ConnectED Canada is coming!

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As the Spring term gets into full swing, I am really looking forward to meeting new people and connecting face-to-face with my PLN, including George Couros, Neil Stephenson, Zoe Branigan-Pipe, Rodd Lucier, and Brian Harrison at the ConnectEDCanada conference May … Continue reading

Student readiness

Some may know that the computer-based vs. pencil-based testing debate has become near and dear to my heart; so dear that it is actually the main thrust and focus for my doctoral study for which I will begin collecting data next week actually 🙂 Insert happy dance here!

Out the Classroom Window

Out the Classroom Window By Elfboy CC

And so as I am transitioning into the world outside of the classroom to my new exciting role as Pearson Canada‘s Digital Learning Research & Communications Manager, I have been learning even more about how districts are tackling this debate.

In my reading, I came across an online social networking community actually created and maintained by the larger Pearson in the US called FWD.  [SIDE NOTE-I encourage you to check out this online community as it hosts a lot of topics, like next generation learningeducator and leader effectiveness, and instructional improvement that I know will resonate with my fellow Canadian educators and thought leaders. Besides which, we have a lot to add to the conversation from our perspective]. In one post by @bryanbleil last year entitled, Lessons Learned, he shares first-hand tips and tricks from the field to make the transition to online testing more manageable from an implementation point of view. Some practical suggestions include ensuring the district has necessary bandwidth, and testing the testing instrument ahead of time. Prudent moves indeed, but one other BIG caveat I would offer is to FIRST ensure students have the pre-requisite skills  to complete online assessments. Before assessing a district’s readiness for administering online tests, I might suggest educators need to ask themselves, “Are my students ready?”

At the very least, shouldn’t both conversations happen simultaneously?

Student Readiness a REAL factor
In its joint feasibility study and report with the Texas Education Agency regarding Texas’ readiness for state-wide implementation of online testing, Pearson researchers noted:

A majority of districts discussed “digital gaps,” such as the lack of equitable access across the student population to computers and the technology skills necessary for online testing. The digital gap was perceived as being primarily attributable to the student body’s socio-economic status; districts reported a belief that students from lower socio-economic families with more limited access to computers outside of school might be at a disadvantage with respect to online testing when compared with other students. (2008, p. 5)

I am encouraged by the recommendation that before online testing occur, that staff AND students receive the training they need to set the testing experience up for success. How much and how to access student technology training is another blogpost for another day…

Thoughts?
Tania

Texas Education Agency. (2008). An evaluation of districts’ readiness for online testing (Document No. GE09 212 01). Austin, TX; Texas Education Agency.

Finding the balance…

Had an interesting experience last week.

Our school leadership team had the opportunity to finalize our school improvement plan and meet with our Superintendent of Schools to discuss next steps.

We had been provided a list of guiding questions that our SO used during a rich 1.5 hour  focused conversation. A number of voices were invited around the table to ensure multiple perspectives were represented, and people spoke very frankly about the progress, challenges, and work that still remains to do to improve student achievement in a few areas as identified from a variety of different data sets. At several points, it did not even feel like a meeting; rather we were discussing educational change very honestly and openly. People listened, opinions were welcomed, colleagues offered support and extended ideas, AND some even disagreed agreeably. Nice!

When it came time for the rubber to hit the road and define our immediate next steps, the need to differentiate teacher professional learning offerings became more apparent than ever. As I am sure is the case on many school staffs, we have people at very different professional learning comfort levels. As the co-facilitator of our weekly TLCP sessions, I have also come to appreciate that there is the work that teachers feel needs to be done based on their perspective, and then there is the work that admin feels is required to move students and teachers along in our critical thinking and mathematics journey. While some might feel they know what the nature of the work is that needs to be done next… teacher buy-in is not a given. The Concerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) research of Hall and Hord has taught us for decades that unless we value the need for the perceived change, change will take longer to achieve and chances are it will not stick…

The good news is we have SEF days to access. Now we need a professional learning menu that offers choice if we really want to empower teachers to self-direct their job-embedded learning.

There are some excellent online resources available through our district online training and learning repository, PLUS this Fall, the Ontario Ministry of Education came out with some incredible monographs and webcasts DVDs that align directly with our areas of focus. So, the WHAT TO LEARN? syllabus is already there… at our finger tips actually.

cc Attribution Some rights reserved by winnifredxoxo

So here is the balance challenge:

I suggested allowing teachers to experience inquiry-based learning by having them sign up for their own professional learning focus and then, based on a set agreed-upon schedule, they would meet with those colleagues interested in the same topic to design their own learning adventure. We could assemble a variety of applicable learning resources from which they could read, discuss, study…

However, members of my leadership team feel this is too open-ended and teachers need more direct instruction and facilitation.  Hmmmm??? At what point do we allow teachers to experience curiosity and inquiry on their own without direct-facilitation from others?

I want to read the recent Natural Curiosity publication from the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study (Natural Curiosity) OISE to find out more about instilling meaningful inquiry and curiosity in play-based early years programs.

Maybe everything we need to know, even about facilitating meaningful job-embedded teacher professional learning, does stem from Kindergarten?

Would love to hear what others have done or think…