As we come to the close of the first half of the year, I have been reflecting on the content I have taught in my Computer Technology/Technology for Tomorrow class over the last 22 years. It certainly has changed over time, based on the needs of the students, needs of the school and progression of the knowledge brought into the middle school level.
I feel that this type of class has run it's course. Students need critical thinking, transferable skills to address the changing needs of the schooling they will get and the job market they will encounter. Most of the jobs that they will have in the future don't even exist yet, so we can't teach them how to do them! Instead we need to teach them how to solve problems, design solutions, communicate effectively and have a growth mindset - willing to overcome obstacles they will face.
So to that end I have asked administration to look at helping to create a semester class in Computer Science, with the eventual goal of transitioning the current Technology class to a class that students can use.
As usual comments are welcomed in this discussion about changes for our students.
Thank you, Ms. Terresa Cook
I've spent the better part of a week (not the whole time mind you!) thinking about, talking about, asking questions about grading. The move for the district is changing secondary grading policies to show mastery of a subject or topic. I believe that grades aren't important, it's the learning that counts, and showing mastery of the subject is where we need to be headed. So this really supports my personal belief.
For Technology for Tomorrow, it has proven difficult to move to a totally standards based grading system, as we don't have specific standards for the subject. The class is based on national Technology standards (ISTE Standards for Students) and the 21st Century Skills Career Framework. So, as you can see on my Policies page, I've broken it down into two categories, one for classwork and the other for assessment. It's the first time I have done weighting with categories, so I hope it will give me better insight into a student's learning.
For English, I am following the other 8th grade teachers policies of grading based on summative assessments. These are directly from the CCSS (Common Core Standards) that we teach with every day. As soon as I get everything set up, I'll put specifics on the Policies page.
Thanks for your patience and support as I continue to tweak and adjust the system to show what your student is learning!
At the end of October, I was fortunate to be able to attend the CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference in American Canyon. It's an annual event for me, sometimes paid for by the school, sometimes on my own dime. It's so phenomenal for me, it's worth every penny.
The primary reason I go is to get pumped up about new ways to use technology, new programs and get excited about teaching what I teach - Technology and Video Production! I meet other educators from around the state, share curricular and teaching ideas and get some great contacts going.
As a result of my attendance this year, I am adding some new programs to my list for students to use, so hop over to the third-party tools and check them out.
Students in 7th grade typically turn 13 years of age during the school year. That is a turning point for being able to create online accounts. According to COPPA - Children's Online Protection Privacy Act - children under the age of 13 must have parent permission to create an online account. This had presented a dilemma for me, as some students could and others couldn't use online accounts in my curriculum.
So I created a list of 3rd Party tools and sites I use and would like students to use in class. See 3rd Party Tools.
Some of these you may be familiar with and others you aren't. I encourage you to take the time to review each one. I will send a letter home asking for written consent (from both 7th and 8th graders) from their parents. I want to be totally transparent in what I am using in my class. IF you have a problem or question, I encourage you to email me and we can continue the discussion.
If you want to supervise what you student is doing on these accounts, please have them log in and discuss it with you. Their log in information is on their cards. I can't retrieve some of the passwords. If a student has a web-based email account (not the VUSD one which cannot receive emails), that can be used when creating the account. They can also use YOUR email account if you want notifications to go to you.
Thank you for your support and trust.
Update May 25, 2018
You may have noticed that you have been receiving many updates for the web sites you use. This is due to the General Data Protection Act, which went into affect today. Although it is for the European Union countries, web sites are used around the world, hence the updates to your sites. I have taken the time to update my web site to reflect the new policies and practices on the web sites that my classes use.
As I approach mid year and the third quarter, which means all new students for me, I am taking the opportunity to work on transitioning my grading policies. At the beginning of the year we as a staff agreed to reflect on our current grading policies and improve how they measure student learning.
On a personal note, I have been opposed to letter grades for a long time, probably since I was in high school myself. I understood even then that grades didn't really reflect how much I learned - or didn't learn! Think back to elementary reports, there weren't grades, but letters. An "O" might be outstanding and an "E" excellent. Even to our standardized testing, we don't have letter grades but words like Basic and Advanced. These practices better reflect the level of student understanding of a subject.
My grading practices have changed over the past few years. I realized that if a student follows the basic instructions to complete a project, such as a Power Point presentation, when newly introduced to the program, I gave them all the points possible. I didn't grade the creativity or choice of fonts, but the fact that they could complete the project. I called them "all or nothing" assignments.
This year I have taken it a step further by using a 4 point rubric to "grade" each requirement. I then weight the grades using the point system in School Loop. For example, if a project has 7 components and each can be worth up to 4 points, that's 28 total. If it is an involved project, I might make it worth 100 points. So School Loop does the math for me.
So the final step is using a mastery based grading scale in School Loop. Instead of an overall grade, you will see Advanced down to Far Below Basic. At grade report time, I still have to report a letter grade, this is something School Loop is working on addressing.
I hope this helps clarify the thinking behind the grades I give your students. Post a comment or question!
I have owned my domain of terresac.com for over 20 years. While I lived in Albuquerque and teaching there, I kept a web page regularly updated. There wasn't any type of web site at that time to host assignments and resources for my students and fellow teachers. When I moved to California, I began using an online grade book and eventually migrated to School Loop. This was quite adequate for many years until Google Drive and then Google Classroom came along. During this transition, I couldn't justify the time to update my web site as it was just duplicating the work for me.
Now I have a reason. There are resources, information and my blog here to help parents and students navigate the changes we have before us in public education. I am sincerely trying to go 100% paperless, including parent communication. With few exceptions, most parents and students have access to the internet, either through their phones, tablets or computers. I want to take advantage of providing a constant source of information about my practices, policies and classes. As a teacher in the prime of my career, I want to be the best that I can be at my job.
Feel free to comment below or send an email if you have a question or concern.