Categories
Business

A Better Alternative To Grading Student Writing

This is a quick post that just occurred to me while writing about–well, writing about writing.

I was brainstorming ways to use technology to help students improve their writing and realized that over and over again, I was thinking about the process of writing and how crucial it is to quality of whatever the writer is left with at the end.

Great writing starts at the beginning, whether with an idea or need or purpose of social context or spark of inspiration. Whatever it is that ’causes’ the writing to begin–what’s wrought there at the beginning is kind of like a lump of clay. Without that clay, not much could happen and the quality of that clay matters; its texture and purity and consistency and overall makeup has a lot to say about what it’s able to produce. In large part, what you’re able to create with that clay depends on the quality and quantity of that clay.

The Purpose Of The Writing Process

Put another way, the writing process itself is everything. It doesn’t have to be used the same way every time and that’s another conversation for another day and I only mention it briefly because the worst thing you can do is read this post and then go shove the ‘diligence of the writing process’ down the throats of would-be writers/students who only need to believe they can write and then they opportunity to do so with in the company of nurturing.

All this leads me to the title. Instead of grading the end result of that process (the finished process), grade the quality of that student’s use of the writing process–ideally based on their specific strengths and weaknesses and the purpose and audience of the writing assignment itself.

Using The Writing Process

Using the writing process takes years of practice because producing great writing takes constant vision and refinement. It requires the writer to understand what they’re trying to say and then say it in a way that produces some effect on the world. Research, idea organization, paragraph structure, sentence instruction, diction, punctuation, rule-breaking, tone, literary devices–using these ideas to communicate complex ideas is hard work.

That’s why writing is less of an activity and more of a process not unlike the scientific process. While we might for professionals, it wouldn’t make much sense to grade children doing science by the accuracy of their data. Rather, their ability and tendency to use the scientific process to test theories and collect data would be far more important.

For amateurs in many fields, the process is far more important than the product.

If these goals (or those like them) are at least partly true, then a viable alternative to grading student writing is to grade if the student writes and how the student uses the writing process itself in a way that makes sense to them.

And in a way that shows ownership of that writing process that will endure long after they’ve left your classroom.

Categories
Business

It’s Time To Think Differently About Writing In The Classroom

Among the biggest changes of modern academic standards is the shift in the burden of general literacy. Rather than only ‘writing teachers,’ teaching reading and writing, now all teachers across all content areas are being asked to do so (something we’ve talked about before).

In the past, literacy—the ability to read, write, and understand—has been the domain of the English-Language Arts teachers (and elsewhere in the world, Literature and Composition teachers).

Limiting the craft of writing to a single content area has altered the landscape of students’ minds in ways that are only now being revealed as math teachers are told to teach writing. Students are now used to flinging rudimentary understandings on exit slips in broken sentence fragments, taking notes that neatly curate other people’s ideas, and otherwise ducking the responsibility to craft compelling arguments that synthesize multiple perspectives on a daily basis.

So we—English-Language Arts teachers—respond by handing them fill-in-the-blank graphic organizers that coax them to give reason 1 reason 2 and reason 3 in clear sentences that shun complexity or intellectual endurance, provided their ‘writing’ adheres to an expected form.

And handing those same graphic organizers out when other content area teachers ask for resources.

Now, generations later, the idea of writing about math or science seems not just challenging, but forced and awkward. Science and Math, properly taught, are more akin to philosophies and ways of making sense of the world than “content areas,” offering an infinite number of prompts to spur students to write.

This is the 21st-century, and 21st-century thinking is different.

While it is full of connectivity and collaboration and stunning possibility, the 21st-century learning era is one of infatuation with image, visual spectacle, flashing alerts, endlessly accessible whimsy, and cognitively stunted communication patterns.

And in capable response, writing could be the answer we’ve been looking for, right beneath our noses the whole time.

Categories
Business

Back To School Social-Emotional Basics: Relationship, Rhythm, Release

As our elementary students head back to school in person, in this very new way, there will be many emotions stirred up in them. Alarm. Frustration. Worry. Excitement. 

And this will be mirrored by what we, as adults, may also be experiencing. For our teachers, on top of what they will be emotionally experiencing themselves, they are being called to be the caring leaders that guide our students to a place where they can learn together.

This is going to be a challenging dance. Our teachers are true change makers. They are providers and they are leaders and this period in history is going to shine a light on their vital role in our children’s emotional health.

So, how can we support them to support our children’s learning? As parents and school administrators, we can relax about the ‘learning’ and trust it will come. Schools are going to need to change the focus right now to concentrating on the emotional basics before academic basics. Teachers teach people, not subjects. And when they can focus on supporting well-being first, the learning may then have an opportunity to land. 

Let’s take a closer look at the 3 R’s of emotional basics:

Relationship

What our students need from us is..us. They need to know we are there for them, and that they matter. It’s not so much about what we say—it’s about how we make them feel in our presence: invited, accepted, and seen. 

During this emotionally turbulent time, we will need to make conscious invitations into relationship so that our students can feel connected to us. This might mean special greeting rituals at the beginning of each day and more playful activities in which we join in. These attachment practices can help our students to feel connected to us, which may also lower their anxiety. 

Rhythm

Children crave rhythm.

Consistent routines, rituals, and structures help children feel safe. They can lean on these and rely on them. Yet most children are experiencing the exact opposite right now. And as they look to returning to school, they may have little to no sense of what the ‘new normal’ will be.  We can create a sense of safety by quickly establishing new routines that our students can count on and orient around. This will help to produce a rhythm to their days and can offer a sense of predictability in these unpredictable times.

Release

Our students’ emotions will be stirred up. And we know that when emotions get stirred up, they need somewhere to go. Finding healthy ways to pre-emptively channel this emotional energy for our students can help to alleviate dangerous or disruptive eruptions. Integrating daily outlets for release can be especially helpful for supporting students to get out frustration before it leads to outbursts of aggression.

These outlets can also help students to reflect on and express their feelings in ways that don’t make them feel self-conscious. The beauty of this practice is that we don’t even have to know what is specifically going on for a child. We are simply facilitating a way for the emotion to be expressed and released indirectly in a natural way—whether through music, physical movement, stories or storytelling, writing, poetry, drama, art, or even simply being outdoors. All of these outlets are powerful because they help us come closer to our feelings and to experiencing a sense of release and emotional rest.

Going back to school during this time will not be easy. We will need to be creative and think outside the box. We may need to stretch muscles we never knew we had. But it may be helpful to remember that this is not a time to focus on outcome and performance, or getting ahead or even catching up. Shifting our attention to matters of the heart will help our students feel safe. This is what will set the stage for learning to happen – when children are ready.

In the meantime, let’s be patient with our students and ourselves. We are all in this together.

Categories
Business

Creating Students Who Solve Problems

Massa tempor nec feugiat nisl pretium. Egestas fringilla phasellus faucibus scelerisque eleifend donec. Porta nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget velit aliquet. Neque volutpat ac tincidunt vitae semper quis lectus. Turpis in eu mi bibendum neque egestas congue quisque. Sed elementum tempus egestas sed…

The next time you are teaching a lesson, count how many questions students are asked.

When students are herded and corralled into the narrow chute of standardized testing, they are so heavily indoctrinated with fear of failure that only a fool would dare venture off the beaten path. We are, after all, talking about young people, and can hardly expect them to rebel against it (considering this may make you rethink those students who actually do). The consequences of straying are so fierce: the promise of no job; the shame of failure; the ire of the school. It is no wonder then that students are afraid to take risks and think for themselves, and why inevitably so many unnecessary questions are asked.

To add insult to injury, when governments decide in their wisdom that the solution to ensuring progress in education is to standardize testing even more, they force schools to constrict curricula further. They reduce the opportunities to explore creativity in subjects. They trim a course down to its quantitative shell, and by doing so reduce a student’s opportunities to develop problem-solving strategies. Essentially, they force schools to produce hydroponic students.

Teaching Students In Authentic Contexts

Whilst using hydroponics to grow fruit and vegetables seems like the golden ticket to solving the world’s food problems, the method, while yielding ostensibly larger and faster produce, is significantly flawed in three ways: first, the final product lacks real nutrient and substance, and ultimately taste.

Secondly, the plant itself grows in a very unnatural and toxic state, absorbing inordinate quantities of chemicals and pesticides to control it at every turn, which must affect its overall enjoyment in growing, and thirdly, once the plant is gone and the process is over, it leaves no positive legacy – in fact, it depletes the ground around it. When students are taught in unnatural conditions, with the sole purpose of producing quantifiable results, they too suffer in three similar ways:

First, when they finish their education with a whole lot of credentials, (if they have managed to get through the system), they may lack any real depth of knowledge and any ability to problem solve. This is because the learning has been too shallow, only concentrating on aspects of a course that need to be learned for standardized testing. Like the roots of the hydroponic plant, the brain’s synapses aren’t encouraged to expand and strengthen because there isn’t any opportunity or need to do so. The more prescriptive the learning, the less chance the student has to wander off the path, and get dirty, and find solutions to get out of the mud. Necessity is the mother of invention, but when students aren’t ever given such chances, they lose the capacity to think on their feet, and eventually, to think for themselves in most situations.

Secondly, if students are encased day after day in the confines of the school building, seated for extraordinary long periods of time in rows of desks, and ushered from class to lunch to class under the strict timings of bells, the process of distancing the young from their natural condition is well underway. If students are doused with pointless and irrelevant information disguised as learning, it is obvious that they won’t enjoy school.  

Teaching Curiosity

Even well-meaning teachers can fall foul to the system, themselves operating in fear of not covering the required territory. In fact, it’s an impossible feat to teach the amount of stipulated material of most subjects to any level of depth to the average class. To curb the natural inclination of students to disengage in such a learning context, schools superficially inoculate their students with countless tirades, warning against disengagement and punishing culprits in attempts to quell it. It is no wonder that students can feel that their paths in learning and growth have become stifled and one-directional and oppressed. It is no wonder they rarely if ever connect learning with happiness.

Thirdly, because of the shallowness of the learning required for standardized tests, and the lack of base in the knowledge creation, the transference of the learning into new contexts is limited. The process yields little reward after the examination period, and does little to sustain the learner, or indeed the community around him or her. The student raised in the hothouse of standardized testing struggles to think outside the box, to solve new problems and ultimately flourish and contribute to a rapidly changing 21st century world.

The emerging adult is certainly not going to bud and inspire the next generation, but instead depend upon and drain the world around it to keep it alive.

Categories
Business

The Long-Term Effects Of Remote Learning May Not Be All Bad

Because of COVID-19, school cafeterias, gyms, and playgrounds across the country sit silent.

Ungraded papers and textbooks collect dust, and halls that once rang with student laughter are empty. And in the hope that the pandemic does not squash the ability to learn and grow all together, educators are implementing an entirely new style of learning.

Suddenly, home is the new classroom. And instead of using a school bus, students use technologies like laptops, iPads, and digital platforms like Zoom and Schoology to come to their teachers.

On the one hand, this is an ideal time for an educational shift like this to happen. Had it occurred even a decade ago, academic systems might have collapsed under the weight of it all. But today’s children are tech-savvy, and they have an insatiable appetite for entertainment. If parents and teachers can train that appetite to include a diet of educational material, eLearning can feel natural and be effective at the same time.

There’s a potential benefit, too, in that many parents now have a chance to better and more fully understand their children’s education–what they’re being taught and how they’re doing in basic subjects. After going through all this, they might feel more confident taking the reins of education in their children’s lives. And as parents reclaim the role of teacher, at least to a degree, children might look again to their parents for direction and knowledge. 

But the shift has real challenges. Few educators were prepared for such a total transformation in such little time. And since it’s tough to be cast into a new setting with unfamiliar material, lots of students bristled at having to view existing instructional videos that didn’t match their current teachers’ methods and teaching styles. And for many parents, adding the title of ‘teacher’ just placed another layer of responsibility and commitment to the mess of managing COVID-19 survival.

We’ve yet to determine the full impact of all of these changes–the good and the bad. We also don’t know for sure how sustainable they truly are, especially when taken in the context of other social systems that have been in place for decades.

What is clear, however, is that students, parents, and educators are being shown alternatives to traditional one-size-fits-all forms of education–different approaches to learning. However, these changes might not work for everyone. For example, some students with disabilities who need more one-on-one assistance might do better if they continue in-person learning. But considering that parents and educators both have argued for years that different children need different things, seeing various forms of eLearning accepted and shoved to the forefront might encourage people to explore every option available to them, including more personalized, proficiency-based education, rather than merely accepting a default.

Ways The Coronavius/COVID-19 Have Indirectly Benefited Education

While making the change has been difficult, there are positives to eLearning, too: embracing it teaches students new and relevant technological skills, helps them learn how to take charge of their own education (since their teacher isn’t there to push them along) and allows them to discover new resources. And, perhaps most importantly, it removes the stress of trying to cram everything into 50-minute classes, allowing students to devote the time they need to an assignment before moving on.

Even if eLearning remains a secondary tool when compared to traditional education strategies, the COVID-19 crisis offers a rare glimpse into how implementing digital education more widely can supplement the work public school educators are already doing. For instance, if more students decide to learn online at home because that genuinely works best for them, teachers could see a drop in classroom size that allows them to provide traditional students with more individualized attention.

Students could also have significantly greater choice when it comes to which teacher or specialist they work with since they could use distance eLearning to connect with any educator in the nation or world. And, eLearning could mean that teachers can provide a greater sense of inclusion and permanence through the school year even for students who must routinely move, such as foster children or those in military families. 

Regardless of how everything shakes out, eLearning is our current reality. To make that reality as smooth and easy as possible for everyone, here are a couple of resources that anyone can use while the current pandemic keeps us all at home.

1. The Journal continually updates their list of eLearning tools that companies are providing free of charge while schools are closed which you can find here.

2. The US Department of Education has created a list of home activities provided by various federal agencies, including NASA and the Smithsonian which you can find here.

Conclusion

eLearning is happening now at an unprecedented level because we must use it.

But this won’t always be the case. In time, we will get to choose whether we want to use it. And so our job at this moment is to gather as much information and as many stories as we can and to recognize that education is always a work in progress.

The more diverse the academic system is, the freer and more effective we are, and the better our odds are of truly leaving no student behind.

Categories
Business

How Working from Home Is Transforming Learning

Massa tempor nec feugiat nisl pretium. Egestas fringilla phasellus faucibus scelerisque eleifend donec. Porta nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget velit aliquet. Neque volutpat ac tincidunt vitae semper quis lectus. Turpis in eu mi bibendum neque egestas congue quisque. Sed elementum tempus egestas sed…

Acquire global knowledge and build your professional skills. Turpis in eu mi bibendum neque egestas congue quisque. Sed elementum tempus egestas sed…

Massa tempor nec feugiat nisl pretium. Egestas fringilla phasellus faucibus scelerisque eleifend donec. Porta nibh venenatis cras sed felis eget velit aliquet. Neque volutpat ac tincidunt vitae semper quis lectus. Turpis in eu mi bibendum neque egestas congue quisque. Sed elementum tempus egestas sed…

Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laboruLorem ipsum dolor sit amet datat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laboruore Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendvelit esse molestie consequat, eu feugiat nulla…

Nam liber tempor cum soluta nobis eleifend option congue nihil imperdiet doming id quod mazim placerat facer possim assum. Typi non habent claritatem insitam; est usus legentis 

Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laboruLorem ipsum dolor sit amet datat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laboruore Duis autem vel eum iriure dolor in hendrerit in vulputate velit esse molestie consequat, vel illum dolore eu feugiat nulla…