Breaking the Code of Education Assessment and Evaluation
A conversation with educator and author Brian Aspinall
Brian Aspinall is an educator and best-selling author who’s been named one of the brightest STEM innovators in Canadian education. He’s enthusiastic about math education and bringing greater awareness to the subjects of coding and computer science. He will be speaking at the 2020 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC 2020) in Miami, where he will be discussing hacking the classroom and the role that constructivist learning plays.
In his books, Code Breaker and Block Breaker, Aspinall shares thoughts about a topic not necessarily indicated by the titles: rethinking assessment and evaluation. “I think it’s very important to have a conversation about assessment and evaluation. We’re [looking at] computer science, the maker movement, and STEM, and bringing these themes into education to shift how we instruct our lessons. But we’re not having the conversation on the evaluation side.”
He is an advocate of the gradeless classroom, particularly in elementary school, and sees the limitations facing certain types of technology-driven learning. “I don’t see us embedding things like computer science into a graded space. We preach risk-taking all the time. That’s what the industry wants. But we live in a system in which failure is punished. So how do we embrace failure if we’re going to quantify everything that kids do? Secondly, if computer science becomes a curriculum or a discipline at the elementary level, then we have to grade it. And once we grade it, we suck the fun out of it because it creates this level of standardization.”
Hacking the classroom moves away from categorizing students based on a numerical value or one isolated performance task. As Aspinall shares, “‘I have stories from my classrooms of students with learning disabilities and special needs who have really done well, embracing tools like Minecraft. But, at the end of the day, it’s almost impossible to articulate a number based on their creativity. How can you standardize something like creativity?” According to Aspinall, it has a lot to do with not looking at math as a score.
The kids of today will not know a world before the internet. Aspinall believes the more young people understand how machines work, the better they will be able to conceptualize the big data era they are growing up in. “Every behavior they do is going to be tracked and marketed and sold. We’re heading into the big data era. Everybody needs to be mindful of that and have an awareness about why and how these machines work.”
In the end, it comes down to allowing for greater exposure and choice of learning in coding and computer science. Aspinall likens it to broccoli: “You don’t know if you like it until you try. I don’t teach writing, thinking every kid is going to be a professional author. I just want everyone to have the opportunity to decide for themselves if pure science is something they choose to study.”
About Brian Aspinall
Brian Aspinall is an educator and best selling author and is considered one of the brightest STEM innovators in Canadian education. His books, Code Breaker and Block Breaker, continue to top the charts in STEM Education with a focus on rethinking assessment and evaluation. Recently he was awarded the Canadian Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence for his work with coding and computational thinking. His enthusiasm, thought leadership, and approach to building capacity within STEM education has made him a sought after speaker throughout North America and has earned him the honour of being selected as Canada’s first Minecraft, Micro:BiT, and Makey Makey Ambassadors! Follow Brian Aspinall on Twitter
The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at https://www.fetc.org/register