Friday, April 08, 2005

Yet another test

Our current educational structure revolves around testing - for good or for bad. When I was a student it was the all important SAT. Today's students (and teachers and parents) are concerned with EOGs (End of Grade Testing) as well as SATs and AP exams. Some say they "level" the playing field for acceptance to college, others argue that we are teaching our students to just be better test takers. Yet, another test has been created and will soon be implemented by the ETS (Educational Testing Service) - the Information and Communication Technology literacy assessment. As discussed in thie Wired article.

The test is an interesting progression from not only previous standardized tests. It is trying to assess "How does one go about finding the answers to a computer related problem?" not just find the answer itself.

The corporate world currently has several computer tests already implemented. One of which I was oh so fortunate to take when applying for work at a temp agency. It was an interactive test that would ask where I might find a particular menu item and then I was to click on it. Now, I am no memorization queen, but I can find something through a series of a deductions. Unfortunately, the HR test only gave me one chance and although I did well I was still disheartened by the experience.

It appears that the ETS test is more progressive than the HR test I discussed previously. It will be looking at how many steps and what search tools were used to find an answer. This provides a better insight into someone's technical ability than any assessment I can currently think of. I feel that that is a true marker of success in technology - understanding how to find the answer when you don't know something and not being afraid to try different approaches (see previous gamer post).

I am concerned about preparing our students for a world where computers and technology are commonplace. Yet, I am torn. Do we really want to implement another test? Just because it takes someone a while to get an answer - should that really matter if it is the right answer. Is technological literacy something we can really test and would we ever want to?

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Afraid of Red Ink

Run...Run...away - its the dreaded red ink?!?!

Schools are starting to BAN red ink. It apparently has too many negative connotations and parents are in an uproar. This is once again another example of parents believing that they are the authority on what is educational. Now I am the first to admit that I am 1)Currently without children (in school or otherwise) and 2) A parochial schooled individual. I believe that parental involvement in a child's education is of the utmost importance. Understanding what subjects they are struggling in, when their projects are due, what type of homework load is expected, what grades they are getting, etc.

I have worked in several different school that have had varying degrees of parental involvement - but the minute you believe that it is in the best interest of your child to go against a teacher or a school, you need to take a second look. Now, I am not naive enough to believe that there are no bad teachers, but you need to let teacher's teach. Undermining a teacher's authority is not making your child's life any easier. It is not helping them. I see more and more students on the college level not turn in assignments and then threaten to bring the professor in front of the dean for not passing them. They have a mindset that they can get out of anything, and not take responsibility for their actions. They have even had their parents call the college. I would be embarrassed at the age of 20 to need my parents to call my teacher.

The banning of red pens for god sake! What will be next, pencils are dangerous projectiles, the use of blue paint is too depressing or heaven forbid teacher's should be banned from wearing black because it makes them look too mean and old?!!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

It's no all

I feel quite introspective lately. I'm not sure what it is - I keep blaming it on the time change though :). I've been trying (like so many people) to figure out what my path is in life. I have always been on two ends of the philosophy spectrum - its either "make your own destiny" and plan to the hilt or "its the journey, not the destination" and go with the flow. So that means I'm permanently between a rock and a hard place - trying to plan and having it not work out and try and go with the flow.

I've read a few books that have added to my current stage of introspectiveness (or as my friends call it - "being in a funk") - the most influential of which is "The Dive from Clauseen's Pier." It was quite a moving novel, but it moved me in ways I'm not sure I can comprehend yet. It asks the question, "How much do we owe the people we love?" When do we have to choose between ourselves and our families, and in choosing one or the other are we in essence hurting both.

I have never made any excuses for the choices I have made in my life, and I have never considered them to be "sacrifices." I think the minute I consider it a sacrifice, it is a selfish choice and I am choosing to be a martyr - and I don't want to be that.

I guess what this is coming down to is that I am in my mid-twenties and am at a crossroads in my life. It may not seem like it to most, but I feel like I need to make some decisions instead of letting everything happen to me. I feel surrounded by friends that are living the life I want but am afraid to have. How can you want something so badly and when you finally get it - not want it anymore?

It all comes down to "What do I want to do with my life?" I been lucky in my life to happen upon good situations and have worked hard to live up to them. Yet, I need a direction, a goal that I am striving to achieve. Things are culminating and I need to make a decision and I feel I will be sacrificing something no matter what I do. I understand that we all make sacrifices in life, men as well as women, yet it doesn't make them any easier to make.

I guess I want it all; a career, a family, a house, a comfortable life. I'm not naive enough to think that I can have it all, I'm just having a hard time deciding what to sacrifice.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Video Gaming and Education

Well it all is becoming a full circle - and its freaking me out a little. I have been fortunate enough to have some of the strangest positions (including the one I am in now). Trust me, normal people don't have my resume - and although I think of it as a good thing, some people do not.

Besides all the internships (Wall Street - trust me I'll get into that later), odd summer jobs (tying strings on plastic pumpkins - don't ask) and well I won't go into any more. I essentially started my career as a High School teacher. I loved teaching high school, but circumstances beyond my control - i.e. my husband got a new job, moved me to Baltimore. I believe in the theory that "everything happens for a reason" and to go with the flow. So in our new city I decided to try private sector education. Now I did not want to end up teaching Microsoft Office the rest of my life, so I looked at unique small companies. Little did I know that Baltimore was a "hotbed" of software companies, specifically video game ones.

So I ended up working at a company that supported and tested video games and educational software. We also dabbled in other software/hardware companies, i.e. pretty much anyone that would pay us, but I essential taught people how to fix computers and play video games.
(Don't ask me why I left :)

Now, this becomes full circle thanks to Tim Wilson and David Warlick who have both written about the video game generation recently. So my quirky background is actually going to do me some good!

If none of you have ever played video games, and I mean real video games (Solitaire does not count) you should really check their links out. We talk a good deal about the computer generation, but video games is an entirely different beast. And its not just the terminology, it is how they go about everything they do. I had to learn to move beyond the - "What server on Everquest do you play on?" and understand the roleplaying nature and flow of these games.

The biggest similarity that all video games have in common is trial and error. They are not afraid of failing - as long as they can try again. And yet we as teachers are so afraid of them failing and not getting it right on the first try. When do we ever in any workplace get anything right the first time! They are willing to take chance and push boundaries, yet I see us putting up fences and directing them.

The company I worked for had such a different emagalmation of employees, some that were good students, so that were not. Yet, their commonality was not just a passion for video games, but one for problem solving. I learned early on that they need to "play" with the program. To make it fail and see why it happened. I could give them guidelines or parameters, but every "failure" was going to be different. They had a drive to see why things worked the way they did and an inherent need to fix a problem.

Anyways, I think problem solving, creative thinking, and having a hypothesis that may turn out to be wrong, are all things we shouldn't be afraid of having our students explore.

When did we get so scared of the unknown?