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Tuesday
Oct252005

What IT Skills Should Teachers Expect of Incoming HS Freshmen?

At a recent district curriculum council meeting we discussed how we might be able to determine the level of technology proficiency of our incoming 9th graders. While we have a fairly good handle on what we teach all students grades K- 6 through our library media program, we still find a huge disparity among students as they enter high school. Much of the difference can be attributed to the varying levels of teacher enthusiasm for reinforcing skills in the classroom and, of course, levels of home access.

A paper and pencil test on ICT skills seems shallow. A full-blown performance assessment would be a huge time commitment. A self-assessment rubric would be unreliable.

There are the inklings of some online “performance tests.” ETS is designing one for college students. (You can look at a flash demo at <http://www.ets.org/Media/Products/ICT_Literacy/demo/index.html>. But I have seen little work done on how we accurately measure the skills of incoming high school students.

Here is my very modest proposal: we pick the top 5 “ICT skills” that classroom teachers should be able to expect of all students and design short, authentic “tasks” that can be easily assessed. If each core classroom teacher gives and evaluates one skill at the beginning of the freshman year, a profile of every student can be compiled and remediation can be provided through classes taught by the library media specialist.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been a classroom teacher, but I will start the conversation by suggesting that these tools and skills are essential for all students if they are to be able to do basic work assigned by classroom teachers.

  1. Word processing
  2. Spreadsheet use and graphing
  3. Multimedia presentation software and digital image handling
  4. E-mail use
  5. Internet-enabled research
My list of skills and assessments. (Moved from single entries.)

I'll let you know what the curriculum committee thinks.  You are very welcome to suggest an alternative list of skills!

Oh, because of the magic of the Internet, I am happily being productive from home this morning, waiting for the Sears repairperson to come and determine why the water softener no longer seems to be removing rust from our water. Everyone and everything seems to be taking on a lovely orange hue lately. One definite advantage of working from home is looking over the lake instead of the parking lot at school…
octlake.jpg

 

Monday
Oct242005

Dusty Museum Displays No More - Alas

The LWW and I spent quite a bit of time getting a little culture and history this weekend while in the Baltimore/DC area. Places visited included

OK, I know I am getting old and cranky, but sometimes I yearn for the good old days when museums were simply rooms full of dust-covered display cases crammed with interesting stuff and illegible notecards propped near each mouldering object.  Today's museum "enhances" the education experience through a barrage of multi-media. Nothing wrong with multi-media per se, but if I watched every damned video snippet or listened to every audio explanation, I do believe I'd still be on the 3rd floor of the NMAI, having only started on the 4th floor working my way down.

The museum experience has been definitely impacted by the information explosion. I found myself reeling.

When I get the chance, I try to use guides (either print or audio) when I visit a museum. On our "great nudes of Europe" trip to London, Amsterdam, Paris and Madrid a few years ago, my son Brady and I used Rick Steves' useful book Mona Winks: Self-Guided Tours of Europe's Top Museums when visiting the Tate, Prado, Louvre, Rijksmuseum, etc. It was wonderful - short, meaninful explanation of the top 10-20 museum "highlights" and clear maps on how exactly to get them. (Take a left at the Venus de Milo and go straight past the Mona Lisa...) We could hit two museums in a day and feel we got our money worth. I'm not really a total barbarian, it's just that about 3 hours standing on marble floors, even in good shoes, is all I can take.

One sign of hope for cultural overload is that a college professor and his students are creating "alternative" visitors guides to art museums that can be downloaded to MP3 players  through a project called Art Mobs. Right now the group is working on a guide for the MOMA in NYC. I hope they expand their efforts to other very large collections of stuff - including the Smithsonian museums. And hopefully they'll take the Rick Steves' approach - ferret out the best 10% of collections for those of use who can't stand to stand or have a limited time to spend gazing in awe.

Say, wouldn't  that make a great project for students who might provide a guide to one's county museum?

Back in the trenches after a month of what seems like constant travel. Educational blogging to follow. 

 


Friday
Oct212005

The World Continues to Flatten

Damn, it’s tough to be so prescient sometimes. Especially when it makes one feel like a Cassandra, predicting gloom and doom. And it’s even worse to have one’s predictions seem to come about when encountering something quite wonderful.

In the the Letter from the Flat World Library Corporation (October 7), I suggested online 24/7 library reference service would be a part of a total “outsourced” library solution to schools.

Guess what? Maryland’s AskUsNow is already offering this service to its state’s students. It looks like a fantastic project and great resource for students and I applaud Marylanders for it’s conception and execution.

I just hope that the Maryland librarians who provide this service aren’t outsourced!

Oh, others have asked where the ideas for the Letter from the Flat World Library Corporation came from. Here are a few of the gathering clouds:

  • All the stuff in Thomas Friedman’s book, of course.
  • Businesses and law firms outsourcing their library services to places like the James J Hill Reference Library.
  • Vendors creating large content packages, all electronic, tied directly to state standards.
  • Schools going “textbook free” in conjunction with laptop projects.
Again, we as a profession need to be prepared when the real letter lands on the sup’s desk. How does one justify one’s existence in a flat world? We’d better be putting our heads together on this one.