Tag: assessment

First Things First?

Img source: http://tinyurl.com/gq3jmx5

Img source: http://tinyurl.com/gq3jmx5

Last week, I attended and presented at Tech and Learning Live in Dallas. This is one of my favorite events of the year, because it is by its very nature extremely collegial and conversational, whether in sessions or in the numerous snack breaks (another reason it is a favorite). After a morning session on blended learning, I got into a discussion with a colleague who I highly respect on the goals and potential of blended learning. I had heard much during the session on how the district from which he came was looking at blended learning as a tool to increase student literacy levels and, of course, test scores. I see lots of potential for blended learning as, optimally, a tool for increasing student choice, creativity, and engagement, with test results being a positive side effect. During our discussion, my friend stated something to the effect that schools had to get test scores up “so they can then do the fun stuff.” Knowing the realities of the very oppressive accountability systems we have in place, I sympathize 100% with this point of view, but I don’t necessarily embrace it. Which brings me to the question of the day:

Which is the right approach?

  • Go for high test scores using whatever means necessary with the belief that more engaging, authentic learning will be possible once the unappealing stuff is knocked out.
  • Go with more learner-centered, engaging, and authentic learning and have faith that the tests will turn out fine.

While there is an obvious, pie-in-the-sky ideal answer here, the tough realities faced by schools make this a much harder question to answer than at first glance. What do you say? What is your school or district’s philosophy?

Grade Your Makers, Kill Your Makerspace

I read an article this  morning in Edutopia titled Creating an Authentic Maker Education Rubric by Lisa Yokana. The article has some very good suggestions for the types of things we might look for in students’ makerspace projects, specifically three very sound categories: process; understanding; and product. It is worth a read and has given me some useful ideas about posters or rubrics or group discussion guides I might want to include in the makerspaces I am planning for my own schools.

parkerOne sentence right up front in the article made me cringe, however. Ms. Yokana asks “How will we justify a grade to students and parents alike, especially to the student who ‘just isn’t good at art’?” This sentence really sidetracked me, and I almost stopped reading the rest of the piece, which does have some good, useful stuff. Ms. Yokana, in her Edutopia bio, mentions the need for a “change of paradigm” and states that the “present model is no longer valid.” Yet, bam! Right from the start, we are talking about…grades. Grades in a makerspace. Grades in a place that is about innovation, creativity, and imagination. Grades where kids engage in playful, curious experimentation and (if I can use the phrase without risking our district’s state rating) the joy of learning.

It probably should not surprise me, given the fact that I have seen teachers assign grades to anything and everything a kid does in the school. I have seen a kid’s average go up because she brought the box of tissues on the school supply list. Permission slip returned? A+!  Walking in a straight line? Extra credit!

I hate grades–okay, I’ve said it. Grades are mostly for the kids who have hacked the system, who know how to play the game. Grades are overblown, overused, and usually give very little or no insight into learning. Grades do not engage or motivate most students. A favorite quote, which I keep pinned to the top of my Twitter page, is from Alfie Kohn:

“Helping students forget about grades is the single best piece of advice for creating a learning-oriented classroom.”

Taken even further, getting rid of grades entirely would be an even better step. There are alternatives. My kids’ kindergarten and first grade teachers sent home detailed, qualitative reports that listed the performance standards my kids were meeting, on their way to meeting, or needing to learn. There was no number, no arbitrary and meaningless percentage. It was informative and helpful, and I doubt it caused an ounce of stress or apprehension for my kids, their classmates, or any parents. Kohn (1999) cites a series of studies by Bulter that demonstrated that the mere presence of number grades reduced students’ creative problem-solving, even if qualitative feedback was included.  Put simply, grades kill creativity and motivation.

Our illustrious 17th VP.

Our illustrious 17th VP.

I think assessment of student maker projects is a great idea that should be implemented. However, assessment should be for growth and generating new, better ideas, not for grades. It should be self- and peer-driven, to promote reflection and critical analysis. Makerspaces are intended to promote creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and a host of almost impossible to quantify character traits and skills. I can quickly tell if a kid knows the 17th vice president of the United States (Shuyler Colfax, of course). I find it a lot harder to assign a number to the ideas of a child or the worth of his/her creations.

I don’t want to sound like I am picking on Ms. Yokana. She shares some great ideas. Rubrics would be great tools for project assessment, certainly. Her 3 categories of assessment would be great areas to focus class discussions. How about using her basic ideas to create posters for the school makerspace something like these?

-POP

Is my product well-contructed-What design elements need improvement-Does it work as intended-Is my design easy to use-My point is that assessment is great and appropriate, but grades do more harm than good. Keep the grades out of your makerspaces, your genius hours, your coding clubs, etc. Let’s give the kids these precious few times to think and invent and tinker without fear or consequence.

 

Kahoot! Engaging New Assessment Tool For the New School Year

As I made the rounds at several educational technology conferences and events this summer, one of the most talked-about technology tools was Kahoot!, a self-described “game based classroom response system.” Kahoot! is a free (unlike other student response systems) online resource that allows teachers to quickly find or create quizzes, surveys, polls, etc. that are colorful, fun, and media-rich. Kahoot! has great potential as a formative assessment or “exit ticket” tool. It has a lot of potential as a fun (where that is still allowed) tool for reviewing concepts in a humorously competitive environment. I liken it to Socrative in a lot of ways, only minus the app and with more bling. The following is a very over-simplified guide to getting started with Kahoot! (By the way, that exclamation point is part of their name, by the way. I know I over-use them, but not this time! Oops.)

Get started by registering at https://getkahoot.com.

Kahoot____Game-based_blended_learning___classroom_response_systemOnce the account has been created, you will be taken to your dashboard. For this quick intro, we’ll create a quiz.

Kahoot__-_Create_new_Kahoot_ Give your quiz a title and click Go

Kahoot__-_Create_new_Kahoot_ 2Type the first question and set the question options (for points or not for points; time limit).

Kahoot__-_New_questionIf desired, an image can now be added to the question. Below the image, enter the answer choices. Select the answer that is correct.

Kahoot__-_New_question 2Now add another question. Click the Add question button at the bottom of the screen. Repeat for as many questions as are needed.

Kahoot__-_New_question 3When all questions have been entered, click Reorder questions.

Kahoot__-_New_question 4Questions may be rearranged by simply clicking and dragging up or down the list.

Kahoot__-_Re-order_questionsClick Next: settings, then select the quiz’s language, privacy settings (public or private), audience, and difficulty level (Beginner; Intermediate; Advanced). Type a short description and enter a few tags, which will help others find your quiz.

Kahoot__-_Re-order_questions 2

 

Kahoot__-_More_info

 

It should be noted that at any time in this process, you can go back and change your questions by clicking the Edit Questions button at the bottom left of the dashboard.

Kahoot__-_More_info 3

Click Next: Cover Image.

Kahoot__-_More_info 4If desired, add an image for the quiz’s title screen here. Optionally, you can embed a YouTube video that will play as students wait for the quiz to begin.

Kahoot__-_Add_cover_imageYour quiz is all set. Now, gather around those students and have them get out whatever internet-connected device they wish to use. Start the quiz by clicking Play Now.

Kahoot__-_All_done 2

On the next screen, there are a few quiz options. It might be a good idea to turn on the “Display game-pin throughout?” option, in case students are late getting logged into the game. A warning: the lobby music option is eerily reminiscent of an elevator, only more grating.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_

Next, students open their devices’ browsers, navigate to http://kahoot.it, and enter the game pin. This is the screen view of a typical smart phone:

photo

Students next create a player name and click Join Game. They’ll see a confirmation screen, and the teacher’s screen will display the student’s game name.

image

When ready, click Start Now to begin the quiz. The first question displays for a few seconds without showing the answer choices, allowing students time to think before clicking.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 3The answer choices and a timer then display. Students choose the shape/color that corresponds to their answer choices on their devices.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 4When the timer expires or all students have answered, click Next to see the class scores. Students score points for accurate answers and for the speed of their responses.

When all questions have been completed, click the End button to stop the quiz. A result screen will appear announcing the quiz’s winner (It helps to be playing against no competition.).

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 5The Feedback and Results button allows participants to rate the effectiveness of the quiz, including how fun it was, whether or not they learned from it, etc.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 6Finally, click the Final Results button to view all of the quiz’s data. A helpful Download Results button gives teachers a handy spreadsheet with student responses to each question.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 7That’s all there is to it. Well, it’s actually not, but that is enough to get you started. You should also take the time to check out the thousands of quizzes, polls, and discussions created and shared by other users–might be a great time-saver. From your dashboard, just click on the Public link at the top of the screen. You’ll be able to search by topic, intended audience, or activity type.

Kahoot__-_Featured

I think you’ll like the usability of Kahoot! and the level of engagement you’ll see in your students. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or questions, please share them in the comments below. Best wishes for an incredibly successful school year!

5 Ways to Elevate Technology Use

Here in Birdville, access to technology is precious. In most schools, teachers and students are competing for time in a single lab or with a laptop cart with an entire campus, often of 700+ students. Like most schools/districts, a 1:1 program isn’t in the cards for us in the near future. Given such limited resources, it’s a significant testament to our teachers and students that they make it work as fantastically as they do. They make lemonade from lemons routinely. The fact that access to technology is so precious may actually have an unintended positive effect, actually. Because so many classrooms can’t even expect weekly access to computers, the Internet, printers, etc., teachers have to be extra judicious about how they use their time and resources. A great number make it count by foregoing routine, mundane use of technology in favor of high-level, meaningful stuff. The following suggestions are based upon my observations of teachers and students doing the really cool and powerful things that maximize the potential of our limited resources.

  1. Start at the top…of the taxonomy. Create, evaluate, analyze. Choose student outcomes that are high-level first, then see if technologies can get them there. Here’s an example. A guiding question for a 3rd grade science unit reads as follows: Describe and give the names of simple machines.  Where can they be found in real life? The action verb here, describe, is at the understanding level of Bloom’s Taxonomy, so students would clearly be meeting the objective by creating a photo slideshow, including labels/descriptions, of images of simple machines found in their homes or schools. However, understanding would be deepened by using Lego robotics to create a machine that will perform a real-world task or by using a tool such as Golems or Scratch to design a machine incorporating simple machines (all at the create level of Bloom’s). Tablet computers offer many animation creation apps that can provide students similar opportunities for designing and sharing practical applications of this learning outcome.
  2. Don’t just report–solve. Inquiry, problem-based learning, project-based learning, challenge-based learning–whatever the name, the central idea behind such concepts is that students are asked to find answers and solve real problems. Rather than giving a report on global warming, for instance, students might be asked to create a web page promoting the responsible use of natural resources or a video explaining reasons why fossil fuels continue to be the predominant source of energy worldwide. These types of activities require students to gather information from a variety of sources, examine often contrasting facts and opinions, and synthesize everything into an effective product.
  3. Encourage collaboration. And by collaboration, I mean real interaction, sharing and critiquing of ideas, and contributions by students with differing perspectives. Tools such as wikis, email, Skype, and other communication/collaboration technologies allow students to expand this and work with students from a more diverse community. Skype in the Classroom and ePals are just two of a growing number of resources that help teachers facilitate this.
  4. Choice. Back in the early days of classroom technology, students had few options when it came to the products they would create. Today, however, the possibilities are vast, and this offers opportunities for students to create projects that are suited to their personal learning preferences and interests. Teachers can facilitate this by introducing students to a variety of possible tools and allowing students to select the technology that will produce the most effective end product.
  5. Assess authentically. Use rubrics to give students a clear picture of what constitutes top-quality work. If students are involved in the rubric creation process, all the better. Rubrics provide students a means to self-assess their work and progress, as well. Rubistar is an “old” tool that continues to be one of the easiest to use resources for generating new rubrics quickly or finding existing ones suitable for many technology-rich classroom activities.

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