Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why Do We Evaluate?

The post below originally came from work I am doing in a post-graduate class on program evaluation. Current evaluation practices are designed and implemented within school systems that are ill-equipped to truly see the forest from the trees due to ingrained historical practices that date back 150 years. So, my question is: Do institutions of education have the ability and capacity to make the types of changes that digital learning demands in the new era of learning personalization?

Rhonda: You bring up an interesting point. In the evaluation processes that are being discussed in this thread, it is primarily the holders of power who are conducting the evaluation within the school system. This completely cuts out the groups who are the end users, in this case students and by extension their parents. As technology allows for more personalization and customization of learning experiences, the traditional model of schools creating common curriculum for mass delivery is at risk. It is a 20th century, outdated model. Programs like RTI and PBS are designed to provide supports for students struggling to fit within the current parameters of our age and time based system. In the near future (within five years), I believe that there will be a revolutionary shift in the way students are educated due to the disruptive nature of technology. For institutions of education to survive, evaluation should shift from past programs towards future practices. Technology tools have finally caught up with the reality that information was liberated from the school house walls with the widespread adoption of the internet in 1994. Until now schools did not have to adapt because the electronic delivery mediums were not diffused enough in society. The past three years of technological change have totally changed this. What you see now is a tension between large, bureaucratic institutions still trying to hold onto old systems and individuals who can learn at anytime, anyplace, and anywhere. If schools do not evaluate why they still insist on holding students for 13 years in a lock step progression when the tools are available for individualized, self-paced learning experiences, then they are at risk for marginalization and perhaps extinction. The current funding crisis in not going to be solved in the near term. So, what can schools do differently? (This is why I would make the case for an external evaluator on this issue. Schools just don't have the reflective capacity for an evaluation that tackles these tough questions). Here are some other resources on this issue:

Ken Robinson TED Talk:

Cathy Davidson (book)

Now You See It

Tom Vander Ark (book)

Getting Smart - How Digital Learning Is Changing The World