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Monday, May 21, 2012

Reflective Blog Post 4 - Semester is almost over!!!!

This week's blog prompt:

Reflect on the idea that tests are the only objective assessments of student learning.

I had to laugh out loud when I read the prompt to this blog. Many people confuse the words assessment and test. They are NOT one and the same. Webster defines the word assessment as “the action or instance of assessing: appraisal”.  As a teacher, assessing student knowledge is basically assessing if a student has mastered the objectives that I, as the teacher, have set forth.  It is of vital importance that a teacher understand the difference between assessing a student’s knowledge and simply ‘testing’. Most people, many teachers included, think of testing as a written test. There are, in fact, many ways to test for knowledge.
Referring back to the prompt for this week, if the writer of the blog prompt was using the word ‘tests’ in this prompt to stand for a written assessment, then no, a written assessment is not the only objective assessments of student learning. However, if the writer is intending the word to stand for all assessments that are ‘tests’ of a student’s knowledge of the objectives, then my answer would have to be probably!  It is hard to answer the question without being able to completely clarify what the intent of the writer is asking.
There are many ways to ‘test’ a student for knowledge. In science, I use lab assessments that are hand’s on often. A student must prove proficient in the objective that is often a lab skill that must be mastered. I would think in many other classes, there are varying ways that a teacher will ‘test’ for certain objectives. For instance, in a physical education class, a teacher could play the game that they have been studying about and if the student can play the game using the correct rules of the game, that would prove the objectives for that lesson have been met. Many teachers have students create projects or teach others about a certain topic. I think there are so many ways to prove the objectives have been met without a written test but there must be a way to ‘test’ the student for learning goals.
All these paragraphs to say this: It depends on your definition of a ‘test’ to determine if you agree or disagree with the blog prompt!
Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. (2012).  Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tests

Friday, May 4, 2012

Reflective Blog Post 3

Question of the week:
Reflect on the idea of what a technology-infused classroom looks like. How do you plan to have a technology-infused classroom?
My idea of a technology-infused classroom looks vastly different than the classroom I began teaching in over eighteen years ago. My first classroom was filled with thirty-six desks, six rows of six chairs and a teacher’s desk and file cabinet. I had two blackboards and a bulletin board. When I wanted to do a lab or group activity, I signed up for the lab, usually at least a week in advance.
My last brick and mortar classroom had two computers, a smart board, an overhead projector, and a sound system in the room. My room was not set up in rows but in quads so when we worked on the school laptops, at least once a week, sometimes more, the kids could work in pairs or groups to accomplish the task I had assigned. My lab also had a smart board and two computers in it so I could show items on the lab I was expecting the students to see or observe while they were conducting experiments. Many times, they placed their data on the board as they worked so other groups could use the data in their graphing or calculations.
Teaching science, I feel, blends itself well with technology. It’s a way to keep up-to-date on the latest research going on in the field. One of my biggest gripes for years was how out-of-date the textbooks were in science. By the time the book went to print, new information was out and I’d be left deciding to teach from print-outs or just using the outdated text. Now, in a technology-infused classroom, I can use web pages, video clips, and other technology to bring into my classroom the most up-to-date information to my students. They can also research something they find interesting in the class, not always after school or at home.
Since I am now a virtual high school teacher, my classroom is in the virtual world. It’s pretty technology-infused! My students access their reading assignments online and answer quizzes and tests online as well. They still do some labs as ‘wet labs’, which means they do them live with materials my school sends them but we also take advantage of video and virtual labs as well. I do send them video clips to watch from sites such as, Nova, NASA, even youtube or teachertube to extend the learning. If they have a question, I am a mouse clip away on my yahoo im. Just the other day, I was conversing at the same time with two different students about chemical reactions. Multi-tasking is a must in a virtual school!
Even though my classroom is technology-infused, that still means I follow lesson plans daily and at least try to meet all the objectives I’ve set for the week. Technology shouldn’t be the central focus, learning should be. I have a teenage daughter that has begun experimenting with make-up. I tell her all the time, that make-up should enhance natural beauty, not cover it. I feel the same with technology, it shouldn’t take the place of learning objectives, technology should enhance the learning that is happening in the classroom.
Many times, a new technology must be taught to the students, that does take time but there should be a clear objective as to why the time is being taken. When I started using a smart board, there were few applications available that were written for high school students. My smart board was used primarily for projecting my powerpoints and slides for lab from my computer and for showing video clips. As the applications became available, I had to actually train my students how to use the smart board to accomplish the goals I wanted them to meet. It did take some time, but the time was well spent when they could extend their learning on topics in science. As long as there is a clear objective, the time spent teaching the technology is not wasted time.