Phase 4

ImagineIT Phase 4

Jane Margolis’s Stuck in The Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing does a good job outlining the achievement gap in computer science: in Mississippi and Montana no female students took the AP computer science test in 2014; in the same year, not a single African American took the test in 11 states; no Hispanic students took it in eight; and, overall, these groups made up 3 percent and 8 percent of all test takers respectively. Some predominantly minority schools did have technology, but they tended to teach skills like Keyboarding or Microsoft Office, rather than computer science. For Margolis and her team, the answer was the broad, open, and inviting curriculum that I am using, Exploring Computer Science, and a massive effort to train teachers to use it and to encourage districts to adopt itAs part of the efforts of, CS4All, and Margolis’s group at UCLA, computer science is now a requirement in Chicago Public schools, as of last February.

Certainly, the way the Exploring Computer Science class and curriculum is structured, most of the performances of understanding are projects, and individual lessons have a lot open ended writing and discussion, versus closed multiple choice or other traditional assessment items. SRI International is working on creating assessments for the course, but these are not yet widely available. The REACH evaluation tasks that CPS teachers have created to evaluate teachers are still works in progress and it is not clear that they assess what is actually being taught.

Therefore, my guess is that I am not in the position that most people are in regarding assessment, trying to figure out how to supplement or replace standardized assessments that come with the curriculum with something broader that allows for more holistic, creative student responses. In the assessment section of Anna Ershler Richert’s, What should I do?: Confronting Dilemmas of Teaching in Urban Schools, Richert relates the story of an elective teacher who does have a lot of freedom in implementing curriculum and assessment, but nonetheless has a lot of trouble trying to balance her own instructional aims and values with the attitudes and perceptions of her students. While my situation is not exactly the same as the one outlined in Richert’s book, I  think it is broadly similar, and that assessment will be my greatest dilemma going forward with the ImagineIT. How do I balance the desire for more divergent, creative performances of understanding with the student perception that such products may not be ‘real work’ and therefore this class, not a real class? Furthermore, if portfolios of open ended student work are the best way to assess my students, what are the actual mechanics of assigning and grading portfolio work?

At this point, my students use Google Classroom daily for receiving work and turning in assignments, and they have each created a personal portfolio website with Weebly Education, which I plan to use as a repository for student projects and performances of understanding. Tuesday’s lesson is about embedding and the plan is to have them embed slide shows they have created and submitted already in Google Classroom into their website academic pages. They will also be using the Pixlr photo application to make their own personalized banners and website logos.