I spent this morning judging elementary school projects at the county tech fair competition. Students from grades 3-6 present their projects as teams or as individuals to a team of judges. This is my 4th year as a judge and I have observed many changes in the process and in the content presented by these children. The committee has become a well oiled machine. This year they added bar coded identification for participants and an access database to post rubric results. There was no waiting for tallys, the computer produced a wonderful report of the winners in each category.The only trouble I could see was in the categories themselves. Technology has improved so much and programs have gained so much functionality that digital video can be found in FLASH animation, stills can be found in windows Movie Maker and all of the above can be found in Internet projects. The lines have blurred and the rubrics don’t fit the product.
When projects don’t fit neatly into distinctive categories how can they be judged appropriately?I was most impressed by the technical expertise displayed by the students. The technical terminology, the understanding of the steps and the process was remarkable. Some had macs, others had PC’s and the variety of software packages blurred the distinctions further. It got me thinking about the real purpose for having a tech competition in the first place. Judges ranged from tech specialists, to teachers to student teachers. Background experience varied widely. One tech specialist said that the content was not as important as the technology and the skill used to apply the technology. I wonder, is that really the purpose? Shouldn’t the real purpose be to use technology to enhance learning and to extend the learning experience via integrating technology into the curriculum?
There was no place on the rubric for standards neither ISTE nor GPS (Georgia’s). There was no way to judge the whether or not a student had an established goal or purpose. There was no way to judge the academic value of the project. Today I viewed Digital Video projects only to discover that Windows Movie Maker and Photostory 3 with all stills somehow made this category. I would have put them into Multi-Media. Next year the lines will blur further. Think about it, you can even export a Power Point as a movie! I may need to get involved in changing the rubrics to reflect real 21st learning and technology integration. The students are doing wonderful work but they need to be judged more fully and more equitably.
PS. The little on-line program below falls into which category? Would it be Non animated graphic design? Most of the 3-5 graders used Paint for that category. How would this cartoon be compared?