Give ’em paths

Authentic assessment is a key word these days.  How a student is assessed should be original, and the data that comes out of it clearly describes what the student knows.  Data can come in a variety of ways, but the data has to be real.  So how can students really show what they know in authentic ways?

I reflect on how students came into my classroom earlier this year with only know what a teacher tells them.  It was difficult at first to get them thinking for themselves, but once this happened, they came to understand that how they demonstrate what they know is up to them.  I recall being frustrated and anxious at the start of school; we all felt that.  The frustration wasn’t with the start of school but with how students think.  Many of them feel I should tell them everything and all they have to do is follow.  But, that only creates sheep in the education pasture with few shepherds.  My goal was to get them to see there are multiple paths to accomplish the same thing.  For example, a teacher says to students they are to present on a certain topic.  Students have multiple presentation options that range from PowerPoint to VoiceThread.  In other words, there are many ways to get there.  With many paths to demonstrate what they know, students can display an authentic work that creates new knowledge from what they had prior to learning.

How does the teacher know if the student has really understood the concepts being taught in class?  The learning product displays the concept in a way that makes sense to the student based on a clear description of  the highest level of talent.  I read “Understanding by Design” by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe.  A bullet point summary:

Developed by nationally recognized educators Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, and published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), Understanding by Design® is based on the following key ideas:

  • A primary goal of education should be the development and deepening of student understanding.
  • Students reveal their understanding most effectively when they are provided with complex, authentic opportunities to explain, interpret, apply, shift perspective, empathize, and self-assess. When applied to complex tasks, these “six facets” provide a conceptual lens through which teachers can better assess student understanding.
  • Effective curriculum development reflects a three-stage design process called “backward design” that delays the planning of classroom activities until goals have been clarified and assessments designed. This process helps to avoid the twin problems of “textbook coverage” and “activity-oriented” teaching, in which no clear priorities and purposes are apparent.
  • Student and school performance gains are achieved through regular reviews of results (achievement data and student work) followed by targeted adjustments to curriculum and instruction. Teachers become most effective when they seek feedback from students and their peers and use that feedback to adjust approaches to design and teaching.
  • Teachers, schools, and districts benefit by “working smarter” through the collaborative design, sharing, and peer review of units of study.
Teachers should begin with a backwards approach to clarify exactly what they are seeking.  Let’s be real though and that is that teachers don’t have this kind of time.  So, start with the end in mind asking the question, “What do we want students to learn?”  That solidifies the premise of assessment and that we have to assess.  I am a big proponent of talent based assessment for a variety of reasons but one that makes sense in this post is the concept that what kids know should be described vs. being a point or set of points.  Starting with the description allows a teacher to view student’s work as whether or not it meets levels of talent vs. an illegitimate point based system.

Giving students multiple paths to show what they have learned gives students a creative license to share their learning in authentic ways.  I hope students leave my first quarter class with the idea that there are a variety of ways to accomplish something.

How do you assess students in authentic ways?

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inFORMATIVE Measures

One of the things that really excites me about learning is knowing when I have really learned something new. I know I’ve learned something when I incorporate this new piece of learning into my problem solving and critical thinking. So, as a teacher, how do I know when my students are learning and have learned content? Since I can’t get inside of their heads, I have to rely on formative assessments to tell me how much is being learned, and let this direct my teaching.

20th Century formative measures In 20th Century learning, teachers use paper and pencil having kids answer a few questions, collect them, scramble through them to figure out who isn’t learning, pull those students for intervention, while having something for the kids to do who are getting it. Another strategy is to have kids raise their hands answering questions hoping every student is really telling the truth. Both options are difficult.

21st Century formative measures In this digital age, teachers have the opportunity to leverage technology to their advantage to gain insight into what students have learned. Students have wireless devices today that may be an iPod, iPhone, iPad, Nook, Kindle, Android or laptop, and, because they have these, it gives teachers the opportunity to gather accurate information quicker, easier, and with greater efficiency. These formative measures can be embedded within instruction giving teachers flexibility when to use it. Using technology gives us instant feedback allowing for responsive teaching vs. reactive teaching. By this I mean that formative measures share quick, reliable data helping us give responsive intervention as soon as it is needed rather than wait until the next day when the learning moment is past. Dylan Wiliam, author of “Embedded Formative Assessment” shares his view on formative assessment.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3HRvFsZHoo&w=520&h=315]

Kevin Rich, English Language Arts teacher at Lakeridge Junior High School, wrote a guest blog about formative assessment in writing.  While this post is not about writing, it is about how to do this easily.  His second point brings simplicity to an embedded formative measure:

Don’t try to do too much with any single formative assessment.  Feedback is most effective if it’s given during the writing process.  That means that formative assessment must be very quick and easy for me as a teacher.  By formatively assessing just one or two skills or standards that I taught that day, I can diagnose which students have a lack of understanding as they are writing.

Formative Measure Tools
Getting caught up in measuring every part of your lesson is unrealistic.  So, the measurement tool has to be relatively easy too.  Below are a list of tools that can be used in class and are free.
  1. Tool 1 – Mentimeter  > Interact with your students letting them give you valuable feedback.
  2. Tool 2 – Quiz Star  > Free quiz maker for all teachers.
  3. Tool 3 – Twtpoll  > This is a free or you can pay for powerful features.  Create polls that others can interact with using Twitter.
  4. Tool 4 – polls.io  >
  5. Toll 5 – Edmodo  > This is a free LMS for teachers to help connect them in powerful ways by joining communities.  Once a member, quizzes can be created for students to take which can be either formative or summative.
  6. Tool 6 – Google Form  > Create a Google account and use Forms to create formative measures.
  7. Tool 7 – Socrative  > Engage students in a variety of ways in class to gather important information about what they are learning.
  8. Tool 8 – cel.ly  > Not only can you create cells for students to work within, but polls can be created for formative assessment.  Results of polls are stored for teachers to go back and review.
  9. infuselearning – This is a great site to collective formative data about your students. Not only do you have the normal types of questions – i.e. true/false, matching, and MC – but you have the ability to add in a draw response too!
What To Do Now
Preview the eight tools above to determine which one suits you better.  I have used Google Forms, Edmodo, and cel.ly and like all three.  Whatever one you choose to use, start slow.  Choose one lesson where you can use it easily, match it up to a learning standard, and use it.  The great part about using BYOD as a response system is that the data you get can be stored so you can create an anthology of learning about every student over the course of a school year.  When it is time to communicate with parents, teachers, or administrators, you can bring your data with you to show learning progress.  Having this kind of data kept over time also allows you to determine the effectiveness of RTI.

The sandbox is open

At BBHMS we are moving in this direction though I haven’t come out and said this to the staff. I work with a Technology Committee and we are currently discussing what the tech culture should look like at our school. In our last meeting, all agreed there needs to be a wider array of tech being used and that tech is transforming teaching. We have not yet come to the point of researching the technology that should be used in our school as we are now beginning to phase in BYOD with a 1:1 in the future.

On Friday, October 19th part of the staff attended a tech forum that addressed BYOD and why we should use it. Some reasons we came up with were

  1. allows kids access to the Internet for information and webware
  2. opens technology to a wider range of teachers
  3. less expensive than a 1:1
  4. opens a culture of learning through technology
  5. kids are already using it

A step in the right direction
There has been a no cell phone use policy for years and for good reason. There is really no way to monitor what the kids are looking at or if they are accessing sites for information. This was a simple measure to keep students from doing what they should not. However, as a Cindy Hubert said in class, “…were born into the digital age…” and the students do not know what life is like without a computer. I recall my mother’s first computer which ran on DOS and had one stick of RAM. We had 5 1/2′ in floppy disks that sometimes worked and sometimes did not. The personal computer was beginning its way into homes. Now, the phones we carry in our pockets have the power and capability to do everything we need, and this is where we can leverage the power of BYOD.

Use it while you can
I cannot say that Brecksville-Broadview Heights Schools will go to a 1:1 in the next year, though we are on our way with the purchase of netbooks for science and social studies, but I do know that students have access to the world inside their pocket, so why not use it and abuse it for all it is worth. Students are eager to pull out their wireless device – show and tell to everyone! With such eagerness schools can engage kids in learning while helping them to learn how to search for information and then use Web 2.0 technology to create a new piece of information that documents their learning. While we wait for a 1:1 to come, using BYOD is a great way to engage students.

Conundrum
Heading down this path is awesome and I am excited to see what comes of it when teachers and students construct new knowledge! There are a few barriers that I could use some help with and would appreciate some feedback:

  1. What policies should we put in place when in appropriate digital citizenship is inappropriate?
  2. What do we do when students do not have a wireless device?
  3. How can the teachers come to some consensus on this topic?
  4. How do you get teachers to buy in?

The sandbox is wide open because we don’t have a view of what webware and hardware is out there to use. The important part is that we are beginning to use it.

Do you use BYOD, and, if so, how?

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Teacher Talking Teaching


As a result of many conversations with my colleague, Val Stowell-Hart, we decided to launch a forum for teachers to discuss relevant topics that are affecting us as a building and profession. Throughout the two years I have been at BBHMS, I have had many conversations about what is going on and how to change. Doing what is best for kids means educator discussions have to happen and when they happen some action has to come of it. It is our hope that this forum will allow the staff, whoever participates, to come to some real conclusions about issues we are facing and ways overcome these barriers.

Beyond this is a need to just get together to talk. This year, at least here, many teachers are running around frantically pulling together ideas for lessons, technology, and assessments while trying innovative ventures to enhance the learning experience for students. Ok, I have something to do with the innovative technology side of things as this is my role. Teachers here adopted new textbooks (Science and Social Studies) which included an online component and with this online component came a set of netbooks for every teacher who wanted them. So now, not only is there a new textbook series but another component online that still needs to be explored and integrated, and this integration will be a year long just to try and figure out how and where to use it. So, there is a good deal of stress right now.

TTT will give us a chance to talk through issues and find solutions.

If you have something like this at your school, send me an email so we can talk about how it is being implemented where you are. At your school, what is your forum for talking about issues and such?

Let the discussion begin!!

me: i’m here

Denise: I thought the 3rd one could use Glogster.
me: Glogster would be perfect for the third one.
In Glogster, kids can import pics, YouTube videos and more.

Denise: I’m thinking about using the iPad for apps and then the netbooks for other activities. I just feel like I have no time to prepare anything besides pencil and paper.
HOw else could I use youtube?
I need to get an account for Glogster right?

me: What do you mean using iPad for apps? I’ll do some brainstorming for the other two ideas. One of your CC goals is to have kids create webs. I have a few ways for kids to do that together.

Denise: That would be cool- I was thinking pearltrees?

me: No, you don’t need a Glogster acct. I have a subscription and can add your kids to it.
Pearltrees would be a great idea! Pearltrees is about creating webs using websites by Pearling them.

Denise: Do you know how to create an app? I thought that could be cool and see how the kids could run with it- more of a small group enrichment for accel.

me: BRB. I am going to check in Chrome Webstore for app creators.

Denise: cool

me: Ok, can’t find anything right now, but there might be something out on the web.
for which of the activities do you want kids to create an app?

Denise: I’m basically trying to start a doc for major lit skills that students are not really grasping well yet, and then work on others. my goal is to have parents in during EI to monitor and help guide these activities. I think the other I’d really like to work on is vocab. THey never do too well, so I want to use tech to increase abilities. I guess I could start with vocab games, but would like to do more.
For the view selected movie clips could this be on my youtube channel? Need huge refresher on that.

me: I have a perfect solution for game making. It is called Zondle and I am using it right now with Bev Cornett.

Denise: let’s do it. If she has the same planning as me I will come down when you’re already scheduled with her.

me: YouTube is a great place to find movie clips and add to your channel. Plus, the kids can go back and watch it whenever they want. What would you think about creating your own videos to put on YT to help teach or refresh what kids are learning in class? I found a piece of hardware I want to order that would help you do this.

Denise: why not. is it possible to use the wingclip videos in my youtube channel or is this something I’d have to link to Moodle? I’d like to streamline as much as possible. I guess I could link youtube channel to moodle?
not familiar with go animate- that’s an app?
btw I’m logging this as PLC- i will share the form with you.

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Some students prefer paper

I am almost always engaged in some sort of thought about education and technology picking my way through the nuances of going about connecting strong education practices with effective technology integration. Strong education practices may be known as best practices in education. Strong practices include classroom inquiry, open-ended questions, formative measures, authentic summative measures, and homework that matters. Without effective teaching practices, infusing technology becomes a toy rather than a tool. Technology should be the tool and tools should be used often, and when teachers integrate technology often, students see it as the preferred method of gaining access to the “sum of human knowledge” (Will Richardson) and portraying their understanding of content digitally. Now, not all students will want to use digital means to display what they have learned and transformed their understanding.

Recently I taught tech in an 8th grade science classroom and, going into it, my honest thought was that every kid would want to use the netbooks available to them. As I circled the classroom several times I noticed students who preferred paper over netbook. I was intrigued by this and asked why paper was preferred. Perhaps it is a tactile thing? Whatever the reason, every student has a preference while learning, and I had to stop myself from saying the netbooks had to be used. Upon stopping myself, and reflecting on my need to use technology, I respected the student who chose his or her preferred learning style. How does this relate to the opening sentence of this blog post? Effective technology integration is respecting the student who still chooses to use paper and pencil despite the clear technological advantage. Effective integration is planning for students who choose a different path.

One thing I do know is that students are more engaged in learning through technology. How might students react if we took away their tech to learn?