There is an interesting conversation that has started between the writers at Techlearning blog about how we should assess student work when they are using web 2.0 tools. David Jakes raises some interesting questions in his post (that follows a conversation that occured in Dean Shareski's ustream session last night). I tried to post the following comment on that blog tonight but every time I tried it returned as an error. Frustrated I am posting it here:
How do you assess contribution in a networked classroom?
Ok, so what does it look like? What's new, what's different, what's the same? Your ideas?
I must say that this question still requires some distillation. If you are talking about the mechanics of how to do assessment in these networked environments the answer is RSS subscriptions. I try to encourage teachers in my school to utilize web 2.0 tools such as wikis and blogs and the one overwhelming concern is how do I manage this information overload and how do I know when someone posts? The answer is to aggregate responses into a single reader so you are notified when someone posts among various places.
The flip side of this question, and the side that is most important and I assume is what is really being asked here has to do with how we define the rubric. I think it is dangerous for us to assume there is one or could ever be one set rubric for assessing contribution in a networked environment or any other learning environment. This is going to depend highly on what it is you want students to achieve academically. Ultimately, whether we use pen and paper or web 2.0 tools, we have to assess the learning according to the desired outcomes as they relate to the content. Otherwise we are just teaching students how to use the tools. Why do I need to learn this? When will I ever need to know this? These questions will flourish if we approach web 2.0 tools as an end and not simply a means. It is like teaching students how to build a house but giving them new tools to do it. In the end, whether they have hammers, handsaws, and screwdrivers, or power drills, table saws, and air hammers the house still needs to be measured by the same standards and benchmarks.