Saturday, March 31, 2012

Take the Grade out of Learning

Hi Group,

Wow. Mr. Kohn isn’t beating around the bush! He stands behind his conviction by claiming, “You can tell a lot about a teacher’s values and personality just by asking how he or she feels about giving grades….Frankly, we ought to be worried for these teachers’ students.” Kohn targets both parents and teachers with this article. He doesn’t mince words. It’s clear his going to dispel a huge myth—the myth most of us grew up with—the myth of the importance of grades, and grades being the ultimate measure of achievement and learning. 

Frankly, his beginning made me worry. As a student, future teacher, and parent, I’m challenged by my own subconscious beliefs because I was raised in a grading-heavy environment. And, my son is in fourth grade. What does this mean for him and his teachers? His school, and previous schools, didn’t use the A-F grading system. They use numbers, 0 to 5, with 5 being beyond grade level. Even though the elementary grading system is not A-F, it’s still a grading system. If we got rid of grades, what would the implications be for transcripts, measuring teachers, choosing which students go to which college, gain scholarships, etc. 

I’m intrigued because grading isn’t necessarily fair. Assignments don’t always take different learning styles, interests, or preferences into account. Do we need to know how students are doing in relation to other students or the teacher’s, national, or state expectations? 

The article hit home for me when I read this passage, “Thus, students who cut corners may not be lazy so much as rational; they are adapting to an environment where good grades, not intellectual exploration, are what count.  They might well say to us, “Hey, you told me the point here is to bring up my GPA, to get on the honor roll.  Well, I’m not stupid:  the easier the assignment, the more likely that I can give you what you want.  So don’t blame me when I try to find the easiest thing to do and end up not learning anything.” Wow. 

I remember being ranked in high school. It did feel like I was one of the herd in a cattle beauty contest. Like Kohn says, “The same effect is witnessed at a school wide level when kids are not just rated but ranked, sending the message that the point isn’t to learn, or even to perform well, but to defeat others.” Alfie Kohn is blowing my mind. I love the fresh, grade-shattering point of view this article brings. However, what would happen if I walked into my new school district as a new teacher, under BITSA and said, “I don’t believe in grades.” Would a school let a teacher get away with that? How do I find a school district or school that supports this kind of thinking? 

I’m even more impressed because Kohn has answers and ideas to help me and other teachers and parents de-grade: “Finally, there is the question of what classroom teachers can do while grades continue to be required.  The short answer is that they should do everything within their power to make grades as invisible as possible for as long as possible.” Then, Kohn goes on to list dozens of suggestions for practical application. I’ve taken this article to heart and hope to find a way to de-grade my classrooms while uplifting my students’ creativity, motivation, and interest.

This article meets NETS for students 4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making. Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources. a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation; b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project; c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions; d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions. 

Kohn, A. (1999). From Degrading to De-Grading, High School Magazine. Retrieved from

Friday, March 23, 2012

Flip and Blend

Hi Edu 422 group,  

Pape, Sheehan, and Worrell understand teachers, now more than ever, need to find ways to “save time and money in the classroom while increasing student engagement and digital age competencies.” How to Do More with Less: Lessons from Online Learning lists sample projects and the story of a newbie teacher who is experimenting with flipping her classroom to a blended model of instruction and technology.  

This persuasive and informative article aims at new and veteran teachers. The authors make their point with examples and links to resources. The topic of technology in the classroom is current and relevant to all teachers. Additionally, all teachers are looking for ways to “do more with less.” I know teachers who have been teaching for 10 or more years. When we talk about what I’m learning in my Education 422 Teaching and Technology class from articles like this, they are interested but don’t know how to go about flipping or blending their classrooms. They want to know how. How to Do More with Less points readers to dozens of free, web-based tools and resources available and in use in classrooms, for example: Moodle, VoiceThread, LiveBinder, Photovisi, and My Fake Wall. The authors reach their audience with tools and details for practical use.  

I wish this article, and more of the technology in the classroom articles and topics, would address some of teachers’ biggest concerns: student cheating/plagiarism, privacy, district buy-in, and student technology requirements at home and in the classroom. The technology articles trend leans towards “how to” access programs, tools and resources without taking a step back and giving teachers a “how to” gain buy-in from their principals, parents, and students. Also, how to provide technology access to all students is a huge barrier. When articles don’t address this part of the flipped and blended equation the credibility and possibility of a veteran or new teacher standing up and try something new is decreased.

I want to read articles about how new and veteran teachers can flip and blend not just their classrooms, but their schools. How do I find schools that support technology in the classroom? Regardless, I’m interested in trying out all of the tools and visiting the sites I haven’t heard of like Edmoto, ToonDoo, and more, which sound great and useful for teachers and students to collaborate.  

I’m excited by the teaching potential for “using digital content, resources, and tools to enhance, extend, and transform the learning process” so that students “use their time at home to become familiar with content instead of doing homework, and use their classroom time to actively engage with other students and their teachers to think critically and apply knowledge to real-world problems, group projects, lab work, or classroom discussions.”

In conclusion, flipping “the traditional homework model on its head” to free class time for teachers to “develop digital age literacies” due to “the sheer number and easy accessibility of these tools and resources” is inspiring. How to Do More with Less is part of the equation for solving real-world issues for teachers.

How to Do More with Less meets NETS for students standard 3. Research and Information Fluency. How to Do More with Less provides tools for students to apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. With the numerous tools and project samples to draw from, students may locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information from a variety of sources and media, based on the appropriateness to specific tasks. Blogs, wikis, social networking and bookmarking tools, and virtual learning environments support NETS standard 3.  

APA Reference

Pape L., Sheehan T., and Worrell C. (March/April 2012). How to Do More with Less: Lessons from Online Learning. Learning & Leading with Technology. Retrieved from

Monday, March 12, 2012

High School Common Core Standards

Hello Class, 

It’s important for students, teachers, and families to understand the changes in education because the new common core standards impact every public school classroom in the United States. I viewed the high school video.

One benefit mentioned in the video is that students’ energy will be more focused upon gathering evidence and presenting evidence clearly. Learning for high school students will soon more clearly translate to knowledge needed and applied in college, the workplace, and life. One benefit to the new standards mentioned in the FAQ, “The CCSS Initiative provided the opportunity to reexamine California’s standards against international benchmarks and the standards of other states. The new CCSS are rigorous, internationally benchmarked.”

A roadblock to the standards as mentioned in the FAQ is the timeline. “Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell, stated that it would take two to four years to implement the standards.” In two to four years, the standards may not fit with the rate of change in technology, college, and the workplace. The frameworks are expected to be adopted, but the materials won’t be available to support the frameworks until two years later. 

The standards and mindset of the standards writers might be more internationally and competitively focused on an academic level; however, the shadow of ignorance keeps following the possibilities for technology in public education materials delivery and assessment. 

Overall, the standards seem like an improvement for the students; but, the video and the FAQs didn’t provide a very balanced viewpoint. They listed all the “benefits” and downplayed the “roadblocks.” I wonder if teachers think, “oh great, one more new approach that’s supposed to be the end all be all.” With the standards, it would be great if these provide what they promise. I look forward to helping my students learn more applicable life skills in the classroom. 

All the best, 

APA Reference
Common Core FAQ (August 2010). Sacramento County Office of Education.  Retrieved from

Education Update, Common Core State Standards: High School. Teaching Channel (Tch). Retrieved from http://youtube/Ym-VHwbpAQM.

Friday, March 2, 2012

How Does it Figure? Computer Science Education

 Hi Edu 422 group,

Barr and Stephenson wrote the article Bringing CT to K-12: What Is Involved and What Is the Role of the Computer Science Education Community? to “articulate a set of key concepts within computation that can be applied across disciplines” and demonstrate computational thinking in the classroom. They also make it clear in the title, as well as in several places in the document that “Collaboration with the computer science education community is vital to this effort.”

The authors make their point with emotional language and concrete examples by stressing how “profound leaps of innovation and imagination as it facilitates our efforts to solve pressing problems (for example, the prevention or cure of diseases, the elimination of world hunger).” They also link computational thinking to “today’s students [who] will go on to live a life heavily influenced by computing, and many will work in fields that involve or are influenced by computing. They must begin to work with algorithmic problem solving and computational methods and tools in K-12.” The link between the students and their future is computational thinking.

I believe that learning should tap into computational thinking for the students today because “students engaged in using tools to solve problems, [who are] comfortable with trial and error, and working in an atmosphere of figuring things out together” is beneficial to their whole development as global citizens and as the next generation workforce. Teaching in today’s classrooms needs to meet tomorrow’s skills and needs.

I will collaborate with teachers across disciplines, such as social science, computer science, math, and language arts. With reading and composition, students are capable of using computational thinking about “sequences, inputs, outputs, saved value, how complex the solution is, [how] problems can be solved in multiple ways, tolerance for ambiguity and flexibility, and reasonable expectations about the prospect of producing a working solution” while comprehending and creating structure, style, voice, point of view, grammar, reading, and writing in a variety of materials and documents. Computation thinking is possible with time, creativity, open-mindedness, and school and district support.

In conclusion, computational thinking moves towards student-centered education. It would take planning, buy-in, collaboration, and a change of mindset; but, the work would pay off in the long run for teaching as a cutting-edge profession and students who can compete in a global, technologically advanced economy and world. The “areas of values, motivations, feelings, stereotypes and attitudes” applicable to computational thinking are important and relevant to all learners. Every student needs the ability to, “deal with complexity, persist in working with difficult problems, handle ambiguity, deal with open-ended problems, set aside differences to work with others to achieve a common goal or solution, and know one's strengths and weaknesses when working with others.”

Computational thinking meets the NETS for students standard 1. Creativity and Innovation. NETS 1a. through 1d. are met by computational thinking in the following ways: students “demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology” through, “innovation, exploration, and creativity across disciplines.” They “create original works as a means of personal or group expression” through “group problem solving and reflecting on practice and communicating.” Students, “model, run simulations, do systems analysis” to “explore complex systems and issues.” Finally, students “identify trends and forecast possibilities” by “design[ing] solutions to problems (using abstraction, automation, creating algorithms, data collection and analysis).”

APA Reference
Barr V. and Stephenson C. (2011, March). Bringing CT to K-12: What Is Involved and What Is the Role of the Computer Science Education Community? ACM Inroads, 2 (1). Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Handicap Accessible Websites

Hi 422 class,

Amundson wrote the article 5 Steps to an Accessible Classroom Website to bring awareness of the diverse group of people who need to access the information from teachers websites. Diverse groups include English-language learners, those with slow Internet connections, and those who use voice output, Braille, keyboards (not mice), and screen magnifier devices. Teachers as Web developers need to consider all users and adaptive tools so that websites “provide information to the intended audience” and are accessible to all learners.

The author persuades me, as a teacher Web developer, through an emotional appeal by asking me to consider my website as if I were a blind or deaf user trying to access the information—thereby, giving me a problem. Not to worry, her persuasive technique then gives me a “how to” solution. The article doesn’t just discuss the possibilities, but makes creating accessible websites accessible to me by breaking down the Web creation and review process into five steps (1. structure, 2. navigation, 3. text format for non-text elements, 4. logical word choices, and 5. validation tools).

I will apply the information from the article to my future website by making sure I use headers to structure my Web pages, set up Tab key navigation (no drop down menus), allow for gray-scale viewing with appropriate background color schemes, provide title and alt tags, descriptive text, descriptions of images, and a link to contact me.

In conclusion, the article suggests that after applying the suggested five steps to create a website, the final test is to try to navigate on my site or ask someone with a disability to see what is possible if there was no sound, no mouse, no images, and/or no color. The last step is to put the website to the test.

The article aligns with NET for student learning 6b. Technology Operations and Concepts, allowing for students to demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations by selecting and using applications effectively and productively.

APA Reference
Amundson, L. (2009, November). 5 Steps to an Accessible Classroom Website. Learning & Leading with Technology, 37 (4). Retrieved from

Friday, February 17, 2012

Head in the Cloud

Hi Group,

Reading Doug Johnson’s 2009 article for ISTE, “Computing in the Clouds,” made me want to ditch my eight-pound laptop for a lightweight, two to four pound netbook! To think of all the time and money that teachers can save. And, when you consider the possibilities for students, and the positive impact on the school district, the pros definitely outweigh the cons, for me.

I appreciate Johnson’s balanced discussion regarding concerns about file security and privacy issues. Johnson also mentions that, “school districts need to be sure they have a reliable, adequate, and secure wireless infrastructure to support dozens, if not hundreds, of student-owned netbooks?” Cloud computing is possible, but not necessarily right for all users, teachers, students, and districts.

It’s obvious Johnson is a cloud fan. But, what I love about the article, instead of just writing about the cloud, in the section, “Living in the Cloud,” Johnson moved all of his computing tasks to the cloud and summarized how all of the solutions worked for him. He gives concrete examples of using cloud-based word processing, presentations, and spreadsheets. He gives dozens of Web 2.0 tool examples so that anyone could make the transition to cloud computing.

His tone is that he’s a “geezer,” so that veteran teachers will relate to their fear of moving from what they might feel is safe to the unknown. He also relates to any computer user because we’ve all suffered through “worrying about transporting files on flash drives, keeping track of the latest version of a document, or having the right software to open a file.” And, most of us need to “share and collaboratively edit files.”

There is so much practical information in his article. Johnson does a great job balancing the pros and cons. And, I would love to move to the cloud as a teacher. This article helps me know tools as well as issues to consider before I make the leap.

This article meets NETS for students 6. Technology Operations and Concepts. Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. a. Understand and use technology systems; b. Select and use applications effectively and productively; c. Troubleshoot systems and applications; d. Transfer current knowledge to learning; of new technologies.

Thank you,


Johnson D. (December/January 2009-2010). Computing in the Clouds. ISTE, 4 (37). Retrieved from

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Yes! Blogging in the Classroom is Worth The Risk

Hi Class, 

Yes, blogging in the classroom is worth the risk. After reading the ISTE posted article, "Point CounterPoint: Is Blogging Worth the Risk?” I agree with the idea of responsibility and instant feedback, “we end up having to take responsibility for our comments, all the better! What better way to illustrate to our students that effective communication requires us to consider the effects our words.”

With blogs, students are on the court. They aren’t just reading about blogs, they’re blogging. Blogging is hands-on. A blog is a digital portfolio for students that applies to their world and their future. And, we can teach them what to do and what not to do, and how to handle it instead of avoiding the risk ourselves. It seems that we’d be irresponsible educators if we didn’t engage in, discuss, and model electronic communication as part of our society.

Yes, it’s worth the risk, even though Ms. Nielsen found that a blog, “places you under examination makes an already difficult job even more difficult and potentially jeopardizes job security.” I feel that Maxlow’s comment works as an effective counterpoint, “It would be better to retain dignity and integrity by finding employment elsewhere than it would be to work in such conditions.” I agree. It’s worth it, regardless of the risk.

This article meets NETS for students 6. Technology Operations and Concepts. Students demonstrate a sound understanding of technology concepts, systems, and operations. a. Understand and use technology systems; b. Select and use applications effectively and productively; c. Troubleshoot systems and applications; d. Transfer current knowledge to learning; of new technologies.

Thank you,

Maxlow J. and Nielson L. (May 2009). Point/Counterpoint Is Blogging Worth the Risk? ISTE, 7 (36). Retrieved from