Tests, electronics, inquiry?

I thought about @bgrasley’s post and some of the comments on his post all the way to school and decided to write this one.

To test or not to test.  To me this is your choice, if you want to test go for it.  If you don’t want to then find suitable alternative ways to evaluate your students’ learning.  Yes we have to put grades/marks on our students’ report cards but is a test the only way we can do this or can we find rich meaningful ways that we can also do it?  Can we give them critical thinking tasks; ask them to analyse and synthesize information; find alternative strategies to solve problems; etc? I find the concept that we must give our students tests to prepare them for high school or university a very confusing one.

My students just finished their language and their history inquiry projects.  For history, 32 students out of 35 send me their work electronically – informational posters; letters; diary entries; vlogs; reports; videos, etc.  They were allowed to choose whatever format they wanted.

This week my daughter who is in grade 12 had to choose an article in the news and create a collage to depict certain concepts in it.  She found a program on the internet and used it to create a fantastic collage but to her dismay it would not print the way she wanted it to.  I suggested that she send it electronically to her teacher.  My daughter suggested that this was a no no.  She started to stress our about this collage and wanted to use her backup one,  which printed but was in no way as good as her original.  I pushed and told her to explain to the teacher what happened and if he wanted a hard copy then I would take it to Staples to get it printed off.  Thankfully, her teacher accepted the electronic copy.

My reason for sharing this story is because we have been talking quite a bit about doing students a disservice or not preparing them for high school by not giving them tests but what about the big move by elementary schools to use more electronics in the classroom.  Quite a few high schools I know do not allow electronics in the classroom so what about the disservice here?  Many elementary teachers are allowing students to use electronics to show their learning; they are doing inquiry in the classrooms; they are doing authentic tasks and using a wide variety of strategies for problem solving; there is a big focus on collaboration so are we preparing them for life in high schools where this type of teaching is not necessarily happening?  Already, this year, my students have wowed me with the learning that they are sharing; the types of things that they are interested in learning about; and the tools that they are using to share this learning.   Should we be returning to pen and paper tasks; all kids doing the same activity; the turn off electronics policy when you enter the door?  I’m not sure, but if this is the case then I am more than willing to do my students a disservice.  What about you?

About jcorbinh

I am a grade 8 teacher who absolutely love teaching language and math and would find it extremely stressful if I had to choose between the two. After 20 years of teaching I am still passionate about my job and enjoy learning new things with and from my students. I try to incorporate new things to motivate and encourage my students and integrating more technology into my lessons has become one of my major goals.
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5 Responses to Tests, electronics, inquiry?

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  3. adunsige says:

    Another excellent post, Jo-Ann! I have to be up front here though and say something that I NEVER thought I’d say, I actually don’t use technology much in the classroom. I use pencils, markers, pens, and paper a lot. Even with inquiry, we look at pictures, explore objects, and go outside to investigate on our own. We use books. We sometimes still use technology, but often times we don’t. In fact, this week, I started putting away the computers and the iPads during our Writer’s Workshop. I sometimes use them during guided reading for follow-up activities, but I don’t have them out as resources anymore. My students that really need to develop their phonemic awareness skills and sound out words, weren’t doing so because they were more focused on the correct spelling on the iPads or computers. They were also spending more time looking at the pictures (often Google Images) instead of experimenting with the writing. Even the students noted that removing the technology allowed them to write more, and in many cases, a lot better, because they weren’t getting distracted by the tool.

    We still use technology to document learning. We still record videos and podcasts, and in some cases, we still look at books and other resources online. But we’re using technology less than I thought we would, and I think it’s benefitting my students more. We’re not using blackline masters though. Students still have LOTS of choice on how to share their work, but sometimes even when presented with technology, they choose non-tech options. I’m okay with that.

    I teach younger students than you, and their needs are different. I get that. I think that this is maybe the crux of the issue though: there isn’t a one size fits all solution. All students are different. All schools are different. Needs are different. We NEED to give students what they need to succeed, and we can’t just look at where they came from and where they’re going to — we need to look at where they’re at and move them forward. Sometimes this is with technology, and sometimes it’s without … and maybe that’s okay.


  4. I have nothing to say but “DITTO”.

    I never considered the other perspective. I mean, we do what we can to “prepare for high school” but what is the secondary system doing to “prepare themselves for these students” who are coming to them with a unique skill set we have never seen before.

    • jcorbinh says:

      Thanks for replying Brian. This is so true. The stuff that some of our students are doing is incredible. I honestly know some of them are above my technological capabilities and I would need to practice some more before I could do some of them. You should see the English paper that one of our students just wrote about schools not adequately preparing them for the jobs of the future. He goes further to say that we are not utilizing the skills that they have. Wow, what do we say to this kid. This is why I am not prepared to wait for the high schools to catch up to where we are. Maybe students like this will make it happen faster than we can.

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