Beta is a term used by the technology community for years that is starting to creep into the everyday lexicon. For a developer “beta” is having a (what you consider) working product that people are going to test, understanding the entire time that there are going to be changes made and needed. This idea of ever changing and ever growing is exactly the mindset that everyone needs, especially in education.
April 27th – Living in Beta
For my Computer Science classes I introduce the idea of “beta” early and use it often. The idea that we can always change and improve is a realistic point of view for today’s society and a mind shift from the idea that when we do something, write a paper perhaps, it is the finished definitive product. Information is constantly coming out and more and more available so everything is constantly changing – we have to have a growth mindset philosophy to make sure we know things are in flux.
Beta is my classroom has been incredibly helpful in addressing the “rough draft”, “authentic audience” and late work policy.
I found that rough drafts are becoming more and more difficult to come by, mainly because the students are knee deep in information that they want to get it out on the page and struggle to revise and edit it. Plus with Google Docs and the constant collaboration, there are no longer moments of print, turn it in and then wait for edits. With “beta” I let my students know that I except the finished product, but with room for improvements. This, if the students buy-in, changes the dynamic in a final product and then constructive criticism to improve it.
Some times I find that students approach projects differently if they know it’s just for me. I would setup rubrics and focus on the “4” column, but as long as they were checking off boxes, they weren’t invested. “Beta” testing their games or websites with their peers and classmates completely changes that dynamic and suddenly it’s something they are proud of and the stakes are raised.
Late work has always been a troubling policy. You want your students to do well, but sometimes life happens and work comes in late. If you open that door, you’ll spend the entire semester re-doing grades, but if you close that door, your star athlete is punished because they got a chance to go to the state competition. I accept late work, only if it’s an improvement on the original assignment. This allows students to get credit but also know it’s in flux and can always be improved upon. In my class a majority of the curriculum is project based learning so this becomes difficult but the two reasons above help out at certain checkpoints during the project.
Beta is the Maker Culture in a nutshell, try and try again until you succeed. Check out this great Ted Talk from Molly Schroeder (which is the blog link for the images as well).