Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Is grading a 21st century teacher skill?

Here are 21 signs that you are a 21st Century Teacher as outlined by the Simple K-12.

There is a lot of cool technology on this list; much of it exemplifies how a "21st Century Teacher" broadens the definition of success and excellence. I can see a lot of differentiation through podcasting, Skyping, social networking, collaboration on a global scale, virtual field trips and hand held devices.

Countless classrooms have been liberated by these technological advances - and countless other classrooms have yet to be liberated, but may shortly be. Everyday, more and more teachers are discovering a whole new world based on these technologies.

For too long school has placed a premium on written essays and reports. Other forms of communication have always been there, but today's technology makes the creating, collaborating and sharing of video and audio projects even more of a possibility than ever.

This is all very cool.

This list could be seen as a radical shift... a technological revolution... the dawn of a new classroom age...

... yet... what if Alfie Kohn is right and some of this technology "amounts to a 21st-century veneer on old fashioned, teacher-centered instruction"?

Don't get me wrong, I love technology; I utilize it everyday with my students - but I fear that we are still driven to distraction by technology. I fear that we are having a technology debate masquerading as an education debate.

Noam Chomsky put it this way:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
Technology is certainly providing a lively debate amongst policy makers, parents, students and teachers. It's a debate that people like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are more than happy to facilitate.

Here's what I mean.

Have a look at number five from the 21 signs you are a 21st Century Teacher:

You ask your students to study and create reports on a controversial topic...and you grade their video submissions.
Can you see how the spectrum for debate is limited to the incidentals and implementation and not on whether we should be grading at all? The lively debate is over what we shall grade and how we shall do it, thus the presupposition that grading is something all teachers should and need to do, continues to live a long and healthy life.

I'm not saying we can't talk about technology.

That would be foolish.

But I am saying we need to talk about the pedagogy behind how children construct their own understanding at least as often as wikis, blogs and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. The question in my humble opinion is whether 21st century education is about teaching kids how to use technology, teaching skills etc or using technology to support constructivist education.

    The most obvious omission in the list is the use of technology to give feedback to kids on their projects and engage them in a discussion on their work. Instead we get ' grading'.

    Field trips - the list author thinks technology is great because you don't need to leave the classroom. A commenter rightly noted that getting out into the world and engaging people was an important part of education. This again proves the point that the author thinks 21st century education is about learning how to use technology.

    Here is a comment - proves your point

    The average 21st Century teacher. Teach what you know. A good teacher: Delivers content to students. Grades Quizzes to guarantee students are getting it. Gives homework every day to insure kids get more stuff beyond class time. Integrates tech into education with Powerpoint lectures and Scantron multiple choice tests. Prepares the students for mandated standardized tests with six weeks of test preparation and reminds students every one of those days how important it is to get a good grade on the exam. Counts Grades, Quizzes, quarterly exams, reports and finals for the grade and even allows 5% for class participation. Attends Professional Development workshops when mandated by the district (always a great place to grade quizzes )
    Tom Whitby

    Not many comments like this one which talks about education and not skills

    • You negotiate with the children what they learn, when, where, how and with whom
    Robyn Jay

    I would suggest to the author of the list to rewrite the list leaving out the word technology or any references to tech devices and then showing how technology can be used to support 21st centuary education ( which should be no different to any other era )



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