Survey results are pretty useless when the people designing the survey:
a) don’t understand how to word questions/statements to garner meaningful data from respondents, and
b) create rigid, multiple choice scales that aren’t related to the questions being asked or the statements being evaluated.
This rant is brought to you by the LoTi Digital-Age Survey that the county requires me to complete. The intent seems reasonable enough: the county wants to know how and to what extent I use technology in my classroom. That’s fine. Unfortunately, the way the survey has been designed, the county is going to wind up with a heap of vague, useless data.
Let’s look at a couple of examples.
Statement 2: I model for my students the safe and legal use of digital tools and resources while I am delivering content and/or reinforcing their understanding of pertinent concepts using multimedia resources (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote), web-based tools (e.g., Google Presentations), or an interactive whiteboard.
Answers: never; at least once a year; at least once a semester; at least once a month; a few times a month; at least once a week; a few times a week; daily
First of all, there are far too many words in this statement. The reader gets lost and has to reread multiple times. After three or four questions like this, most people stop trying to wade through the wording and just choose the middle option. Though most of these statements don’t make sense even when you do translate them. Let’s take a closer look…
Gibberish clause #1:
I model for my students the safe and legal use of digital tools and resources…
What does “safe and legal” mean? Do I use my video projector to show porn in class? No. Do I encourage my students to pirate Justin Bieber MP3s? No. But how do I model this behavior? By NOT doing it? Or should I be telling my students – on a daily basis – what the copyright and acceptable use policies are at my school while distributing annotated bibliographies of the day’s research-based lesson and handing out anti-cyberbullying literature?
For me, this clause translates into:
I don’t do unsafe or illegal things with my technology…
Gibberish clause #2:
…while I am delivering content and/or reinforcing their understanding of pertinent concepts…
Ok, so I have to model to my kids how I’m not pirating DVDs while I’m “delivering content and/or reinforcing their understanding of pertinent concepts?” There’s a much simpler way of saying “delivering content and/or reinforcing their understanding of pertinent concepts” – it’s called “teaching.”
So far, the translated statement says:
I don’t do unsafe or illegal things with my technology while teaching…
…using multimedia resources (e.g., PowerPoint, Keynote), web-based tools (e.g., Google Presentations), or an interactive whiteboard.
Ok, this statement is pretty straightforward – it’s referencing different types of technology I might use in my classroom. But wait…didn’t the statement already mention using “digital tools and resources”? Doesn’t that kinda cover all these “multimedia resources”?
So the translated statement is now:
I don’t do unsafe or illegal things with my technology while teaching…with technology.
…and I’m supposed to respond by saying how often I don’t do unsafe or illegal things with my technology while teaching with technology? Shoot…at LEAST once a month.
Statement 13: I rely heavily on my students’ questions and previous experiences when designing learning activities that address the content that I teach.
You CANNOT use the adverb “heavily” in this context. Do I rely on my students’ questions and previous experiences? Yes. Do I rely on it “heavily”? Define heavily, please. Do I rely on it “heavily” on a daily basis, or do I rely on it “marginally” most of the time, but “heavily” every few weeks?
See the problem here?
Also, the relative clause “…that address the content that I teach” is unnecessary and just muddles the statement further. Do they think I design learning activities that don’t address the content? Sure…but only when I want my students to learn something worthwhile.
Statement 15: My students and I use the digital tools and resources […] primarily to supplement the curriculum and reinforce specific content standards.
Primarily = adverb. The “-ly” ending gives it away. See my previous complaint about adverbs. My classroom technology use is split between 60% supplementing the curriculum and reinforcing specific content standards, and 40% looking at lolcats…so yeah, I guess “primarily” works. I use technology to “primarily” supplement the curriculum…a few times a week…
Statement 17: My students use all forms of the most advanced digital tools (e.g., digital media authoring tools, graphics programs, probeware with GPS systems, handheld devices) and resources (e.g., publishing software, media production software, advanced web design software) to pursue collaborative problem-solving opportunities surrounding issues of personal and/or social importance.
Seriously? “All forms” of the “most advanced” tools? You’ve gone from way-too-specific adverbs to way-too-vague superlatives. My kids get excited when they figure out how to insert beeping noises into their PowerPoint presentations, and you’re wondering how often I have them creating socially beneficial iPhone apps and Internet start-up companies? Sorry, we don’t begin our “Starting your own cutting edge social networking site” unit until April.
Statement 21: My students identify important real world issues or problems (e.g., environmental pollution, elections, health awareness), then use collaborative tools and human resources beyond the school building (e.g., partnerships with business professionals, community groups) to solve them.
Keep in mind, I’m supposed to respond to these questions based on how often my students do these things. You know, in between making sure my students know how to identify direct objects and tell the difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives – since that’s what’s on the CRCT. Not a lot of time for community activism when the state’s litmus test for intelligence and social readiness is whether or not a kid has memorized all 23 helping verbs. Sorry, but we only have time to design and distribute diabetes awareness leaflets in collaboration with Kaiser Permanente once or twice a semester.
Statement 27: Our classroom’s digital tools and resources are used exclusively for classroom management and professional communication…
ARRRGGHHHH! ADVERBS!! This becomes a yes or no question when you add the word “exclusively,” NOT a how often question. Seriously, how often are my resources used exclusively for classroom management and professional communication? Well, the second Wednesday of every month is set aside as our “use technology exclusively for its intended classroom purpose” day. The rest of the month is spent playing Minecraft and Googling our names to see what comes up. ::facepalm::
Statement #31: I prefer using standards-based instructional units and related student learning experiences recommended by colleagues that emphasize innovative thinking, student use of digital tools and resources, and student relevancy to the real world.
No. I prefer using instructional units based on out-dated and irrelevant pseudo-scientific research and unrelated grammar-in-isolation activities recommended by my college frat buddies that emphasize rote memorization, student use of sharp objects, and student relevancy to passing the federally mandated standardized tests.
Once again, this is not a how often question. How can anyone prefer something once a semester or daily? You either prefer it, or you don’t.
So, in my current position, I’d have to say I prefer it…hmmm…a couple of times a week…at the most. I wouldn’t want to go overboard. That might skew the survey’s results.