Re: Assessment/Grading p.o.v.

Bob King (kingbx@HAMLET.UNCG.EDU)
Mon, 2 Sep 1996 10:41:37 -0400

On Mon, 2 Sep 1996, Marcy Bauman wrote:
> Bob, yes, I agree that things that we can barely dream are now
> possible. I'm a little worried about what "personalized education" might
> come to mean, though: my fear is that it will mean ultra-tracking
> because we have the ability to take any subject and break it into ever
> smaller discrete bits and recombine those bits into ultra-personalized
> multiple-choice tests . . . or that the fact that people can pursue
> degrees online and offsite may come to mean that some people never
> interact with others in a learning community at all.

Marcy, when we've talked about technology in my classes it's always
interesting to me that students worry a lot about the latter item -- the
loss of community -- but when I ask them to recount for me their wonderful
experiences of learning community (or any other sort of community for that
matter) prior to computers, the going gets tougher! In other words,
some of this worry is really about losing a kind of nostalgia for
something that never was anyway. I've usually been able to point out
that, via using CMC, they in fact know each other quite a bit better than
they would have in the good old days. In my own case, I made it all the
way through undergrad university w/o getting to know anyone, or they me,
because all I had to do was show up for class/lectures, take tests, and
write papers.

RE: ultra-personalized tracking. If each student has their own track, I'm
okay with that, I think. I basically think education in the new era has
about 4 big pieces: ability to read, ability to write, ability to find
information, ability to find other people to talk with. This is basically
about environmental/ecological design, a la Piaget or Frank Smith --
making sure that teachers get out of the way of students' learning to
read, write, find good stuff, and communicate with each other. Your
description of street hockey is exactly on target for what this could look
like in educational setttings, and in many places is beginning to look
that way in k-12 (actually more likely in k-5 or so).

> I think computers offer a powerful means of enacting those kinds
> of enterprises in the classroom . . . but we better start dreaming fast,
> because they also make writing tests a whole lot easier, too.

I agree, the new order has all sorts of potentials and our action for
better or worse will continue to be crucial. But, the personal model does
assist structurally with problems that have plagued reformers for decades
(i.e., woeful teacher/student ratios, lack of individualized instruction,
lack of channels for peer communication).

RE: street hockey. There is a good short film (I'll try to find the
title if you're interested) which is basically unnarrated footage of kids
arranging, playing, negotiating a very complex pick-up game of baseball
all by themselves and doing just fine thank you, then footage of a little
league game where some kids end up dejected, etc. as happens very easily.
The main difference being adult involvement in the latter, of course!
Again I think of Frank Smith's wonderful stuff about how good a thing it
is that we don't have to teach children to speak, because if we did it
might take us 16 years (about what it takes us now to get around to
thinking that kids finally, well *some* kids anyway, know how to write! :)
I think of "places" for kids to go, i.e, their own listservs and so on, as
being the equivalent of the street hockey game you describe so well.
They'll figure out how to write better if we give them some space to do
it, rather than insisting, like little league parents, we'll *teach* them!