For many people, it seems strange to finish a unit or to finish the semester without a lengthy exam. School departments still utilize 150 question final exams to assess student learning. Although this is the norm, it should not be since it does not accurately assess student learning. Richardson says “passing the test” is irrelevant or unimportant (even though, in many ways, it’s both). I insist that the “test” doesn’t come close to capturing what our kids need to know and to be able to do at this moment of rapid and radical change.” Richardson is correct on this view of assessments. Formal assessments such as quizzes or tests have never accurately evaluated student learning. Instead, quizzes and tests evaluate if students are able to braindump a series of facts in a stressful situation. If teachers want to accurately assess student learning, a portfolio of work needs to be assessed. The assessment should be able to evaluate important skills such as collaboration, communication, creativity, and ability to continuously learn. Rarely does a workforce ask employees to memorize facts and repeat them at a specific time. Instead the workforce asks employees to work together collaboratively to solve problems.
Richardson discusses skills that are important to a 21st century citizen. “A recent IBM survey of CEOs asked them to name the most crucial factor for future success, and their answers had nothing to do with state assessments, SAT scores, or even Advanced Placement tests. Instead, they cited creativity and “managing the growing complexity of the world.” I can’t find one state or local test currently in use that captures our kids’ mastery in those two areas.” Students who are about to enter the workforce are limited by public education. This is due to the fact that old style assessments are used to assess for outdated skills. 21st century citizens are required to navigate a world with unlimited access to information that is in continuously changing and growing. The idea of taking a closed note or closed book test is outdated and irrelevant. Engineers are not asked to memorize formulas but are asked to utilize formulas to solve problems. In an Engineering class, students should be given access to these formulas and assessed on their ability to utilize these tools.
Citizens of the 21st century are bombarded with information. Information is changing, growing and evolving at a rapid pace. Between 2012 and 2013 there were at least 3,000 peer reviewed articles on the subject of climate change alone. Meaning, new information is presented to the public at an accelerated rate compared to any other century. In order to ensure that students are prepared to enter, navigate and thrive in this current world students must be explicitly taught relevant skills. “Psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy predicts that the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.” Doctors will lose their jobs if they do not keep up to date with current health trends, new research and new tools. No longer do we live in an age where all the information can be learned by a particular age. Students must be able to be flexible and navigate an ever changing environment. Therefore skills that promote lifelong learning and learning evolving technologies are important and should be explicitly taught.
Students who are graduating high school today do not know a world without cell phones or the internet. Although technology has been integrated into almost every aspect of life for these students, students are rarely explicitly taught how to utilize these resources. Often it is assumed that since students have access to technology that they are digitally literate. But unfortunately, this is simply not true. As a teacher, I can ensure that students receive explicit instruction on digital literacy. To promote digital literacy, a lesson on reliable information and how to determine reliability can be conducted several times throughout the academic year. Students can be given an opportunity to explore and utilize different media types such as prezi, iMovie, screencasts and ComicLife to convey and present information. Using lessons that incorporate digital technology and teaches digital literacy is a way to ensure that content is being received in addition to skills relevant to 21st century citizens.
To gain access to Why School? by Will Richardson, click on this link.