Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Special Blog Assignment

An image saying 'My USA 30 Years From Today.

A World Where Grades Will Be Left Behind

Mary Beth Marklein wrote an article for USA TODAY titled, "A World Where Grades Will Be Left Behind". This article revolves around the Google VP & professor named Sebastian Thrun who created Udacity, an education company founded in January of 2012 in California. He also took part in Project Glass, and is working on the self-driving car project.

Aside from the article, which is primarily about Dr. Thrun's vision about education, there is an attached video. In celebration of USA TODAY's 30th anniversary, USA TODAY interviewed many great visionaries to talk about the future of the world. In this video, we get to hear from some of the greatest visionaries about how they see the future in terms of how we will live, learn, travel, how the music industry is going to change, the change in architecture, television, and etc. Some of these visionaries includes David Callaway (Editor-in-Chief of USA TODAY), James Cameron (film director of "Titanic"), Cat Cora (celebrity chef), Debra L. Lee (CEO of BET Network), Francis S. Collins (director of the National Institute of Health), William Clay Ford Jr. (Executive chairman of Ford Motor Company), and etc. Dr. Sebastian Thrun is also included. There is a part in the video showcasing his education company, Udacity.

This is a picture of Dr. Sebastian Thrun, the Google vice president, a professor, and creator of the education company called Udacity.
In the article, Dr. Thrun talks about why he stepped out of traditional classrooms and started virtual ones. He shares his vision about what education would be like in 30 years. He says that technology is and will continue changing education in a positive way. Education is becoming more personalized and "upscale". He also says that classes will involve many exercises, quizzes, and etc., which will help the student master a skill or a concept. Classroom enrollments will be higher. There will be no grades. Dr. Thrun calls grades "the failure of the education system." The virtual classes are much more affordable as well. There will be no fee for instruction but fees for related services such as certifications and exams. His point is that technology will not destroy education but will enhance it in a positive and better way. It will provide more opportunities for those who are yearning to learn.

I noticed myself shaking my head while reading the article. I like and understand his vision but I noticed two flaws. The first flaw I saw involved in the idea of having no grades. He says that the class will involve more exercises and quizzes but no grades? How will the student know if they mastered the material, concept, or skill? I don't think grades are the failure of the education system. That's the administrations doing. Compared to years ago, there are more schools that are focused on grades, tests, and how the school looks instead of focusing on the students learning process and well-being. That was a change and emphasis made by the administration. Grades are still good because it serves as a feedback. If a student takes a quiz, but receives no grade, how will they know if what they did was correct or not? What is the point of giving a quiz? How will the teacher know if they taught the material well enough for the students to understand? Grades are also feedback for the teachers.

As a pre-service teacher, I think grades are very important and should remain in the educational system. Students will want to know what they did wrong and the reasons for it. It's one thing for them to understand it and demonstrate their knowledge but without much feedback, they will not know if they performed well enough to meet the mastery of the skill or concept. Also, grades will let me know where I could change in order to accommodate for the student's learning process. What about state standards or requirements? In order for this to work, wouldn't the state have to change their rules? How will that play in relation to the no-grade system?

It's similar to this class, EDM310. We do not receive grades on assignments and a lot of us are not feeling well about that. Even though some of us feel that we have done the best we could and deserve an 'A', Dr. Strange might not think so. How we perceive our own work is different from the professor. The professor will be the one giving us our final grade regardless of how we self-evaluate. During the mid-term, there were several charts posted about how people self-evaluated comparison to his own evaluation of the student. The students who did poorly were required to speak to him but that was it. What about the rest of the class? Some students think their blog posts are excellent but Dr. Strange or the assistants might disagree. Well, shouldn't the student be given a grade like how they would for a written paper? A comment about the post is one way of giving feedback but not enough because of how we are so use to receiving "grades".

I feel that a grade is much more effective because it's already built into our heads. I think that is the case because it was molded into us since we started going to pre-school. Do I want to move out of that mentality? Not really because grades are still a way to provide the student feedback one way or another. For me, I would like to know my grade in the eyes of the professor and what he thinks I should improve on. I also want to know if I'm between an A and a B because there is a big GPA difference. This is the fault of the educational system but not failure. I am trying to maintain my GPA for scholarships and other things that requires a high GPA. If I know I'm getting a B and not an A, I would really want some answers as to why. Giving us the right to self-evaluate is not good enough to know where we stand or how much we have mastered a skill or concept.

Right now, I think I'm getting an A but there is an uncomfortable feeling. This may be what Dr. Thrun is talking about and why he wants to rid the grading system. The idea of grades is implanted in us and this may be the reason why most of us deny his idea of getting rid of it.

The second flaw is the idea of free instruction. I like the idea of students learning at their own pace and that this way of learning is free. The idea of free instruction means everyone will have an opportunity to learn and not worry about financial aid or loans. In the perspective of a learner, free instruction is great. But in the perspective of a future educator, that sounds terrible unless the world can figure out who will pay me. Where will the money come from? Are we getting rid of the currency system too? Currently, our tuition covers most salaries of the teachers. Dr. Thrun has great visions but he needs to consider the other aspects of it. I'm not sure if this will happen in 30 years. There is a possibility because I don't believe in impossibilities.

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