Skip to main content

Empty Trash Cans and Renewable Assignments

"...renewable assignments result in meaningful, valuable artifacts that enable future meaningful, valuable work." - David Wiley

My personalized learning routine involves skimming through a few dozen blog posts first thing in the morning. I slammed on the brakes, and adjusted my reading glasses when I came across David Wiley's discussion of disposable versus renewable assignments in higher education. What do these terms mean, what are the differences, and why should educators care about the fate of their assignments?

According to Dr. Wiley, disposable assignments are those that end up in a garbage can shortly after the instructor has graded it. This signals the learning, if there was any, has now ended. An assignment at the bottom of a garbage can adds no additional value to the world. My friend Shawn McCusker dislikes the thought of student work ending up in piles. He says, "If we want to increase the importance and validity of student work we need to extend it’s life cycle and allow individual learning to be shared, with the class, the school and the community." Students see little cause to invest in work that will likely end up in a landfill.


In a previous post, I discussed how digital contribution trumps digital citizenship. This argument is supported by Dr. Wiley's concept of renewable assignments. Renewable assignments provide opportunities for learners to create meaningful, valuable artifacts that contribute to the learning of others. These artifacts can be reviewed, revised, and renewed to perpetuate learning. Wiley goes on to suggest there is a significant amount of student production capacity that could be used to scale production of OERs (open educational resources).

Several weeks ago, at the conclusion of the school year, our own children emptied their backpacks creating a pile of paper that overflowed our recycle bin. I asked them, "Isn't there anything here worth saving?" 

"Nope.", they answered in unison.

"This looks like a lot of work. What did you learn from doing all of this?", I asked.

"Nothing.", again almost in unison.

Disappointed by the waste of time and paper, I invited the kids to show me their learning in their most usual way, by playing Minecraft and Clash of Clans. The boys willingly read books, watch videos, and chat with other players to improve their skill at these games. They are also studying how to create their own videos to teach others to improve their gaming skills. Those of you with children who are gamers know they will spend hours on end working to level up, studying their craft, and sharing their knowledge and skill with other players. Disposable or renewable?

"If learning communities, both formal ones such as school, and informal ones such as community center classes, want to take advantage of and leverage all available resources, then they would embrace a culture where educators teach learners, educators teach other educators, learners teach learners, and learners teach educators." - Dr. Jackie Gerstein

Educators, are you providing meaningful, renewable learning assignments, or do your assignments go straight into the trash after they're graded? If your trash cans are empty, what advice would you offer teachers wanting to extend learning, and the life of student work?

Related Reading





photo credit: Respect for the Law_1344c via photopin (license)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

"Five Reasons Why Schoology Rocks!"

Networking at IETC last week provided me validation in my choice for best learning management system, Schoology. Having used Moodle, Edmodo, Canvas, and Blackboard, I can tell you that these are all terrific products for digital instruction. However, for the past several months, I felt that Schoology was a better choice than these previously mentioned products. Many times, asking the right questions is a precursor to making sound decisions. Here's an article that serves as a guide to asking the right questions when choosing a learning management system:


10 Questions Everyone Should Ask When Choosing an LMS
Here are five reasons why Schoology remains my #1 choice for a classroom LMS: Full-featured classroom organization tools, a collaborative learning place for teachers and students, device-independent applications, Schoology API allows the program to play nicely with others, and the basic level instructional components are, and will always be, FREE.

1.  Schoology's classroom mana…

Good People; The Product of Good Schools

The nightly business reports frequently mention inputs and outputs. Gross National Product (GNP) is a widely recognized leading economic indicator. Widgets aside, what is the product of schools? Some of you want to jump on a table and scream, "children are not products!" Let this breathe a bit as you trudge forward.



In his recent post, Mark Heintz eloquently shares his ruminations to a question being kicked around in our Modern Learners community, "What do we want our children to be?" Credit Pam Moran, Ira Socol, and Chad Ratliff, co-authors of "Timeless Learning; How Imagination, Observation, and Zero-based Thinking Change Schools," for sparking this conversation theme. Timeless Learning provides interesting provocations, inspiring experiences, and compelling rationale for school change.

Like others, my school's leadership team is engaging in discussions about reimagining school to meet the needs of our modern learners. These conversations are seldom e…

My One Word for 2018 is Wisdom

Wisdom, according to Dictionary.com, is "the quality or state of being wise;
knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action;
sagacity, discernment, or insight."


"Any fool can know. The point is to understand."
This quote, often incorrectly attributed to Albert Einstein, provides an illustration of the value of understanding over knowledge. A simple search reveals this quote can be linked to the writing of mathematician, George Finlay Simmons


Narrowing my thinking to one word is an interesting challenge. I have gained a greater appreciation for words and how the combination of words can convey meaning beyond definitions, beyond knowledge.

Where are the resources for knowledge in a modern world? We purchased an Amazon Echo as a gift for my parents. "It's such a smart and funny device," says my mom. Alexa has a seemingly unlimited access to information, music, and jokes, but does she understand? Can robots and computers obtain wis…