8 Tips on Writing from Kurt Vonnegut

These tips reminded me of my biggest influence on writing, my brother. I follow most of these for almost any kind of writing. Some of the tips are hard to apply, for me, but trying only makes the writing process more enjoyable.

4 Myths About Modern Grading and Assessment Practices

Modern grading values accuracy of evidence and learner confidence when reporting grades. Regardless of the type of grading system, keeping in mind the intended outcomes when designing assessments, calculating scores, and reporting summary grades is crucial to honoring the first value. The second value is simpler yet harder. To support learner confidence, ask yourself what's more important: your own compliance to a system or tracking student achievement reletive to mastery of standards. 

The following includes common misconceptions about modern grading practices. Click or touch the links to gain more perspectives from a variety of sources.    

1. Kids are not learning responsibility.

Grades are not the best way to learn responsibility. The things that motivate us are not large sums of money, all the candy in the world, or bad grades.These are all secondary to the real motivation that fills us with a pull forward to a stronger sense of purpose. Not letting students fall into the bad grade rabbit hole, which is often impossible for some to climb out of, is hard work for teachers if they have never taken steps in the direction of providing opportunities that aren't as devoid of meaning as zeros or point penalties. Help students develop, as Daniel Pink puts it, autonomy, mastery, and purpose. 


Two questions that can change your life from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

2. This isn't how the "real world" works.

When I worked in the "real world" (because I don't, anymore), I had to fix the work that was not to the standard. The feedback that I got was crucial to my success, just as the feedback teachers need to provide is to the success of every learner in the classroom.

Retaking the bar exam, like many professional exams (including teacher certification), is not only a possibility, it's common enough to generate a supply of blog posts with suggestions on how to better prepare. This one starts with getting your head in the game.   

3. The old way worked for us, why change?

The old way didn't work. It worked for us, the winners of the education game. But it didn't work, and still doesn't, for the kids who dropped out, failed, or passed because they were compliant yet learned very little to be marketable in post-secondary life or successful in college.

Garnet Hillman says it best in this blog post (check out the comments, too). Why Should I Change How I Grade?

4. Colleges disagree with these practices. 

According to a 2004 report by ACT, college retention is a huge issue, big enough to suggest a long list of non-academic behaviors that are essential for freshman success and ensuring students return for a second year. Apparently, traditional ways are not actually working as well as we would like to tell ourselves.

Why else would MIT want to provide an alternative to help freshman become acclimated with the demands of university? 
MIT Freshman Grading 

This is a shorter update from ACT written in 2007. 
ACT: The Role of Non-Academic Factors in College Readiness and Success

Paper Tweets: Practicing Microblogging with Simple Technology

One of the biggest problems I see in student writing is the lack of meaningful sentences. Microblogging has offered a way to help students develop sentence writing skills as they work with limitations and share with a potentially huge audience.

Since we didn't have enough digital devices for everyone, we wrote Tweets that were limited to three lines. Restrictions challenged my students to be more creative and careful with their word choices and sequence of ideas. 

Students posted on the board, but the paper tweets could have also been posted in the hallway or on chart paper to access later for review. Photos of the paper tweets can be taken to establish a more content rich sharing experience on any number of social media outlets.

Using Twitter would be ideal, but sometimes we can't because of technological limitations or even lack of student interest in Twitter. It's not something you can't force on them.

Click of touch the image below for more examples.

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Twitter in a History Classroom

All year, it seems, I'd been looking for a way to get the students excited about writing and sharing ideas about whatever we were learning. We used chart paper and sticky notes, taped small pieces of paper to the walls and board, and used small white boards to share. All of these are things I will continue to use, but I wanted go do something that didn't involve so much material management.

I like how the teacher in the video uses Twitter to give his students a voice. For some, it was a major shift socially for the better.

Averaging Zero: Rethinking What We Measure

It's that time of year, again. Standardized test scores are in, and many teachers are reviewing grades while scrambling to make last-minute adjustments to final exams. 

With good intentions, most teachers will enter scores into grade books and use the mean to calculate a summary grade. There is nothing wrong with this approach as long as the input data have been carefully selected from assessments designed to produce accurate information. 

Averaging in this context is not necessarily damaging, unless it's the only way we determine summary grades reported on report cards. 

This TEDx  by L. Todd Rose has me thinking differently about the input data and the kinds of things we assess.  

4 Google Docs Tools to Get Started

Basics 1.1 Comment, Research, Link, Image

Click image for PDF

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Quizlet to Moodle

Export Quizlet, Import to Moodle

Is it possible to take a list of about 10 to 30 words and make learning, practice, and assessment materials in under 10 minutes? What used to take me about an hour, can now be done in 5 minutes.

Learn. Practice. Assess.