Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Testing Camera

One of my favorite authors, Peter Reynolds, recently released this short animation.  As with all of his stories, I loved it!  I have, for a long time, felt really badly about the amount of testing that our students go through each year.  It seems as if there are tests every day of the week.  I know many of my colleagues agree with me.  Thinking back to my school days -- I remember tests ... but I remember thinking that school was more than that.  It was fun!  We learned by playing and singing and exploring and creating!  Gone are the days when teachers had plenty of time to provide exploration and creative opportunities for their students.  Moments that allow a student to ENJOY their school experience.

One of the best parts of my job as a computer science teacher in an elementary school is that I don't really have to "test" my students.  I have to assess -- yes.  But, test -- no.  I can assess acquired learning in many ways.  Observation, evaluation of projects, and individual/class discussions are some of my go to strategies.  I know that kids learn in my room.  They learn how to use the computer as a tool and not only as a toy.  They learn to research, to keyboard, to code and to create.  I see it.  I hear it.  I KNOW it.  My classroom -- and the other specials classes they enjoy -- are pretty much the only subjects that they are free to explore, to create, and to question without the looming presence of a cumulative test to worry about at the end of the day.

We have to remember, as educators, that our goal is help our students become life-long learners.  Assessing that learning is important.  It helps us plan and strategize our next steps in the classroom.   I worry, though, that the "picture" our kids see of themselves isn't a truly accurate impression of who they are -- that they are going to be limited or hindered by the "images" that are on those test results.  

Watch the movie.  Encourage your students to respect the value of the test -- but to also see that the results don't define them.  Help them explore.  Find ways for them to create.  Make learning fun.

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