Thursday, September 8, 2011

...and we're back!

I hadn't originally intended for this to be a during-the-year-only blog, but it turns out that that's what we've had.  Things are just different when the kids are here (in a good way!).
We ran the much-vaunted Marshmallow Challenge for the first time.  Actually, most of the kids did it last year in class, but without some of the unpacking of ideas that we did this year.  Many folks have blogged about this, but here are my impressions and my spin on it:
  • The TED talk is pretty essential.  It raises some great questions in the kids, and really helps us get a discussion started about grading, trying, and the value of failure
  • Much of the talk is about teamwork, which is a good lesson, but which isn't really my goal for the exercise.  Hopefully, a little of that will splash on them, too
  • The idea about failure leading to success is huge.  This is a great springboard to talking about why older students are more averse to failure than little kids, which leads smack dab into SBG
  • The coupling of high stakes (ahem: tests) and novice skills (shouldn't they be novices at everything they study, since it's the first time?) really motivates SBG as a better representative of what they know than traditional grading
  • I kept track of the number of collapses that each team had and the time at which they first engaged the marshmallow.  The correlation's a bit spotty, but I might be able to add some graphs later.  It certainly plays out as advertised (most of the time).
  • It's super-important to add a heaping helping of "it's the feedback that matters!" in here, lest kids just here "infinite chances!".  This hopefully spills over into their traditionally graded classes, too; even though the feedback  won't help them change the past grade, it'll certainly help their future ones, if they let it.  Failure is very helpful, but only if students learn from it - reassessment by itself is not a silver bullet.
  • Don't get to specific with how your flavor of SBG is implemented yet - maybe wait until the first assessment, but certainly roll it out over a period of days.  Get the big ideas in first.
  • My attempt at a bit of a Prezi to introduce those big ideas (sometimes the views at each point in the path aren't optimal, but it's heavily dependent on the settings of the machine you're viewing it on, so it's not really fixable on my end) is here.  It certainly needs to be narrated (like any good presentation, it's not all on the slides.  That's not to say that I claim it to be a good presentation. :) )
Some pictures of structures (I didn't get all of the pics that I'd like, because I didn't check the camera battery - boo!):

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