education Through Technology Act will, among other things allow for:

  • purchasing hardware, software, or computer devices that improve learning
  • creating or upgrading to online assessments
  • improving technology readiness and online assessments

Ugh. I won’t elaborate much more here.

As a side note, how is it that George Miller funded his way into Congress? Mostly with the support of organized labor, including teachers unions whose members will likely have their jobs outsourced to automated curriculum and assessment “solutions.” Thanks for nothing.

All of this, sadly, simply reinforces the idea that corporate education reform is the new norm. Somehow, this is not very reassuring at all, especially knowing that students and teachers are more valuable as data points then they are as people. If this is the only lesson we take away from Digital Learning Day — and it certainly is one of the lessons — then it was a sad day to think about the future of digital learning.

What Really Matters about DLDay

On the other hand, there were truly innovative things that happened with and for teachers and students on DLDay. Teachers and students doing great work together, which we would believe that Karen Cator is all in favor of, right?

I’ve culled through many tweets, colleagues’ blogs, and other links that people have shared to come up with a list of alternatives to the corporate style of ed tech reform that has been proffered in the official news media. I don’t even pretend to believe that this list is complete, and anyone who has others to add to it would help me out a great deal by sharing them. I will keep updating this post as long as I need to.

So, here are a number of posts from and about teachers that demonstrate the true power of digital learning:

I’m sure that there are more out there, as this is what I came up with from scanning my own PLN and some basic searching on Twitter and Google. I wish I had more of these specific, creative ideas, but I need to call it a night. The individualized, creative, and contextual applications of technology in each of these above examples shows me the power and possibility of digital learning, each and every day.

Most of these examples were free, or at least very low cost. Few required massive infrastructure upgrades, integrated assessment systems, or other new software or hardware purchases. We have a great number of tools that we can use for digital writing and digital teaching. We simply need to respect the voices and professionalism of teachers so that they can use technology in these smart ways.

Let’s hope that we can bring more of these teachers — and their students — to the fore in our celebration of next year’s DLDay.

Update: February 9, 2013: Wording change for clarity.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Examining Digital Learning Day

As with all educational initiatives and fads, I strongly encourage everyone participating in the Digital Learning Day celebrations this week to do some homework about the history of the day itself, as well as some of its corporate, foundation, and “core” partners (which, for the record, include the two professional organizations I call home: NWP and NCTE).

So, this week I’m playing with Storify and trying to curate a “live textbook” about Digital Learning Day, but looking at it from a critical perspective. In other words, I am trying to follow the money. Thus, as Digital Learning Day enters its second year… I wonder what do we know about the day itself?

  • Who are the corporate partners? Who are the foundation partners? What about some of the “core” partners such as iNACOL, CCSSO, and Pearson?
  • What are the broader themes and messages that we should explore, based on the stated interests and goals of these partners? Who wins and who loses in these partnerships? Teachers? Students? Taxpayers?
  • Finally, what is the vision of digital learning that these corporations, foundations, and “core” partners represent?

I pose these not to extinguish the excitement that so many people have in Digital Learning Day. But, I do want to raise awareness and ask the unasked questions. I’ll be curious to find out what everyone else discovers and reports back this week.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Teacher Leadership and Digital Writing

Wordle of Initial Thinking from CAWP Professional Development Workshop
Wordle of Initial Thinking from CAWP Professional Development Workshop

This weekend, I began working with teacher leaders from the Columbus Area Writing Project on the hybrid course we are calling “Teacher Leadership in Teaching Digital Writing.”

I’ve been fortunate enough to make many trips to Columbus in the last few years, and look forward to having this opportunity to work with these NWP colleagues as they prepare for their two-week Summer Institute as well as advanced institute for teacher leadership in digital writing.

We began Friday night by looking at one of Clay Shirky’s TED Talks, and in thinking about the implications for our classrooms and professional development work, specifically as it relates to the changing environments and expectations for writing in an era of the common core standards. This initial conversation generated a number of inquiry questions and ideas including thoughts about how we can value the principles of good writing instruction over technology tools as well as how we can invite our colleagues into these broader conversations about the changing nature of literacy.

We then went on to identify a number of our concerns through the “yeah but, yes and” activity used by many theater companies, and more recently as a training exercise for MBA students. We ended Friday evening by generating a list of potential technologies to explore together over the next few weeks, including Google Communities where we had already begun a conversation.

This morning we began by looking a the chapter I’ve been writing about our experiences in the Chippewa River Writing Project end how we have positioned ourselves as an “digital writing project,” embedding a variety of technologies and new literacies into our practices. While generally complementary, we were also able to generate a thoughtful discussion about how technology can have positive — and potentially negative — influences on teacher identity, and how sharing work publicly online can affect the ways in which teachers express themselves and choose to write.

The remainder of the day was devoted largely to a deeper exploration of the technologies that participants identified Friday night as being potentially valuable for our work together over the next few months. In particular, we delved deeper into the possibilities with Google+, Twitter, and Flipboard. Here are some of our notes:

  • Google+
    • Advantages
      • Easy integration with all Google services
      • Easy to add members
    • Drawbacks
      • Conversations get lost quickly from home page/lack of threading
      • No way to upload documents easily
      • Being in real time is a challenge in certain situations
    • Hangout
      • Possibilities for conversing with more than one person
      • Having a much larger group work, writing groups
      • Someone is in their classroom, in their school and they want some feedback from other people who are in other places
      • Documenting and saving the comments and responses
      • Moving beyond Skype to use as a way to collaborate across classrooms
      • Get together on early-release days with cross-school teams
      • Giving an oral presentation and receiving feedback from the chat room
      • Connecting with kids outside the classroom
      • Creating a panel of experts
  • Twitter/Chats
    • Hootsuite
    • EngChat
    • Twitter
      • Constraints of space make you choose what you are going to write and share; gets to the essence
      • Connect quickly with people whom you would never connect
      • Who you choose to follow — finding the educational resources — who am I choosing to follow, and why?
  • Flipboard/RSS

The three books that we are going to read are:

  • Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. First ed. W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.
  • Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. The MIT Press, 2012.
  • Warschauer, Mark. Learning in the Cloud: How (and Why) to Transform Schools with Digital Media. Teachers College Press, 2011.

Overall, I feel like this initial plunge into digital writing and teacher leadership was a successful one. As we concluded the day today, they generated a number of additional ideas and inquiry questions:

  • What leads to and then feeds thriving digital writing communities for students and for teachers (and are those the same thing)?
  • How do we put everything together in a coherent, usable way?
  • How do I act as a learner and a leader at the same time? What is the balance of teaching and learning at the same time?
  • Where do I find the time to learn it and then be able to teach it? Giving myself permission to be less than expert in it.
  • If you are working with in-service or pre-service teachers, how do you address the tension between the teaching of writing and the learning of the tools?
  • The potential for balancing potential use with triviality — how do we sort out and sift through what is trivial and a waste of time as compared to what will lead to meaningfulness and depth?

Over the next few weeks, we will be meeting once a week via Hangout or Twitter chat to share our experiences, discuss readings, and think about plans for their site as they create future professional development opportunities. At some point in the near future, I am hoping that we will be able to make some of our work public, and this is certainly a rich experience for me as well as I think about future models for professional development and learning and hybrid or mostly online scenarios.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Initial Impressions of sCoolWork

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to talk with the co-founders of sCoolWork, Alex Dayan and Shachar Tal, about their service and how it might help students come better writers. Normally, I do not specifically write about websites or services because that type of situation has caused trouble for in the past. But, I must say that I’m compelled by their story — as well as sCoolWork’s potential as a digital writing tool — and I wanted to share some thoughts here. In interest of full disclosure, please know that they have offered me no special access to the website, and that I am only currently logged in under the free account while the service is still in beta.A few weeks ago, Alex sent me this introduction to sCoolWork by e-mail:

Since I started development of my school paper writing application, sCoolWork, the question I ask myself time after time was: “Does automation help or harm to the learning process?” The answer isn’t straight forward.

?In my opinion, automation can help a lot when used in a smart way. First of all, automation can cut many time-consuming repetitive tasks. Once you’ve done something, redoing it dozens of times has no learning benefit. The whole formatting standards (MLA/APA) issue is another positive aspect for automation. Is it really important for the history essay to keep in mind what exactly should be italicized in each bibliography entry? Isn’t it much more important to let the student focus on his/her ideas?

And maybe the most important benefit of automation is conducting a proper workflow. Even after being instructed many times, students still start their work with writing the introduction and, naturally, stop at the second sentence of an almost blank document. Imagine something that can guide them into researching their points first, outlining their paper second, and only then writing content accordingly – what can be better than this best practice??? However, there is no doubt that automation can be harmful if we forget what it shouldn’t do.? Any automation which tries to “think” instead of the student is an enemy of education. Reading and understanding the material, developing and formulation ideas, writing the self-conceived content – all of these tasks must be done solely by the student. As a parent, I can’t accept any kind of “cheating” which might let my child get good grades, without enriching and developing his knowledge.?? My conclusion is simple. I support any kind of automation which can help students to focus on proper researching and writing, and I vote against any kind of automation which turns our children into button pressing monkeys.

Based on these thoughts I developed sCoolWork.

From this initial exchange, we traded e-mails back and forth a few times talking about the benefits and opportunities of such a platform. As we continued to talk, Alex shared this video and a link to their IndieGoGo funding campaign (which I have not yet donated to, although I may very well do soon).

I signed up for a basic account and tried it out.. one of the unique features about this service is the fact that students can create their document, use an existing template (such as cause-and-effect, or problem solution, not just “five paragraphs”) engage in useful research, and eventually will be able to share their work with peers and a teacher. They still need to do the research and learn how to effectively identify information, copy and paste that information into their own paper, and cite their sources. One important note for those of you who tried out is the when you go through the initial example was Abraham Lincoln, sCoolWork will automatically populate a paper with text as a sample. This will not happen when you create your own paper.

I’ve been playing around with sCoolWork (not yet available on my iPad though) and it is not an automated bibliography generator quite like Zotero, nor is it exactly functional in the way that creating a template in Google docs might be. Instead, sCoolWork’s main benefit is the fact that it sets students up to be successful with their writing. As Alex and Shachar made that point clear today, the two most intimidating screens for students of the blank word processing document and an empty search engine box.

sCoolWork helps students move beyond those intimidating spaces and get started on the research and writing. Sachar just returned from educational technology conference here in the United States and talked about teachers concerns related to cheating, plagiarism, or students simply not been able to compose high-quality work within the sCoolWork interface. As of now, they are working on plagiarism detection, as well as ways to help guide students through the research process and thoughtful and critical ways. Alex stated that “Our integrated search is tied to Yahoo BOSS plus we use AlchemyAPI  for additional analysis and ranking.” Their goal is certainly not to do the work for students, but to help by enabling students so that they can do the writing for themselves. Based on what I have seen in the interface so far, I would agree.

Of course, none of this comes for free, and the two cofounders and the development team have been working diligently to bring sCoolWork out of beta in time for an October launch. As Shachar said in our conversation, it sounds as though they are going to work on a model where they will sell individual student or school licenses to those who can afford it, and you also make many of the services available for free to those who need it. The exact pricing structure isn’t set yet, but they estimate the individual licenses for a year would be around $80 with discounts for school-based subscriptions of many students.

Thus, my initial assessment of sCoolWork is that it could become a very useful digital writing tool, especially once the collaborative tools and peer response features are built in. This could be great for middle and high school students who are creating informational and argumentative texts. Thanks again to Alex and Shachar for sharing their work with me and best of luck.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Workshop on Historical Thinking and Argumentative Writing

As it always does, summer continues to slip by in a blurry mix of vacation days, professional development days, and some that are a little of both. Last week, we hosted our 2012 CRWP Open Institute, and the week before I partnered with another CMU professor, Tim Hall, to lead a three-day session connected with the Teaching American History Grant Year 4: America in Revolution and Conflict. Before the workshop becomes, well, history in my own memory, I wanted to recreate some of the planning that led up to the event, as well as my thinking over the three days as we co-facilitated the workshop.

As it always does, summer continues to slip by in a blurry mix of vacation days, professional development days, and some that are a little of both. Last week, we hosted our 2012 CRWP Open Institute, and the week before I partnered with another CMU professor, Tim Hall, to lead a three-day session connected with the Teaching American History Grant Year 4: America in Revolution and Conflict. Before the workshop becomes, well, history in my own memory, I wanted to recreate some of the planning that led up to the event, as well as my thinking over the three days as we co-facilitated the workshop.

Workshop Planning

When Tim and his ISD partner, Beckie Bush, contacted me about the possibility of co-facilitating the workshop, I was immediately interested given my obvious work with teaching writing in the broadest sense, as well as teaching writing in the disciplines. Together, we agreed that we would use two professional texts for the workshop, aimed at inspiring both historical thinking and a better understanding of argument writing.

Beckie and Tim asked me to bring a focus on argument writing, with the clear goal of integrating credible, web-based sources and, to the extent possible, digital writing with multimedia tools beyond slideware. When we first met, we immediately began constructing a working agenda via a wiki, and I knew that Zotero would be a key component of our teaching and learning. While somewhat fearful that the topic would be one that teachers would find mundane, Tim helped guide us through thinking about Truman’s decision to drop the bomb as a time-period appropriate dilemma that we could use to teach historical empathy and argumentative writing.
Thus, we decided on two main tasks for the teachers to complete over the three days by engaging in a digital writing workshop that would involve lots of research, collaboration, and development of both a written individual essay and a group multimedia presentation from one of three perspectives: Truman’s advisors who supported the bomb, those in his cabinet who were against it, and the scientific community. As Tim led the group through many exercises on historical thinking, DBQ (document-based questioning), and historical empathy, I took the lead on teaching the argument writing.

Day 1

During this day, my primary role was to begin a discussion about the similarities and differences between persuasion and argumentation. With resources from Smekens Education Solutions, and our crowdsourced Google Docs, we began thinking about the subtle differences that teachers will have to make as we move away from teaching “persuasion,” (with its strong reliance on rhetorical appeals and one-sided arguments) and “argument,” (which requires the writer to acknowledge both sides and use reason to support a claim).

Argumentation Persuasion
  • Opinion
  • Facts and Statistics (Both Sides)
  • Support
  • Position
  • Stance
  • Evidence
  • Interpret
  • Refute
  • Debate
  • Validity
  • Agreement/Disagreement
  • Persuade
  • Conflict
  • Details
  • Validate
  • Information
  • Balanced
  • Attitude
  • Acknowledgement
  • Grapple
  • Issue
  • Problem
  • Logic
  • Reasoning
  • #@!%*&? (Cursing or strong language to get a point across)
  • Position
  • Support
  • Emotion
  • Passion
  • One-Sided
  • Propaganda
  • Advertising
  • Facts and data
  • Spin
  • Influence
  • Appeal
  • Aggresive
  • Credible
  • #winning
  • LOCK
    • Loaded Words
    • Overstatements
    • Carefully Chosen Facts
    • Key Omissions

These will be big shifts in the years to come as we implement the CCSS, and I relied on a number of resources to guide us through our thinking about how to create an argumentative essay including Hillocks’ book, the NWP Writing Assignment Framework and Overview, the ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map, a small sample of They Say/I Say Templates, and the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s List of Transitional Words.

Also, on this first day, we talked about how the essay (written from your personal perspective in 2012) would differ from the group multimedia project, meant to be delivered as a factual report to a (fictitious) Congressional inquiry in 1950, built only from evidence available at that time, most of which came from the Truman Library. This was quite interesting, as it forced us to take two different approaches:

Individual Essay Group Mulitmedia Presentation
Mode Argumentative essay (reliant on logical reasoning and multiple forms of evidence from WWII-present) Persuasive presentation (reliant on logic, but also emotional appeals of the era; most evidence was textual, with some images and film footage)
Media Composed in Word or Google Docs, with use of Zotero Composed with a multimedia tool such as Prezi or Capzles
Audience Peers, teachers, general public (op-ed) Peers and teachers, set in roles at a fictitious Congressional Hearing in 1950
Purpose To create a coherent, sequenced argument for or against the dropping of the bomb based on its short and long-term consequences To create a well-reasoned, yet impassioned case for one of three positions about dropping the bomb
Situation Situated in the present, and with historical knowledge from dropping of the bomb, through Cold War, up to present Situated in the past, without knowledge of historical effects beyond 1950.Using the media of today to make a presentation for that era.

Day 2

Screenshot of "Think Aloud" for Argument EssayMy notes here on day two are brief because, for the most part, it was a work day. Lots of trouble-shooting with Zotero as people got their accounts synced up with the web plugin and standalone, connected to our group library, and worked on their multimedia presentations. There were many, many quick conversations with teachers about the affordances and constraints of the technologies — as well as many frustrations — but by the end of the day most of them felt pretty good about the work we were doing. Also, I worked with them to do a “think aloud” of my first draft of my attempt at the individual essay (look at revision history for Jun 20, 1:42 PM). This brought up interesting conversations about the trap of writing though a lens of “presentism,” the use of “I” in writing for history class, and how to best use the They Say/I Say templates and transition words as a way to get started (note the highlights).

Day 3

Screen Shot of "Final" Essay on TrumanMoving into the morning of day three, we talked about ways to effectively integrate peer response groups and did a “fishbowl” model with my essay. Again, this yielded some interesting results as this group of history teachers worked with me to think about what was valuable in terms of both historical thinking and the quality of writing.

We looked at an online rubric generator as a way to keep our conversation focused on assessment, and also discussed the “checklist” type of criteria (Five transitional words/phrases; Three “template” transitions from They Say/I Say) as compared to the parts of the essay that could be judged in a more evaluative sense:

  • State a clear claim and back it with appropriate evidence, from the WWII era through today
  • Develop three main talking points (diplomatic, social, military, political, economic), with two or three sub-points (specific example)
  • Identify and rebut at least two significant counter-arguments

In all of this, we talked about what counts as “evidence,” and many elements were listed including political cartoons, as this screen shot from my “final” essay shows. Also, we discussed the fact that we have to be open to sharing our rough draft thinking with students, even though (by nature) most teachers are perfectionists. One participant noted that if I, as an English professor, was willing to share my writing in this way and not just try to impress the crowd with an amazing essay on the first attempt, then they as middle and high school history teachers should be willing to do the same. I heartily agree.

Then, we moved into the last part of the workshop where groups presented their cases to the “Congressional Hearing.” We tried to complete a speaking and listening guide, as well as some work with Bernajean Porter’s Digitales Multimedia Evaluation Guides, but I have to say that we mostly just enjoyed the presentations. There were, of course, some creative dramatics involved, and here are a few of their results.

 

Reflections

Much of what I have to say about this entire workshop can be summarized in the simple, yet powerful mantra from NWP in that teachers must be writers. When I asked them at the end how they felt about the process, they wouldn’t want to do the group work and the individual essay at the same time. Many felt overloaded, both with tasks and technology. So, there is some tweaking to do. But, some of their final thoughts we captured in conversation were useful:

  • What else would you, as social studies teachers, be looking for in the writing?
    • Background information about the topic: era, people, place (set the stage)
      • Historical thinking gurus: one of the advantages of this approach as a process of thinking is that it gives students a chance to apply what they have learned and then they are able to do something with it
    • Defining key terms/vocabulary
    • Key/relevant statistics/data
    • Citations: analyzing primary and secondary sources
    • Gathering data from their classmates/community
    • Cause and effect, sequential, compare and contrast

And, with that, I will put this particular PD experience in my own history, at least for now, until I have another opportunity to do a workshop on argumentative writing, when all of this will come in quite handy.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The “Tweet Aloud” as a Tool for Comprehending Digital Texts

Thanks to Tracy Mercier (@vr2ltch) for capturing my unfolding thought process as I responded to The Majestic Plastic Bag — and invited others to do the same — during an #engchat conversation about digital mentor texts on April 23rd.

I think I may have coined a new phrase, at least in the pedagogical sense, mashing together the classic reading comprehension strategy of a a “think aloud” with the idea of viewing a video during a Twitter-based conversation such as #engchat.

The result: a “tweet aloud,” which had me and about a half-dozen other teachers sharing our thoughts on the video while all watching it on our own screens, semi-simultaneously. In some ways, it was a backchannel conversation during a social media interaction, which was kind of doubly-meta. All the same, it was interesting for me as a facilitator and, I hope, for participants, too. It gives me something to think about as I continue to understand online pedagogy.

So, I thank Tracy for capturing that all through her Storify reflections, as well as for Meenoo in trusting me enough to try something like that with #engchat.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Adaptive Assessment and the Purposes of Educational Technology (AERA, Part 3)

Roy Pea has long-studied educational technology and, in this interchange with Larry Cuban hosted by Tapped In, reminds us that:

A second caution is replacing flesh with silicon. The point here about technology is to augment physical, hands-on learning, face-to-face encounters, not to replace it, and yet, certainly, there may be places that come to feel that interactive programs, simulations, teleconferencing, travels in cyberspace, are cheaper, more effective, and easier to conduct than the real thing. Let’s watch out for that. (The Pros and Cons of Technology in the Classroom, 1998)

That said, as I listened to him talk about adaptive technologies that monitor and respond to student progress (ala Khan Academy), I became increasingly concerned. Captured in these tweets, here are some of the “benefits” that Pea described, without much in the way of critique, posted in reverse chronological order:

Troy HicksTroy Hicks ? @hickstro

Being an #edtech advocate, I am becoming concerned about the focus on collection of student metadata, both implicit and explicit. #AERA2012

Roy Pea: adaptive systems create large scale testbeds to do experiments in comparative pedagogy; expand social networks for learn #AERA2012

Roy Pea: Expand learner access to data in relation to others creating a networked systems of learners in adaptive learning systems #AERA2012

Roy Pea: expand data gathering outside of school contexts; give access of data to learners themselves (performance dashboards)#AERA2012
Roy Pea: learner perceptions and motions (& emotions); capturing uses of written language; expanding our sense-making techniques#AERA2012
Roy Pea: By expanding profile metadata, greater context of learner’s history of learning, capturing learner perceptible aspects#AERA2012
Roy Pea: How can adaptive technologies become trusted resources for students, teachers, and policy-makers? #AERA2012

The idea of a “school of one,” while appealing on one level to anyone who has ever talked about differentiated instruction is, ultimately, terrifying to me. Not because it will eliminate the teacher, per se, although teachers do become more like technicians in this model where they work to support students without really teaching anyone anything directly, or engaging in more substantive conversations in small groups or as a class. While it could be beneficial for students in many ways, my fear is that the implementation of adaptive assessment will inherently isolate students from one another and, as Leigh Graves Wolf reminded me of in a tweet (or three), will create data sets that are ultimately intended to evaluate (and, arguably) punish teachers. This idea of adaptive assessment ties with another popular ed tech trend, one that is perhaps seen as more “progressive,” but in effect is really not much more so, much like many recent edtech fads. For instance, as Ira Socol noted earlier this year, the concept of “flipping” the classroom is very problematic:

But the “Flipped Classroom” is worse than ‘typical homework’ – it literally shifts the explanatory part of school away from the educators and to the home, however disconnected that home might be, however un-educated parents might be, however non-English speaking that home might be, however chaotic that home might be. So, kids with built in advantages get help with the understanding, and kids without come to school the next day clueless. (Changing Gears 2012: rejecting the “flip”)

So, to hear Pea and other distinguished educational technologists talk about adaptive technologies in this manner was, at best, disconcerting. At worst, it is terrifying to think that our children will be measured by computers, as the recent hullabaloo over computer-based writing assessment reminds us. As the CCSS assessments come online, literally, my sincere hope is that teachers continue to question not only their validity as a measurement tool, but also the unintended consequences of such assessments on their students, curriculum, and instruction.

Footnote: Of course, we are all now familiar with the TED-Ed initiative to “flip” videos on their site, and this could be another interesting twist in the conversation. At least with TED, teachers are still in control of the learning process since they create their own versions for the flip.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.