Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reporting in BC

I have a real bone to pick with the provincial government that has to do with assessment. I've been reading and rereading the ministry's guide for assessment. We are not to use percentages but still need to come up with a letter grade. Am I the only one who finds this ridiculous? We are supposed to be using formative assessment and using the language of the performance standards (ie exceeding expectations, meeting expectations, minimally meeting expectations, not yet meeting expectations). I happen to assess this way and spend a lot of time talking to my students about how to use this information. I just assigned to self-directed units to my classes. For both units, I gave the learning outcomes we are working on, my vision for the assignment, and then asked the students to come up with the criteria. I find that they take much more ownership of the projects this way and will use the same language I use anyways. We talk about different ways they can show their learning and that's that. Not once am I asked, "What's this out of, Mrs. Gallello?" They know that I will use the performance standard language and only assess that which is on the criteria list. They also know what to do with my feedback and know that I will be assessing all through the project. Then I'm expected to assign letter grades when it comes to writing report cards. I don't want to do this. I want to be consistent with assessment and use every assignment as a building block to June. I want to scaffold learning and have students take ownership. This is driving me crazy!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Formative and Summative Assessments: A Dilemma

Formative vs Summative Assessment in the Classroom; How do we incorporate it and what’s more, how can we explain the validity to our parents.

Recently I gave a summative unit test on Canada. I had the students go through what we had covered and pick out what they thought were key learning areas that we should have on the test. What resulted did not make me happy. The majority of students failed this test and I’m at a loss as to why. We clearly set goals before we begin, practice the concepts, and check our learning. However, this test did not reveal that we learned anything. So, what does this tell me? It tells me a few things: a) Our students haven’t a clue how to study and b) we have a long way to go in educating our students and parents in how and why we assess.

Immediately after the test, I received an email from a parent who was very disappointed in his son’s result. In fact, his son failed. The first question he asked me was how do I weight my marks. As a middle school teacher, I don’t think I’ve ever come across this question. I tried to explain to this parent the philosophy and how I would be using the results. However, what came back was how on earth can I assign a grade if I don’t use percentages? After trying to defend my practice I began to think why should I have to? I then read an article from The National Middle School Association called ‘Formative and Summative Assessments in the Classroom’ by Catherine Garrison and Michael Ehringhaus that validated what I was trying to say to this parent. “In order to grapple with what seems to be an over use of testing, educators should frame their view of testing as assessment and that assessment is information. The more information we have about students, the clearer the picture we have about achievement or where gaps may occur.” Here’s exactly what I’m trying to tell this parent. We use testing in a very different way than we did before. I found validity in what I’m practicing as I was reading this article. However, I struggle with the fact that not all teachers assess this way.

I keep a lot of notes about my students. These are behavioural notes, as well as notes about their writing and learning. I write down if they’re struggling with quotation marks and talk to the student about it. That then becomes their goal and I will expect to see improvement in that area. If I give a test, I make a note if the student struggled with a certain area. If a lot struggle, then I know I better reteach it and I better do a much better job of it! Other teachers I work with, do not assess this way and I find it very frustrating. There are no meetings with students to help them overcome learning obstacles. There is no real written feedback that could form a basis for further learning. Therefore, when I go into this meeting with this parent, I will be fighting a one-way battle with no one to back me up. Many teachers I know still use percentages to base their marks. Many of their comments are always on whether or not they prepare for tests or if their homework is done. I have never been able to figure out what that actually says about their learning.

I think that I will continue to read on this subject as I guess I’ll have to justify my assessment now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Where Do We Go From Here?

In what ways have you extended your learning network during these weeks?

Twitter has become my new best friend. I have made more contacts using twitter than I have ever done face-to face since I started teaching in 1989. I have asked questions, made observations, exchanged websites and philosophies, as well as had some humorous conversations with people from all over the world. I feel that networked learning has been a driving force in my professional development.

Where would you like to go next?

I would like to continue to use twitter as a main means of professional development. I know that there is a Music PLN site that will be launched in July that is full of possibilities. Many of my PLN will be involved in this site and I look forward to exchanging ideas about music education and education in general with these people.

Who would you be interested in learning from/with?

I will be interested in learning from many different people and already have. Every day I am discovering new, interesting educators to engage in conversation with and look forward to meeting even more.

How are you preparing yourself to teach in a networked learning environment?

Since global citizenship is our main focus for next year, I would like to able to use my PLN as contacts for my students learning. I think that skype will play a big role in my teaching during the year. I would also like to create a twitter hashtag just for my class, teaching my students how to network safely and properly.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Response to blog post http://rizzrazz.vox.com/

This blog post had to do with orchkids which is a music education program based Baltimore. Dr. Rizz has been instrumental (pardon the pun!) in setting up the program. In this blog, Dr. Rizz makes reference to a piece that 60 minutes did on Gustavo Dudamel who conducts the LA Philharmonic and happens to be my favorite conductor. Dudamel is credited with inspiring several cities throughout the states to begin privately funded music education programs for needy kids.

I became interested in Dudamel when I saw him portrayed on a TedTalk. Dudamel grew up in Venezuela. Venezuela has had an incredible music program that has been set up to help teach music to inner-city children. There is an orchestral program as well as a choral program. The program is taught by professional musicians and conducted by professional conductors. Dudamel went through the orchestral program and went on to study music and conducting. He has become one of the most influential conductors of our time and at 29, that’s quite a feat. Dudamel has decided to bring the program that lit such a passion inside him to America. Dudamel chose Hollywood to set up his music program. He calls the program YOLA (Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles). This program aims to allow children to connect to the world in ways they may never have thought possible. The free program runs after school for four hours.
As a music educator, I am constantly aware of what a gift we are able to give to our students through music. As a very young child, I was constantly surrounded by music. My father was a singer and all my sisters were trained as pianists. I grew up with music all around me. At two years old, I used to sit with my back against the piano while my sister Shelley practiced just to feel the vibrations. Music was my life. I grew up loving performing and could have made a career of it. Instead, I went into teaching music in the school system. It has taken me years, but now that I teach the performing arts programs, I am aware that I am no longer a performer. Instead, I am a music educator. I am able to take all the opportunities and love of music that I was provided with as a child and pass that on to my students. Like Dudamel, I think that music is the one universal way we can teach our students to connect with the world. Whether we’re in Venezuela, Los Angeles, or Coquitlam, all our children should be provided with the opportunity to learn this beautiful language. Music provided self-discipline and direction as well as team-playing. What other program can offer the same?
You can watch the 60 minutes clip of Dudamel here. I strongly suggest it!

Thinking about pro-d

Response to blog on professional development: http://eduratireview.com/2010/06/be-the-change-listen-follow-up/

As soon as I saw the words ‘professional development’ my brain was instantly in tune-out mode. However, as I read the thoughts of the author, I discovered that that was exactly what the blog was about. The author had been involved in leading many professional development sessions with teachers. What he has learned through all of them is that teachers must have some sort of input into the sessions in order for it to be worthwhile. This is something I totally agree with.

How many times have we sat in a session with somebody at the front lecturing us while using a boring powerpoint as a backup. Their message may be worthwhile, but I’ve tuned out because I’m not engaged. I want to go to a pro-d to reflect and collaborate. If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past two years of LTT, it’s that we learn best from our colleagues. There is a wealth of information out there and we need opportunities to tap into it. That’s why twitter and nings are so important. No longer should we be working in isolation. We should be actively engaging and sharing ideas. I don’t need some intellect standing at the front lecturing me about something that has absolutely no influence on my teaching practice.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Crap Detection

Crap Detection
I enjoyed watching Howard Reingold’s video on credibility and the internet. I have spent a lot of time this year working with my student’s on being critical when using the internet. I found Reingold’s five literacies for internet usage very helpful.
To recap, here are the five literacies:
1. Attention
2. Participation
3. Cooperation
4. Critical consumption (crap detection)
5. Network awareness

We’re very lucky at our school to have a very knowledgeable teacher-librarian who has made it a priority to teach all the grade 6 students media literacy skills. This means that all the students receive the same information as well as the teachers. She has developed some excellent lessons that deal specifically with crap detection. These lessons all revolve around teaching our children to think for themselves as there is so much information out there in cyber-land. However, I think that we as classroom teachers, must also make a commitment to teaching our students to be critical thinkers. If we all took time in September to go through the five literacies, perhaps we would not have so many issues to deal with during the year.

PLN's and connectivism

Networked Learning: What does this mean?

1. Starting with the self:

- Who is in my network and how do I learn from and with them?
I have a fairly extensive PLN through twitter. This includes teachers from all over the world. I follow music education specialists, tech people, and others. I find that this tool is invaluable for my learning. From this PLN, I am able to discuss pedagogy as well as receive resources.

I also spend time talking with teachers with like interests. This includes colleagues as well as blogs I follow.
- What are benefits of networked learning?
The benefits of networked learning are many. What I like the best about my PLN is that I learn about different pedagogies people are using as well as helpful websites and lessons. I also learn how others feel about different educational ideas and what’s happening in the world. I use Tweetdeck for twitter. I find that this is a great way to keep track of my learning network as I can add columns according to my interests. I have a column for music education, numerous columns dealing with technology in education, one for self-directed learning, one for project-based learning and one for Coquitlam. I think that I have learned more from twitter than anywhere else. People are intelligent and passionate about education. There is no room for complaining!

- What are the risks of not engaging in professional learning networks, digital or otherwise?
I think that if you choose not to engage in professional learning networks of any kind, you run the risk of becoming stagnant. This leads to doing the same thing the same way year after year. After awhile, this leads to becoming bored with the profession. What’s worse, is you begin to become negative and view teaching as work instead of a profession.

- What have we explored in LTT (especially this term) ?
In Ltt, we have explored blogs as a way of connecting with other professional’s ideas. We have watched videos of different kinds of teaching and have been able to analyze whether or not they are valuable to our own teaching.

4) What questions does this raise for you?
As I watched the videos suggested, I started to think about connectivism and how it relates to what I’m doing. I think that it’s invaluable to create a learning network. However, you have to make a commitment to posting and keeping up those relationships. I actually feel quite dumb sometimes when I see what others are talking about. I also find it quite time-consuming. In order to keep up these relationships, you have to follow links, read blogs and articles, and think about what’s been said. How much time am I really able or want to put into this? My biggest question has to do with how am I going to make sure that I am putting enough time into my family as well. I’m finding most of my spare time is spent reading and thinking instead of listening to those who are important. My biggest question is how to prioritize.


Please click the above link to see my map of my PLN

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Self-Directed Learning

Self-directed learning: One teacher’s beginnings of a long journey…

The focus of my recent field study for SFU, is on creating a self-directed study of Ancient Egypt. This is proving to be a very interesting journey indeed. I’ve had to really think about the pedagogy involved and spent a lot of time setting the groundwork through a previous unit. Whether or not this approach is successful, has yet to be discovered. It is taking a lot of analysis of student work examples and reflections. For the purposes of self-reflection I will use this blog to reflect on one student’s presentation.
I have had a lot of presentations from students and am choosing to use these as my data. This particular type of data I are examples of Documents/Artifacts/Student Work. One particular student had been working on the Agriculture of Ancient Egypt. She chose to represent her research using a glog. The glog she produced is an excellent representation of her thinking about presenting and reflecting on what’s been learned.
This particular piece was an excellent example of how to present one’s learning. This student thought about what it was (agriculture) she was researching and created her glog in such a manner that represented this. She added rain, made the colours earthy, added bugs, leaves, etc. She also included a substantial amount of research. What’s more, the research she did she related to present-day agriculture (without being asked). She also included a very good reflection of her learning.
This selection is just one example of students learning. I have been collecting most of their presentations onto slideshare. Since all the students are working on different sections of the project, it’s interesting to see how different their focus of research is. All of the data is beginning to tell me a story. The story that is emerging is one of motivation. I have found that because students are allowed to focus on what they want to learn, they are not paying attention to what others are doing. They have realized that there is no right or when it comes to learning. It has been very interesting to watch them look through books, websites, etc., and pick out what they want to focus on. Everybody’s focus is different. They have also realized that there is no right or wrong way to represent what they’ve learned. I’ve had powerpoints, imovies, photostory, written reports, posters, glogs, blogs, videos, garage band, pictures…you name it; I’ve had it. It is turning out to be a fabulous journey for all of us.
However, this data is leading me to ask myself questions. I’m curious to survey the students at the end of this unit to find their reactions to self-directed learning. Will they want to do another unit in this fashion? What have they learned about themselves? What have they learned about their classmates? Are they satisfied with what they’ve done? It will be interesting to read their final reflections and compare them to my observations of what’s been happening. If I think about my observations, I have thoroughly convinced myself that this is an excellent way to teach a unit. It has taken a lot of time to set up, but has been incredibly rewarding as I am not stressing about homework, lesson plans, and marking 60 assignments at once. What’s more, I do not see my students stressing either! Another very important observation has been that not all students have chosen to represent their learning using technology. Instead, they are choosing to explore different ways to represent it with each section they’re researching. This has reaffirmed the idea that using technology in teaching is just one tool and one tool that not all students want to use all the time. When I started, I figured the opposite. This leads me to ask myself: What comes first? The pedagogy or the technology? Hmmm…Thoughts????

Key words:
Pedagogy; self-directed learning; technology