A while back, there were a series of inservices held in my district from a company that was hired to help the district teach teachers and administrators how to look at test data in a more meaningful way. While the statistics that this company taught were not much more than a glorified basic statistics class, it was presented in such a nice way that the learners walked away without realizing that they had actually sat through “Linear Regression in a Nutshell 101.”
Part of the presentation in all of the data analysis was the idea that we as educators should look at our students sort of like commodities, like stock on the market. When students come to our classrooms at the beginning of the year their knowledge base, their “stock” if you will, is worth so much, say, $50. It is our jobs, as educators, to add value to the students as they progress through the year. When they leave our classes and head into the next year, their stock of knowledge should have grown. That $50 from August should now be worth more. How much more is based on a number of factors of course, but for the most part the stock should now be worth more than it was in August. It certainly should not be less.
Of course, students don’t all come to use with the same knowledge base, so one student may start the year worth $50, another $55, another at $40, and even some may be penny stock. But the idea is that all students should show growth, that value should be added to their knowledge base as they progress through the year.
The “Value Added” approach to education is an interesting thought and a natural extension of the long-watched trend of how schools should emulate business; something that H. Ross Perot made a name for during the governorship of Bill Clements during the early and late 1980s. Students as commodities to be valued or devalued was something I became aware of in the late 1980s when business terms like “paradigm shift” found its way into the lexicon of Colleges of Ed throughout the country. It wouldn’t be long before educators were writing “Mission Statements,” making “Data Driven Decisions,” and principals became managers instead of campus leaders. All of those ideas were derived from some business model and filtered down to districts with businesses leading the way, because business “knew what was best for their students.”
I was thinking about how what we do as teachers and more specifically as education technology proponents add value to our student’s knowledge base? For the most part (and I know this is a gross generalization) but students come into our classes with a technology knowledge base that is far greater than that of the average instructor. It is easy to see growth in the knowledge base of say, a student’s Math knowledge, because the student can easily be tracked from year to year from their test scores, much like stocks can be tracked for performance from year to year. But technology knowledge is a different beast all together. Students may have a far superior technology base on things that we do not even care to know about or have incorporated into our classrooms. Cell phones? Students certainly have a technology knowledge base with them. (Just ask the students who recorded the cursing teacher at El Dorado High School.) Our response? Ban the device from the education setting. Digital Cameras? Students certainly know how to use them. How do schools let students use them? Ban them. Same with iPods, digital recorders, PDAs and on and on. We ban the technology that the students know how to use, and we, for the most part (again a generalization), stick them in front of computers and ask them to learn how to use all of the major programs found in any “Office” suite, or ask them to play simple remediation games that are no more than point-and-click dittos in electronic format.
Are we actually adding value to our student’s technology knowledge base when the teachers are less knowledgeable than the students in many instances? Doubtful. And what about the technology that the students do know about? We seem to want to shy away from using those in the classroom. Recently, iPods had become the brunt of the attacks as schools looked to ban them because “they could be used for cheating.” Whooooo. Some schools embrace the technology, and others are afraid of it. Go figure. No wonder kids think we lack knowledge when it comes to technology. (Maybe we should try banning pencils too. And what about skin? I seem to remember writing test answers on the palm of my hand a few times back in the day. Hey, cheating is cheating!)
So how can we add value for our students in technology? Not surprisingly, if you go to almost any other Ed Tech blog in the blogosphere, you will find that teachers who let students explore with technology, who are embracing new technologies, who let students lead with technology, and are not afraid to fail in using technology are the ones who are the best proponents for it and the best examples. Students need to be creating content with technology. Did you know, for instance, that Texas requires all students by THIRD GRADE to be creating multimedia content in class? Not using multimedia content, CREATING it. And that is supposed to be repeated each grade level until they graduate. Do your kids create podcasts? Videos? Audio recordings? Slideshows? They should be. It is the law.
So next time you are at your child’s school, no matter the grade level, ask yourself: Are my children having value added to their technology knowledge base that will help them in future years? What is their “technology stock price” worth right now? Did they have some value added to that stock this year? Did their stock stay the same? Or did it depreciate?
This first appeared in my blog: Intended Consequences—TBH