Monday, December 21, 2009

The Purpose of Grades

I have been thinking about grades and grading for some time now. An excellent post of questions by Glenn Kenyon got me thinking as did the last #edchat on twitter about assessment. I think every one of Glenn's questions could be an independent post.

I would like to do a series of posts on the various aspects of grades and grading. I would like to approach the subject from an optimistic viewpoint that educators actually can change the purpose and meaning of grades if they so choose. I think articulating an "ideal" scenario helps give us a vision on where to go.

Before I spout off on grades I would like to hear from you. What do you think about grades and grading? Specifically what is their purpose in schools and education? Do grades mean the same thing to teachers, students, and parents? Are they a "necessary evil?" Let me have it!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Twitter addict confession

Why am I addicted to Twitter? It's not the links. They're great, but I love the conversations...
I can control my use of Twitter. Really I can. But last night was an example of how powerful of a conversation tool it is to me.

First, I watched an interesting discussion that Jon Becker (professor at VCU) had with plugusin (teacher in North Carlina) over the "validity" of a survey that plugusin created and used. Now I was not very interested in the survey itself, but in the discussion of what makes something "valid." I would have to say that I sided with plugusin as far as twitter and social networking giving voice to teachers working in the field vs. professors writing for peer-reviews journals.But I must confess I am not an expert on what makes something "valid" so when Sylvia Martinez (a leading educator from LA) asked Jon to explain this more I joined the conversation and asked too. Jon patiently answered our questions. The thing I know and respect about Dr. Jon is that he is not condescending or narrow-minded about the equalizing power of social media. 

Meanwhile Jane Vanhof (choir and ELA teacher from my school!) and Ira Socol ( from Michigan, too) joined the conversation too. The end result is that Jon Becker decided to do a session on "What makes a survey valid" open to anyone who wants to join in (Here is the signup for time).

At the same time I was asking questions of some experts from my PLN about educational history (Teaser: stay tuned over break for some posts about grading) including Ira, Shelly Blake-Plock (Maryland Latin and history teacher), and Andrew Watt (classical history teacher in Connecticut). During this multitude of conversations Tomaz Lasic (an excellent teacher from Australia) tweeted to Ira and asked him to quick Skype into his class that was in session. Ira did and re-joined our conversation a few minutes later.

Wow! There is no way this is possible ten years ago. I would have to enroll at VCU and sign up and PAY to learn from Jon Becker. I would still not be able to attend faculty meetings with him, which is what it feels like as I "watch" conversations he has will leading educators from around the world. I have personally met only two of these people (Jane and Ira about two weeks ago) but yet I can learn from them anytime, anywhere around the world. And added onto it  is the ability for Ira to off-the-cuff join into a classroom discussion on the other side of the world at a moment's notice.

I have never been so motivated and excited about my own learning. And I am working out methods to share this with the other teachers and the students in my building. I am truly amazed at the knowledge and GENEROSITY of the people in my PLN. It really is about the conversations and the giving. Thanks to all in my PLN, and of course I would highly recommend following all of the educators mentioned here.

Why am I addicted to Twitter? It's not the links. They're great (especially the ones to thought-provoking blog posts), but I love the conversations ...
                                                               with some of the greatest minds in the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Would you steal a CD from a store?

This is an opener (bell ringer) question that I asked my 8th graders to lead up to a discussion about illegally downloading music. Student response:

Ummmmmm no. Who just uses CD's?

Cd's are on their way to 8 tracks to students.Time to change my example to something more current, but stealing an Ipod is not really parallel to stealing the music.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

What Do You Do When Your Students Follow You on Twitter?

I got my first student (8th grade) following me on Twitter yesterday. I have heard lots of educators discussing students friending them on Facebook, but I do not have a Facebook account so I never thought about it too much. But I have not really heard people discuss students following them on Twitter.

Later in the evening, she sent me an @ message:

hey mr. kaechele.(: im with ________ :) hows your weekend going? im gonna get told not to reply to your tweets on monday arnt i?

I did not reply as I wanted to think about this more. I have students e-mail me and I think nothing of it, and e-mail is private. Twitter is a public conversation so should I be concerned at all about "how it looks" to be communicating with a student on Twitter outside of school? If I see a student at a store the conversation we have is more private than on Twitter, but the location is public (safe).

My first impulse is to not block her and not follow back. But I also need to decide what to do about @ messages to me? I am also quite sure that she will share this with her friends and there will be more students following me soon. It does make me think about my posting a bit also. Not that I post anything questionable, but I want to make sure I do not post about anything related to my classes or my district even in a generic sense.

Technology creates new questions of appropriateness. What do the rest of you do about students following you on Twitter?