NetAccess is to Assessment as…
In a tedious seminar that had *no* net access, I went digging into my old documents and found this angry little gem. Based on the typos that ran through it, I must have typed it onto my iPod very late one night. It’s a far more strident than my public tone at school, and a bit closer to my heart. It’s very much a rant and not a policy paper, but after this week’s #edchat and Shelly’s great discussion about net access as a human right, I was thrilled to find it.
We’ve been looking at this cart of iPods, a bit unsure what we can really do with them in an ed context. So here’s my answer.
Take one batch of kids, however you like (advisory, section, whatever). Give them the iPods, the ability to add apps and unfettered net access – – AT ALL TIMES. During class, yes. For homework, yes. Tests, quizzes, YESYESYES. Do it for a month and track the scores.
If you find tests where iPod kids are, across the board, scoring loads better than their non-iPod classmates, then the test sucks. It’s not doing anything meaningful, because in the *same amount of time* these kids used a $150 chunk of modernity to provide everything the test was asking for. Awesome. Now you can write a new assessment working from assumption that all your students know everything on the first test. All those tricky questions that they couldn’t tackle unless they really knew the first batch of material are now fair game. Have fun!
Any assessments where the iPods doesn’t significantly change performance (pre/post) or break the grade patterns are worth examining. I’d wager those the kids are being asked to think, reason and assess and do the higher orderer processing that we’d like to see everywhere. Bring those assessments to the division and department heads. Use those tests to drive the refinement of assessment across the board.
What could it mean if the iPod users crater when compared to the non-users? Does the assessment look like it’s asking for simple data entry but is actually asking a deeper question? Certainly students are prone to finding the simplest possible interpretation of a problem and providing the first available answer. Rejigger the test, tweak your language. You’ve learned something important about how students read your tests. Don’t waste it.
Is there a supervision/engagement problem, so that a little toy is just a window out of the class? Web enabled classrooms are not friendly to desk jockeys.
With WiFi access the cost of an iPod is vanishingly small. Same for fantastic netbooks. Even an iPhone with data plan costs, at most, $2k/year. A year of private school runs 5 to 15 times that. Even in “free” public schools, the opportunity cost alone would make my economist father weep. What are we doing with these amazing kids, at one of the most adventurous and creative moments of their lives? We love to say that there’s far more to school experience than just a set of facts. Let’s prove it. Lets put the facts in their hands and see what happens to the school day.
No matter how it gets in their hands, net access can be an incredible diagnostic tool. Let them have it. Put it in place for a month and see what’s really going on in your classrooms.