Since last year, the whole school has known we were going to be using a new system for studying this year, so on the first day of the fall term, it came as no surprise when Mr. Gagne, the Grade 10 science teacher, took most of our first morning class explaining the ins and outs. He said we’re going to need to know this stuff, and that’s for sure!
The system is called Aligned·By·Design, or A·B·D for short. A lot of it is computerized, but there’s more to it than just learning new software. The whole school is on it, and our parents as well, so the students and the parents need computer access. They installed more PCs in the library if you don’t have one at home. It’s supposed to link us all together – kids, parents, teachers – so no doubt they’re going to call us a “learning community” or something schmaltzy like that. Ah yes. It’s also going to be mighty handy for letting the teachers and parents keep tabs on how much we’re learning, all the time, not just at test and report-card time.
First thing, Mr. Gagne gave us our logon codes and told us how our parents can get theirs. He called up A·B·D and flashed it on the white screen up front. It showed the dashboard, which has messages, newsfeeds, a calendar and the course list. A mouse-click opened the science course and then he opened the list of “content objectives.” He said we have 85 “learning objectives” this semester. Yipe! But he said they’re “bite-sized,” which I suppose means not too big. Plus our textbook is only a reference, we don’t have to know everything in it. Our job in the course is to learn all 85 objectives.
A·B·D has an online library with lots of reference materials linked to things like teachers’ materials, topic resources, links to texts, links to videos, and short tests.
Mr. Gagne announced we’d take a quiz after we got home, on our computers. He said don’t worry, it’s not for a grade, just to see if we had all our prerequisites – what we should know before learning the new stuff.
I like to work at the desk in my room, door closed to shut out noise and distractions. Homework is all in front of the screen, which frankly suits me fine. I logged on and saw my dashboard with my classes, newsfeeds, message board and calendar. I opened the science class and saw Mr. Gagne and my fellow victims. I clicked Gagne and saw his home page with pictures and ways to contact him. Back on the science page, I clicked on Succotash, a friend of mine – his home page opened but the page said I was blocked. I hit “Ask to be connected.”
It was time to get to work. Back on my home page, I found the prerequisites quiz page, paired with the answer sheet. I think I could have almost aced it, except I’d gotten mixed up about “meiosis” and “mitosis.” I looked them up, which was not only allowed but encouraged – they provided links. It didn’t take long.
I checked out the calendar. It has everything for the whole semester – lectures, a field trip, tests and the due date for a science project. The laptop pinged and a window opened with Succotash’s real name. (It’s Percival Watts, which is why he goes by “Succotash.”) We exchanged home page passage, chatted a bit, then I scanned my home page once more. It was pretty empty. I uploaded a couple of pictures and jazz links.
Downstairs, I caught my folks in front of the tube. I gave them their logon information and told them they will have their own dashboard and home page, and will be able to see my home page, my course pages, my learning profile and all the reference materials. They can also see attendance records, homework assignments and schedules.
Dad headed for the study, where their computer is, rubbing his hands together and flashing his best Mephistophelean leer.