Making the Shift

It seems to me that everything is changing on the education front in Saskatchewan right now!  I am a relative newcomer to the province, but I have never before experienced so many educational changes at one time.  My mind is constantly spinning with all of the new ideas and the things I want to implement and change.  I am sure that I drive my staff crazy sometimes because I am always talking about the things that I learn in ECI 831, the many things that I am always finding on the net and the things that I am reading.  I am beginning to wonder if they are starting to  run and hide when they see me coming down the hall.

At our last staff meeting I showed them the video- “Shift Happens“.  Just one of many videos at youtube presenting relatively the same idea-we better wake up and realize that change is happening faster than we can even anticipate and our teaching strategies need to reflect that.  Next time I plan to show the video “42” so we can have a discussion about alternative forms for student audience.  I really liked Starkg’s comment to my last post  “So many tools…so little time?, suggesting that we could have a Best of… site to showcase some of our students fantastic work.  There are so many opportunites for students to publish their work and open up their ideas to others.  Gone are the days when I expected my English students to write for an imaginary audience that could not be me, but in reality that imaginary audience would never see their writing and I would be the only one reading it.

For those of you that read my last post, “So many tools, so little time?” you could tell I was very excited about the changes in assessment practices.  I like the whole idea of assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning.  As our division moves forward with Ken O’Conner’s, “15 fixes for Broken Grades, it will be interesting to see the movement from traditional grading practices to grading practices that reflect assessment for learning and outcome based learning.  I am a constructivist by heart, so it all works for me.   It can still be a difficult transition for everyone and as I sat listening to parents talk at our SCC meeting last night I could see that parents were struggling with the “shift” as much as we were.  I was trying to explain that it was a huge change for us too to move from information feeders to learning facilitators.  As Jeffg stated in his comments to “So many tools…so little time?” he was struggling to find some different assessment practices that worked for him and I really agree that we need to keep looking and helping each other make the shift.  We all need to be in the process together. I would like to be able to go back in time and change some of my past students grades to reflect fair grading processes.

One thing is for sure, we are all in this shift together and the amount of support available is astounding.  Thanks for the support in my new projects and I hope that Ican do the same for you.  Catch you on the back channel!

So many tools…so little time?

I couldn’t help but think that laying on my bed in my flannel pjs  watching very cool digital stories last Tuesday was a great way to spend an evening.  Once again I walked away with so many new ideas and so many new tools at my finger tips.

On Wednesday I left for Saskatoon to attend the Assessment conference sponsored by SPDU.   It was excellent and very practical.  I absolutely loved our first speaker, Sandra Herbste-Luedtke, superintendent of River East Transcona School Division in Manitoba, and her very sincere message on transforming barriers to assessment for learning.  Ken O’Conner spoke about his 15 Fixes for Student Grading Practices and I now think that I could answer questions intelligently and feel much more confident in my ability to guide my staff  to the understanding of the  new assessment practices in our division.  Lucky me though, because I also got to attend a session by Dean Shareski as he discussed using technology to support and enhance best practices in assessment.

The best part of Dean Shareski’s session was that my principal came with me and now she has a better understanding of the things that I am always yattering on about.  I also think she has a better idea why I am so passionate about sharing my information with my staff.  I think there were 3 ideas that stood out for me about Dean Shareski’s session.

1.  “Teachers spend way too much time doing the wrong things”. This is an idea that we have discussed often, this fall, as an administration team in our school, and I think it is very true.  Sandra Herbst-Leudtke also spoke in her session of the bag of marking that was always “calling” her before she learned to used other forms of assessment.  There are so many tools out there for us to use for student engagement and assessment, but for some reason we cling to old practices even though they make our daily lives harder than they need to be.  I was looking at a bunch of web sites this morning that could help alleviate this  idea.  These are a couple of them:

2.  “It is not information overload, it is filter failure”. Again could not be more true, and again, could this be the reason that teachers are feeling overwhelmed?  Could it be that we can’t give up our traditional ideas and latch on to something new?  Could it be that we are not making the best use of other assessment tools that are available to us?  Could it be that we feel like we have to do everything sometimes, so we don’t try anything new?

3. “On average, only 42 people see a student’s work during their K-12 education.” Now that is sad.  Dean went on to say ” if kids do not have an audience, kids don’t care.”   We have so many opportunities to give our students an audience, so why are we not doing that? Just today I was searching away, going from web site to web site, and I discovered a short video entitled, “42“.

As you can tell I left the conference pumped up about student assessment for learning in many different ways. Upon reflecting on the questions given to us by Alec on Tuesday, “how have all these tools changed the way we do things and think about things?”  Well, to tell you the truth I don’t think they have that much.  I think there are still a lot of us that are reluctant to jump in and get our feet wet and take advantage of the tools that are available to us.

I think back a few years to when I was teaching drama and wanting my students to make digital stories and the trouble we have with video cameras, cords, lack of equipment, etc.  What I would have given then to have what I have now, or maybe I did not realize what I had.  See you on the back channel.