Category: Parenting

Just what are we assessing?

To situate you a bit of biography:

I’m in my 40s. I have a BA and a MA and a teeny bit of another BA. I have taken a lot of tests and done a lot of other kinds of assessment over the years.

The MA is in Educational Technology. I have been working in the field for a bit over a decade now. I have written a fair number of tests and other kinds of assessment over the years.

I have a kid, he is 12. Short hand time: the assessment (there is that word again) we had done on him when he was 8 showed that he is “gifted” (a term I am not entirely in love with). It also showed he has processing speed issues and dysgraphia (TL;DR version: his handwriting is a mess and takes a long time).

So you combine those two things and a very bright kid suddenly looks like a dolt (mindful of its limitations, I think of this a lot “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”).

Now his school gives him extra time on tests (which, having worked in Universities, I can tell you most of them do for students with issues as well), has learning advisers, allows him to type what makes sense to type, dictate stuff that is appropriate etc etc. So this is good.

But it does make one think: what are we assessing? I mean, the classic learning design is: learning objective (what we want them to know), Assessment (how we will prove they know it) and content/activities etc (the stuff we are going to teach them). Read that back, nowhere does it say anything about speed. Clearly in “real life” some things have to be done with a pace (I really don’t want a surgeon who hangs out and thinks for a bit as a bleed out), but realistically aren’t most time constraints we place on assessment more about fitting the test to a class period or (in a professional development setting) not interrupting the work day too much?

Anyway, the boy had a test today. The learning adviser helped him out by typing for him, he got extra time. The learning adviser just emailed us to tell us how proud of him she was and how hard he had worked and how much knowledge he managed to get out of his head.

So questions aside, today was a good school day.



Let’s start this with a story, if you’ll indulge me.

My parents had my sister and I later in life (well, by 1960s standards) and many of their friends had older kids, or they had parental peers who were much younger. This meant that many of their friends either were the parents of, or were themselves, hippies.

So, my parents, reasonably, steeled themselves for the possibility that their son would have long hair, and their daughter would rename herself to Moonsomestupidshit and both would have a lot of flower power crap going on.

So, because life is like that, both of us wound up being alty/punk kids with Docs and combat boots and lots and lots of black clothing and shaved heads and earrings and such. Their mistake was not remembering that what is popular or counter cultural at the time of birth will not still be those things when the kid is older.

So, because there is apparently an inter-generational learning curve issue, I steeled myself for Lucas to like horrible music of the Britney Spears variety and we set out to make sure this wouldn’t happen. The lad can identify old school hip hop, many punk bands and Johnny Fricking Cash about 20 seconds into most songs. He has had meaningful conversations about the issues BDP brings up and we’ve talked about how Cash sings about religion a lot, though many people seem to not notice.

Bullet dodged right?

What I didn’t reckon was that he’d go and like stuff that I didn’t like, but the OTHER way (IE, more contemporary/cool). So, now, to my utter horror, I’ve had to promise that the next time Skrillex comes to Montreal/somewhere near Montreal and is a) afforableish and b) somewhere all ages, I’m going to have to take him. I feel so… Dadlike.

(PS B-tone, if you’re reading this, we’re going to need your help, cause I have the sense that Skillrex is like a gateway band to your world of laptop lads and their clicks and whirrs – please steer us!)


For about a six months now Lucas has been playing Minecraft. We’ve got it on the XBox and he’s got the full version on the Mac.

I personally get that it’s cool, but I’m really not able to to get that enthusiastic about it. Christine has fiddled with it more than I have, but I thing that both of us tend to view it as a lower res, more entertaining version of Second Life (thanks be to the gods that I no longer have to pretend that I care about that).

I’ve started to read the variety of articles (journal and popular press) about Minecraft as an educational tool and I need to be reading more. There is also MinecraftEdu that was started by Joel Levin, a teacher out of NYC.

I’m thinking on this for two reasons:

  1. I’m writing this from the Upper Riccarton Library, where Lucas is currently in a Minecraft gaming session as part of their holiday program. They have their own world on a locally installed MinecraftEdu server. It is, frankly, deeply cool.
  2. If the goal of learner engagement is barrier removal and, you know, engagement, we (parents, educators etc) have to look to see where the learners are actually hanging out. I have issues with extending this to social media networks (No, you can’t own my stuff – especially the things I’ve explicitly CC licensed) but the idea of getting Lucas to do homework in Minecraft doesn’t freak me out at all.

So am I talking about a LGMS ((Learning by Gaming Management System)? Or am I just thinking about embedding some of this into classrooms? I dunno yet.. I’ve got to think some more.

Running List of Edu Writing about Minecraft

New Year, New Goals

I think after last year, and getting some of them right, and realising that some weren’t going to happen I’ve decided to make a mix of hard and fast goals and some other “these are ongoing” ones. I guess I’m using the resolutions thing as an easy trigger for some nice objectives statements… we’ll see what the outcomes are eh?

I broke them down a bit, and I’ve added some thoughts to the basic list I committed to (Christine, Lucas and I write them down and then tell each other them, it’s silly, but whatever):

Another pant size(36)/no more middle flab/below 90kg + fitter. The first three can be read as “either/or” or as “I’d like two of these three, thanks”. The last (“fitter”) is sort of subjective, but it’s one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” things.
Better living through better food: I’m not talking vegan (I already flirt with vegetarian now), nor am I talking paleo, but I’m thinking a lot less processed foods and a lot more home cooked/healthy stuff.
Run a 5km race by end of year: for a lot of reasons, this is a beast. When I was young I ran competitively. I was good. Not great, but very good. I was also full of piss and vinegar. So I hurt myself (stress fracture in my leg, belief it was muscular, hiding from people how bad it was, racing on it, blowing out my other leg’s ankle, not getting proper physio – if you’re a jock, go to a jock doctor) and couldn’t run anymore. Running is hard now for me, my brain and body kind of remember what it was like to be fast. My ego certainly does. My legs would like me to knock it off. Dear legs, you are not the boss of me.
Yoga: I am a tense person. Both physically and emotionally. This means I’ve got knots in my shoulders, hamstrings that you could play music on and all the other stressy bits that people go on about. Hopefully yoga will help.
A walk on a trail once a month: This can be tricky at times since we don’t drive, but like yoga, this helps me with my stress, plus it’s more exercise, plus it gives me a chance to use all the fitness I’m working on. Plus, you know, flora! fauna! etc.

Clean as you go in kitchen: Love cooking. LOVE IT! Also seem to love making a mess and then not dealing with it immediately and then leaving it till it’s a huge huge huge issue and I’m in the kitchen pissed off at the world and doing dishes for a day.
Make cleaning plan. Stick to cleaning plan: “oh shit, someone’s coming to visit, crap.. umm I guess I’ll finally do that vacuuming that I said I would a week ago”. This has to stop.

Date nights: Look, I really, really am not going to let this one go. I am, however, going to be realistic and suggest that “date night” can also mean “stay in date night where we eat dinner after the lad is in bed and have a nice bottle of wine/beer and watch a movie or just hang out and chat”.
Breath, he’s just a little boy: Lucas is brilliant. Lucas is talented (at some point a post about the whole “gifted and talented” thing might be in order, but not today). I love him with every fibre of my being and I’d happily die or kill to keep him safe.  Lucas is also brilliant and talented at driving me nuts. I must remember the Teddy Roosevelt scene in “Night At The Museum” and keep in mind that I am more evolved and the (supposed) adult.
Project time after dinner and before Lucas’ bedtime (homework etc allowing): Too often we just slump on the sofa after dinner, watch Campbell Live (which I consider a fine use of 30 minutes) or we all wander off and fiddle with something or other (where something or other is videogames or more food etc). So what we reckon is for the hour and a half to two and a half hours after dinner and before the lad goes to bed we’re going to do something. So far that something has been puzzles. But we have an Arduino starter kit we’re going to play with, Lucas wants to learn HTML/CSS so I figure we can all learn HTML5 together etc. Seriously, if Campbell Live is good that night, I’ll find out via twitter and I’ll watch it later OnDemand (don’t worry @JohnJCampbell, my bromance, and belief that you are a national treasure, remains intact).
If there is crap on tv turn it off or watch something decent: I like TV. Christine likes TV. Lucas likes TV. Metro doesn’t care about TV except for the fact that it makes three laps available for the purposes of sitting upon (she is a cat after all, few programers think of them when putting together their schedules). This sometimes means that we will watch ANYTHING. I think the Fabulous Baker Boys are probably lovely young men. But if the choice is them or going to bed/reading/talking to my wife, I really should be doing the later. It’s not that I’m suddenly going to forsake the various idiotic/diverting reality shows I watch (when did that happen to me by the way?), nor am I going to give up on the idea that shity TV is better than drinking yourself silly after a crappy day, but really? A weekly show about cheese? So, either the box goes off or we watch a documentary or something.

Procrastinate no longer: It’s not that I don’t get things done. It’s not that I don’t get them done well. It’s that the tiny bit of my DNA that made me love journalism, graphic and educational design also gave me the trait of “think think, ponder, day dream, realise the due date is like now, slam it out with no sleep for several days”. I have done some amazing work this way. Probably some of my best, but a) I’m not getting any younger b) how much better would my work have been if I had taken just a wee bit more time?
Focus (ie turn off all the things): I have a membership to almost every social media thingy there is. I like people. I like talking to people. I like arguing with people. I like reading new things and I like sharing new, interesting things and what I’m doing with people. But I’m also a bit of a magpie. Around here we call it “shiny baubleitis”, a horrible disease that means you’re interested and, at times, distracted by everything. So, for several long swaths of the work day I’m going to turn off all the sources of distraction. This means that twitter and Facebook must go off. I love them, and you all, to bits, but holy crap you’re all way to interesting/cool/wrong and it’s distracting.

Stuff I wanna learn:
More Moodle: I started learning more about gradebook, but I really need to learn more… and more about the rest of the functionality generally. I’d also like to work out a bit more about the whole theme process. I really haven’t taken a look under that particular bit of the hood.
Arduino: I mentioned we got a starter kit to play with; we’re thinking some sort of little robot – I’d like to make a UAqV – Unmanned Aquatic Vehicle – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
HTML5: Lucas wants to learn how to make websites, I want to upskill/unrusty myself. So yeah, this seems a natural.
French: I’m rusty. Plus my public school education/work experience in the Anglo linguistic ghettos has made it so my written French is non-existent and my spoken sometimes sounds like I’m a mechanic, in a very dirty, disreputable garage. I need to fix this if we ever plan on going home and I ever plan on working again.
Thai cooking: It seems to be our go to takeaway/mall dining food. It also seems to me that I should be able to make it at home.

Old year, Old goals

So this was last year’s set of resolutions:

“Right. It’s 5:30pm on the 1st, so it’s time: 15kgs (and fitter). Listen to music more often. Date nights with Christine Daviault once a month/as thesis allows, let go of my rage, hiking of some kind once a month. Sleep more/better. Learn to make pasta with my new pasta maker. Figure out how to deal with Lucas better. For now”

So, how did I do?

I’m back up in weight a bit, but I got down to 19kg weight loss at one point, so this one is a solid HELL YES! I’m no longer a gym member so I’m not pounding out the intense cardio like I was earlier in the year so that probably accounts for the slight weight gain. I’m also doing exclusively bodyweight workouts ( I suppose that’s a post of it’s own at some point, but I’m doing one in the backyard and one at playgrounds) so it’s possible that I’ve gained mass as well. That said I have put on some flab around the middle. Working on this by counting calories again ( is your friend) and working through the “Ease into 5K” program with Lucas and Christine.

Music. I listened to more. I need to listen to even more and discover new stuff. The late 80s and early 90s made fine music, I need to listen to things from the last decade or so.

Date nights. Yeah, nah. Look, childcare remains an issue for us. We got out a few times (THANKS GENISSA!) but mostly we hung out at home.

Rage? Yeah, nah. Still ragey. Trying to calm down some.

Hiking? Yeah, not so much. Some got done, but not heaps.

Sleep? Basically once a month Chris and I get to the point where we’re exhausted and go to bed early for a week.

Pasta? I can makes it. Slowly though. Part of that is to do with the fact that speed comes with practice. Part of it is that I’m pokey in the kitchen and part of it is that I can’t clamp my pasta maker to the counter properly. This means the process goes “feed dough in, crank, swear as clamp comes undone, try and clamp it again, swear, give up, crank with one hand and hold bottom of pasta maker with other hand”. The results are very, very tasty though.

Lucas. Lucas, Lucas, Lucas.. or more fairly: Lucas, his ability to find and push my buttons and my stupidity of reacting. So yeah, ongoing project.