Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Are Grades Necessary?

           Grades hold students accountable for their work. Grades are what motivate them to complete their work, turn it in on time, and study for tests and quizzes. But this was not the original purpose of grades. Originally grades were meant to serve as feedback to students about their progress. A C on a math test meant You do not completely understand the material, but your are approaching understanding. But things have changed. Now, grades are the final product students are working towards. Students have become more concerned with their grades rather than truly understanding the material. This is evident by the questions they ask: How many points is this worth? and Are we turning this is? But the focus should be on the learning. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. How do we hold students accountable for their learning without giving them grades? A shortened video of Dan Pink speaking on this issue can be found here:

My Reflection on Visiting a Class that Used ipads

           Recently I visited a local high school that has integrated ipads into their math curriculum. The ipads are used as sketch pads for students to work on sample problems during class.  When it is time to review solutions, the teacher projects student work onto a screen for the whole class to analyze. This system allowed for an environment where student work is the main focus, rather than the teacher’s solution. I believe focusing on student work allows students to have a more active role in their education. When students feel responsible for their own education, they will be prompted to learn.

            The ipads are also used to take practice tests at the end of each unit. Students have unlimited opportunities to take the practice tests and they get credit for their highest score. This is good practice for students and gives them an idea of how they will do on the test.  If students do poorly on the practice test, they can assume they will do poorly on the final test. If this is the case, they will be more motivated to study for the final test.

            This school was able to integrate technology into the curriculum because the staff was willing to work with one another to make it possible. Two of the math teachers worked together to apply for a grant that could purchase several classroom sets of ipads. The staff also worked with one another to develop the practice tests for each unit. This was a very tedious task since there needed to be multiple versions of each practice test.  But the staff was motivated to the task and was able to get it done.

            My visit to this high school showed me how technology can be used effectively to advance student learning. This is the direction public education is heading.  I also realized it is how technology is used that makes a difference. Having ipads in the classroom will do no good unless they are used in a way that benefits the students. Educators must put a lot of thought into how technology is used within the classroom.