I find myself in a weird in-between sort of place. You know the one, where you are trying to implement a major shift in how you operate your classes but are effectively trying to not wear yourself out by reinventing everything you do. On the one hand I have a planbook that has scripts for lessons for my four preps that sure would be easy to follow for yet another year. But I also have a completely revamped assessment system based on standards and learning targets that demands that I find opportunities for students to meet the standards.
My compromise between the old and the new is to still assign some of the good-old activities (read that as worksheets, study guides, etc.) but to not give credit at all for their completion. Instead, I’m aiming higher and expecting students to earn grades in my class by using those lower-level activities as starting points for blog posts, or as we’ve started calling them in class, artifacts.
Artifacts is a term that I stole from my teacher ed. days when I had to put together a nasty, large (paper!) portfolio binder to prove how I met the teacher ed. standards even though I was doing an end-around the system via an alternative certification program. The teaching standards were specific so I could create “artifacts” to show that I met each standard.
We’ve got standards in my classes, too, so I’m having the kids create artifacts as well. They’ve set up their own blogs on Blogger and WordPress. We’re now in the process of turning simple blog posts into artifacts by learning to use some of the web 2.0 tools to embed media in our blogs to get beyond the limits of text-only posts.
So far I’m loving the blog-to-prove-you-know-it scheme. Student blog posts show up in my Reader and I evaluate them for the standards that each post is designed to address, including communication, self-reflection, and use of technology standards. Not every student is on board with the system just yet, and certainly parents have had a few questions about the way that the standards-based system works, but overall I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students. I might even make a few teacher converts once I have some more experience with this whole standards-based thing.
So has the blog post replaced the worksheet in my classes? For the most part, yes, but there is obviously some value in helping students have a good solid grasp of basic concepts before asking them to write a post or create media showing what they know. Some of the good-old activities are still good for that.