Sunday, January 23, 2011

To Learn, Take a Test ... Really?!?!


I was just sent a New York Times article from one of our teachers entitled, To Really Learn, Quit Studying and Take a Test. The article, in general, says that the results of their study indicate that students learn better by taking tests rather than repeatedly reading information or by drawing concept maps (also referred to as mind maps). I have skimmed through the full research article and have a few concerns about the research.
  1. The students who did better on the test, already wrote a test on the same content, thus received an extra practice round. this also leads to my next point.
  2. These students are university undergraduates, presumably trained to do well in testing or exam writing (since that is generally the main assessment tool used to determine grades for university admissions). I don't think I'm going too far out an a limb here to say that many high school classrooms train students to write exams, by practicing exams. In this experiment, the students are asked to "study" using a method (concept mapping) that is foreign to them.
  3. Tests generally, evaluate one's ability to regurgitate information back. The questioning needs to be of a higher order to assess for understanding. Difficult to do on a test. And isn't understanding more important?
I'm not convinced, but I welcome any thoughts.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Arts Night

The Hub looked spectacular last night. Congratulations to all of the budding artists who either performed in the cozy venue set up on the mini-stage of the Hub or displayed their art work for all to see. Thanks to Mr. Laflamme, Miss Potosky and Miss Grainsky for making the evening a success.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Back on the Blog-Wagon

As you can see it has been a year and a half since I typed my last entry. I blame it on a lack of focus. I had to ask myself why I was blogging. If you take a look back, most of the entries are announcements with the odd celebration thrown in for good measure. Like any school we already have multiple ways to share announcements and celebrations. The blog wasn't drawing any new readers. Parents got weekly updates. Students already heard all of the info. I wasn't on Twitter. My audience was limited.

I hope that has changed. I've refocused to talk about education and how the staff, students and parents are growing from the experiences they have at CIS. I hope to ask thought-provoking questions, share my views and of course, include a little bit of celebration.

So 18 months on ... I resume.

Our last staff meeting was full of lively discussion. So much so that it lasted two days ... sort of. Let me back up.

For homework, before the meeting, I asked staff to watch Jeff Utecht's TEDx talk below. Jeff is the Technology Coordinator in Bangkok and author of the blog, The Thinking Stick.

A great 16 minute and 33 second talk, where he talks about technology, but actually uses very little technology (a microphone). The topic: "Community trumps Content". We then proceeded to share our thoughts about the video through PMI (plus-minus-interesting) discussions. During the interesting talks I also asked staff to formulate questions they would want to pose to Jeff. The next afternoon we did that, through a Skype call with Jeff.

I think I can safely say that as a staff we mainly agree on the general idea of the talk that yes, in fact, Community Trumps Content. However, the staff did have a few questions for Jeff. Here are some of the teacher comments that arose in the meeting:

"... his thesis that suggests "Communities Trump Content" neglects to consider both skills and contexts as factors. Those two elements, in my view, trump communities."

"... the only thing missing in "virtual communities" is human beings ..."

"There is no greater skill in life than being able to get along with people--with that being said, we need to demonstrate and model to students how there is a difference between face-to-face reality and hiding behind a cyber mask."

But my favourite, that summed up the first day of discussions was:

"... The point (of the talk) was that being connected is all they (the students) know and is completely irreversible. ... To believe our past is their future is misguided nostalgia and burying our heads in the sand. Perhaps it is going to destroy interpersonal relationships and change the way we deal with people, but it isn't going away. ..."

With that I agree wholeheartedly, so it is up to me to continue to work with staff and students to pave the way at varying speeds to enhance and improve learning in the mobile world these students are destined to or should I say, already in.

I won't try and quote (or misquote) Jeff on any of his responses. I let you read Jeff's version on his blog.

Thanks Jeff for answering all of our questions with a smile!