Monday, October 4, 2010

Evaluating my Learning from an Educator's Viewpoint

I like the idea that I am a life-long learner. Some of my teachers (family and friends included) must have done something right as they were teaching me the ways of the world. Where once I was a teacher, (who never thought I wanted to teach, but loved every minute) here I am, a student once again.
This week our class took a solid look at how to evaluate a website to be used in the classroom and the validity toward the subject being taught in the classroom; at developing a gradebook that utilized Microsoft's Excel program; and also about developing rubrics for learning, used to evaluate student learning.
The first was something I had thought about, because I remember my own English teacher warning us about not trusting everything that was available online or even in print unless we had heard the information from a few different sources. The second was a program that I have been using recently for database information, but had never been forced to utilize in the classroom. The latter, rubrics, was something that I was already familiar with and had already had the pleasure developing, something I also knew what would work and what wouldn't because of my background in education and contact with students.
Evaluation of a website is quite a bit more critical than I had once thought. Finding the intentions of the author and the validity of the site are easy upon a glance, but depending on the content of the site, whether it is historical fact or research-based information, the importance lies in the date that the information was last updated. Is it relevant? Current? Gospel to the world pertaining to its facts? The other importance of the site is whether the site itself is a credible source of information and what other sites trust their information by linking to them. I had always thought that as long as I recognized the name of the organization (Smithsonian, Metropolitan Art Museum, etc.) that they should be a trusted source. I had never considered the other key inclinations toward their content.
As I said, I had experience with Excel, but had not been forced to use it to this extent before now. It was a useful tool to have the knowledge of for future reference, if and ever I come across a school I am employed through who does not have their own grading program. Thankfully, I had been blessed with a fairly understandable program the last four out of the five years that I taught. The first year, it was all done by hand, which doesn't have the perks that an accessible (by parents, administration and teachers) online network has, but we were all learning (the students and I) that year anyway. That was a "Thank God" moment when the school finally implemented that program into our district. It saved so much time and did the same thing that Excel offers now, printing graphs and charts, averages, etc.
Rubrics, on the other hand, can be quite complicated and yet can be very general in nature. I had played around with online resources before when making an evaluation rubric for presentations and projects. The Rubistar link is quite helpful, giving you a template to work with (which makes it a no-brainer rubric), but also affords the teacher the chance to plug in their own information. It was quite easy to use. 
In my opinion:
Like a text book, websites, student lesson plans, rubric evaluations, and projects need to be relevant, recent information tailored to the students you are encountering and interacting with and about the subject it is relating to, so that students researching have truthful knowledge to grasp and hold onto. By keeping everything fresh in your classroom, the students will thank you for it!

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