Social Media: Does “Now” Trump “Later”?

by Brian M. Pete on February 22, 2016
Volume 3, Issue 2, Number 10

Driving Question: Does immediacy or now trump permanence or later?

“My Aunt Dollo did not use a telephone. She was born in 1890 in Billings, Montana and did not grow up with a phone. In fact, she never owned a phone until the mid-sixties. Even then, she did not favor the phone. She would say, in her sweet, passive-aggressive way, “If you don’t want to take the time to write me a nice letter, well then, that tells me something.”

I think that’s why my mother had all of us nine children take the time every year to write a letter to Aunt Dollo. The act of writing a letter on fine stationary was definitely a challenge. It took time and effort to plan what to say and to take care in writing every word without a mistake. When she passed away, all of these letters were found among her personal affects, meticulously sorted in shoeboxes and labeled in Aunt Dollo’s beautiful script. For Aunt Dollo, she understood that letter writing took time, but she valued the permanent record that was left. To her, conversations on the phone, while immediate and convenient, were too ephemeral, too fleeting.

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Informative Assessments Inform


Informative Assessments Inform

Simply put, when chef tastes the soup it’s formative assessment. 

When the customer tastes the soup it’s summative assessment. 

—Dylan Wiliam, 2001

It’s an experience we have all experienced in some form or another. The chef is tasting the soup in its formative stage and based on his appraisal, he may sprinkle in some flavoring, reduce the temperature, add some thickening, or he may set the soup on the back of the stove with the satisfaction that it is just right and ready to serve. However, when the chef serves the soup to the customer, the final judgment, the summative stage, is made as the customer finishes the soup with a smile and remarks about how good the soup is or sets the partially-eaten soup aside, commenting on the flavor or temperature or her own peculiar preferences. Either way, the chef is aware and concerned with the outcome.

Harkening back to Richard DuFour’s (2006) quintessential questions about what we want students to know, how we know when they know it, and what we do if they do or don’t know it, the formative assessment question is particularly ambiguous. How we know what students know depends on continual and informed assessment as students are planning and working. These kinds of evaluations, formative by nature, occur on the fly, as students work to prepare the final submittal.

A parallel experience occurs in the classroom, as the teachers evaluates student behavior and progress before, during, and after the lesson at hand. He may assess formatively as the students are in the process of solving problems in math, conducting an experiment in the biology lab, or writing an informative essay in American History. This requires monitoring, conversation, sampling student responses and explanations, and generally keeping an eye on students as they work to check for understanding and to coach them in specific skills when confusion or misdirection is indicated.

In the case of formative assessment—the classroom assessment Rick Stiggins (2001) describes as assessment for learning—the twist on the word formativeto informative may serve teachers well. The frequent checking for understanding, continuous monitoring of student progress, and the opportunities to coach individual students along the way, has a clear and significant purpose in the teaching and learning process. The goal of formative assessment is TO INFORM—to inform teacher’s instructional practice in ways that benefit and inform student understanding and mastery of concepts, skills, attitudes, and dispositions.

In Informative Assessment: When It’s Not about the Grade, Robin Fogarty and Gene Kerns (2009) advocate three levels of formative assessments that delineate this process of ongoing assessments on the classroom. The first category is Routine Informative Assessments, assessments that happen every day in every way. Simple examples include the questions students ask or student responses to questions teachers ask. Both of these highly-regular classroom interactions reveal much about student learning to savvy teachers.

In the second category, Reflective Informative Assessments, the teacher often orchestrates a more direct activity that requires students to think about what they are doing and how it is going. This might be done with to get an anonymous reading of the class progress on a particular concept, or it could be personal reflections using a lead in such as, “On a scale of 1-10, where are you on this?”

Finally, in the third category, Rigorous Informative Assessments, the teacher performs ongoing assessments that inform instruction practices, but these assessments are more involved, more rigorous, if you will. These are assessments that might include analyzing test questions to draw conclusions about student understanding of specific items, or possibly re-evaluating the grading system to shift to a model that is more student-friendly and less punitive in nature.

In closing, the focus on formative assessments is integral to the instructional scene. Instruction, when done effectively, is also assessment, and assessment, when orchestrated properly, is instruction. Instruction is assessment! Assessment is instruction.

In essence, informative assessment informs students and teachers at stages when learning can be monitored and coached effectively. But, just as that chef can respond to input from the customer, the teacher can respond to indicators from summative assessments that also inform the student and the teacher in the long run.


Black, P. & D. Wiliam. (2001) Inside the Black Box. London: King’s College Books.

DuFour, R. & R. DuFour. (2006) Learn by Doing: A Handbook for Professional Learning Communities. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Fogarty, R. & Kerns, G. (2009) Informative Assessment: When It’s Not about a Grade. Thousands, Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Stiggins, R. (2001). Assessment for Learning. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin

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So, You Wannabe a Consultant?

Santa Fe Staff Room to Classroom Conference

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Blending Technology into Project Based Learning – P21

This is what integrated technology is all about. Another great post from P21 Blogazine.

Technology is not a panacea. Not all technology is good for pedagogy. And great pedagogy can and will exist without technology. We have, however, greatly miscast and underutilized technology’s power. When we enlist technology in the service of exploratory learning for all, watch out! On the other hand, if we plod along with standards and assessment using technology only as a prop, we will get what we deserve: a higher level of tedium(1). (p. 78)

via Blending Technology into Project Based Learning – P21.

How to Market to the iGeneration

How to Market to the IGeneration has lots of overlap with how to Teach the IGeneration –

Connect with them through social media. iGens use social media for more than just connecting with friends – they turn to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat as information sources. When applying to colleges, 60% of iGens surveyed stated they felt comfortable contacting schools through social media, and 48% cited Facebook as the social platform most frequently used.

via How to Market to the iGeneration.

Fighting “corporate control of education”: A millennial education wonk goes to war against neoliberal reform –

Here is a nice conversation about creating an alternative to the corporate take-over of education. The first Mayor Daley used to say, “Anybody can cut down tees, it is a lot harder to plant trees.”

. . . and the graduates that I’ve come across do well in college because they have the skillset necessary for that kind of work, as opposed to somebody who just regurgitates information [for a standardized test] and doesn’t really think critically. That person may graduate, but their chances of college success are probably much less than a kid who was really able to learn how to think and solve problems and make decisions.

via Fighting “corporate control of education”: A millennial education wonk goes to war against neoliberal reform –