Thursday, July 6, 2017

Forests And Trees

Here is another article that I have read recently. Click here to read it. It's called "Teachers Don't Want All This Useless Data." In many ways, this is absolutely true.

Don't get me wrong. Data has a purpose. Maybe even as the spine guiding the path along teaching each individual child. But data also has some pretty darn significant faults. Let's say the child wasn't thinking while they were testing. Maybe on the day of the testing, he or she was thinking about what another kid said to them on the bus to school. Perhaps the kid got yelled at by their parents that morning for any reason. Maybe they didn't sleep the night before because they were nervous about the freakin' test.

At any given point, most kids are thinking about kid stuff.

 As teachers, however, we get to know the kids over the course of a year. We spend most--or at least half--of the child's waking hours with them. We know them.

There is a frightening percentage of the bureaucracy who put all of their eggs in the data basket. Of course, the poor administrators have nothing else to rely on. I'm not talking about them, because I feel their pain. I am talking about lawmakers and curriculum writers (plus the media outlets...the same companies as the curriculum writers--look it up), plus a couple of higher-ups whose jobs rely on data, proving that things don't work, and proving that things which actually don't work do work.

I want you all to know--past and present--that I teach your child as an individual. Every now and then, I need to have a conversation with that child about how to show the Golden Cow Data what they actually can do and what they know. But I don't worship that Golden Cow, FYI.

I hope your child doesn't either.

I hope you don't either.

Data can be handy when I'm helping a child during the summer, but you know what I usually find? Normally, I find that the kid does get it. Or they do after one reminder. It usually turns out they they just spaced it on the day of that test. It turns out that once I word it the way they remember it being worded, they remember it perfectly.

It's just a matter of "Oh, yeah!" or "Oh, now I get it" moments. It is not a measure of a child's aptitude nor their intelligence level. Data and computers and robots are no replacement for a teacher's understanding.

The article quotes Michael Lewis, author of Moneyball, very aptly:

“Intelligence about baseball statistics had become equated in the public mind with the ability to recite arcane baseball stats. What [Bill] James’s wider audience had failed to understand was that the statistics were beside the point. The point was understanding; the point was to make life on earth just a bit more intelligible; and that point, somehow, had been lost. ‘I wonder,’ James wrote, ‘if we haven’t become so numbed by all these numbers that we are no longer capable of truly assimilating any knowledge which might result from them.'”

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