X is for eXtra credit

How does edtech affect extra credit?

how does edtech affect extra creditIs extra credit still a valid notion as we move towards ubiquitous learning, and grapple with questions of equity in education?

If the goal is anytime, anywhere learning, how can we quantify certain activities as eXtraneous to that learning space?

 Is extra credit over?

As edtech and the increasing movement towards 1:1 computing devices in schools redefines the notion of what, where and how a classroom works, it’s worth taking a moment to look at whether the idea of extra credit has become outdated.

Vermont educator Alex Shevrin has written previously about how the entire notion of extra credit can be problematic from an equity point of view, and John Downes wrote a fantastic piece unpacking some of the key ideas underpinning the emerging idea of ubiquitous learning. Taking these two ideas in combination, when we empower learners with personal computing devices and encourage them to explore learning through audio, video and transmedia storytelling projects, why would we still enforce a boundary around where learning ends? For some amount of work to be considered “extra”, we’re implicitly promoting the idea that learning should have an end, that it should cease at some point, and that to continue pursuing learning beyond that point is out of bounds.

Does extra credit then become actually just another limit on students’ learning?

How does extra credit work with standards-based assessments?

Another key change we’re seeing edtech make possible is a rigorous and manageable shift to standards-based assessments. But how does extra credit work in assessing performance?

Edmunds Middle School educator Sarah Wright has moved to standards-based assessment with her 6th grade Spanish class, and two key components of that shift are 1) that students work towards an 80% proficiency with the Spanish language and 2) that they have the ability to retake proficiency exams an unlimited number of times.

The goal in the class is based on acquiring the skill to a set performance target; but note that when students acquire 80% proficiency, they don’t stop learning, they continue to use their language skills. If they become 90% proficient, have they automatically done extra credit?

Where does the learning end?

  • If we’re encouraging learners to use edtech tools to discover more about themselves as learners, that’s a process.
  • If we’re encouraging learners to use edtech tools to pursue collaboration with distance learners, mentors and resources, that’s a conversation.
  • If we’re encouraging learners to use edtech tools to make the community their classroom, that’s a vista.

But if we’re also encouraging learners to see their learning as having a default portion and an extra portion, that’s a limit.

Work ≠ proficiency

In many cases extra credit is offered so that students who are performing poorly can earn make-up points so they’re able to achieve a certain grade. But isn’t the message there that to support poorly performing students is something extra? That the default situation is for students to be allowed to fail, and only through additional, non-required effort, be considered passing? Shouldn’t all students be supported in achieving proficiency?

Additionally, the notion of extra credit is predicated on a certain amount of work being necessary to achieve a grade, rather than a certain amount of mastery. Doesn’t this subvert the entire idea of proficiency-based assessment?

How does edtech affect extra credit?

Let us know, in the comments, how you feel about extra credit in your classroom, especially if you’re in a 1:1 or BYOD or classroom cart situation.

Need to catch up on your edtech ABCs? Check out the full series here.

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