Our group began brainstorming right away on ideas for our topic. Originally, we couldn’t find a convenient time for us to meet at once, so we began to collaborate via “Voxer.” Our voxer thread has become a stream of consciousness cache for us to talk out our individual ideas to see if we can expand on them. The four of us, Kay Pham, Natalie Priester, Amanda Wallace, and I all think out and problem solve by talking out loud. I don’t think we would have had the same dialogical context if we had a synchronous brainstorm session, on a Google Hangout, or Facetime. We would have been jumping over each other to expand on our ideas. Asynchronous work sessions seem to currently be our strength.
We were going back and forth for various ideas. Natalie brought up the idea of classroom design. This is an area of education I’ve been interested in for a few years. I read a book called, Champs about classroom management. The authors devote multiple pages to the importance of classroom design and layout to creating a “manageable” learning space for students. The book also discusses fostering collaboration and communication with the layout of the classroom. Kay mentioned that Creativity is one of the four C’s that is routinely ignored, or under focused upon. In the book, Champs, creativity is largely ignored except for a small excerpt about helping students be creative (Champs: Classroom Management, 2010).
This idea of creativity led me to ask, “are students naturally creative, or are we stereotyping them by assuming all students can be creative?” I also asked the question, how do we teach students to be creative. I am not creative, for example, I am writing a reflection essay instead of a more creative medium. That is perfectly fine, it is how I express myself, process information, and, most importantly, it is where I am comfortable. I have been creative previously during this program, in the 680 course last Summer with Jeff Heil, I decided to learn to paint by watching Bob Ross on youtube in order to satisfy our 20Time project. My paintings are all done free hand and creative.
Since I learned to expand my creativity for a school assignment, our group collective began to discuss how creativity is to be assessed. Can it be quantified and qualified on a spreadsheet? Is it possible to “test” creativity? What forms of assessment will accurately measure student learning on creative projects? How will creativity help our students be successful in both school and later in life? We finally settled on examining assessment of creative assignments and projects, especially for non-VAPA teachers.
Daniel Pink, in his book, A Whole New Mind, argues that creativity will be a key skill for our students to succeed. He argues that students majoring in the arts will be in higher demand than those who major in math, engineering, or science, because the arts students can think much more creatively, and utilize the right hemisphere of their brains (Pink).
All this is well and good, however, how do we assess if students have mastered the skills necessary to be successful? Not only do students need to demonstrate mastery of a subject, they really, truly need to learn and experience failure. In the phenomenal blockbuster film, Batman Begins, Thomas Wayne asks his young son, “Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up again” (Batman Begins, 2005).
“The classroom challenge is that students are digital and many teachers are analog.” (Schrum & Levin, 40). This can be applied to measuring student mastery, problem based assessments are digital, scantron fill in the correct bubble are analog. I had the great fortune to meet the former CEO of High Tech High at a social engagement a couple of years ago. I enjoyed hearing about his school and his philosophy of education. What really made me a fan was their assessments of student learning. It is all problem based. They are not graded on the end result of their activities, but they are graded on how they incorporate their learning into the process of solving a real life problem (High Tech High, 2002).
High tech high did not start out as a pedagogical nexus by accident. It began with a vision and mission statement. For my school, I think my initial mission statement for incorporating technology into daily pedagogical practices will be:
The O’Hagan School will utilize technology in a meaningful way that supports a variety of instructional mediums to provide our students with quality anywhere anytime learning opportunities that are led by curricular standards, but powered by technology.
Three meaningful action steps to help move the school towards fulfilment of the mission statement:
One major change that I would like to see occur is for the district to abandon the current plan for a BYOD program. For my program evaluation in 795 I am researching the impact BYOD has on districts and it is a mixed bag. The success and or failure depend heavily on the district itself. I have a very divergent socio economic makeup of students, that by incorporating a BYOD access model, the realities of the “haves and Have nots” will be readily evident. If the district were to provide a ubiquitous device for all students, those realities of inequality would not be so evident.
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