As important as it is to have academic goals, learning outcomes, and a decisive idea of where your curriculum road is going, how do you determine that a student has actually learned the content you have taught? Whether it be a formative or summative assessment, or assessment of any kind, you’re typically talking about a number earned. A score on a paper, right?
As any teacher knows, just because a student failed a paper doesn’t mean they didn’t “learn” anything, and a passing paper doesn’t guarantee mastery either. This is one of the more persuading reasons to leverage the technology in your classroom to allow your students to demonstrate their learning. Differentiation takes on a whole new meaning when you allow your students to SHOW you what they have learned, utilizing technology.
A first grade class last week was walking through the halls, using paper and pencil to list the different states of matter of materials they saw in the hall. What if, using an iPad (or any other type of camera), the student took pictures and then created an animoto for each state they observed? Students could create a presentation in Google or Prezi, they could make trading cards using Big Huge Labs, or create any other tangible ‘product” that not only allows their choice to shine, but also combines creativity and even collaboration with others students in a digital artifact.
When I taught fourth grade, convincing my students that writing a lab summary report was exciting was next to impossible. However, once I allowed them to create and share in any means necessary, AND let them know it would be shared on our classroom blog, I had students lined up outside my door at 7:30 a.m. to go over their reports. We had videos, podcasts, hyperlinked animations and more. The ability to choose how they shared what they learned meant they cared about WHAT they learned. When I had them fill in a worksheet or a lab template, it became about me and the minimum of what I expected to see. There were things gleaned that I didn’t assess, that I was unaware of, misconceptions I wasn’t privy to. By allowing my students to choose how they were measured, the results went off the charts. I was blown away by how much they DID know, and the depth with which they were able to share it all.
How can you make this happen in your classroom? Start with one assignment, one concept, and allow students to choose how they can demonstrate mastery. (Younger students can be given options.) Provide tools that you are comfortable evaluating and that can be completed fully in a timely manner. If that overwhelms you, start smaller. Allow one student to choose. Build out from there.
By leveraging the thousands of different ways technology allows the multiple methods of demonstrating learning, you’re not only teaching your academic standards but truly preparing students for a life beyond a classroom.