My Politics of Reading course is winding down. Actually, the entire semester is almost over. We spent one of our last classes talking about assessment, testing, and the Common Core State Standards. We’ve actually been talking about these things throughout the semester.
I wanted my students to get a larger sense of the issues related to testing as they were perceived within the campus community. To do this, I asked students to do the following:
1. Split up into groups.
- I think we had five groups. All the groups but one left the classroom and went off into the world to do some research for s bit
- The four groups leaving had to come up with a question related to assessment/testing/CCSS
- Students posted their questions on the board (old school style! with chalk!)
- Questions included:
- What was your worst experience with testing?
- Should the results of high stakes tests (ACT/SAT, etc…) have an effect on the admissions process?
- What do you think about standardized testing? Did you know you could opt out?
- Do you think standardized testing is necessary?
2. Next, the four groups left the classroom for an hour. They were instructed to go wherever they wanted to and talk to whoever they wanted to.
3. As they conducted their research, they were instructed to tweet back what they were learning (#edpolicy). They did not need to directly quote people but could. They were told to explain to others what they were doing with the information. Students had asked me to create business cards for them to hand out so people could tweet their thoughts even after they were gone. I have no idea if these were used or not as #edpolicy is generally a very active feed.
4. Back in the room, the remaining group and myself monitored the twitter feed and then began working on creating a Storify with the content.
5. At the end of the hour, everyone returned. The Storify was presented and discussed and we debriefed the experience. Then we published in.
Ok – What Worked and What Didn’t Work?
I was super organized in getting this together. Students knew a week in advance and had the chance to sign up for their own groups. They even knew we were doing this if it was raining (it was supposed to but didn’t). Students also knew that they would need at least one person with a twitter account in their group. This wasn’t an issue as at least half the class had a twitter account. No one had used storify before, but that didn’t concern me as it is easy to use. Tweets started coming in after five minutes or so and continued on for the duration.
All seems good, right?
It was good. I am not denying that. Students got to get out and talk to people. They got to have conversations and collect a different kind of data on what people think about the issues we were focusing on. It did enrich the overall discussion we had. But there are always weaknesses, and I want to highlight the ones that stand out to me:
1. Every time I use twitter with a class I learn something new. This time I learned to make sure that everyone knows private accounts won’t work. We can’t see your tweets unless I follow you (and I wasn’t following any of my students). So we didn’t see the tweets for an entire group because the person tweeting had a private account. They were able to share and discuss their tweets back in class, but FYI – on this one!
2. I like the use of Storify in class. I think it has potential. However, I do not think it’s full potential was realized here. I don’t think students had enough time to pull together and analyze the data to make a strong story.
SO, given #2, I would revise this so that ALL groups went out and collected data and then ALL groups created their own Storify. I would allow 60-90 minutes for the creation of the Storify, and I would do a better job of teaching it. It doesn’t require much teaching to figure out how to use Storify, but I would like for students to review some good examples and then create their own. The trick is that the tweets have to be used within 10 days to appear on Storify when you search for them. So it’s about timing and balance and organization. But I think it could work.
It would also give students more time to think through the data and see what different stories crafted by different groups look like. Since the students are not limited to just what they produced on twitter, they have a lot of opportunity to create something unique.
Want to see the finished product?