A Vision of a Better Grading Software
The Culture of the Assessment Software
Culture is the “shared habits, values, memories and beliefs that unite a group of people and make communication between and among the easier” (Viser et al., 2005, p.52).
The perception that technology offers anonymity and a colour blind interaction is misleading. Online education is may be viewed as a less communicatively rich environment and more culturally neutral. After all we don’t see the person’s gender, age, or other factors that may influence face-to-face communication. That isn’t quite true, even for software design.
Both designers of the interface and those that populate the content and activities imbue the technology with their own cultural bias. Reeder, Kenneth, Macfadyen, Leah P., Chase, Mackie, Roche, Jörg (2004) observe that communicative cultural values are embedded in the design of WebCT and similar Internet-based communications platforms. Further, they observe “that one important cultural ‘gap’, which may function as a predictor of online communicative success, is the gap between the communicative culture of an individual, and the communication culture of the Internet itself.” (p.5). Consider for a moment the cultural nuances of Aboriginal groups that currently exist in B.C. What current LMS system or grading software reflects those educational values? Who will have a substantial influence on selecting or designing the technology used a district? Whose voice will be heard as the voice of the expertise to qualify the need for educational adaptations that will reflect the specific sociolinguistic needs of the individual learner? It is likely that governments will turn to private companies to develop curriculum using the bells and whistles of technology that the classroom teacher is unable to do alone. It is more likely that a learner-consumer makes due with the modes of communication and structured products offered in the DL program.
For that reason, I have to agree with Carr-Chellman’s observation that “[o]ne of the main criticisms of globalization is the underlying tendency to colonize and import dominant paradigms into context that are either unfriendly to those paradigms or that can be harmed by those solutions.” (p.8).” The pressures to provide public education or rank competitively in a global economy may result in a rapid colonization to homogenized intellectual and linguistic “competence”. As much as we may think that technology can personalize education, the adoption of large-scale software may in fact marginalize a student’s culture, preferred learning methodologies and personalized assessments. I believe software can be a form of assimilating individuals into the representative mental models and world view. How is a right answered acknowledged in different cultures or in an app? How do we embrace or discourage mistakes? Why do we value percent? How did we become indoctrinated into the paradigms we have around grading?
I wonder what are the consequences to 21st century forms of this linguistic and cognitive colonization?
The developers of new software must design a new paradigm and I would guess, one that does rank students out of 100, use averages. Too often, the reporting software subtly influences what teachers do. We must be careful not to embrace a reporting mechanism that endorses neoliberalism philosophy and silence the diverse voices we need to solve complex issues.
Reeder, Kenneth, Macfadyen, Leah P., Chase, Mackie, Roche, Jörg (2004). Falling through the (cultural) gaps. ) GAPS? Intercultural communication challenges in cyberspace. Department of Language & Literacy Education and Centre for Intercultural Communication, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Retrieved July, 1, 2009, fromhttp://hdl.handle.net/2429/1329
Carr-Chellman, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Global Perspectives on E-Learning: Rhetoric and Reality. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Reeder, Kenneth, Macfadyen, Leah P., Chase, Mackie, Roche, Jörg (2004). Falling through the (cultural) gaps: Intercultural communication challenges in cyberspace. Department of Language & Literacy Education and Centre for Intercultural Communication, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Retrieved July, 1, 2009, from http://hdl.handle.net/2429/1329
Visser, Y. L., Visser, L., Simonson, M. & Amirault, R. (Eds.). (2005). Trends and Issues in Distance Education; International Perspectives. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing