Today’s Blended Teacher: The Blended Schools MOOC – Week 2 and 3

I was not planning on tackling the Create activities from the last two weeks (see previous post for more information on the MOOC) but decided that a couple of the activities were worth a think.

A Concerned Parent

In this blog post, you will be playing the role of a teacher faced with an important question from a parent.

Make a blog post in which you respond to this message:

“My daughter has told me that you are using online tests in your class. I am very concerned about this practice. What prevents the students from sitting at home with friends using their books and Google to answer every question? My daughter is not a cheater, and I am concerned that her honesty will become a disadvantage in your class. It is very important to us that she maintain a competitive class ranking, as she is hoping to attend Miskatonic University. Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

Mrs. Lovecraft”

The concerned parent got me thinking as the use of online tests by secondary (aka high school) students is a concern for me in my academic support volunteering work.  It is clear that this homework can be seen as something the kids try to get through quickly without really thinking.  Thus my response to the parent would be something along the lines of the below

Dear Mrs. Lovecraft
I appreciate your concerns.  Please be assured that online assessments are part of the wider learning process and your daughter will achieve the highest grades by not cheating on these tests, instead using them to help learn the course material.  I also use data on assignment completion to identify where students may need extra assistance.  Therefore, if there are any areas where your child is struggling this will be highlighted for me by her online assessment scores.  Those students who do simply attempt to look-up the answers will find that they can answer some of the basic questions quickly but their scores will drop as we progress into more complex areas.  Again, their data will highlight this apparent failure to progress, many questions are authored in a way that incorporates random presentation of answers and complex thinking skills meaning students need to think about the tests, their online and classroom activities to achieve high final grades.

This is something I regularly tell the kids I volunteer with, homework needs to be not something you do to stop your teacher nagging but something you clearly see as worthwhile.

The “When Will We Ever Use This?” Blog Post

Students often ask us, “When will I ever use this in the real world?” Consider a handful of standards taught in your class.

  • How are these concepts used in the real world?
  • How might you use those applications as inspiration for projects in your classroom?
  • How well do your current practices reflect the real-world applications of the standards you teach?
  • Consider offering a full lesson plan based on these reflections

This issue cropped up this last week when I was asked why we should study the English Civil War.  My response was that it is important to remember England has really had many more than the one given the name and that understanding the different conflicts can show the evolution of the country.  However, the particular point I made was that every civil war holds some similarities, even though the English Civil War looks very different initially to Syria and elsewhere today the same key societal factors are at play – power, money, marriage, religion, arms and food being amongst the key ones.  Rather than using worksheets considering the English Civil War in isolation other activities could apply cause and effect models to other civil wars and then apply that knowledge to other forms of warfare and social disturbance throughout a longer curriculum (rather than simply a single lesson).  Much of this would require the student to consider modern day resources through online searches and inquiry against traditional historical resources.  Ultimately this would be an example of historical study which furthers the understanding of human nature and society, thus having ‘real world’ applications.

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