Sunday, August 26, 2012

Assessing What Counts

Blogging is now an integral part of my elementary classroom literacy block.  Like many teachers, such as  Kathleen Morris and Pernille Ripp, I have come to see the benefits of blogging with my students and wouldn't miss including it as part of our daily activities.

Within the first few months of introducing it, I added blogging as an independent choice for journalling, creative writing or completing reading responses in our Writing Workshop.

The importance of how we presented ourselves was established much like teacher Mrs. Yollis does with her Grade 3 class.  Having standards for 'publishable writing' is not a new concept in our school.

That being accomplished, and I have to say blogging was appreciated by the students as a 'cool' way to share their lives, their interests, and their book selections, it became a question of how do I use the blogs as part of gathering information about my students' learning?

In the beginning I thought to use them much like many teachers in primary and elementary classrooms use snapshots of their personal writing over time.  But with the completion of 'assignments' being done on the blogs we had to take a closer look at the role they played in the photo album of assessment data.

As a class, we use co-created rubrics for our Book Responses (story-maps, character journals, book ads and so many more!) and often use post-it note rubrics from Writing Fix  as well the provincially authorized analytic and holistic rubrics for Writing.  It wasn't a big stretch to take on creating a rubric for our blogs.

While that rubric has some use in the class, I am not sure it suffices anymore.  As I begin a third year blogging with a new crew of Grade fives, with intentions of building on our collaborative blogging and of incorporating blogging in the content areas more significantly, I have new queries about how to determine their effectiveness and of how to   assess what we are doing!

In particular, questions about how to assess the learning associated with the process and the product began to arise.

  • How do we track  growth over time?  
  • What features of blogging do we consider? Posts? Comments? Embedded digital tools?
  • How do we share our observations with others?
  • Is there a common language we can use to be able to communicate effectively with students? Parents? Administration? The public?
  • Is it enough to include blogging as part of our informal assessment for learning? 
  • How do we examine the co-construction of knowledge partners and small groups can create through blogging?
  • If we teach/facilitate/encourage particular 21st century skills and dispositions, then should we consider them 'formally' in the overall learning profile of our students?

Undoubtedly we want our students experienced in applying the 4 C's  of creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration ... with the technologies that already exist and able to take on those technologies emerging.  (Who knows what will be available in five years? Ten?)

How we consider, and implement assessment and evaluation of the types of literacies blogging students engage in matters.

"We measure what we value".  So how do we measure blogging?  Who gets to measure it?  

How do you account for the 'new' skills and competencies your students are gaining as bloggers?  

Primary teachers?
  Elementary colleagues?
    High school educators?
                           Would you share your thoughts? What works for you?  What didn't?
                                                                      Any advice?

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