Do something special that makes you feel warm all over, like taking your morning coffee in the chilly air. This photo was taken from the lighthouse. Check out Surfline.
It's the day after the DC insurgency, amid a pandemic, and 147 lawmakers supported at least one objection to counting Biden’s electoral votes. Seven of these supposed patriots are California lawmakers who were more than willing to disenfranchise voters. Think long and hard about this. Politicians wanting to take away your voting right because they don't believe the monumental amount of evidence that proves there was no voter fraud. Or they do believe the evidence but will not admit it because it jeopardizes their political career in their district/state. Either way, they provide no viable resource to this country, and should look for another career (or planet to live on).
One of my colleagues stated this is 2020 spilling over into 2021. It's still a mess, and it's making it hard to focus on what's necessary to keep day-to-day operations running. Classes are starting in a little over two weeks, and we're still in online only teaching mode. I truly hope we have some breathing room to shake off this ugliness taking place in our country, and fill up the well with hopefulness and compassion before students are back to school.
As we finish up the "Year of Education Online Work" (aka YEOW!), it's normal to reflect on what has had the biggest impact on student success, and what has not. On the positive side, the mobilization of institutions to provide access to teaching and learning has been phenomenal. Those who are worn out by the Zoom sessions and glitchy technology, still manage to find a way to be creative, experimental, and connected to students. Many are re-thinking the value of hybrid and online delivery from a positive mindset, not a deficit one—they are listening to their students with openness and making adjustments as the semester progresses.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are missed opportunities that abound in distance education, and authentic assessment is one of them. If faculty are the engine on a train and instruction is the cargo, assessment is the caboose. The caboose is coupled at the end of a freight train, intended to keep a lookout for load shifting, damage to equipment and cargo, and smoke. This blog post seeks to debunk the need for ed tech's caboose: surveillance technology. Faculty, keep writing your exams! Assessment should be classified as cargo (more learning is taking place), and not a lookout post that broadcasts to students, "I don't trust you!"
I've been in higher ed long enough to know, some will never be convinced ed tech software is designed to bust students and is not equitable. "Those who are not persuaded by the ethical and empathetic position should know that proctoring software fails miserably when checked against the science of learning too. Students have to deal with the extra cognitive burden of thinking about questions like 'Are my eyes looking in the right place?' 'I didn’t move my head too much, did I?' 'I’m not cheating but will the instructor think I am?' 'I opened another app because my kid's teacher just pinged me.' etc."
I highly encourage you to read, Refusal, Partnership, and Countering Educational Technology’s Harm by Charles Logan, and the New York Times article, Keeping Online Testing Honest? Or an Orwellian Overreach?
In April 2020, UC Berkeley provided instructors clear guidance on assessments in a COVID-era. Below are recommendations from this document, applicable to all segments of higher ed.
Cabrillo's installation of Proctorio is going away in December. What remains available to faculty is Turnitin's SimCheck (a similarity checker), and Respondus LockDown Browser (no live proctoring). We can continue to influence our institutions and define how we keep teaching in an equitable manner. We can also eschew using these tools that pit our students as adversaries, and support each other in using authentic assessment techniques and open education resources. See OER and Online Learning Faculty Quick Start Guide.
Many distance education professionals in the California Community Colleges have spent literally decades working to improve DE, provide access to education, close the equity gap, increase student success, and degree completions. In a few short months, all that progress has been undermined by one single event—the COVID pandemic. Factors include predatory practices by ed tech companies, the massive influx of instructors into online teaching (with little or no experience), bias towards online as a deficit, not a positive principle, and the economic disaster for students and their support structures, mainly family and friends.
Good online learning is so much more than facilitation. "The role of the instructor as subject matter expert and pedagogical architect"1 has been compromised by reliance on web-conferencing (originally designed for corporate business), surveillance technology, and largely text-based digital environments instead of multiple modes of representing knowledge.
In Michelle Pacansky-Brock's Love Letter to Online Learning, she states "The nature of online classes varies dramatically, much like face-to-face classes. But, in both scenarios, the teacher matters and the teaching matters. When an online class is taught by an engaged and empathetic instructor who seeks to be aware of the needs of her students, the asynchronous nature of online learning may become a benefit to students, not a disadvantage. This is contingent upon the design of the course."
We already know that instructors who completed the DE Academy experience transformations in their face-to-face classes as a result of what they learned from teaching online. I guess my question at this point is to ask new online instructors, are you going to swim, or will you hang out in the shallows until classes resume on-campus again?
It's a harsh reality that community college enrollment is taking a big hit. And it mostly affects low income students and students of color. Some students are shopping for classes that don't require a webcam, or don't use online proctoring surveillance. Courses that have redesigned engagement are gaining wider acceptance. For example, redefining authorship, such as welcoming illustrated papers, student video projects, group presentations, or audio soundtrack assessments, instead of short quizzes. Even Harvard acknowledged, students liked the optional breakout Zoom rooms for smaller discussions, “Because the minute the Zoom meeting ends, the entire campus evaporates for everyone." If you learn to swim now, imagine yourself teaching a hybrid class in the future that provides highly engaging activities, flexible learning, and increased student success.
Let's keep swimming!
1 The Manifesto for Online Teaching, 2020, MIT Press
2 Community College Enrollment is Way Down, 10-16-20, New York Times