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Aurora Institute

Re-Imagining School Info

CompetencyWorks Blog

Author(s): Chris Sturgis

Issue(s): Issues in Practice, Rethink Instruction

Information design challengeI’ve been thinking a lot about report cards since I read Hot on the Paper Trail about the power of receipts by Baratunde Thurston in Fast Company. Thurston opens with a question posed by and Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, “What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium? A product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with?”

It got me thinking: What if we saw the report card as more than a static report? Could it become a tool that children want to take home, a tool that could be fully interactive for students, parents and teachers?  I started pushing my thinking. What if we “badged” report cards? Parents could put a bright chart on the fridge and students could bring home stickers every time they hit proficiency on a learning objective.  What if school sent an email or tweet to parents every time a student hit the proficiency mark, which could be easily retweeted to grandparents?

Richard Murphy, a mentor, colleague and friend to many of us in education and youth development, used to carry a roll of Lifesavers around, asking why we couldn’t have as much information about students and communities as companies have about their products. I can tell how many calories, how much cholesterol and what type of sweeteners are in a roll of Lifesavers. Why can’t we tell if the course or unit was structured for Level 3 or Level 6 in Bloom’s, and whether it had performance assessments and an opportunity for creative work? And pace and progress…. Don’t get me started. Why can’t parents get a sense of distance, depth, effort (school’s and student’s) and rate of learning?

My nephew is at a school where student received iPads. Dashboards would be great. But he sure loves those video games – he’d be much more interested in getting points to be able to get a new tool or weapon to tackle a challenge in a video game. Memorizing the countries in South America – boring! But if he got some points in a game for the same knowledge, he’d have them down in five minutes. Writing an essay about how the rivers in two countries shape their economies – no problem if he could get that golden apple (that seems to have significant powers in Assassin’s Creed).

So I’m totally jazzed about The Foundation for Excellence in Education’s My School Info Design Challenge (#SchoolInfo).  It is a competition to reimagine school report cards. Winners will be announced November 21 in Washington, D.C. at ExcelinEd’s Annual Conference. And there is a prize purse — $35,000.  Check out the brief for more information: My School Information Challenge: Building a Better School Performance Report Card for Parents & Students.

What I hope more than anything is that our big SIS vendors jump into the Info Design Challenge. They’ve figured out that standards are important but haven’t jumped on the personalized, student-centered, competency-based bandwagon yet. I hope they’ll get the ideas that it’s time to re-design if they want to stay in the game.