Hand-held electronics, student diversity and standardized testing in the classroom will be discussed at next week’s Teachers’ Convention in Red Deer.
About 2,200 teachers from five school divisions across Central Alberta will gather at Red Deer College Feb. 22 and 23 to hear from experts on these sometimes contentious topics.
With growing concern both in and out of the classroom about the effect hand-held electronic devices have on young minds, one of the keynote speakers at the convention will be Dr. Michael Rich of the Harvard Medical School.
Rich will discuss studies that have found electronics are becoming “digital babysitters,” replacing the role of parents. “Instead of parents spending time or reading to their kids, they are being replaced by iPads,” said David Martin, president of the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention.
Another speaker will be American educator Rick Wormeli, who authored the book Fair isn’t Always Equal. He will talk about striving to better meet diversity needs in the classroom.
Martin said class sizes are getting larger and students aren’t always starting from the same point, in term of learning. There are more English as a Second Language students, kids with disabilities, as well as students from disadvantaged homes.
“One in nine students in Alberta live in poverty,” added Martin, which affects their performance in the classroom.
Standardized testing, or the “data-fication” of students will be discussed by David Rutkowski, a professor of education at the University of Oslo in Norway.
Martin, who’s the lead math teacher for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said there’s concerned about the major push to prepare students for standardized provincial tests, which are still done in Alberta in grades 6 and 9.
There’s the sense many questions are arbitrary and not relevant, added Martin, who believes most teachers prefer the student learning assessments done at the start of Grade 3, which determines what learning level each student is at.
Most schools in the Red Deer area will be closed next week because of Family Day, winter break, and the teachers’ convention.