Saturday, July 8, 2017

MOOCS: A Problematic Solution to the Disinvestment in Public Higher Education

I agree wholeheartedly with Bady’s cynicism of the speed, inevitability, and necessity of the MOOC movement. From 2011-2015 I directed a national pilot program funded by the Gates Foundation. The program focused on integrating civic engagement and course-based peer mentoring into developmental English and math courses to increase community college students’ sense of belonging and increase retention. At Gates gatherings attended by grantees in the field of developmental/remedial education at the community college level, Gates-organized presentations (sometimes co-presented with the for profit business execs from Udacity and Coursera) centered on the revolution that online education and MOOCs specifically would bring to higher education so that the traditional place-based concept of education might no longer be relevant. The Gates Foundation’s language echoed that which Bady is skeptical of: the MOOC is “a behemoth force reshaping the face of higher education.” According to leadership at The Gates Foundation, the pace at which this change was to happen required the foundation to switch funding priorities and abandon any consideration of continued funding to its grantees, none of which were focused on MOOCs or online education. The program I directed aimed at making learning more collaborative and relevant to students’ lives was one of the casualties. Meanwhile, the neoliberal MOOC driven by what Bady described as “a desire to liberate and empower the individual, breaking apart actually-existing academic communities and refocusing on the individual’s acquisition of knowledge” would take center stage.

None of us Gates grantees were consulted during the foundation’s decision-making process that resulted in a complete change in their priorities. Entire books could be written about the problems with the foundation’s approach to education funding in the US both at the secondary and post-secondary educational levels. But I tell this story to highlight the practical impacts on students’ lives of the push to turn MOOC’s into credit bearing courses. Gates was able to drive funding away from collaborative, people-oriented interventions that supported developmental students in favor of pushing a pedagogy of individual gains through knowledge transfer via MOOC lectures.

For me, atop the list of reasons the change in funding priorities was so problematic was exactly the point that Bady eventually gets to: MOOCs are a poor solution for reaching vulnerable communities including the developmental students my program sought to support. He writes, “…If you want to use it to make educational resources available to underserved and underprivileged communities—which has been the historical mission of public education—MOOCs are a really poor way to do that. Historically, public systems like California’s provided high quality education to citizens of the state who could not have gotten the equivalent anywhere else. MOOCs promise to see to it that what the public universities are able to provide is not, in every sense, the equivalent of what rich people’s kids get.” Bady criticizes the MOOC delivery system for the way it caters to students’ short attention spans through bite-sized nuggets of knowledge transferred through lectures by prestigious professors. Not a pedagogy that has demonstrated success particularly with vulnerable students.

Bady makes the argument that with Harvard’s name behind the innovation the technology is "self-evident" and questioning the MOOC moment or the reasons for its existence is slowing down an inevitable force. (As an aside, it also so happens that The Gates Foundation’s support of the MOOC movement furthered its legitimacy.) He juxtaposes the two “origin stories” of the MOOC – one of a professor choosing to transition to the MOOC world to meet the needs of students "begging to be educated by a Stanford professor and Google" and another of a business executive continuing his business idea. He argues that the latter better describes the context since business interests not education drive the movement.

While I’m not as up on the trends in higher education as I used to be, I haven’t seen MOOCs become the dominant presence that the business execs claimed was inevitable. Bady writes that the MOOC moment “seems to me like a speculative bubble, a product which is being pumped up and overvalued by pro-business legislators, overzealous administrators, and by a lot of hot air in the media.”

In summary, Bady tells a story of business benefiting from disinvestment in public education that results in students not being able to access the courses they need. Business execs swoop in to save the day by dreaming up a cheap fix -chairless classes – MOOCs for college credit. This “solution” takes a turn away from the original intention of the MOOC to democratize education. Instead it maintains the status quo, diminishes the need to hire faculty, and devalues real student engagement while making no claim about MOOCs’ educational value. When the disinvestment in public education means that a cheap fix appears to be the only tenable way out (rather than fighting to reinvest in meaningful public education), MOOCs win regardless of their effectiveness.  

Here are some questions to consider as you respond:
1.   Have you ever taken a MOOC or online course? If so, does your experience jibe with Bady's assessment?
2.     Do you agree with Bady’s overarching arguments about the problems with MOOCs and his ideological critique of the drivers behind the development of MOOCs?
3.     Since many of you in this class are in K-12 settings rather than in higher ed, have you seen any aspects of the MOOC or online learning brought to the K-12 system? Can you imagine any benefits of bringing the MOOC/online learning to the K-12 setting?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Interpretive Potential

Tufte discusses the use of Powerpoint in education, corporations and government bureaucracies, making the claim that it favors format over content, commercializes learning, and harms visual reasoning.  He also makes the argument that if the content and quality of the presentation is lacking, then no themes, colors, or images are going to change that fact. He states,“Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure.” While I do agree that, of course, content and quality should be the main focus of the presentation, I also feel that people generally gravitate toward things that are pleasing to their vision. That is why we have the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover, something I find myself quite often doing. I think Powerpoint could be useful in certain settings where both the content and layout is fully developed. However, I have yet to be successful with this in my own classroom. I used Powerpoint in my classroom once last year for a project on the Holocaust. Students had to research an assigned topic and create a presentation where they provided information on the topic as well as used visuals. This year was the first year I had done it and I already know I won’t be doing it again next year. I noticed that students like working with Powerpoint so they obsess over the images, colors, and transitions for the presentation, spending little time focusing on the actual content. When it came time to present the information, it resulted in a boring reading of the information on the slides.

Another idea that I found interesting from his article was when Tufte brings up the use of visuals in Powerpoints and how the data is ultimately useless when it is not side by side, able to be compared. In Tufte’s words, they are filled with “the encoded legends, the meaningless color, the logo-type branding. They are uncomparative, indifferent to content and evidence, and so data-starved as to be almost pointless.” When reading this, I couldn’t help but think what Drucker would have to say about this. Without a doubt, she would agree with the Tufte’s dislike of the linear format of the presentation.

In her chapter, Drucker focuses on interpretive activity, discussing how “innovations in graphic conventions have arisen to support the scholarly activity” but also points out that little has been done when it comes to “imaginative writing practices (182).” Despite this fact, she does believe that the few examples that have arisen indicate that there is much possibility there. She also points out that there have been some great examples of artists and writers that have used visual and spatial writing but that these examples failed to reshape writing conventions that have been in place for far too long. While we use schematic and visual approaches to outline and prepare, the actual composition is generally still linear and traditional. Because of this, we are not giving the composition its full interpretive potential. When thinking about interpretive acts when composition is not done in the traditional sense, Drucker states, “Where and when interpretive acts takes place in the click trail and movement through and across different modalities of display is a pressing question when screen spaces, computational capacities, and constellationary argument and a diagrammatic approach to composition also include the synthesis of many voices, authors, contributions with and without attribution (185).” When so many other factors are put into place, the amount of interpretation that can be done greatly increases. In fact, the amount of interpretive lines that can be drawn are ultimately limitless. In this sense, reading cannot be viewed as just “an act of recovering truth” (191).

After reading both texts, I was left with the following questions:
-Do you think that Drucker would agree with Tufte that Powerpoint is evil?
-How do you feel about the use of Powerpoint in the classroom?
-Do you have any success stories with Powerpoint?
-Is there a way to use Powerpoint to create the kind of nonlinear, collaborative, and visual composition that Drucker talks about?
-Which do you think is true when Drucker asks, “Will we think differently because of the ways interpretation takes shape across networked contingencies. Or are these material conditions producing us as new subjects of a distributed imagination” (191)?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Third Era

Over the past few weeks, many of us have expressed discontent with the limitations that we feel imposed upon us by external forces: departments, districts, state laws, federal mandates. I’ve found hearing from others who share some of my concerns to be a professionally beneficial experience, and I feel as though what I’ve taken from this class has prepared me to shift my pedagogy in a direction that will help my students engage with digital writing in a meaningful way. This week’s reading however, opened a more fundamental question for me, one that is perhaps a bit frightening to engage with: can our current system be adapted to keep up with a rapidly changing world, or is the system itself so rooted in an obsolete way of operating that, despite the best efforts of hard-working teachers, it is incapable of being salvaged?
DeVoss suggests that we “may be entering a third era” for the American school system, an era “in which institutional, social, and technological innovations are leading people to ‘extended learning throughout life and over many venues.’” This era would be the next step in a chain that starts with the “apprenticeship era” of the colonial days and continues with the “universal schooling era,” rooted in the work of 19th-century reformers like Horace Mann which brought about the public schools we know today (143). Such a suggestion is radical—ask how closely your classroom resembles a blacksmith’s apprenticeship, and then try to imagine what a model for education that is as far removed from today’s classroom as today’s classroom is from an apprenticeship would even look like. Would there be a single teacher? Is there a teacher at all? How many students would there be? Would the students all be the same age? Is such a classroom even a physical space? Much of what DeVoss draws attention to in this chapter—that “digital environments…are typical ‘on’ 24/7/365” (146), that our “students are learning to think, to read, and to ask questions in networked environments (150), and that “school is just one node in a (potentially global) learning network that young people have the opportunity to inhabit” (148)—points to the basic fact that a school that operates under basic assumptions like timed periods/school days, a nine-month school year, or a physically constrained learning environment might not be capable of serving students who have grown up in a constantly and universally connected world.
In fact, not a single model that DeVoss cites in this chapter as an example of effective digital writing/learning is a traditional public school. The Science Leadership Academy, which has reimagined its pedagogical planning to focus specifically on “elements of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection” is an experimental and selective public magnet school (144). The Digital Youth Network is founded on the notion that “schools alone cannot be expected to provide full support for students as media creators” (144), and DeVoss herself emphasizes that the thing that “feels significantly different at this particular moment” is that the tools we’re discussing are “not primarily tools for institutions at all. They are tools for learners and writers, and as learners and writers begin to sue them across any areas of their lives outside of school, these tools will have a profound impact on the core business of life itself” (142).
I don’t want to undermine the impressive efforts, hard work, and good intentinos that teachers bring to the classroom. Nor do I want to ignore the fact that “not all students…have access” to the sorts of tools that this “third era” would be predicated on. At the same time, DeVoss’ concluding sentiment—that we should “guide and respond to our students’ writing even though technologies continue to change”—is a half-hearted and milquetoast response when seven pages earlier she was predicting a fundamental shift in what school is (150). I guess I’m wondering if we need to turn the sort of institutional skepticism that we’ve pointed at Google and Facebook over the past couple of weeks on the educational system, and not just the parts of it we dislike. It’s easy for us to blame that one vice principal, or the College Board, or MCAS, or any other aspect of our job that we feel limits us. It’s harder, though more effective, for us to make the small, individual changes that will actually improve our pedagogy, and we should all most certainly make those individual changes where we can. But it’s terrifying to wonder if whether the fundamental pillars that education as we know it today is built upon are beginning to crack.

To condense all of that into a more manageable list, I guess I’m wondering
  • Do you agree with DeVoss about “something being different” about this moment for education, or have changes occurred before?
  • If we are indeed entering a new era for education, what does it look like? What basic assumptions are we throwing out, and what new ideas are we bringing in?
  • What are the costs and challenges of that sort of radical shift?
  • Where will that change come from? Will it be built within existing institutions? Or is the model for education that we need so far removed from what we have that we must begin building it outside our existing schools?

Monday, June 26, 2017

All Knowledge Is Subjective

"What we do in the classroom in any given moment depends on what we think we are supposed to be doing- what the moment calls for and what seems to be the best way to meet that call. We might say, in other words, that how one plays the game depends on what game one thinks one is playing."
(First-Year Composition, 279)

I came across this quote last semester during Lauren's class, "The Teaching of Composition," and while I originally interpreted it specifically in relation to writing, I believe that this idea signifies the way in which we should approach all possible modes of communication. The quote is particularly applicable to the ideas that Drecker discusses in her chapter, "Interpreting Visualization." In this chapter, she discusses the origins of different visual representations over time, and through this focus, she asks us to consider the different factors which shape, influence, and restrict each mode of representation. Based on these rhetorical elements, she points to the subjectivity of any given "truth." She emphasizes this idea through her explanation of a "humanistic approach” to knowledge, an approach that is "centered in the experiential, subjective conditions of interpretation." (Drecker, 130) For example, she explains that while a visual comparison between males and females may seem like a basic enough representation, even the term "gender" is subjective since there are alternative views to what "gender" actually represents in the contemporary world. Similarly, Drecker states that "The link between statistical tables and bureaucratic administration is historical as well as cultural." (Drecker, 91) With this in mind, when interpreting statistical tables, the viewer must consider how the information displayed may be specifically interpreted through this bureaucratic viewpoint, and also, what interpretive factors may have been overlooked because of this particular lens. Such “innocent” representational factors often oversimplify the complexities within data (which is often done for specific purposes), and in turn, this simplification influences the way in which we perceive the information provided. Through this analysis, Drecker emphasizes a belief that all data representations must be chosen based on the rhetorical contexts from which they are created. Therefore, in order to understand “the game one thinks one is playing,” we must consider what the rules are, why the rules exist, how these rules co-exist, and how to make decisions based on these observations.

Similarly, the article by Gunther Kress highlights such complexities, but his analysis has a specific focus on the changes caused by the digital world. In his explanation, while the author once navigated the reader through the information provided in his text, in a digital world, it is instead the job of the reader to select information “by individuals to be transformed by them into knowledge to solve a problem in their life-world.” (Kress, 10) Before technology, information was mainly portrayed through words (dependent on time and a chronological display of information), but in the digital world, we rely more heavily on visual frameworks (which organize through use of space, combining all information into a single, non-sequential depiction). While Kress’ explanation helps to differentiate many interpretive differences in word-based versus visual representation, I do not completely agree with his analysis. He claims, “on the one hand there is a finite stock of words- vague, general, nearly empty of meaning; on the other hand there is an infinitely large potential of depictions- precise, specific, and full of meaning.” (Kress, 15-16) While I agree that yes, language is subjective, I do not believe that visual interpretations are necessarily more precise- especially since Drecker emphasizes the interpretive factors involved in such representations. While the freedom of reader navigation is beneficial in many ways, I also believe that the freedoms of individual interpretation may inevitably lead to greater confusion, not less. Kress emphasizes the rhetorical aspects of visual communication in relation to writing, but unlike him, I believe that both modes are applicable to his visual-based analysis. He claims, “each occasion of representation and communication now becomes one in which the issue of my relation to my audience has to be newly considered and settled on.” (Kress, 24) As we had discussed in class, the connections created by technology allow for more varied, specialized expertise and a more efficient global exchange of information. Therefore, whether we are using written or visual data, the rhetorical factors in both instances must always be assessed and taught in relation to the complexities of the modern world.

This discussion of interpretive knowledge highlights some key challenges and questions that we as teachers must consider in the 21st century. Yes, we need to teach our students how to properly assess and navigate across the digital void, but how? To what extent should we emphasize the rhetorical analysis of information, and should we focus moreso on the rhetorics within writing or within multimodal/visual interpretation? How often should we include multimodality in our assignments?  How much actual writing should be done throughout such assignments? What navigational strategies will students need in the future, and how can we help them become adaptive learners in this changing digital world? How can we ensure that students are thinking critically about the rhetorical factors embedded into any given set of data? How can we efficiently combine the basic rhetorical contexts of writing with the more complex modes of communication within a single classroom? Finally, how can we ourselves efficiently analyze the data in our field with consideration to each individual context? While I have indeed taken time in the past to consider the complexity of rhetoric in relation to the teaching of communication (mainly written communication), this week’s assigned readings offer a  thorough analysis which widened the scope of my understanding- and also unfortunately caused me to experience an existential crisis regarding the meaning of “truth” in the postmodern world. While I have always acknowledged/incorporated the complexities of language and communication into my teaching, I once again find myself with more questions than answers. Yes, it is clear that we need to incorporate these new digital and multimodal communicative tools, but how can we do so in an efficient, all-inclusive way that simultaneously aligns with the basic communicative standards of our composition classrooms?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Leadership and Technology

I’m writing this as I read Chapter 5 of BDWM, Professional Development for Digital Writing.

Teaching is the next step past learning something.  The book starts with these first four ‘diversity, skills, interests and access’ as to why teaching is more challenging. I agree with this broad subject list. I would like to address ‘interest’ and I think the rest of the chapter also teaches this. Interest is motivated students. A hard work disposition, means anyone could be a great student.
            The way to teach new technology is to teach leadership. “when technology changes or disappears, specific skills change. Investment in leadership lasts” (pg. 117). Their reason for this claim is to remember writing is social, and digital writing is direct access to communication and community. On pg. 116 she has three bullet pointed and research backed conclusions. In summary ‘change is long, and shared knowledge and working together creates the best result.’
            One way they suggest to create staff development is in school training, personal pursuit (college courses), and possibly my favorite weekend retreats.  I can understand the in-school training, like stay after on an early day or something. And of course, if the school will pay my tuition, or even bump up my salary for taking courses, I am all in on taking classes forever. But I don’t see where the money is coming from. I know that the U.S. Education System is in a bit of a flux at the moment.  And personally, after I work all week, I’m ready to disconnect with my friends and family.
(Any experience with professional development at your schools? Mandatory/ Voluntary, Paid/ Unpaid, Conferences in Hawaii?)  
            The last part of this section in the chapter covers “the richest conceptions of professional development for improved teaching and learning” (pg. 118) They break it down again into three bullet points and in summary; people are primary, pedagogy is the scaffolding, and leadership is taught by being interested. Disposition is something I am acutely aware of. For me to have a motivated disposition is one of the most important part in learning. Especially learning new technology which can be frustrating, or obsolete in a few months. A classroom full of students intimidates me, finding a way to engage all of my students. Learning how they learn. Being able to create an interesting class, that includes all my students. This fear I have closes out the introductory section I hope to find some confirmation in the upcoming sections.
            Pg. 119 “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn” quoted from Charlie Parker by Kevin Hodgson as he looked for a tag line for his blog. He interpreted this to “capture the concept that you have to live the world in order to understand it.” In essence, he means that as teachers we must continue to explore and experiment ourselves if we want to stay relevant and retain access to our students.  I have felt this way many times, and feared that I would lose touch as my existence remains in the classroom and not outside of it. I hope that I can learn from my students as much as I can continue to ‘live the world’ outside of it. At the moment, this seems to be a ‘no duh’ idea but when in the midst of the school year I am guessing it feels improbable.
            On Pg. 129 Selfe (2009) “describes four paths to integrate students into the culture of technology at school”.  The first is independent-study programs, where students who have skills and knowledge to do with current technology can help support or engage with technology projects for class credit. I hope that I will not have to create a separate independent-study program in order for my students to work with technology. But assign projects like the ones in this course as a part of the normal curriculum. The next two both work with volunteering of time in order to partake in training or support other students who need help with technology. The last is the same but paid for. I like these ideas but as I stated earlier I don’t know if schools can support these programs financially or if they could get enough committed volunteers to maintain them.  
            I believe this chapter concludes that we as teachers must include our students. Especially in the technology we use in our classrooms. By getting the students involved in planning, supporting, even teaching themselves we can empower our students to take more of an interest in the class. As they begin to become more involved they will also begin to grow in a professional development manner.  Leadership skills cross the boundaries of technology and infiltrate the culture and community of the school.  These changes will support their writing which in turn helps their thinking, learning, and communicating. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Weak Ties in Online Relationships

In 2008, my husband and I were visiting Seaside, Oregon for my birthday. One night, we met a colorful couple from Idaho, Nancy and Jessie, who were on their honeymoon. We hung out for a couple hours, and at the end of the night Nancy asked for my e-mail address. Thinking nothing of it, I scribbled my e-mail address on a piece of paper, fully expecting never to hear from them again. A few weeks later, I received an email from Nancy. We wrote back and forth a few times and eventually connected on Facebook. Earlier this week, Nancy posted a “happy 9th anniversary” post to Jessie, which made me realize that I have been “following” her on Facebook for NINE years. I should also mention that I don’t hoard Facebook friends either. I tend to declutter my feed nearly as often as I declutter my closet. But I’ve always held on to Nancy. Over the past nine years, I’ve enjoyed seeing pictures of her children and landscapes of Idaho. She has inspired me with her fitness journey and her career shift towards a personal trainer. She has liked and commented on my updates too, as we’ve continued this pen pal type of relationship.

Beginning this blog post with an anecdote feels appropriate since both Turkle and Rosen rely on heavily anecdotes to support their claims about the relationship between intimacy and technology. Turkle uses anecdotal evidence in the introduction to Alone Together to show how our expectations of intimacy have changed with new communication technology. She recalls the roommate who texted her roommate instead of knocking on her door because “that would be intrusive” (2), Ellen who Skypes with her grandmother while she answers her email (13-14), and  Randy’s disappointment that his sister, Nora, announced her engagement via mass e-mail (16). Similarly, in “Electronic Intimacy,” Christine Rosen draws on her relationship with a pen pal to support her argument that “we should permit ourselves a small lament for what we are leaving behind.”  We tell stories like these because many of us can remember a time before fast communication, when we connected with others more intimately through letters and phone calls. In David Crystal’s lecture “The Effect of New Technologies on English” (the video we watched during the first class) Crystal maintains that it is simply too early to notice the effects of technology on English. Likewise, we are still in the beginning stages of of these new communication technologies, so we are not quite aware of the lasting effects of these technologies on human relationships. However, we are aware that something is happening. We are gaining certain things and losing others, and we use anecdotes to discuss these changes.  Even those of us who embrace new technologies may feel like we are giving something up. Turkle points out, “As we instant-message, email, text, and Twitter, technology redraws the boundaries between intimacy and solitude” (11-12). She believes that it is in these online relationships that we find ourselves “alone together.”

It is through the lens of these readings that I critically examine my “friendship” with Nancy. Our relationship has added a certain value to my life, but I wouldn’t call it a friendship. If I ever found myself in her area, I probably wouldn’t ask her to meet up. Furthermore, I interact with her by applauding her highlights, but I am completely unaware of her low points. In this way, ours is an artificial friendship, similar to Turkle’s account of Ann who would consider a robot boyfriend because it involves less risk than a real boyfriend. My friendship with Nancy is easy since it doesn’t place any of the demands on my time and energy that characterize real friendships. If I didn’t get to know Nancy past that evening in the bar, I would have eventually forgotten about her altogether, and maybe that is how it was supposed to end. Christine Rosen echoes this sentiment as she concludes her anecdote: “That's life- or at least that is what the life of a friendship used to be. A closed door usually stayed closed forever.” I don’t want to close the door on my relationship with Nancy, but I am now questioning what Turkle would call my “weak ties” on social media, or “the bonds of acquaintance with people we may never meet” (13). I would definitely classify my relationship with Nancy as a “weak tie”, but this does not hamper my ability to have real friendships as well. Furthermore, I have plenty of weak ties offline, mostly with work acquaintances. Overall, these readings made me examine online relationships, and I am curious to hear your perspectives on how communicating with others online has affected our ability to connect with others.

A few questions to get started:
  • Did any weak ties come to mind as you read this introduction?
  • Turkle believes we do not prosper in these weak ties (13). Do you agree with her, or do these relationships with online acquaintances hold their own intrinsic value?
  • How does frequent online communication affect the ways students connect with each other in the classroom?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

More Standards and More Assessments

Following suit, my blog post is going to be mostly concerned with the assigned reading chapter in DeVoss' Because Digital Writing Matters. That being said, this chapter was, as I see it, a lot more informative in the way teachers can address the use of technology in class, especially when considering assessments or standards fit for the classroom and school. As DeVoss points out, this is a vital topic, as "there is no escaping the fact that the proliferation of new digital tools is happening concurrently with a strong national and state accountability movement that emphasizes standards and assessment as the centerpiece for educational reform" (89). 

In developing these standards, DeVoss mentions the names of many impressive organizations and their goals, but many of these groups are external to the school. While I agree that our students need to develop and practice twenty-first century skills that will open academic and career paths for them (I'm reminded of the video "A Vision of K-12 Students Today" I once saw - linked below), it really does come down to the individual school. For instance, there was a teacher in one of my last grad courses who worked at a school that purchased iPads for each of their students. Teachers at that school were expected to make use of these tools in their lessons so that students could practice twenty-first century skills and digital literacy. However, the school I work at would never be able to afford such an expense. If standards and assessments were created at the state or national level, is there a way to properly equipped each student with the necessary tools to meet those standards and succeed on assessments? Also, are we, as teachers, properly trained to educate these students in the ways of technology? I know of many teachers that still scoff at the idea of PowerPoint, having their notes for the day plastered on a projected Word document. The only kind of technology training that my school offers is an optional lecture or two during our last PD day.

My school has about 2,000 students and limited computer labs. This year, my school introduced the math and literacy tests i-Ready. This computer-based assessment was created to see if students are prepared to move on to the next level of math or English for the following year. Unfortunately, there were huge problems that should have been obvious from the start. First, the teachers were panicking because there was an immediate rush to reserve each of the computer labs. It got to the point where teachers were asking one another if students could use their classroom computer during certain periods to finish the assessment. The resources for this assessment were just not there. The other problem had to do with the students and their experience with computer-based assessments. You would assume that because this generation of students are generally exposed to technology more often than any other, that they would have little problem taking an online assessment, but the level of confusion and frustration was staggering. Many students had to schedule times to retake the exam after school with a personal proctor because they were caught cheating. Apparently, the temptation to open another tab and look up a word or passage was too much for some students - a temptation that they would not have felt had this been a paper-based test or if we had been given laptops programmed to only open certain tabs or websites.

When I hear "new standards and assessment" for anything, digital literacy included, I groan in despair of what administration expects of us with such limited resources.

On the opposite side, how can we do right by our students if we are not properly preparing them for the future? It is obvious that technology is becoming more and more of a needed aspect in careers and even lifestyles, and the skills associated with the use of technology are just as important. Making standards and seeing if these standards are being met through an assessment seems to make sense, at least on some level, if we are to make them, as Ribble and Bailey say, global citizens (97).

Also, just to slip this in there out of interest, how do people feel about Wikipedia? It allows a certain level of collaboration, but also runs the risk of becoming overrun by false information. Should we allow our students to rely on something so shaky for academic purposes?

MOOCS: A Problematic Solution to the Disinvestment in Public Higher Education

I agree wholeheartedly with Bady’s cynicism of the speed, inevitability, and necessity of the MOOC movement. From 2011-2015 I direct...