Intentionally Imbalanced Infographic: NextGen Testing

Intentional imbalanced Infographic
The PARCC test has been on my mind a lot lately, due to its piloting all over the world (or so it seems, even though I know it is only in PARCC states). More and more news items are coming into my RSS feed of parents opting out, of teaching refusing to give it, of superintendents telling families how much they don’t like it already, of parents at a school in my city picketing PARCC with signs and everything, of criticism that our state Educational Commissioner has a role in the PARCC consortium, of talking to teachers at my school (and parents of kids) who administered the PARCC pilot (although they are not allowed to talk about the test), and more, more, more.

A very powerful piece ran in the New York Times opinion section by Elizabeth Phillips that is a must-read: We Need to Talk About the Tests.

And I saw from Diane Ravitch that Pearson, who is developing the PARCC, is searching for scorers, but they are targeting college students and paying only $12 an hour. These are the scores that are going to be used for teacher evaluations someday down the road? for student graduation requirements?  Ack. for revising the PARCC? (cue fake laughter on that one).

It’s hard to keep an open mind with all that floating around. So, I went and decided to make a completely unreliable infographic of what I believe will be the end result of PARCC, which is that the testing companies will make out like bandits in the end. ‘Cause they will.

Read Valerie Strauss’ piece at The Washington Post: March Madness.

Meanwhile, with the federal test-creating grants running out later this year, the future of the two consortia is not clear. But for now, they’ve got a pretty good deal: They get millions of field testing subjects — for free.

I know I’m being grumpy and pessimistic here, but it’s hard to see things unfolding in a positive light right now around the Common Core testing systems underway, and if any of my sons were in classes where Pearson is piloting the PARCC, I would probably have them opt out. (Hey, Pearson gets free data from our kids, doesn’t have to share any of the results with anyone? That’s a coup. Maybe they should donate a cart of laptops to every school that has piloted the PARCC.)

Sigh.

Peace (in the test),
Kevin

I had Stickers – An Early Childhood Appreciation

The other day, I volunteered to lead a family poetry workshop at Barnes and Noble to support our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I didn’t know what to expect, so I gathered up a bunch of supplies for a Post It Sticky Note Poetry idea. I had a bunch of small mentor texts (haiku, couplets, shape poems, etc.) along with lots of art supplies.

 

I set up in the little staging area of the children’s section, still not sure who would come and participate. Now, remember, I teach sixth grade and spend my days in the midst of 11 and 12 year olds. And I have three boys of my own, two teenagers and one 9 year old.

So, imagine my surprise when I was surrounded by a group of five girls — ages 3 and 4 — with their parents for the poetry workshop. I was a fish out of water because clearly my plans for writing and understanding poetry styles would not connect with this group of energetic mostly-pre-writing girls. I was in a sixth grade mindset and that would not work here.

Luckly, I had stickers! Lots of stickers! And that led to some post-it poems, of a sort (well, more like drawings) and some basic rhyming games. Some of the girls could write some basic words, so we wrote rhymes. For others … it was all about the stickers and post-it notes.

That was OK but it reminded me (again) of the task before our early childhood colleagues who are often faced with a class full of young learners who might or might not have had preschool experience, might or might not have had parents read to them regularly, might or might not have had pre-writing experiences, and the range of literacy was staggering in that little group.

It was fun and enlightening, and certainly a very different kind of teaching experience for me, one that reminded me to appreciate the kinds of days that my colleagues often have, and how grateful I am as a sixth grade teacher for all the work that gets done in the years before my students reach me to get them ready for the rigor of our learning.

Thank you, teachers.

Peace (with stickers)
Kevin

 

Remixing the Comics: Standardized Testing


You might guess that we are into standardized testing time in our school and state. Hey. You’d be right! I was reading the comics with that on my mind and frames began jumping out me. I just had to hack and remix the comics as a sort of commentary about testing. I used ThingLink as way to embed some comments for each frame, although I suspect you could get my message even without my words.

Honestly, though, it was that kid staring at his test in the Nancy strip that got me going. He looks so … sad.

Wondering how I did this kind of remix?

First, I read all the comics and tries to piece together a possible story sequence. This is the most difficult part because you need to look for narrative threads and understand there will be some gaps in whatever story you remix with the frames. Once I started to identify possible pieces of comics, I got to work.

I started with old fashioned scissors and tape, and blue paper. I scanned it as an image file (when I have taken a picture of this kind of remix in the past, the words get fuzzy. You might have a better camera than I have, though). Then, I uploaded the image to Flickr, where I used the Aviary app in Flickr to add text, and “borrowed” the completed image over at ThingLink. That allowed me to layer in some commentary.

Peace (in how we frame things),
Kevin

As I watched far afar … DML Ignite Sessions

I snuck in moments to watch the short Ignite sessions that have been archived at the Digital Media and Learning Conference YouTube channel, and tweeted out my comments and reactions. Here, I collect them all together. There are a few Ignite sessions at the end of the very long video that I have not seen. Maybe later …

Peace (in the Ignit-ion switch to learning),
Kevin

Sharing out a Presentation on Cyberbullying

I adapted a presentation that I made to NCTE two years ago around cyberbullying for my students before February vacation, and figured I’d share it out. Feel free to use it, copy it, remix it as needed. We used it as part of a larger Digital Life unit, emphasizing positive aspects of digital tools as well as ways to stay safe.

In fact, during our digital life survey, the percent of students who say they have had a negative experience in online spaces is minimal, and no one reported any cyberbullying (although given the nature of things, they might not admit to it, either). The strongest message here is a reminder to kids that they have trusted adults they can turn to to help them in difficult situations. I’ve been intrigued by danah boyd’s exploration of this issue in It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens and how kids see behavior in online spaces differently than adults.

Peace (in the talk),
Kevin

Re-Envisioning the Failed Digital Composition

All hail the fail. So said my friend Terry the other day as part of his response to my post about a digital composition that I attempted that just did not work for me. But part of failing can also perseverance (a theme which we did a whole lesson around in the classroom the other day) and as I took in Terry’s comments via Vialogues (see below) and then read some reactions from another friend, Molly, I began to rethink how the piece might yet come together.

Here’s Terry’s comments on the composition and some of my responses:

Here is Molly’s tweet:

It was a combination of both of their voices, plus my own doubts, that stuck with me, and as I was out shoveling last night (for the fifth time that day), it dawned on me how I could maybe “fix” the failure, and it required moving away from the video app that had inspired the composition to begin with. I realized that the PicPlayPost app was one of my problems. It was Molly’s comment about finding a way to cut and connect that made me realize that I could use Popcorn Maker, perhaps, to re-engineer the video sequences, and cut out the Tellegami ads at the end of the videos, too. (which Terry agreed gave the composition a very halting effect).

So, here it is.

What’s interesting is that my original intention was to try to avoid a sequential left-to-right kind of video message and that is what I went back to. But with Popcorn, I could add another layer of music, and the project is now remixable by anyone who wants to give it a whirl. That was something that Molly could not do with PicPlayPost, although that was her first instinct (which I applauded). Popcorn can still act quirky at times, and is periodically laggy. But, if not completely at ease with how it came out, at least it better matches my vision.

Peace (in the remix),
Kevin

My Word: Make


I’ve seen a lot of friends on Twitter using the “one word” idea. It’s a simple but powerful way to focus in on a theme for the new year. Or maybe not so simple. I’ve struggled with a single word that is large enough to encompass how I want to approach the year and not so intangible as to be meaningless. I’ve settled in on the word “Make” for a few reasons.

First of all, I really got involved in learning more about the Maker’s Movement this year, through work with the National Writing Project. Our CLMOOC was focused on the “make.” I am intrigued by how helping students learn through doing, and creating things/ideas is coming back around again.

Second, I am not a physical maker. I bumble my way through any project you hand me. When I fixed the toilet in our house one day, you should have heard the cheers and seen the high fives we gave each other. I mean, I had fixed the toilet, for goodness sake. That was a breakthrough.

So, this idea of focusing on “make” is always a way to slowly get me out of my own comfort zone. I know I have students who struggle with writing a story but could take apart a car engine, and even put it back to together again. I know I have students who can make an engaging video, publish it on YouTube, and yet, they can’t quite write a paragraph with deep meaning.

I can’t say right now how this word “make” will make its way into my daily life. But I do have a wide definition in my head of what it means to “make” and I’ll keep mulling this one over. It’s digital, physical and internal, and I am going to “make” 2014 a year of diving in as deep as I can.

In that vein, one of the things I have been doing is pulling together a Flipboard magazine around the connections of making and learning, and Connected Learning. It’s a start, and I am making the magazine happen. (meta-make?)

Peace (in the word),
Kevin

Hello 2014

My son and I used the Aurasma app to color in the new year. Happy New Year to you and thank you for stopping by.

Peace (every day, all year),
Kevin

Reflecting on 2013: Life’s a Blur — Make a List


I don’t know about you, but the end of December rolls around and I realize that another year has skipped past me. If I don’t take time to reflect a bit, it’s all gone right out the window. Of course, one of the reasons I blog is to remember, to archive the thinking and reflection and experimentation that I dive into. This blog is a like a huge USB Memory Drive plugged into my head and heart. Ok. Enough sappy metaphors.

In the interest of using technology to share, I created a visual of the ten events that I want to remember from 2013 (I used a software program called Simple Diagrams) and then put the image on Flickr, and then moved it over to ThingLink, so that each image has a short bit of text with a link to the sites mentioned.

Peace (in the year),
Kevin