Monday, December 2, 2013

Obvious to you. Amazing to others.

Technology has promise and peril.

I've written before about some of the perils, but today I want to write more about its promise (like I wrote here, here, here, here and here).

I see technology and social media as a way to share. It reminds me of the old Japanese proverb that says no one of us is as smart as all of us. I love how the Internet can be used to remove obstacles such as time and place so that we can learn from others that the limits of time and place might never allow.

No one ever changed the world by sharing their testsandgrades.

This is why I think handing things in only to the teacher is so 1996 -- today, students should be sharing what they learn with the world.

There is a lot wrong with standardized testing, but the solution is not merely better tests or tests on computers. Alberta has already announced a move away from Provincial Achievement Tests in grades 3, 6 and 9 and some schools are making attempts to move beyond grades and awards ceremonies.

In the past, post-secondary and employers may have been content with transcripts full of grades and resumes with awards certificates, but things are changing. The real world is (slowly) changing. The nature of transcripts and resumes is changing.

When we reduce something as magnificently messy as learning to grades and awards, we always conceal more than we reveal. Things go very wrong when testsandgrades and awards become the primary goal of education, not just the means for understanding it.

Good enough schools help kids fill their transcripts and resumes with testsandgrades, but truly great schools help all students make their learning visible by sharing it with their parents and maybe even the world. Project-based learning, performance assessments and portfolios shouldn't just supplement testsandgrades and traditional report cards -- they should replace them.

Whether it is social media or 3D printers, technology can play a wonderful role in making this happen.

If you want to learn more about how technology can be used to best support student learning, I suggest a blog post, an article and two books:

Assessment and Technology

Telling Time with a Broken Clock: The trouble with standardized testing

Invent to Learn by Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez

The Children's Machine by Seymour Papert


  1. Especially important words on PISA day. (AKA, time to rearrange the standings in the International Learning League).

    I too can imagine working in a system with no grades and report cards. In fact, it's my ideal future. I love how you are bold enough to say so.

    I've often said if assessment truly IS learning, then why would we need grades and report cards anyway?

    Keep fighting the good fight, Mr. Bower!

  2. As we change how we hire and how we teach, we really do need to change the reporting of the whole thing. What is the best way to showcase a particular student's strengths? Is it through an interactive resume built in code by the student? Maybe it's through a science project a student completed and learned from. Not only do you showcase the individual's strengths, but it's also more interesting for interviewers and teachers to review.


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