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Common Core Technological Standards: They Are the Tail, Not the Dog
Up to now, test makers have been the dog--and education has been the tail. But the test makers are increasingly out of touch with students who use mobile devices for everything including learning. The dog is, finally & rightfully so, becoming the tail.
While it would be an overstatement to say that the two main groups charged with developing tests implementing the Common Core curriculum are, from a technological perspective, in the Dark Ages, it is not an overstatement to say that, again, from a technological perspective, those two consortia have not entered the Age of Enlightenment, today called the Age of Mobilism.
Recently, The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) released guidelines for what technology schools should have in order to administer the tests that these consortia are developing for release in 2014-2015: (list taken from Nagel)
- Device Types: Desktops, laptops, netbooks, thin clients, tablets
- Processor: 1 GHz or faster
- Minimum RAM: 1 GB
- Display: 9.5 inches or greater at a resolution of 1,024 x 768 or greater
- Operating System: Mac OS X 10.7, Windows 7, Linux (Ubuntu 11.10 or Fedora 16), Chrome (no version specified), iOS (no version specified), Android 4.0
- Connectivity: Wired or wireless, with Internet access
Let's see: netbooks are no longer in production; and a 9.5 inch screen at least does rule out some older tablets. Older in the sense that 7inch tablets are now all the rage. But the specs do rule out the iPad's lower-priced cousin, the iPad Mini--even though the iPad-Mini with a 7.9 inch screen still has the necessary resolution: 1,024 x 768. You can see the conspiracy-theorists' blogs now: Apple behind Common Core tech specs--pushing the more expensive iPad over the iPad mini. We are NOT conspiracy-theorists--but it is curious <smiley face goes here>. And, the Samsung Galaxy Note II with a measly 5.5 inch screen but with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 is also not up to snuff according to SBAC and PARCC.
So TODAY, 2012-2013, there are truly mobile devices (10 inch tablets are transportable devices; they are ready-at-hand; but they are not TRULY, ready-to-hand, mobile devices. Let the deluge of e-mail begin!!) that satisfy the consortia's specs except for physical screen size, but they are being considered inappropriate for Common Core testing that will start in 2014-2015.
But wait, it gets worse: in 2014-2015--only 2 years from now when the testing is to begin in earnest--handheld devices having a Retina-level screen resolution of 2048-by-1536 will be common place at today's prices or less. But again, those devices are NOT acceptable for Common Core testing.
In 2010, we predicted that each and every child would have a mobile learning device to use, 24/7 for curricular purposes by 2015. In 2010, we recall the body language of folks at conferences that said, in effect: you are nuts. Today? Such a prediction is boring.
So, here we go again: by 2017, 4 years from now, each and every child will have a SUPERphone--effectively infinite computing power supplied by the cloud, Retina-level, high screen resolution, connected to the Internet at 4G/5G speeds--at half of today's prices. (We CAN see you raising your eyebrows; we can HEAR the guffaws; but our skins are thick; well, not really in Elliot's case).
And one more minor issue: the two consortia say that it is important to be able to turn off the Internet on the devices during the tests. So, let's get this straight: we are supposed to teach kids who use Google (and Bing) 24/7, constantly, but test them in a context where they can't use Google (or Bing) at all. Will the guards at the doors take children's glasses away, too? Why? Because in 2 years, Google Glasses-style wearable computing devices will be readily available at $200.
Up to now, test makers have been the dog--and education has been the tail. But that is changing. If every child has an Internet-connected, mobile, computing device, 24/7 in their palms, they are no longer the unempowered supplicant. No, no, no. Palmed with their smartphone--their SUPERphone--all children will be empowered in ways we can't even begin to imagine. And that will happen in less than 5 years!!
What we have here is a case of the tail wagging the dog. Why aren't these consortia looking at what K-12 students are using for technology today and tomorrow, and designing tests that match that technology? These consortia think they are in power and will tell schools and kids what to do and buy. That's the old days; that IS the Dark Ages!
These consortia are simply growing more and more out of touch with what is going on in classrooms in America. These consortia have locked themselves in a cave, divorced themselves from curriculum developers who are moving to mobile as fast as they can (which is glacial, but that's textbook publishing's version of fast)--or going out of business--and are planning to tell schools what they need to do to be in step with their test making.
Excuse me, SBAR, PARCC; you are not the dog; you are the tail.
Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.
Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.intergalacticmlc.org.
Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Being Mobile blog at thejournal.com/beingmobile.