Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The State Test, Blogs, and Digital Portfolios

This coming February I'll be presenting "Web Logs in the Mathemtics Classroom" at the Ohio SchoolNet State Technology Conference. My session will focus on using Web logs as digital portfolios to increase student's scores on the state test.

The premise here is that there is a great deal of writing on the mathematics portion of the state test. In Ohio, questions that require a great deal of writing are called extended response items. These are typically the questions that students struggle with the most on the state test, particularly in my school district. As a result, their test scores suffer.

Obviously, the solution to this problem is to have students write more in math. At the Future of Math Web site, I describe several forms of writing that could be used in the mathematics classroom: journals, learning logs, math autobiographies, and explaining solutions to problems. For the purpose of improving test scores, teachers must focus on having students solve--and explain the process involved in--problems. But this type of assignment must be more than a token assignment thrown in once a month, or as a word problem at the end of an exam; it must drive the mathematics instruction in each and every classroom.

I have come to believe that blogs hold incredible potential for improving student writing in mathematics, specifically peformance on extended response items. There are several reasons for this. One is that blogs allow others to easily provide feedback. By clicking on the comments link at the end of each entry, teachers can provide students with information on how to improve their writing on the next entry.

Blogs furnish students with an audience. Residing on the Internet, a blog can be read by anybody with an Internet connection. Every entry is open to criticism from teachers, parents, administrators, and other students.

Blogs also allow students, teachers, and others to see progress throughout the school year. As they are updated, all previous entries remain on the page so that by simply scrolling, students and teachers are able to see the entries for the entire year. The whole year's learning is on one screen, similar to a whole year's learning in the contents of a notebook or portfolio. This leads to the next important point, and the topic of my next entry, using blogs as digital portfolios.

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