Thursday, December 19, 2013

Computer-Based Testing/Learning Strategies

Recently, a pithy post in Fast Company magazine garnered some good press for the GED Testing Service's computer-based testing initiative.  Erika Owen puts it in beautifully simple terms when she writes, "students think better when they pace themselves." However, the ideas promoted in this little piece have ramifications that I think will play out across the whole field of adult education in the coming years, regardless of the brand of high school equivalency test, and spilling over into the instruction side as well.  And note the relevance to 'the other adult education': human resource development.  This is big, yall.

In presentations, I've been talking a lot about a new tool for boosting GED scores: computer-based test taking skills. In short, the experience of testing on a computer (and particularly the design of the 2014 GED test) gives learners more control so they can spend more time showing what they know in an efficient and confident manner. As Owen distills it: pacing themselves = thinking better. 

Pacing Strategies

Awesome. What about learning? Does this idea of thinking better transfer over to the learning experience? Yes. Pacing is actually less about testing and more about control and choice in the learning process, which includes application. Pacing is affected learning plans are personalized, when learners can explore and stay in the flow of information with multiple communities/facilitators and on their own schedule. Adult Education programs need to access the power that awaits outside the four-walls of the classroom so their learners to take advantage of educational opportunities where and when it suits them (as well as in the classroom).  In other words, learner-centered services that build self-sufficiency rather than dependence.  I know there are risks and consequences, but the rewards and growth in new directions are worth the gamble. 

Working backwards from the other side of Fast Company's analogy... "Employees train better when they pace themselves." If the technology of the workplace spills over into our lives "24/7" then adult education programs need to prepare their clients for this kind of lifelong learning "in which they are learning all of the time."  If this is the expectation of the working world where we want our learners to succeed, then we've got to cultivate the kind of initiative and educational entrepreneurship that allows them to pace themselves with the hope that their goal is acceleration. 

I've been a little vague here, only because the Fast Company piece is so provocative and exciting exposure for our field.  More detailed prescriptions will take shape in 2014, I'm sure. What do you think? What kinds of ideas does this Fast Company piece inspire in you?

Monday, December 9, 2013

All I Want for Xmas are Ed-Tech Books, 2013

With the Year of the Blended Learner mostly behind us (and more hopefully ahead), it's time to gear up for the 2014 GED/HSE tests, developing reasoning skills, and certifying 'College and Career Readiness.  In other words, the Year of the Deeper Learner.   Ed tech books topped my list last year, and they made an appropriate post on an ed-tech blog.  However, the challenges facing the field of adult education in the coming year(s) will blur the lines of technology and redefine some of the notions that underscore the educational process.  To that end, I've compiled a little reading list of books, many of which are on my personal Christmas list.    


Although there are now three high school equivalency tests for each state to choose from, there is a common theme nationally in the updates being made to instructional practice: address deeper levels of complexity. The tests are becoming more rigorous, but only because they're going to be made up of more complex texts. Classwork will need to engage on multiple levels, and workbooks will need to connect with and develop latent skills. To help with that, I'd like to put Essential Education's new Essential Skills workbooks on this list, but that would be too simple and self-serving. Rigorous Reading: 5 Access Points for Comprehending Complex Texts looks like just the kind of update for 2014 teaching, focusing on the entry points, to help encourage deeper-level skills that are transferable across all subjects.