I like this video to review some of the main features of SWAY.
The uniqueness of our Catholic curriculum is evidenced in our incorporation of our province’s Catholic Graduate Expectations into our learning goals. While many of these expectations are shared by the secular school system (effective communication; creative thinking; self-directed learning, collaboration and citizenship) our Catholic curriculum goes farther in that we also specifically celebrate the value in being a caring family member and a child of God. Certainly the uniqueness of our English curriculum lies in specifically demonstrating to learners the value in living in communion with our immediate and extended families and in seeking communion with God.
Our focus on these two graduate expectations (individual’s relationship with their family/community and with God) are simply addressed in the English curriculum through the regular incorporation of open-ended response opportunities, usually by way of the Minds’ On portion of the English lesson. Open-ended response activities that invite learners to share their thoughts and to actively listen to their peers, provide the necessary space for learners to be able to reflect and to understand their connection to each other and, by extension, to their family and their God.
While providing learners with open-ended response opportunities serves to move lessons forward, push students deeper into the topic, settle their minds and to access their prior knowledge, schema, these activities also imply a collaborative and creative response to a given text. The combined effect is to humanize the learning by providing space for moments of insight which are often generated by peers who are relying on and drawing from their own out-of-school lives to enrich their learning. In this way, the subject matter of our English courses can become a wonderful pretext for creating opportunities to connect with classmates, which can greatly influence how we teach learners to connect with their community, their families and with God.
“There are places on the earth, in every country, where, for various reasons, good schools cannot be build and good teachers cannot or do not want to go…” Sugata Mitra’s inspiration for “The Computer in the Wall Experiment.”
There’s a bit of a “cool’ war happening in education these days. Teachers are doing the unthinkable: they’re taking corporate sides! What was once considered selling-out, now seems to have considerable educational cache. Apple-Google-Microsoft “Certified” seems to carry more weight than even your education degree! This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a very different thing, and one that takes some getting used to. Learners are living in a very different time after all and our education system should reflect this changing environment. The fact that teachers are voraciously defending their Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) of choice is one good indicator that things are moving in a progressive direction for modern learners.
Recently, I was blessed to spend an entire summer day chatting about this very thing with a group of freshly minted Ontario educators (@MsKarapici; @MsMarino; @SmithWjasmith; @MMkirsti; @EFTeacher6; @NadineTFrancoi1; @jdsouza19326; @MsMedeiros112 ) and one serious long-time educational technology guru, @AddesaAT. We looked at GAFE and O365 and here’s our working summary of the key features of each VLE. You may find this overview valuable when choosing your VLE camp! Stay tuned for updates! I’m thinking a O365 or GAFE soccer scarf might be a necessary accessory in any future discussions!
Amidst all this VLE chatter, it’s valuable to note that learning management systems, like D2L, are quickly becoming obsolete. The only thing that D2L has that O365 or GAFE doesn’t have (yet) is the ability to apply a Turnitin authenticity checker on student submissions. I’ll save the topic of “intellectual property” as it relates to notions of collusion versus collaboration, for another post!
This past April 2014, an undisclosed number of OSSLT “scorers” gathered at The Toronto Congress Centre to assess and to evaluate the literacy of thousands of eligible Grade 10 students in the Province of Ontario. This crew of “literati” consisted of a mix of Ontario Certified teachers in good standing (and not in good standing), retired teachers (with suspended or retired standings) and those never trained as teachers (with no standing). They underwent an apparently rigorous interview process and a supposedly even more intense training boot camp on scoring large-scale assessments. Their efforts over three weeks in April 2014 have resulted in the people of the Province of Ontario believing a lie: that Ontario’s teachers support EQAO’s version of standardized testing, the OSSLT.
Despite EQAO’s claim that approximately 1,500 teachers participated in the scoring of this year’s test, I have difficulty believing them. Joanne Rinella, Program Manager for Secondary Assessments at EQAO, assures me that each “scorer” (not necessarily a teacher) participates in less than a day of test training (actually 3/4 of a day) and must pass a qualifying test. After less than a day, scorers (not necessarily teachers) are ready to mark. She also boasts that content is created by Ontario teachers and educational consultants, albeit in an American-style test “blueprint.”
The fact is that Ontario’s teachers largely don’t support this OSSLT. I have yet to meet an Ontario teacher who thinks students absolutely must know how to write a news report based on fabricated content. Most teachers look at the multiple-choice questions used in this test, as cheap shots; intended to trick students instead of offering them opportunities to showcase their learning or their thinking. Even the notion of the type of literacy this test is trying to assess, is questionable. Their literacy construct fails to include any 21st century skills.
Ms. Rinella admits that the test blueprint hasn’t changed in the last 15 years. When asked why this was the case, her response was that EQAO wants their data to be “reportable.” If the test blueprint changes, then it won’t be able to be compared with previous test results. I wonder how many teachers maintain a sub-par or obsolete and antiquated test “blueprint” for over a decade, refusing to adopt 21st century learning models, web. 2.0 designs and collaborative learning models because that would mean it wouldn’t be able to be compared to previous years? Is EQAO, our body responsible for reporting on the quality of our education system really saying that nothing has changed in education in 15 years?
Ontario’s Growing Success document which outlines guidelines for assessment, evaluation and reporting in the province admits that these tests “differ from classroom assessment and evaluation in their purposes and in the way they are designed, administered, and scored” (92). Any Grade 10 student will tell you that the OSSLT is unlike any other assessment they have experienced and YET, this test is intended to provide parents, teachers and government with a “snapshot of the strength and weakness of education” (92). What it ends up doing is driving content and trumping the good, authentic work that teachers are trying to do. Like the science teacher in the photo above, shown spending her instructional period teaching her students to invent news report details instead of focusing on an authentic, collaborative and modern learning goal.
Ontario Teachers: stop financially benefitting from the OSSLT by scoring it and by contributing content to their obsolete test blueprint. Let’s make EQAO more Accountable for Equity and Quality in Ontario’s educational system. EQAO needs to change. They need to learn.