First Things First?

Img source: http://tinyurl.com/gq3jmx5

Img source: http://tinyurl.com/gq3jmx5

Last week, I attended and presented at Tech and Learning Live in Dallas. This is one of my favorite events of the year, because it is by its very nature extremely collegial and conversational, whether in sessions or in the numerous snack breaks (another reason it is a favorite). After a morning session on blended learning, I got into a discussion with a colleague who I highly respect on the goals and potential of blended learning. I had heard much during the session on how the district from which he came was looking at blended learning as a tool to increase student literacy levels and, of course, test scores. I see lots of potential for blended learning as, optimally, a tool for increasing student choice, creativity, and engagement, with test results being a positive side effect. During our discussion, my friend stated something to the effect that schools had to get test scores up “so they can then do the fun stuff.” Knowing the realities of the very oppressive accountability systems we have in place, I sympathize 100% with this point of view, but I don’t necessarily embrace it. Which brings me to the question of the day:

Which is the right approach?

  • Go for high test scores using whatever means necessary with the belief that more engaging, authentic learning will be possible once the unappealing stuff is knocked out.
  • Go with more learner-centered, engaging, and authentic learning and have faith that the tests will turn out fine.

While there is an obvious, pie-in-the-sky ideal answer here, the tough realities faced by schools make this a much harder question to answer than at first glance. What do you say? What is your school or district’s philosophy?

2 Comments

  1. So I had a comment but it didn’t upload from my phone. Let’s see if I can recreate it.
    As teachers, we should focus on being facilitators of student creativity. How do we get this? Gee says that we need to create “simulated worlds of experience” for our students. Meaning that we should provide our students with opportunities to learn through experience. Our classes should not be full of lecture, textbooks and worksheets. They should be kinetic, collaborative, and facilitate curiosity and problem solving. The ultimate demonstration of student understanding is in their ability to CREATE within the discourse that we teach. Teachers, as I have seen through my many hours of observation, get caught up in test scores. They are stressed and worn down because of them. If they would use those TEKS or standards to drive their own creativity, they would see that the scores would rise on their own. Drilling and constantly reviewing for state test is killing our teachers’ and students’ creativity. We should focus on providing experience, student curiosity, and problem solving rather than timelines, facts, worksheets and textbooks. Teaching-to-the-test is destroying our educational system and effectively demoralizing teachers. Anyways, that just my two cents as a future teacher, one who will not succumb to standardized test scores.

    • That is well said, Moises, and your conviction is what has me convinced you will be such a tremendous educator. The idea to “use those TEKS or standards to drive their own creativity” is a great insight. Another would be to focus on the readiness standards, which are broad enough to cover the supporting standards, if instruction and learning activities are well-crafted, and they won’t overwhelm the teacher like a focus on each individual supporting standard will (especially in your chosen area, social studies/history).

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