Thursday, 14 April 2011

A word about educational how-to videos

In the tragically depopulated videos suggesting how personalized assessment is to be done, cheerful teachers in half empty, quiet, ordered classrooms dealing with compliant, earnest, hard working children one on one, take a great deal of time reviewing their work in meaningful, specific ways. This is something I often see in ‘this-is-how-you-should-do-it’ videos.

I first noticed this in teacher’s college when the assessment professor gave us an article by a teacher who went into great detail about how teachers should create student specific learning opportunities and assessment. Everyone oo'ed and ah'ed this wonderful insight, but I had a nagging feeling while watching it. Two minutes on the interwebs at home that night had me coming into class the next day and showing everyone that this teacher works at a private school with mandatory laptops for each student, and class caps of 16 students. The students were all, "students of professors, lawyers and diplomats in the suburbs of Washington DC).

I sometimes work with students whose parents can’t feed them, let alone pay $2o,000 a year to put them in a private school. We just got a technology ‘refresh’ which involved us losing labs and dozens of computers from the school (to be replaced by wifi and the hope that students can bring their own tech) – technology support for all? Not where I live, and I work at what I'd describe as a good school in a pretty wealthy area, but we are a public school that serves everyone from trailer parks to mansions.

And I certainly have never seen an English class with (at the most) 16 students in it – double that and throw in 5-10 students are are clearly in the wrong stream; that’s what I see. In that environment crowd control is as much a part of my day as learning is.

I know they are trying to focus these videos on the specifics of what they're talking about, but if a video production team can't do that in a class of 30 students, 12 with IEPs, 8 who performed brain chemistry experiments at lunch and 6 who aren't sure that they remember your name after being in your class for six weeks, what makes them think a single teacher can?

Instead of making the video to sell a book (and a dream world of magic), how about some real world candid video of what happens in real classes, warts and all? Or will marketing not ok that?