"What you don't know can't hurt you." - Adapted from Petit Palace (1576) by G. Pettie
In healthcare, data is key. Doctors, nurses, and EMTs refer to certain data as "vitals". These "vitals" include body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, among others. The data collected and tracked is so important, even minor mistakes can result in the death of a patient.
In advertising, data (sometimes referred to as "analytics"), plays a key role in the success or failure of a campaign. Advertisers often perform A/B testing, which involves the publishing of multiple versions of an ad and studying how one version performs over another. Advertisers track brand awareness and conversion rates, frequency and view through, among many other data points.
On the web, analytic tools are readily available to track information on how content is performing. This data includes information, such as hits, page views, impressions, bounce rates, and engagement. When these statistics are analyzed, decisions are made as to the viability of a particular strategy.
Statistics have even crossed over into the art world. An artist, by the name of Chris Jordan, demonstrated his work at a TED conference in 2008 (https://goo.gl/xwjx3b). Chris uses photography to tell the incredible stories behind seemingly mundane sets of data, such as the number of paper cups used in the US or the number of imprisoned Americans.
With so many industries weighing the success and failure of their mission on data tracking, why do so many educators act as if statistics can hurt them?
Instead of tracking key statistics on performance, we distort and obscure our data into bewildering figures called "grades." These "grades" are seldomly actionable and do little to reflect mastery of content or skills.
One example of confusing grading, is the practice of averaging. If a student receives a F on an early assignment and works extremely hard to master the assessed concept or skill, even if he or she earns an A on a later assignment, the student's final grade is a C. Is a C clearly representative of the student's efforts or current level of understanding?
And so what if a student gets a C? What does that really tell us about a learner? Given a traditional bell curve, wouldn't a normal distribution of scores typically fall in the C-D range, anyway? What would we say about a teacher if 68% of his or her students had a C or a D?
Another issue is that students quickly learn how to "game" the system. They strategically pick and choose what assignments they focus on, based on weight, and turn in just enough work to receive a decent grade. I'll withhold my thoughts on extra credit for a future post.
So what alternatives do we have? One alternative to traditional grading may be the practice of standards-based grading, where students demonstrate and track the level to which they understand a specific concept or skill. Teachers and students can develop rubrics, which help provide a framework for improvement. More reflective and actionable discussions can take place and learners can get a better understanding of their areas of growth and in which skills and concepts they excel.
In Catlin Tucker's article, "3 Problems with Traditional Grades" (https://goo.gl/YCNU37), Catlin lays out her three arguments against traditional grading and proposed an alternative to conventional grades, which aims to provide students with more agency over how they assess their learning.
Are there other examples of alternatives to traditional grading you have used with your students? Let's continue this conversation in the comments section below, or via Twitter @techcoachz. Please be sure to tag your tweet with #PembertonInnovates, so we can learn from one another.
"Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow." — C. William Pollard
I stumbled upon the above quote, while reading "The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity" by George Couros, and immediately jotted it down for future reference.
So can I ask a question? When you read the words "jotted it down", in the last paragraph, what did you imagine in your mind? Did you picture me taking out a pen and a notepad or a Post-It note and writing the quote on it? Well, I can understand why you did so. But, that's not exactly what happened.
Truth be told: I took out my smartphone, opened an app called Trello, and attached a comment to a card titled, "The Innovator's Mindset." In fact, I'm using a similar process, at this exact moment, to draft this post. If you're not familiar with Trello, that's OK. I will cover it in more detail at a later date. I bring it up now to simply illustrate a point about learning and innovation.
I have discovered that, as a learner, I can be extremely disorganized. For example, when I write something down in a notebook, it is almost certain to be lost or forgotten. In fact, it is a small miracle that I managed to survive my elementary, secondary, and college years without the ability to efficiently organize my notes. And, yes. I was taught how to take notes, over and over again. Different methods, by different teachers -- none of it ever really sticking.
As I moved into the professional world, I realized a choice needed to be made. I could no longer stand by my prior successes (aka. miracles) and continue to waste time searching through pages in a notebook. I would have to find a new and better way to stay organized. I would need to innovate.
What is innovation?
In "The Innovator's Mindset," George Couros defines it "as a way of thinking that creates something new and better." He goes on to say, "Innovation can come from either 'invention' (something totally new) or 'iteration' (a change of something that already exists)."
While I had absolutely nothing to do with the creation of the Trello app, I recognized that this tool had the potential to keep me organized. This involved a change in thinking and a desire to do something in a new and better way. Fortunately for me, this method seems to be working, at least for now.
So how might we inspire our learners and ourselves to be more innovative? To think beyond what is known and traditionally available. To create something new and better. Something which truly embraces why we do what we do and acknowledges our individual learning and thinking styles.
Because what we did yesterday may never really be sufficient for the learners of tomorrow.
Trello - http://www.trello.com
The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity by George Couros: https://georgecouros.ca/blog/the-innovators-mindset-book
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West
People tend to be more reflective, this time of year, than any other. We pause, take inventory, and make judgment calls (both fairly and unfairly) as to whether or not we are leading the life we want.
Sometimes, what we see is distressing, leading to gym membership purchases, the downing of odd-flavored green smoothies, and the swearing away of all worldly possessions.
Other times, what we see is motivating. We take responsibility for our successes, our weaknesses, and our past failures. We look forward to investing time and energy on building daily habits, which we know will lead us to our desired results. We surround ourselves with people who wish to help us grow personally and professionally. And we embrace failure, because we understand it is the key to our success.
This year, I am forgoing the gym memberships and green smoothies to focus on building high-quality and sustainable daily habits. One of these habits is the creation of this space -- a blog.
The purpose of this blog is to highlight the innovative practices of educators, both near and far, while providing support and encouragement along the way.
I can guarantee you one thing: this will not be a perfect journey, in fact, it will probably resemble more of a train-wreck. I will make mistakes and I will write posts I will immediately want to take back -- but I won't. Instead, I will learn. I will grow. And I will do better the next time.
And I would urge you, my gracious reader, to do the same. Begin a daily habit of recognizing your mistakes, learning, and doing better. INNOVATE. Then, share your experiences with others.
Ask yourself: What would you rather be doing? Inspiring others to learn, to do better, and to be better OR drinking green smoothies?
Have you ever thought about not giving students a pencil, when they’ve neglected to bring one to class? What about textbooks? Or a 1:1 device? After all, they should be responsible enough to bring their own every day, right?
And if students forget their “pencils”, isn’t it a teacher’s role to teach responsibility? Accountability? To make them experience and feel the very real consequences of being unprepared for work? Or to a job interview?
Recently, a colleague approached me for my thoughts on an article distributed during a PLC meeting. She is a veteran middle school teacher and the article, a short blog post by Chad Donohue, was entitled “Give the Kid a Pencil”.
As I rapidly skimmed the printout, the author appeared to suggest educators should focus more on creating a “psychologically safe learning environment for students” than to withhold an allegorical “pencil”.
The cynical, middle school teacher expressed her inability to “buy into” the proposition. She firmly held onto a belief system of teaching responsibility through punishment and denounced the practice of teachers and districts purchasing pencils based on the cost.
So I asked the question: “What do you do if a student comes to class without a pencil?”
“Well,” she began proudly, “I deduct 5 points from their grade for being unprepared.”
“And if this student doesn’t care about a grade? What do you do then?” I asked.
“Well then,” she continued — now slightly frazzled, “I would find something the student cares about and take that away.”
I pressed on, “And if this student doesn’t care about anything or, better yet, never needed to communicate what he or she cared about with you? What would you do then?”
She was stumped. And silent.
We sat in that silence for what felt like hours, but was probably only a few seconds. She looked at me, confused and bewildered at how quickly I had turned the tables on this all-too-common power struggle.
Completely out of ideas and past practices, the teacher asked, “What would you do?”
I slowly and clearly replied, “I would not allow a pencil to become the hill I die on.”
We spoke for several minutes longer, discussing student motivation and basic human needs. I quoted the works of Abraham Maslow, John Medina, and Dan Pink, among others.
Ultimately, we agreed teaching responsibility can and should be part of what educators do; however, there are far more meaningful and empowering ways to accomplish this goal.
We expanded upon our hypothetical situation and developed ideas such as putting students in charge of pencil inventories and helping them to plan a fundraiser or pencil-drives if supplies run low.
I also walked away from this discussion thinking of the many hills on which educators choose to die. The ultimate effect being not the literal death of a teacher, but rather the complete and total destruction of a student’s motivation and passion for learning. In our world, I’m not sure which is worse.
I’d love to hear your thoughts regarding the hills on which educators choose to die. Please post your comments and keep this conversation going.