Everyone loves critical thinking, but few seem to like Common Core. If you’re unfamiliar, Common Core is the new-ish curriculum structure that attempts to teach our children critical thinking. It’s biggest problem: it’s new. We haven’t used it long enough to have worked out the kinks. If this was in the past, letters might have been written and PTA meetings might have gotten more heated, but it would have been easier to ignore the dissatisfaction than it is now with email, twitter, et al., enabling direct communication with decision makers. Because of this, states have been doing the hokey pokey adopting and un-adopting it, embracing it and hating it.
The biggest kink that needs to be worked out is testing. How do we test critical thinking skills? It’s not that there aren’t ways. It’s that it’s difficult to design them to be standardized—standardized in a way that accommodates different age groups, languages, and all the other variations that exist within our schools today—not to mention all the factors that play into a student’s success outside of the classroom. So, instead, we’ve stuck with what we know. Unfortunately, it’s never been a great system to assess critical thought. And it’s only creating more barriers and putting more stress on students, teachers and administrators alike.
Digital technology, however, is quite adept at providing a flexible environment that accounts for a user-unique situation—whether users speak english or portuguese, whether they are four years old or 40, and whether they can actually read at their grade level or not.
This technology doesn’t just excel at simply transforming analog processes to a new paperless format, but re-designing it to enable a more accurate reflection of the real world, real students and real learning. Why should we be satisfied with two data points (a mid-term and final) when we could have infinite data points collected throughout the duration of a day, school year or a student’s entire grade school education? How could deep computer learning be used to better teach and evaluate the critical thinking abilities of students? How can artificially intelligent chatbots help students step through the logic of a socratic inquisition? How can technology track the human characteristics and habits of each student and correlate it that data to classroom performance?
Common Core is a bold attempt to help prepare our kids for the future, but the process and method of evaluation cannot stay stuck in the past. One-dimensional evaluations are long gone. We need to embrace and discover ways to evaluate a 360 degree view of students.