Dipping into my Google Reader

I started Saturday heading off to have a root canal ‘done’, only to find it wasn’t necessary, and therefore I had an hour and a half of extra time on my hands. I finally had time to spend with my Google reader and I’m definitely a convert. It’s just like dipping into your favorite magazine, with information articles on anything you’re remotely interested in -now I just need to find the extent of what’s on offer. My day certainly got better!

One article that caught my eye was Will  talking about  the HP initiative , a $100,000 competition  to design a computer program to grade essays. Apologies while I dive into a quick rant – A computer marking essays – give me a break! What lunacy is this? I’m all for kids writing essays, as they can show so many types of higher level thinking skills and writer’s craft. How can this be scored on a computer? Will they count the number of words in a sentence, the number of syllables in a word, the length of an essay?  Although I think there was some data last year that showed that length really did matter when it came to SAT essays!  If someone thinks an essay can be scored without understanding the content then they don’t understand the point of an essay. Other countries do have external exams that involve writing, and therefore grading, numerous essays. If they can afford it, why can’t the US? If you want decent external exams then you can’t cut corners and you have to pay for them.

I then moved on to Jeff’s article on the flipped classroom. There’s been a lot of talk about this recently and I’ve had some concerns about what this might mean. Will students end up more homework because they now have to listen to information and then do something with it, to prove they’ve listened? Can we expect students to spend all evening working if they’ve spent all day at school? If I deliver my lecture to a camera, instead of a bunch of students, I can’t ask clarifying questions and neither can I. I can’t see the looks of boredom or confusion on their faces. It could be a way of delivering mind-numbing lectures without having to deal with classroom control.  The examples in Jeff’s blog however were reassuring sensible and certainly gave me food for thought, although I don’t see the idea as that revolutionary. Teachers have frequently asked students to work at home in some way and then come prepared for sharing activities in class. The use of technology however with blogs and comments does make it all more interactive and engaging. Now I need to know how to set up my classes with blogs and RSS readers, along with a way of managing the hundreds of Google docs I seem to receive each week.  The list of need to knows continues to grow.


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