Standards III & IV- Reflections

Standard III: Teaching, Learning, and the Curriclum

Where the previous standard looked at the environment in which students learn, that is to say, how they learn, this standard looks at what they are learning (Williamson & Redish, 2009). In terms of the impact of this particular standard on the individual, it has never had more importance than now, as we stand at the precipice of a sea change in the way our students learn. As a millennial myself, I can hear and feel much of the frustration expressed by my students as they are forced to conform to a system that does not make sense to them, “learning” material that is readily available to them. I often find myself frustrated on their behalf, knowing that what they are being told is “education” is often so irrelevant and useless that it’s little wonder more of them don’t abandon it (the system, not to be confused with the learning process) altogether. However, while there is certainly a marked difference in the way today’s students learn, there are certain markers in their behavior that have never changed. Students have always been more focused on the whole than the individual pieces. They are, after all, a whole child and they quickly and readily integrate the various puzzle pieces that is their life into a great tapestry that, more often than not, adults try to separate, segment, and isolate (Dewey, 1902/1966). The question, then, is what do we do moving forward?

For starters, it becomes clear that there must be clear alignment between what our students are learning and the world they live in. This could, effectually, be boiled down to the age-old question: “When will I ever use this?” There is little doubt that the world our students live in and the rooms they occupy during the time that is known as school are worlds apart, both in content and in form/structure. Where Standard II dealt with the physical learning spaces, Standard III ensures that technology facilitators are proficient in dealing with the actual curricula students are presented and asked to master. Thus, the “big question” of Standard III is essentially, “What are we teaching them?” Henry Jenkins argues, for example, that the influx of new technology does not mean we are pushing out everything that is not digital. On the contrary, he argues that textual literacy is of utmost importance if students are to be able to fluently participate in today’s society (2009). Many seem to think technology is the magic pill that, by simply adding to existing learning structures, will act as a cure-all. However, this is patently false. Technology must be aligned with existing structures and curricula to provide media-rich environments and new ways for students learn, particularly as the rest of the world, including business leaders, parents, government officials, and even parents are concerned that students are not being prepared for the world they will soon inherit (Williamson & Redish, 2009). Thus is the role of the technology facilitator according to Standard III.

Standard IV: Assessment and Evaluation

The now-infamous law known as No Child Left Behind set forth two key requirements in the area of accountability in that every state must now set standards for grade-level achievement as well as develop a system that will measure each student as well as each subgroup/demographic according to those standards (Paige, 2004). This has direct implications on Standard IV which delineates the knowledge and proficiency of a technology facilitator in the area of assessment and evaluation. This standard predominantly involves the development and execution of varied methods for assessment and evaluation, including technology-based tools.
This area has the most potential, assuming those at the highest levels of educational policy development are willing to listen to professionals in the field as well as what the most current research states. For example, there is essentially no research in existence that points to a single-modality, multiple-choice, paper-based exam as the best or most effective way to assess the learning of students. However, as John Schacter notes in a report that even pre-dates No Child Left Behind, students in “technology rich” environments as well as students with special needs in similar environments all saw marked increases in achievement beginning as early as preschool and continuing through higher education (Schacter, 1999). Why, then, are we as facilitators charged with the task of finding new and innovative ways to assess and evaluate student learning when all that is valid or credible at the state and federal level is a paper-based, multiple-choice test that, if we’re honest, is more based on fact-regurgitation than application, synthesis, or evaluation? However, it does appear as though there are a number of technology-assisted assessments that are be developed and may even begin to constitute evaluation beyond just that of “choose the best answer” (Williamson & Redish, 2009). Imagine a testing environment where some students are playing games, others are building a model of a historical object, others are developing a comprehensive report and presentation, and yet others are creating a multimedia presentation to serve as a cumulative portfolio of their learning. This is what is expected of instruction and it won’t be long before this is the realm we find ourselves in when it comes to testing, assessment, and evaluation. If our instruction should match the individual learning needs of students (differentiation, universal design for learning), shouldn’t our assessment of their learning?


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