Wednesday, October 6, 2010

g.a.m.e. update 10/6/10

Today, student discipline referrals marked another setback for using personal technology in the classroom. Students in two different classes used their phones to take photos of their tests and sent them to other students who had not yet taken the tests. To make matters worse, the students who received the pictures chose to hold a loud public conversation about the test in the hallway where it was overheard by the teacher who was giving the test.

Several students spent a large part of the day in the office as principals dealt with the matter. It will mean many hours of parent meetings and phone calls, as well as the time lost in dealing with those students in making up the work missed from their time in the office. One principal commented to me in passing "are you sure you want them to use their electronics for class?" indicating "I told you so" about my inquiries into possible changes in policy.

On a more positive note, I have created a couple of resources for students that help them self assess their behavior and participation. One resource is a bulletin board and handout combination that includes the types of questions that I want students asking themselves on a regular basis. These include questions like "am I on schedule?", "am I on task?", and "do I understand *why* my answer is incorrect?" It is not a perfect solution, but it underlines many of the classroom expectations and provides a starting point for some much-needed frank discussions.

The second resource is a paper dialogue based on the Responsible Thinking Process (RTP). For the last 3 years, we have worked to implement an RTP system throughout our high school, providing students and teachers a graceful way to get out of conflict situations. However, due to a long story involving the say the State counts particular discipline data, we have been told that we cannot keep the system in place. I made the determination that I would keep the better parts of the system for use in my room, even if the building-wide system was no longer running.


  1. Andrew,
    Unfortunately, it is very diffficult to instill a value in students, such as "honesty". It has been referenced in previous classes throughout our Walden experience that the positive sides of technology far outweigh the negatives. You summarized an occurrence above about how students are using their technology in a negative way. In my opinion, the best method to solve this problem is to be aware of the negatives, and format your class in a way that impedes cheating. Create multiple versions of the same test. Create open-ended questions that require students to write their responses. I have even had students write a response to a question that must include 5 vocabulary words.
    I know this method/strategy is probably going to make grading the tests more time consuming, but it will ensure students are applying the content to the test in an authentic way that will prevent cheating from occurring. One colleague of mine actually posts her tests on her wiki page before teaching the content for everyone to see. Students learn the content more when they are aware of what they will be tested on as well.
    Best of luck!

  2. Andrew,
    I think that it is time schools inform students of misuse of technology consequences in when school begins. Cheating is not new in the education system, but students are adapting to the ever changing world. I believe that schools need to have a strict policies when it comes to cheating such as students receive zero credit and suspension/in school suspension/community service.

    If tests or answers are shared both parties are at fault, therefore both parties will have the same consequences. This is a policy my school follows, and I believe that it is a good idea that all parties involved receive the same consequence. This may deter some students from cheating. In your case anyone who had a copy of the test or discussing the answers to the test would ALL be in violation of cheating.

    I do not feel that this misuse of technology should have a negative impact on technology within the classroom. If that were the case then copy machines should also be restricted because I have seen printed copies of tests acquired by students circulate campuses. Pencils, pens, and paper are also tools students use to write answers from tests to share amongst their friends. And when I was in high school, I remember asking friends to tell me what questions they remember were on a tests, so maybe we need to quarantine students after taking tests because they can recall test questions and share with others.

    Do you feel that your colleague's students only searches the answers to the test instead of trying to understand the content for what it is? Or does your colleague give his/her student's objectives to answer? I give my students objectives before content is covered and ask them to explain the objective and give meaningful examples of the objective to show me their level of comprehension of the objective, which I do before an assessment.


  3. Jean-Marie-

    I love your comments! I will probably quote you in my upcoming discussions with administration. You are quite right- we should get rid of copiers, pencils, paper, and other tools for cheating, and all students need to be quarantined for at least 48 hours after exposure to a test. Of course, all of those suggestions are absurd, but so is the suggestion that we forbid all personal electronics. Devices like those have become so commonplace that we need to learn to live with them instead of fighting them.

    In answer to your questions, I am quite certain that the students were merely after answers rather than trying to better understand the material. True understanding is difficult, whereas committing a few bits of data to short-term memory can easily be accomplished without effort. This removes all sorts of unnecessary tasks from students' schedules: homework, studying, reading, tutoring, study/work groups, etc. That leaves far more time for the important things! (sound of irony dripping!)

    It is difficult some days to keep from being pessimistic and negative about students. Just like water running downhill, they are seeking the path of least resistance. And, just like the water, they are only looking at the short-term gains rather than the long-term benefits. Water really isn't planning to join the ocean some day, but it probably will if given enough time.

  4. Josh-

    Your description of effective testing is spot-on. We need test questions that activate higher-order thinking and require personal investment. However, recent State mandates about data collection have caused our administration to demand scan-able assessments, reducing many of our tests to multiple choice format. Otherwise, the investment of time on the part of the teachers is immense- we have to collect detailed data on success and failure for every objective, and each chapter in math covers as many as 12 State Standards!

    Sadly, this is another swing of the pendulum and we have not yet gotten to the far reach of this swing. I suspect we're getting closer, but it will be three or four years until the pendulum is swinging the other direction. It is also worth noting that our district is collecting aggregate data per teacher, not longitudinal data per student. Interesting.