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A week has come and gone since my last post.  My weekend was crammed with wedding showers which meant plenty of baking and gift wrapping for me.  I had mentioned my love of baking in the little blurb about me located in my blog sidebar, and have included a picture to showcase my wares.  They were vanilla cupcakes dipped in white chocolate ganache, and then topped with blueberry buttercream, blueberry-orange drizzle, and a fresh blueberry. There are few things that make me happier than baking and teaching.  Except for maybe editing videos, which I was also doing this weekend in an attempt to complete my Final Reflection on time.  Unfortunately my archaic computer was taking upwards of 7 hours to upload 30 second clips I had created with Screencast-O-Matic until finally giving me the metaphorical finger in the form of a spinny wheel of death and then shutting down for the night.  When I finally got it turned back on, there was not a trace of my project in sight. Thankfully my partner returned like a knight in shining armour Sunday night with his laptop in tow so I could proceed to basically start from scratch.  His Mac is much more modern than mine and was exponentially faster and easier to use, so I was able to complete it with no problems.

So, without further ado, I present to you my Final Reflection showcasing what I learned this semester. Leave a comment or question below!

 
 
It is hard to believe our spring semester has come to a close.  I still have a couple of things to wrap up before I can officially declare my completion of my last University classes ever.  Or at least for a little while.  But it feels good all the same as the assignments will be enjoyable to do.  One of them is a summary of learning on how I contributed to the education of others and how they contributed to mine.  I have decided to make my summary as transparent as this entire experience has been for me thus far, and so consider this post my recap of the semester.

In my very first post, Dean made a comment about my "voice" and how glad he was to see that I was comfortable with mine.  Writing is always a laborious process for me.  It's a bit of a love/hate relationship in that I usually love the product but hate the process.  It took me hours to write most of these posts because of the time I take to make sure they are properly edited, they are well resourced, and that they are enjoyable to read.  So I appreciated that Dean noticed my effort to let my personality shine through as that was something that was important to me.  One is always a little nervous about the first time he/she puts him/herself out there because, as they say,
someecards.com - You only get one chance to make a first impression
So his feedback let me know that I was heading in the right direction.  And over the next seven weeks, comments are what continued to let me know how I was doing.  I had a classmate take note of my map widget and express an interest in using one herself.  She used the word "steal" and in any other University program that would be an appropriate term.  But in the Faculty of Education, and this class in particular, we were always encouraged to share our ideas so I was happy to have someone take an interest in mine.  On the other hand, I also appreciated the feedback when someone wasn't digging what I was doing.  I received some not-so-nice realities about the lackluster appearance of my posts but put the criticism to use and made sure to add some type of media to the majority of my work.  This also happened to coincide with the syllabus so kudos to my sister for laying it out for me, otherwise I may have missed that one.

Disagreements or having someone challenge your point of view can also be a great way to learn.  Sometimes having someone point out an opposing stance can help us to either reconsider our initial thoughts or solidify our position on a topic.  One article that had everyone chatting was the story of an Edmonton teacher who was suspended for not abiding by his school's No-Zero Policy.  I wrote my own post on the topic and also engaged in conversation with others about their views on the matter, both classmates and strangers.  This was a challenge for me as I often think of my views as "irrelevant" or "uninformed" because I am not working in the field yet.  But as I took chances and publicized my opinion, I received some positive feedback as well as some alternate perspectives, all with my professionalism intact.  These are learning opportunities I would have missed out on if I had remained safely on the sidelines.

I did the same on twitter where, after several failed attempts, I  finally participated in an #edchat.  It was there that
I received a suggestion for posing questions to increase the likelihood of receiving a comment or starting a conversation, so I began trying to incorporate them into my posts.  I found some interesting conversations ensued after a question was asked, like one another classmate posted about homework.  As I was checking my Google Reader one day, I saw a similar post from an educator in Alberta and shared the link for Jane in her comments. She checked it out, posted a comment for Joe about her own blog, which then brought him into our discussion.  If you look at the conversation there, lots of different ideas and resources were passed around.  A great example of collaborative learning and Jane has since started following Joe too.

Another thing I found with questions, are that they can be an actual call for help.  I noticed many of my peers asking for assistance with some aspect of technology and I always tried to respond because I know how frustrating it can be sometimes!  I read about a classmate struggling with the size of something she was trying to embed in her blog.  Since we both use Weebly, I played around with it in my own blog first and then sent her the instructions so she would have them for next time. I also provided Jane with some assistance with embedding her survey in WordPress and directed another classmate to Jane on twitter when she was struggling with the same issue.  I've even extended my helping hand to people outside the class with technology troubles like my friend here.  I am a problem solver by nature, so I love responding to challenges.

Throughout the semester I tried to remain conscious of the positive feelings and motivation I got from knowing that people were reading my posts.  For me, comments are a measure of reader engagement so I made a point of sharing my thoughts with fellow bloggers.  I did it for children and I did it for adults and both made me feel great.    Part of a teacher's job is to inspire, inform, share, and collaborate with students and other educators.  I consider myself lucky because, in my chosen profession, I will get to do this kind of stuff everyday.  And Dean, my classmates, and everyone else I have connected with along the way, have all taught me that technology has expanded the audience with which I can do those things.  I think I really embraced the collaborative style of this class, which is so critical because as Dean wrote, "You can't be a lurker in [this] class".  I value all of the input and resources I have received over the semester and I hope that my classmates feel the same way about my contributions.

Education is changing.  What an exciting time to be a teacher!       
I would also welcome any comments below about how I might have helped in your learning process.

Thank you everyone for a great semester!
 
 
A couple of weeks ago I came across a neat tool for creating email newsletters, called Flashissue.  My intention was to create my own, but my dinosaur of a computer isn't compatible with Google Chrome, which the program operates in.  I was planning to patiently wait for my partner to return with his new(er) laptop, but that isn't happening any time soon.  So I decided to stop selfishly making you wait, because they provide really stellar instructions that could have you spreading your news in no time.  I will, however, give you the gist of things. If you blog, or plan to blog, in your classroom, with Flashissue you can take your favourite posts from the month and turn them into a newsletter that you could email out to parents.  Or if you blog for personal or business reasons, you could send your highlights to friends, family, clients, or your personal fan club to keep everyone in the loop.  Either way, it looks like an easy way to keep people up to date without spending a lot of additional time.  And time is something teachers (especially new teachers) never have enough of.

Speaking of teaching, maybe once I re-enter the workforce in January I will finally be able to upgrade my old desktop to the innovative MacBook Wheel.  That way I can stop blogging about how incompatible my computer is and start living again. 
The Onion News - MacBook Wheel
 
 
The other day, I read an article on twitter about a young girl from Scotland who had been photographing and rating her lunches on a blog she started a couple of months ago.  From what I read in her posts, it was started to bring awareness to the types of lunches they were being served at school.  In one post, blog author Veg, says that "the good thing about this blog is Dad understands why I am hungry when I get home."  When I discovered her blog, it was because she had just been banned by Argyll and Bute Council, a constituency of the Scottish Parliament, from posting anymore photos because she was "only [representing] a fraction of the choices available to pupils, so a decision [was] made by the council to stop photos being taken in the school canteen", a quote taken from their website by the media.  Later that day, they retracted their statement and Councillor Roddy McCuish, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, stated that "there is no place for censorship in this Council and never will be whilst I am leader" (Statement on School Meals).

There are many things I find amazing about this story.  I will highlight a few for you here.

The first is how much support this 9-year-old girl has garnered.  Jamie Oliver, a celebrity chef and food activist trying to improve the nutrition offered in England's schools and starter of a food revolution around the globe, stumbled upon Veg's blog and sent a shout-out to her dad on twitter to show his support.
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Screen shot taken from www.twitter.com/#!/jamieoliver
This was only after her third post, and over 100,000 people had stopped by her blog.  A few weeks later, her counter rolled over 1,000,000 views!  The second amazing thing about this story is that when her blog began receiving such incredible support and attention, she decided to use her popularity to continue raising funds for Mary's Meals, an international movement that sets up school feeding projects in communities where poverty and hunger prevent children from gaining an education.  This is an excerpt from one of her blogs, explaining her mission:

        "There have been some comments on the blog saying I am lucky even to get a meal at lunch. You are right.
        That's why my friends and I set up Charity Children to raise money for Mary's Meals. We planted plants and
        decorated their pots. We made cards, felted soaps, necklaces and friendship bracelets. We sold these at
        school and raised £70. I was given £50 by a magazine that wanted to print my pictures so I decided to give it
        all to Mary's Meals"

This is an action project that would make any teacher proud, made even more special because it was orchestrated by children out of the goodness of their hearts.  When the ruling came out that Veg would no longer be able to continue her blog, she was devastated.  And not so much for herself, but that she wouldn't be able to raise enough funds for a new kitchen for Mary's Meals - the cost of which is about £7,000.  On June 14, the day her blog was shut down, she had raised just about £2,000.  When I checked her total this evening, just three days later, it was £81,992.70.  If you want to support Veg's mission, you can donate here.

If you look at the counter widget at the bottom of her blog, you can literally watch it tick.  She is at over 5,000,000 visitors, receives hundreds of comments per entry and tons of fan-mail, including pictures of lunches from around the world, which she started adding to her pages.  The third thing that amazed me about this story was the way people began rallying for justice on her behalf when the story broke about the ban.  She was in a time of need, feeling hopeless about the decision that had just been passed, and her entourage came together to show their support, including Jamie Oliver who tweeted for help from his followers: 
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Screen shot taken from www.twitter.com/#!/jamieoliver
I think this young girl is a true inspiration and a beautiful example of the power of technology.  There has never been a time when news and information have been able to travel as fast as they do today.  I hope that people everywhere read her story and feel encouraged to take their own action for the better.

What would your action project be?
 
 
I have been thinking a lot about my final reflection piece to sum up my learning in this class.  I have been inspired by the series of "The Web Is What You Make Of It" videos Google Chrome has created.  I like the screen shots they have used and the sound of typing you can hear over the music.  I'm not sure why, but it appeals to me.  So, I have started experimenting on my computer to try and create my own video.  I used Screencast-O-Matic to record my screen shots and then edited my clips in iMovie.  I have some experience working with iMovie from last spring while I was in Québec for the Explore program.  I figured out how to edit a movie using the French version there, so I feel confident in my ability to navigate the English version at home.  Here is a sneak peek of what I was playing around with tonight:
I already have some ideas for how to improve the quality and the types of shots I want to get, but I think that gives you an idea of the direction I am heading.  Feel free to post some feedback or suggestions.  I am open to hearing them!
 
 
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I saw a link to an article today in my twitter feed from @MorningsideCtr.  It was an article from The New York Times, featuring stories from high school students about their use of study drugs to compete in some of the elite schools in the States. A similar conversation had come up in my EPSY 322 - Students with Special Needs - course the other night after one of my classmates presented on the topic of ADHD.  And after reading some of the accounts from students, most of them agreed that it had nothing to do with getting high.  Instead, many of these students felt they needed the help of drugs to cope with the overwhelming demands placed on them by schools and society.  

A 17-year-old girl from Austin, Texas said that she started taking her younger brother's Focalin prescription to get caught up after she missed a week of school:

        "The benefits were amazing. I had been sick a week before, and in one night, I caught up on several physics         and calculus assignments and knocked-out the first act of Hamlet. But the productivity was just one of three
        perks that came from that little 20mg pill: I was able to stay up until 3am, then get up again at 6am feeling
        completely rested, more so than if I had slept ten hours."

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I wondered why students in high school would feel such an enormous amount of pressure; I don't recall high school being that way for me.  Then I remembered that getting into University in the United States is a completely different ball game than it is here in Regina.  A young woman from Pittsburgh explained how Adderall helped her deal with the added pressure the economic crisis has placed on students:

        "Young adults today feel like they need straight-A's, a good internship, a jam-packed social life and more or
        we're failures. We're worried about our future . . . We know we're going into an abysmal job market and
        need any edge we can get, and no effort feels like its enough. You have to pick two: sleep, social life or
        grades.  Stimulants like Adderall give you a much needed boost when your in such a high-stress, exhausting
        situation."

Is this the type of message schools are sending to children?  The competitive nature of post-secondary schooling seems to have created an every-person-for-themselves mentality that has young adults grasping at whatever tools will give them the extra edge they need to get ahead.  Some of the students end up addicted to the pills, claiming that the effects of not taking them daily has left them unable to function.  One boy from New York City was fortunate to have kicked the habit after being accepted to college:

        "The last time I used it in high school was around the end of my first semester of senior year. I was admitted
        to college at that point and high school seemed less stressful to me, and thus the reliance on drugs for good
        grades dissipated."

Although standardized testing in Canada has not been awarded the same level of value as it has in the US, some provinces have begun taking more stock in their results than others.  The pressure to perform on these exams can increase levels of stress in both students and teachers.  However, stress can come from many areas of our lives.  It is important that educators equip students with healthy coping strategies to deal with the added stress that getting older seems to bring along with it, so that they don't begin misusing or abusing drugs to deal.

What are some ways that you deal with the stresses in your life?  Mine is making lists to keep organized and to help put things into perspective.  Post your advice below!

 
 
Since beginning this class, my daily online routine has changed considerably.  Mostly in length.  I used to check both of my personal email accounts, check Facebook and then check my University account.  Then I would maybe check my online banking, but that was about it.  Now, I check both of my personal email accounts mostly looking for blog comment notifications, check my Google Reader and post feedback as necessary, check Facebook, check twitter casually note any mentions or retweets, check Google Analytics someone from Brisbane stopped by for like 3 seconds - no big deal, and then tweet/like/share my blog post from the night before.  I go through this cycle, minus the blog share and Analytics, several times a day.  I find all kinds of inspiration through my connections that I come back to throughout my day.

Tonight I was patrolling my twitter feed and came across a tweet by @davecormier, Manager of Web Communications and Innovations at the University of Prince Edward Island and Principal of Edactive Technologies.  Dean had invited Dave to drop by one of our live sessions a few weeks back, with the hopes of connecting our class with Dave's because he teaches a similarly themed course in PEI.  That is how I came to know of Dave and his tweets.  Tonight he posted a link to his son's blog who was wanting to know how people use their computers.  So I moseyed on over and discovered that Dave's blogging son is six.  And that he creates podcasts about dinosaurs because that is something he is really into.  I gave his show a listen and was totally blown away.  Just give episode three of Charlottetownosaurus a watch and you'll see why:
Oscar's enthusiasm about Mesozoic times makes my heart smile.  He is using words I don't even know and is spouting off facts like they are common knowledge.  To me, this is proof that when we teach to student interests and strengths, powerful and meaningful learning experiences will ensue.  And how about providing him the opportunity to share his expertise in an exciting way?  Who wouldn't want to host their very own show to be broadcasted on their very own blog?  Children never cease to inspire me with their capabilities! This makes me so excited to begin my internship, so I can find out what interests my little learners and plan meaningful ways to engage them in digging deeper to find out more.  So thank you, Dave, for being such an awesome dad and encouraging your son to pursue his interests.  And a big thank you to Oscar for teaching me a thing or twelve about dinosaurs!

You can check out more of Oscar's work here.
 
 
ac*count*a*ble |əˈkountəbəl|
adjective
1 (of a person, organization, or institution) required or expected to justify actions or decisions; responsible : government must be accountable to its citizens | parents could be held accountable for their children's actions

That is the definition from my Apple Dictionary for a word that gets tossed around a lot in education.  My professor, Dean, just posted his thoughts on the word the other day.  And it has been coming up a lot around the light of recent events.  Back in 2010, the Saskatoon Public School Division announced a policy for its high schools that mandated late assignments and plagiarism be "reported in student evaluations, but not reflected in academic assessments" (CBC News, September 2010).  Here is CBC's short video reporting the story:
Needless to say, people had a lot negative opinions about the new policy.  One comment that stood out to me was written by the alias, raceguy:

        "The whole approach to this dumbing down of the system by officials in Sakatoon [sic] is absurd. Should
        we not be looking at opportunities to drive our students to success and excellence by improving the
        education progams [sic]. 
        The fact that there are no provincial or national standards to measure students academic achievements
        is even more of a concern. I personally would have loved to know how my children were stacking up
        against students from other communities in Saskatchewan while they were in high school.
        Oh, sorry that would mean making teachers and the school system accountable to someone. Good grief,
        don't want to pick on the good teachers but isn't it time to hold some of these useless educators
        responsible for their actions?"

This type of attitude is exactly the one that Dean mentioned, that lowers teachers from their role of professional to that of a factory worker, administering tests.  Education is a topic everyone has an opinion about, and rightfully so.  It is something that everyone participates in to some extent.  I just wish that people would gather all of the facts before making a statement like the one above, requesting accountability through standardized testing.  I invite anyone who thinks that ranking teachers by test scores is a good idea, to read about how this worked out for teachers in New York.

Along the same story, in a CBC Radio interview* (September 2010), Saskatchewan's Premier made it very clear that he was opposed to Saskatoon's assessment strategy.  He gave an example of one of his own children losing marks for turning some things in late and how he appreciated the repercussions because he thought it had taught his child a lesson about life in the real world.  I would imagine that Brad Wall provides a stable and supportive home environment, yet if his children struggle to get their homework done sometimes, how about the children who are responsible for providing the care of younger siblings?  Or the students who live on their own and work to support themselves?  I have had many professors extend or negotiate the deadlines on assignments because students had approached them about conflicting schedules.  Life happens and teachers need to be flexible to allow for that.

But maybe instead of the directive coming from the administration that teachers are no longer to hand out zeros for late or plagiarized assignments, that they instead mandate teachers to be flexible with deadlines on a needs basis and use less punitive approaches to punishment when problems do arise; turn a mistake like plagiarism into an opportunity for growth and learning instead of assigning a zero without explanation.  In the radio interview, Mr. Wall agreed that teachers need to make special considerations for students they know are struggling and admitted that teachers are the ones who are working alongside the students and would therefore know what is best for them.  But instead of allowing teachers to make that call, he feels that more standardized approaches are necessary for consistency.

There are no standardized students or standardized classrooms.  Teachers do not come in a standardized package like houses in new subdivisions.  Why would standardized tests be the answer?  This again comes down to what Dean said about teachers being reduced to factory workers instead of the professionals we once were.  I worry that we are headed in the direction of the United States, where schools and their teachers are ranked according to obscure test results.  It will be a sad day for education if that is the case.  Our children deserve better than that.

*I did not have permission to share the radio interview, otherwise I would have posted it here for you all to listen.  If I am able to get permission, I will post it for your listening pleasure!
 
 
Earlier this week Dean invited Instructional Technology Specialist, Alan Levine to steer our live session on the topic of Digital Storytelling.  During his presentation, Alan mentioned a website called DS106, an online course for Digital Storytelling that you can join anytime and sort of use as you like.  Dean asked us to check it out and complete two assignments from two different categories.  Let me begin my saying that my archaic operating system and lack of Photoshop made this very challenging for me.  I wasn't sure where to start, so I clicked the 'gimme a random one' button at the top.  You might be thinking, "That's the spirit!" or "How brave!" but I clicked that button close to 20 times, looking for an assignment that interested me and that I could do with the software I have.

The first one that caught my eye was Letters in Your Surroundings under the Design Assignments.  It looked snazzy and creative which is right up my alley, so I set to work.  This week I had also learned the importance of using images off the internet under the Creative Commons, so I began searching for the letters I needed to create my name.  After I had downloaded all of my images, I pasted them into a Word document and formatted them to be the same height.  From there I saved my document as a PDF in iPhoto by selecting the option from a drop down list in my printer dialogue box.  Then I opened the image in iPhoto, cropped out the extra white space, and was left with this!  The pictures are a little blurry, but that's what you get when you don't have a proper photo editor.  I still think it's pretty cool. 
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Images Used Under Creative Commons From (Left to Right): John-Morgan, Camera Eye Photography, *Ann Gordon, p_a_h, isconniethere, Nina Matthews Photography, janetmck, Nina Matthews Photography
I went back to the random assignment generator, and clicked a few more times and came up with the Comic Book Effect assignment under Visual Assignments.  I was determined not to let my lack of a photo editor bring me down, so I went into the App Store on my iPad and bought the Halftone app for $0.99.  I then uploaded a photo I had taken of my cat, Hank, earlier this week with the Hipstamatic app and added some magical comic book effects.  It was really easy to use and looks pretty cool.  I emailed both of the pictures to myself so I could upload them here for you to see:
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Before (Jimmy Lens, Kodot XGrizzled Film, No Flash)
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Comic Book Hank
There are hundreds of assignments to choose from which would give students tons of choice if you decided to use DS106 in the classroom.  There are lots of connections that could be made to areas like literacy that would provide an alternative to boring old book reports.  Check it out and post your creations below!
 
 
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My twitter feed has been buzzing for the last week about an Edmonton teacher who assigned a zero, despite his school's No Zeros Policy.  My classmates have been blogging, the news has been reporting, and now my brain is struggling to sort through this information to get my thoughts organized into words.  I guess I will start by admitting I had only been reading little snippets of other people's opinions up until today.  This can be attributed to the overwhelming number of responses that came pouring out of the floodgates after the media released the story last Thursday. The first blog I sat down and read from start to finish, other than my classmates', was School Isn’t Like a Job byJohn Scammell.  The title of his post comes from the shared opinions of many community members about the role education plays in the lives of children and youth.

My first question was, "is school a job?"  I can quit my job at any point I become dissatisfied with the work I am doing, and have some choices about the fields of work I enter into.  I can choose whether or not I accept a promotion and can base my decision on things like remuneration, hours of the job, whether or not I think I will like my new boss or if I think I can work well with my new coworkers.  When I compare these to the choices I had in school, none of them come to mind until maybe University.  Children are expected to attend school until they are at least 16 years old in Saskatchewan, regardless of their interest, and have no choice about areas of study until high school, at which point there are only a few up for negotiation.  Each year students are shuffled on to the next grade and are assigned a teacher and a group of students they are expected to work alongside for the next 10 months - little to no exceptions there either.  So in that sense, no, school is not a job because it is not a choice and the pay is non-existent.

John writes that some people believe that the grade is the pay check, but goes on to discredit this theory because in the real world, pay is based on a number of variables including hours worked and productivity.  School isn't like a job in that sense either.  Marks are based on what students are able to show in terms of outcomes, not how much time they spent acquiring that knowledge or the number of worksheets or projects they produced.  How does this relate to zeros?  Well, a large portion of the population believes that assigning zeros for work not completed sets students up to take responsibility in the real world where if they fail to do the work at a job, they get fired.  Essentially a zero is the educational equivalent of losing your job.  John summed up his views on this false comparison:

        "A bright kid who does no work (I assume people are talking about homework here) and still writes and
        passes my tests will pass my class. He has to. He has shown me he can do the math.
        A weak, hard-working student who does every single thing I assign, but fails the tests will fail my class. He
        has to. He has shown me he can’t do the math.
        Any student, weak or strong, who doesn’t write my tests cannot be assessed. I make him do the course
        again. I have to. He hasn’t shown me whether or not he can do the math, so I can’t pass him.
        The bottom line is that I can’t assess work. Doing work just isn’t in my curriculum. Knowing math is. That’s
        all I can assess."

This is where Mr Scammell lost me.  Is making a student repeat a course not essentially the same thing as assigning a zero?  My equation of a fail to a zero is actually incorrect and the difference I found explained by Cherra-Lynne Olthof, a middle-years teacher from Alberta, here.  On the topic of zeros, she wrote:

        "I give out something called an Insufficient.  People have told me this is a fancy way of saying 0 but it really
        isn’t.  When I write INS on an outcome what I’m saying is, 'I have no idea if your child can do this or not.  I
        have no evidence with which to make this judgement.'  That is much different then giving out a 0 which says,
        'Your child knows 0% of the content of this subject.'"

My lack of understanding on the difference comes from my inexperience in the field.  I didn't know that "INS" was an option, and maybe that's because it isn't one in Saskatchewan.  I honestly have no idea.  Maybe one of my Saskatchewan teacher-friends can help enlighten me on that one.  The other part is that I am not specializing in the area of high school education.  I am studying to be a primary educator where the ownership of responsibility is still slowly being transferred.  However, after reading and listening to multiple perspectives on the issue including the initial news story, opinions from respected educational bloggers, and the comments that ensued from both, the issue seems to be viewed as one of two things:

                    1) Should formative assessments be assigned a mandatory grade?
                                                            AND
                    2) Who is to blame when students don't do their assignments?

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To answer the first question - no.  Formative assessments are ultimately used by the teacher for the teacher to help guide future learning experiences based on what the students are and are not picking up.  They are not an indication of a student's ability because the learning is not yet complete.  If a student decides not to check in with his/her teacher, essentially they are the ones who will suffer in the long run.  And not because some teacher is going to give them a zero, but because they will have no way to gauge their learning or have the opportunity to receive clarification as needed.  This may or may not be reflected in their final grade, but having the opportunity to show what they know is all that matters.  Reporting is all about outcomes and indicators which is based on a final product, not about the steps along the way.  Of course teachers should assess more than one time per year, but if a student chooses to only complete the final assessment, the added stress to perform is on them.

The answer to number two is related to number one, and is less about blame and more about concern.  If a student is not completing a teacher's assignments for some reason, that reason should become the concern of the teacher.  Teaching is intended to be a reflective practice that is always changing to meet the needs of the ever changing students.  Sometimes lessons that were expected to wow, end up bombing.  It happens!  The important thing is that teachers reflect on what went wrong so that changes can be made if the lesson is attempted again.  The same goes for assignments and assessments.  The biggest indicators of student engagement at the high school level are attendance and completion of course work.  While it may be difficult to accept part of the responsibility for lack of student participation, it is important because the education belongs to the student - not to the teacher.  It really doesn't matter what the teacher thinks qualifies as an awesome lesson - it matters what the students think.

In the end, I don't believe that handing out zeros benefits those who receive them most.  If the argument is around teaching responsibility, students who do not complete the assigned coursework are less likely to pass any type of assessments the teacher needs to make an informed decision about what the student knows.  If a teacher is unable to assess a student with sufficient evidence, the student will have to retake the course.  No one said that they were passing students with zero proof of learning!  If the argument is around fairness, education is meant to be fair, not equal.  Fairness is not giving everybody the same thing, it is about giving everybody what they need.  If a student feels that they don't need to participate in certain learning activities, then that is a decision they are allowed to make, pending an understanding that their decision may impact their future mark because of a lack of comprehension.  That to me is teaching a student responsibility and consequences without the use of a threat or punishment of a zero.  Seems more effective to me.