Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for November, 2008

Mathematics teachers have it too easy
November 14th, 2008

Each day I share a ride with three other colleagues on the way to school. We all live near each other. We take turns to drive to school, week on week. We estimate that our travel costs are about $7.00 to $8.00 a week. Car pooling is a good idea. We travel against the flow of the traffic as well. Every day we see all these commuters driving into town, occasionally banked up for kilometres. The last part of the drive is rather scenic as we pass by dairy farms.

Well, on the way home one of my car pool buddies marked the final examinations for his Year Nine Mathematics class. He has 28 students. The exam finished at 3.15PM and he began marking straight away as he waited for one of our colleagues to complete bus supervision duty. He continued marking as we made our way home in the car. It was my turn to drive this week. He had completed his marking before we reached his home. The drive is about 20 minutes. There were multiple choice questions and equations to mark. He finished them all. The entire class. He can relax this weekend.

I teach the same class. History. They did their final examination today as well. I will have essays and extended responses to mark. It will take up most of the next few evenings. I teach two other similar Year Nine classes. All up 87 students. That is 87 essays, and 261 extended responses. Then there is Year Eight History. More essays and extended responses. They did their yearly examination as well. The marking is part of the job. I accept that. That is fine.

I guess I sometimes wish I was a Mathematics teacher at marking time. Mathematics teachers have it too easy.

Think I will make my way to the fridge and grab a beer.

Resources links updated
November 13th, 2008

Just corrected some links on this blog to these resources…

Web 2.0 Workshop Resources
Technology guides and support documents
Web 2.0 links

Remembrance Day
November 11th, 2008

Commonwealth War Graves, Kranji, Singapore

Today is Remembrance Day. Today many people around the world commemorated the sacrifices of soldiers and also civilians in times of war. The day marks the end of the First World War on the 11th November, 1918.

Commonwealth War Graves, Kanchanaburi, Thailand

The students at our school marked the day with a service at 11.00AM. It was at this time on the 11th November, 1918 when hostilities ceased. Myself and three students also attended a service at the Albion RSL Sub Branch Memorial Club. The service was led by Harry Spicer OAM.

The aim is not to glorify war. Simply to remember.

The end of the school year beckons…
November 11th, 2008

Preparing for exams
[Source: Wikipedia: Factory farming]

This may seem premature yet the end of the school year is fast approaching. The last day of school is the 18th December. More than five weeks away. The students will probably complete their academic school year during the previous week. The final week is taken up with presentations, parent interviews and professional development.

This week our students in Years 7 to 10 are undertaking their final examinations. The weeks leading up to these examinations involved catch-up lessons, revision, summary notes, practice tests, and similar. It has been rather frenetic. This time of year always seems so far away yet it creeps up on you and the students are sitting for the final examinations.

The driven students seek additional trial tests, opportunities for revision and those elusive hints. Other students do not seem to have a worry in the world. Some of my students went on a holiday during the week leading up to the exams. How is that for a carefree, laissez-faire attitude? Have you witnessed that in your teaching career?

So, examinations for years 7 to 10. Only the students in Year 10 are sitting for an external examination. The NSW School Certificate. The majority of the Year 10 students were keen. Yet, a number of the students know that they will be returning to Year 11 regardless of the result that they achieve in the School Certificate. There is something fundamentally awry with that. What do you think? I suspect that the School Certificate will be no longer in the not too distant future.

After this week the teachers will be marking exams, writing reports and meeting deadlines. The students are aware that although the school year is not yet over the assessment programme has been completed. I see some of you have a wry smile on your face. Some educators have labelled this time of year “the silly season”. That does not sound too good. I know a number of the parents would not be too impressed to hear that. Particularly fee paying parents.

During this time of the year the teachers have to be really on their game. This is when you unearth the interesting lessons and the intriguing projects. That is awry as well. We should be engaging in the really creative and interesting strategies during the course of the year but the examinations act like a finishing line that we must cross at all costs. The examinations sometimes force us to adopt factory farming strategies to force feed the students. There are students and parents that almost demand it. “Fill up my brain with factual fodder so that I can get an A“.

Examinations. I have mixed emotions about them. Certainly professionals and students training to be in a role in which the lives and safety of individuals are at stake should pass through a testing regime of some form. Yet, students in an academic environment where progression from one year to the next is a given should not have to waste their time with a period of examinations not unlike those undertaken by my parents back in 1932. Surely their competencies and skills can be measured by other assessment methods.

I confessed I have mixed emotions about examinations. Quizzes and tests seemingly have their place in some contexts. A number of the students actually enjoy them. Others do not. Some students enjoy the competition. Others do not.

How do you feel about examinations? Does your school also experience a period during the academic year when all assessment is complete yet the students still have a few weeks of school to attend? Are your students assessed right up until the last day of the school year? If so when do you create your reports, etc?

What shall I be undertaking with my students during November and December? I hope to explore a few technologies with a number of the classes. Of course there are the students who take advantage of the situation and ‘play the game’. Who can blame them? Good luck to them. I shall endeavour to be one step ahead and make sure that they derive value during these last few weeks of the year. We have considerable latitude in what and how we teach during these weeks.

If you were I how would you be teaching the students during the coming weeks? 

Multiple choice test madness
November 11th, 2008

Our homestay student just arrived home from university. She completed a final examination in biology today. The examination lasted for 2 hours.

The examination consisted of 120 multiple choice questions. Each question had five options from which to choose. Not four options, five!

Think about it. On average each question had to be dealt with in 60 seconds. Each option needs to be considered in say 12 seconds. Less, when you think about it further.

That is madness. That is an abuse of the multiple choice question format. The lecturer is simply lazy in my estimation. Easy to mark, true. Fair on the students, not true.

120 multiple choice questions in 120 minutes for an examination that covered an entire annual course.

Which university? The University of Wollongong. Which faculty? Science.

That is not an education.