Monday, October 22, 2012

K12Online: 7 Degrees of Connectedness

This week the K-12 Online Conference kicks into high gear with video presentations that cross four strands.  If you know of any teachers who could use some mid-semester encouragement or motivation, please point them to the conference.

My presentation is based on 7 Degrees of Connectedness, and will go live in the "Getting Started" strand on Wednesday.  This video was produced with the support of a few of my online colleagues whose stories weave in and out of the narrative.  In short, my talk invites educators to foster authentic relationships by connecting with others through a range of social media tools.

What is it for you that leads you to pay closer attention to the learners in your network? Do you feel close to those colleagues you interact with, even if you've never met? Are you more attuned to those people whose voices are amplified because you met at a conference; exchanged stories; shared a meal? As our connections grow with online colleagues, we may find ourselves in qualitatively distinct relationships with co-learners. By sharing our ideas alongside details of our personal lives, we have a tendency to become more and more familiar to one another. Augment these connections with voices and imagery, and it can lead to deeper and more fulfilling connections. In this presentation Rodd Lucier (AKA The Clever Sheep), invites you to walk along with a few of his colleagues who join him in reflecting on how modern tools are impacting our online relationships. The concept of '7 Degrees of Connectedness' is introduced as one way to qualify the relationships we foster with online colleagues.
Presenter: Rodd Lucier Location: Komoka, Ontario, Canada

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Increase the Achievement Gap

The constant flood of articles and system goals that proport to 'close the achievement gap' has always left me a bit dismayed.  Is the 'gap' really a problem that should be addressed? 

My take is that we should actually aspire to the goal of increasing the achievement gap.  We would be successful should our highest flyers manage to reach beyond the expectations of those who imagine and publish learning outcomes.  Of course, we should celebrate the wonders of our most amazing students, not at the expense of other learners, but while we continue to help all learners achieve to their fullest potential.  It's just that those with the greatest of potential, are rarely challenged to race beyond what most of their peers are capable of. 

But too often, it's the gap that matters.  While ignoring or impeding the learning of our brightest students is one way to decrease the achievement gap, there is another 'mathematical' way to bridge the difference: Play the shell game.

Secret Tips on Closing the Gap

In the province of Ontario, students enter either academic or applied streams of courses in grade 9.  The academic courses are designed for kids who got the 'I do school well' gene; while the in theory, the applied courses are meant for learners who do better with concrete learning experiences. Locally developed courses are provided to meet the needs of students with functional deficits or intellectual challenges well beyond those of the average student.

When it comes to measuring achievement in mathematics, the Education Quality and Accountability Office or EQAO, tests HS students in grade 10.  The results are reported for both academic and applied streams board by board, and school by school . So each school gets a report highlighting the percentage of learners who were successful in each type of course. 

Want to 'reduce the gap'?  The easiest way, is to reduce the number of kids taking academic courses.  Think of it this way.  Students in the high end of the applied courses, will naturally pull up the achievement rates for that group.  But if these same learners are in the academic courses, they are more likely to pull down the results of that group, all while leaving the applied courses with fewer successful students. 
So, if a school hides its modestly talented math test-takers under the shell of applied courses, then both the applied and academic classes are more likely to have higher passing rates.  The academic courses will be filled with mostly high achieving math students, while the applied courses will benefit by having more students capable of passing the test.

Sure, we'd be increasing the gap within the applied courses, but we'd be decreasing the gap in the academic courses, and the resulting EQAO statistics might well make school administrators blush. 

A Test Question?
Maybe this is just the type of 'authentic' math problem that should be on the EQAO test.  My guess is that a few bright students would teach the system to spit out high enough passing percentages, that  future students and teachers could save themselves from the stress of the test.

Photo credits: find x by dullhunk; bridge by Malcolm Surgenor