In order to stimulate skill development and learning for students who will be public communicators, there is an urgent need to do away with closed platforms that purport to mimic open web functionality, but actually instigate severe limitations upon students’ ability to engage with the world at large. The LMS is good at certain things — administration, secure submissions, communicating grades, distributing licensed resources — but it should be limited to those things and not claim to be something it is not.
When we stop judging students they stop judging and censoring themselves. They begin to actually learn. Even in a STEM class.
We are too often expected to create classes like the opera house, where a “successful” course gets all students, no matter where they come from or what they care about, to think “glacier” when given the right stimulus. To give the correct answer on a test given a specific predetermined question. But what would our classes look like if they instead replicated the experience of a sculpture garden, with that evocative face, filling me with a sense of wonder, compelling me to physically turn around despite myself and investigate a question I developed on my own?
We shouldn’t teach students. We should inspire them. And then we should get out of their way.
A learning management system of one form or another seems ubiquitous in today’s universities. We’ve grown so accustomed to them that we expect to use one even in our face-to-face classes. But their ubiquity brings with it their ability to change the way we see learning. What exists in an LMS becomes the way we see our classes. What if inside that LMS, the button students clicked when they finished a project read, “share my creation” rather than “submit”? How would that small change influence students’ relationships to their own work, much less the class they are a part of? These small reminders of authority structures appear throughout our environments. In my school’s LMS, I work with “users” in an “org unit”, not students in a class. Every time I see the words “org unit” I question how we view our institution and whether we really think we work in the best interests of students.
Friend suggests that rather than ‘teaching’ and ‘submitting’ work, we should be ‘inspiring’ and asking students to ‘share’ their work. Associated with this, rather than dictate the end outcome, allow students to interpret it themselves and provide their justifications for the standards:
My favorite way to assess students? Ask them. Ask them to show what they’ve done for a class. Ask them to show how they know they’ve achieved the course outcomes or standards or learning goals or whatnot. In an engineering class, ask them how they know they’ve solved a particular design challenge. In a science class, ask them how they know they performed a viable experiment and can trust their results. In a music class, ask them how they know whether their performance of a piece accurately or creatively interpreted the intentions of the composer.
Although Friend is talking about a post-secondary environment, this still has ramifications for primary and secondary schools.