Monday, April 30, 2007


I haven't gotten involved in all the discussions of technology in education for a variety of reasons. One reason is that there are so many people who are much more highly qualified than I am to weigh in on these issues. However, my school-provided laptop crashed last night. It managed to crash in such a way that even my husband could do nothing to fix it. The tech person at school turned it on this morning, said, "Interesting." Then, "It may be a few days." Luckily, everything is saved to our server so even if my laptop is done for good I haven't lost my work. Also luckily, I have another laptop temporarily while mine gets help. However, this laptop is clearly not mine. It doesn't have all of my links saved, things are not formated the way I want, the little things are a problem.

Obviously, this technology snag does not really impact my students. But dealing with the challenge has taken time and energy from me. And now other work takes me longer because my routine is gone. This should not suggest that I am against technology in any way - I could not live without my laptop. Technology, like anything else, is wonderful when it works the way it should.

5/1/07 - Our tech person was able to restore my computer without having to reimage it. So, I lost nothing but a little time. I am so grateful to her!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Back in the Saddle

I've had a week back after maternity leave. Looking back, I realize I did very little actual teaching during the week, but it is probably best to ease back into things.

I did do individual interviews with the majority of my class in math (I'll do the last few tomorrow). I wanted to assess what they understood about probability and graphing, which they studied while I was out. I didn't want to give them a test for two reasons; they have already been tested on this material and I'm not convinced a written test would have given me the information I was looking for.

I designed an in-depth interview based on the SOLs in these two areas. I found graphs to show them and have them explain to me. I wrote up sets of data for them to describe how they would graph. I had a list of possible events for them to explain the likelihood of. Each interview took between ten and fifteen minutes. I had to bite my tongue on occasion to keep for turning interviews into lessons and stay focused on the assessment. However, on the whole, I am thrilled with how they have gone. In that short time I have learned a lot about what my students do and don't understand about probability and graphing. We'll see if I'm still this happy with the interviews after I record them tomorrow and can watch them!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Going On-Ramp

I have spent the past few days preparing to "go on-ramp" (as Amy told me), returning to work after a few months of maternity leave. One of the things I noticed immediately is how little time we have before we begin our Standards of Learning tests in reading, math, and science. Not surprisingly this got me thinking about preparation for them.

That train of thought followed a meandering path and I came to the conclusion that we, as a society, feel a need to quantify everything. Unfortunately, some things are not quantifiable. Facts we expect students to memorize are quantifiable. Understanding of some concepts is quantifiable, but not all. Some skills are quantifiable, but again, not all. However, the standardized tests that we administer on a grand scale every year only cover things that are quantifiable. In doing so, we do a terrible disservice to our students and teachers.

My issues with standardized tests are at least three-fold:
1. They only test things that are quantifiable. This is an issue in that it places priority on those things. This automatically makes other skills, concepts, etc. less important in our schools. We must focus on those things that are tested to the detriment of everything else.
2. Any standardized test is just a snapshot. It gives one brief picture of a student. If they are having a bad day for any reason; family issues, little sleep, not enough food, friendship problems, etc. they may not perform accurately.
3. The way we adminster standardized tests does not show a student's growth. We test students at the end of each year in ways that are completely removed from previous year's tests. We compare students to benchmarks without giving any consideration to where they began. This means that a student could make stupendous growth and still appear to be a failure under our current system.

For an interesting, amusing analogy on this issue, see A Year of Reading's post titled "No Dentist Left Behind".