Friday, November 10, 2006

No one ever said the Revolution would be easy.

So, for YEARS at my school we've gotten complaints from parents and students that our computers classes were too easy. "We're not learning anything new!" they would moan. "This is boring!" they would whine. "They treat us like babies and do everything step-by-step!" they would cry. (like babies)

And my all-time favorite: "We already know how to do all of this stuff!"

Okay then. Fine. We stopped outsourcing our computer technology instruction and turned it over to . . . . ME.

That's right. The O.G.

We bought a new curriculum, but we adapt that and cut and change it a lot. I had to create some projects that I felt were better suited to address the NETS*S. I implemented . . . paid accounts . . . and even got grant money and donations to pay for it.

Can I get a "woot woot"?

That's what I'm talkin' 'bout.

I warned the kids. This is a REAL class now. But you know middle schoolers. Sure, sure. Did you say something there, Mrs. Main? I was busy changing the background on my desktop for the seventh time this period.

I use the eBoard. I made The Vault for all my files. I had the kids bookmark these sites. I've got Quia. We use every class period. The kids are taking work home and bringing it back via their digital lockers. They WILL become 21st Century Information Literate if it KILLS us.

This week was parent-teacher conferences. Already, my fellow teachers out there are saying, "oh boy." You know where I am going with this.

Two and a half days of parents coming to me to find out why computers is the lowest grade on the report card. Why aren't they all just getting As for showing up to class like they used to? I can recite the speech, or one of its many variations, in my sleep now.

First of all, contrary to popular belief, not having straight As on your report card does not cause UC Berkeley or Stanford to rule you out for admission when you are only in the seventh grade.

Second of all, have you tried to tell a teenager to listen to an adult AND read and follow directions lately? You might as well ask them to let you pierce their tongues. Okay, bad example . . . that's something they WOULD let you do. You might as well ground them from MySpace or confiscate their cell phones and iPods. You'll get the same protest.

I have concrete proof that I did everything short of moving in to the family's spare bedroom and sitting on the kid's lap at the computer to get the work done. I cannot MAKE your child read the directions (which can be accessed in two different places online, by the way). I cannot MAKE your kid raise his or her hand and ask for help. I cannot MAKE your kid do the extra credit that was posted on the eBoard for over a month.

I can just grade their products, sigh heavily and often, and enter the grades. PowerGrade does the math, and your kid blew it. Simple as that.

If anyone is interested in the torture I inflict on these poor, defenseless teens and pre-teens, please feel free to visit The Vault:

I have no secrets. I like to share. I think these projects are moving them in the direction of becoming literate, competent thinkers and learners.

Shame on me.


Anonymous said...

Revolution? What would revolution look like? What are we trying to accomplish? Is it to free students from the slavery to grades and free them to pursue learning relevant skills and information with experienced teachers as mentors, coaches and cheer leaders?

If a true revolution in education occurred in America over the next few years, would we see grades disappear and authentic assessment take, in reality, the diverse and meaningful forms we espouse but rarely attain?

It is obvious that we cannot just teach kids facts and content. We must teach them to think in complex ways, to synthesize information, and to demonstrate the aquisition of skills and content in a variety of ways.

By keeping the focus on the grades, are we helping them to fill the reservoir of knowledge with facts and information so that they can get a good grade on the test and promptly drain the reservoir to get ready for the next test, so that they can get a good grade, and on it goes? What is the end product of this approach?

Maybe the revolution needs to start with thinking about thinking, and showing evidence of that thinking rather than getting a good grade.

Diane E. Main, GCT NorCal 2006 said...

You SOOOOO have to read David Warlick's book.