Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Is Collaboration Good For?

I attended a conference yesterday about PARCC and the Common Core as well as a panel discussion about 1:1 programs.  For PARCC and the Common Core there was a moderated panel discussion and series of individual presentations.  Two items struck me from the conversation around the Common Core.

The first was a lack of any discussion about how potential and even current state testing completely disregards the fact that learning is a collaborative process.  I would hope we view scholarship as a collective enterprise and not a solo endeavor.  Again, the contrast was striking.  I attended a conference with a 100 other educators, who while listening to presentations were simultaneously posting questions to a back channel discussion and submitting commentary on Twitter.  The whole experience was collaborative cooperative and embraced the importance learning networks.  However, when it comes to state testing, students are isolated from one another and networks they have cultivated.  What's worse is that these exams will be online. Unfortunately participants will not be able to access a global community of experts just for this assignment.  This thread was furthered when the moderator of the Common Core discussion shared the "corn" question (search document for elevator).  I'm not sure how many of our students, particularly those in the state of New Jersey, are familiar with farming, growing corn and grain elevators.  It would seem rationale that if presented with this problem a student or anyone for that matter could reach out to either an expert or the web to develop context and for assistance in addressing the task.

The next item was reaction to a presentation about the Common Core.  The presenter was talking about writing and the need for students to conduct ethical research inquiries, synthesize information and present a compelling argument.  I do not disagree with any of these actions.  However, who or what job requires these steps to be accomplished in such a short time frame.  Is it a necessary skill to write a cohesive essay in 25-30 minutes.  Is this how the world functions.  Think about our most talented authors.  They spend hours, days, weeks, months, maybe even a lifetime shaping a response.  We ask our students, who are maturing writers, to perform this task under the stress of high stakes circumstances.

I understand and accept the realities of the Common Core and PARCC.  Still, I hope we continue to question what students are being asked to do and strive to determine if there is potentially a more productive and fulfilling alternative.