Exploring Digital Assessments: How Teachers Improve Learning Outcomes

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

EduForum 2018 at The American University in Cairo, New Cairo, Egypt

November 3, 2018

Assessment is the fuel of learning. Confronted with mountains of data, teachers can feel overwhelmed.  Particularly frustrating, some assessments interrupt instruction and distract students. In this session, we explore how to make the climb over the data mountain manageable. We will investigate effective practices to align assessments and learning outcomes through technology-driven formative assessment. Embedding assessment directly into learning activities can help teachers adjust instruction and engage students with their learning at the same time.  Learn how to create electronic exit tickets. Make a game your students will enjoy while making real-time use of feedback based on their progress through the game environment. Assessment need not be a tedious chore. Put learning assessment in service of engaging learning environments.

As part of today’s presentation on digital tools for formative assessment, we used Survey Monkey to conduct a pre-assessment of what we know about assessments.

Formative Assessment

Next, we used Edmodo to create a short portfolio with images. Next, we explored project-based learning using an online portfolio at Dreamdo. Here is an example:  https://edu.dream.do/en/dreams/sciences/the-5th-grade-geology-unit

Games are great learning tools, but they can be very useful for assessment, as well. Three online games and assessment tools we tried out were OLogy, Sim Scientist, and Kahoot!

The power of the teacher’s human voice coupled with images of a student’s own work were the focus of our exploration of screencasting.  Cambridge English videos showed us how to use screencapture and a free screencapture program, Jing,  were demonstrated.

Online tools make generating rubrics a snap. Check these out:

*Teachnology offers rubrics at: http://www.teach-nology.com/web_tools/rubrics/ but you’ll need to register.
*Rubistar, a project of ALTEC, has a useful rubric generator available at: http://rubistar.4teachers.org/index.php
*Google add-in by dostuffgood.org Create and send customizable rubrics and scores to students by email for any assignment. https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/online-rubric/fiiglmgmcodoglllnbfebbhkfidikfbo?utm_source=permalink

Finally, we examined the role and possibilities of Big Data and educational assessment. Read more here and here.

800px-DARPA_Big_Data

 

 

 

 

 

Want to join our classroom? Navigate to classroom.google.com and enter the code in the image below. Some of the tasks have expired links, but you can see how the demonstration was set up.

Class Code

Learn more about EduForum 2018:

Link: http://eduforum-eg.com/index.php/sessions/exploring-assessments-how-teachers-improve-learning-outcomes/

Link: https://events.aucegypt.edu/?event=14151038

 

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The Photo Essays

by Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Last month, I wrote about the tools for creating photo essays.  This month, I’ll show you a few.  The idea was to use photography as a medium for thinking about identity in my EDUC 1099 Selected Topics course.

Farida wrote about and photographed her home that she shares with her extended family. The family votes on important issues. Click the photo to see Farida’s photo essay on Tumblr.

Farida

Using Exposure.co, Salma explored her home and travels.

Salma Megahed

https://salmamegahed.exposure.co/a-photo-essay/embed/cover?embed=trueA Photo essay by Salma Megahed on Exposure

Scrolling through her photo gallery, Dinah discovered that she had many images looking skyward. With Adobe Spark, she created this essay. Dinah

Using the idea of perspectives through doors and windows, Iman shared her essay on Tumblr.

Iman

KarimKarim looked at The American University in Cairo campus from unique angles taking us at the end to his favorite place at the University.

The Photo Essay Project

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

This semester, I assigned my undergraduates to create a photo essay defining the places that have had the most impact on who they are and who they might become.  Their photo essays are due next week, so this week I am sharing some of the photo essay websites and software tools they are using.  Today, they explored the affordances of each. I provided a list of questions (you will find them below) to guide their choices.

Dear Literacy Beat readers, if you have a site or tool to share, please add it in the comments.

Photos

iPhone Photos

Platforms

  1. Tumblr
  2. Instagram
  3. WordPress
  4. Spark from Adobe
  5. Exposure
  6. Ghost
  7. PowerPoint Online and Slideshare, Youtube or Vimeo (convert slide decks to video), Authorstream
  8. Prezi

Pro-Tip: What’s your statement about the photos you choose? Can you write one (or maybe two) sentences that capture the main idea of your photo essay? Is it unique enough that others will want to view your essay?

 

Photo Editing Tools

  1. Canva
  2. Ribbet
  3. GIMP
  4. Photo Resizer
  5. net
  6. Photoshop Express
  7. PIXLR

A note about intellectual property: Any work you use that you did not write or create must be attributed.  This includes music (and be aware that using copyrighted music could result in your project being taken down by the platform or host).

Pro Tip: Create a rough draft of your essay in order to check out the features of the platform and tools you use.  Try different ways of arranging your photos, text (including captions), and titles.  Later, you can hide or delete the rough draft.

Questions / Affordances

Check out the sites and tools (software) on the first page and review a couple of examples. What affordances does each offer your project?

  • What does it cost?
  • Do you need an account?
  • Can you make the site available to anyone?
  • Does the site privilege images, text, or both?
  • What features does the site or tool have that others may not have?
  • Is the site or tool mobile friendly? Laptop friendly?
  • Does it have sharing tools (e.g., Facebook, Twitter)?
  • Are there advertisements? How intrusive are they?
  • Is the platform easy to navigate and provide tools that make it easy for you to create a photo essay?

Two notes about color:

  1. Don’t overdo it!
  2. Make sure the colors you choose for frames, text, and so on are easy to read against the backgrounds you choose

RACHEL Goes to Northwestern Guatemala

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Try to picture yourself without access to the Internet. The web of sites and content have changed our lives dramatically. When we need to stay informed, we can just Google a topic and voila. Not everyone on Planet Earth has the luxury of Google, though.

Students at the Maya Jaguar Center for Education and Development are used to innovation. They maintain sustainable gardens and go to classes in rooms lit by solar power. The latest innovation at Maya Jaguar is the introduction of RACHEL, a Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and Learning. Internet content difficult to access in the past is now a reality there.

RACHEL brings large but thoughtfully selected portions of the internet to regions and institutions that do not have affordable access to the internet via broadband.  I delivered a RACHEL server to Maya Jaguar early in August. Francisco Pablo is the senior technology instructor at Maya Jaguar. He and I worked together to show the other teachers how to navigate the RACHEL interface.

Maestro RACHEL screen

Francisco Demonstrates RACHEL

Teachers were encouraged to create their own sites on the server with content they upload that is specific to their classes. In the coming months, they will work on methods of helping students to be inquirers and critical users of the content they encounter on RACHEL.

Teachers Maestros Computers

Teachers Exploring RACHEL’s Possibilities

For me, it was gratifying to see the teachers’ excitement as they found materials on the server that could really enhance their teaching.  For some months, Alan Crawford, Frances Dixon, and I have been working on ways to bring simulations to the students.  Simulations provide a way to explore ideas and phenomena that can’t be visited and observed in the physical world (or at least not easily).

With content from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s PheT project installed on RACHEL, students can now explore atomic interactions,  create semi-conducting diodes, and learn the principles of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  All of this is available in Spanish, of course.

20180807_094052.jpg

Using RACHEL

The RACHEL server has proven so useful that Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala, the Foundation that sponsors the school and outreach programs, is now exploring the possibility of a second device. Two RACHEL servers would make it possible for each of the two main school buildings to have RACHEL availability all the time.  Want to help make that possible? Please visit https://www.adoptavillage.com/donate

Learn more about RACHEL here: https://worldpossible.org/

Adapted version cross-posted on Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala.

RACHEL is an Intranet Superhero

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Access to the internet is almost the same as having access to air or water for students in our schools.  Often, that is the case, but not always.  What do you do if you have students who are eager to learn about the world beyond their schoolhouse doors but the internet is expensive or non-existent?

Today, as ubiquitous as internet access seems, internet penetration has not reached many parts of the planet.  Even when it is possible to access the internet via satellite connections, the cost is very high and the speed is very slow.  There is, however, a solution.

That solution is RACHEL, an acronym that stands for Remote Area Community Hotspot for Education and LearningRACHEL is a server with open-source software and content that delivers large sections of the internet to a school or other educational organization.  Schools do not need access to the internet for RACHEL to work.  Content modules from Khan Academy, Wikibooks, MedLine, and much more to the school site.  Once installed, students and teachers can access simulations, learning games, and the entire Wikipedia for a given language (as of the date it was downloaded).

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Some expertise is required to install RACHEL.  Installers will need to be able to plug in the power unit to an electrical outlet and then push a button.  Yep, that’s it. Users who can connect to a wifi connection will be able to connect to RACHEL.

The RACHEL unit you see in the photo above is going to Central America next week to provide internet content to some incredibly talented students. They do have internet access, but it comes at high cost via satellite.  RACHEL will relieve the pressure on the available bandwidth so that more students can use the content.  I will post more about this project once the students meet RACHEL.

 

 

 

Anticipation Guides | Guías de Anticipación

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

In this post, we share downloadable resources for creating anticipation guides in English and in Spanish.

En esta publicación, compartimos recursos descargables para crear guías de anticipación en inglés y en español.

Anticipation Guides

Anticipation Guides are instructional routines to activate prior knowledge, encourage predictions, and stimulate curiosity about a topic (Head & Readence, 1986). The teacher prepares a list of five to ten statements related to a text. They are designed as true/false or agree/disagree statements to engage students to think and make connections actively before reading. This strategy is useful because students purposefully read the text to prove or disprove their responses to the statements. They are encouraged to change their responses on the basis of newly acquired information. A discussion about the statements, questions, and new inquiries should follow the reading (Fisher & Frey, 2004).

Anticipation Guides are an instructional routine that provides students with an opportunity to activate prior knowledge, make predictions, actively think about what they will learn, and set a purpose for reading while they develop a natural curiosity about the text.  Download anticipation guide templates in English and Spanish and watch a video demonstrating how to use the guides on The Teacher Toolkit website.

Students

Students | Estudiantes

Guías de anticipación

Las guías de anticipación son rutinas de instrucción para activar el conocimiento previo, fomentar las predicciones y estimular la curiosidad sobre un tema (Head y Readence, 1986). El maestro prepara una lista de cinco a diez declaraciones relacionadas con un texto. Se diseñan como declaraciones de tipo verdadero/falso o de acuerdo/en desacuerdo para llevar a los alumnos a pensar y a hacer conexiones activamente antes de leer. Esta estrategia es útil porque los alumnos leen el texto con propósito, para probar o refutar sus respuestas a las declaraciones. Se les anima a cambiar sus respuestas de acuerdo con información recién adquirida. Una discusión acerca de las declaraciones, preguntas y nuevas indagaciones debe venir después de la lectura (Fisher y Frey, 2004).

Las guías de anticipación son una rutina de enseñanza que les ofrecen a los alumnos una oportunidad para activar el conocimiento previo, hacer predicciones, pensar activamente acerca de lo que aprenderán, y fijar un propósito para leer mientras desarrollan una curiosidad natural acerca del texto. Descargue plantillas de guía de anticipación en inglés y español y vea un video que demuestra cómo usar las guías en el sitio web de The Teacher Toolkit.

References

Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2004). Improving adolescent literacy: Strategies at work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill/Prentice Hall.

Head, M. H., & Readence, J.E. (1986). Anticipation guides: Meaning through prediction. In E. K. Dishner, T.W. Bean, J.E. Readence, & D.W. Moore (Eds.). Reading in the content areas (2nd ed.). (pp. 229-234). Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt.

WHAT NEW TEACHERS CAN TELL TEACHER EDUCATORS ABOUT THEIR JOURNEY INTO THE PROFESSION

By Linda Smetana, Dana L. Grisham, Roya Q. Scales, and Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Presentation from The California Council of Teacher Educators, Kona Kai Resort, October 20, 2017

A team of researchers from nine different universities pooled their resources to conduct a longitudinal study around the central questions: What tends to stick with teachers as they move from preservice course and fieldwork through student teaching and into their first year as a teacher? How might their trajectories toward becoming a professional teacher differ depending on the contexts of university, cooperating teacher, and first year teaching? Using qualitative and quantitative methods, the researchers tracked participants from their preservice days at one of nine universities across the United States to their first year of teaching.  Findings include the following: University teacher preparation programs often demonstrated a clear vision of their programs, but standards were superimposed later as they were developed or revised. Preservice candidates grasped the more visible aspects of teaching literacy (e.g., having classroom libraries, understanding top down and bottom up approaches to learning to read) but had difficulty understanding the diversity represented in the classes they would teach and their roles as professionals.

Findings  indicated that student teachers often struggled to merge their knowledge of pedagogy and practice learned at the university with the approaches expected at the school or by the cooperating teacher. Those student teachers who were most successful had participated in preparation programs with clearly articulated signature aspects and were given some autonomy with useful feedback in their student teaching roles.

In the final phase of the study, researchers noted that first year teachers employed a variety of strategies as they attempted to meld their teaching experiences and knowledge with the new teaching context.  At times, the new teachers felt they were valued and treated as emerging professionals, but some new teachers felt constrained by external factors such as the expectation to adhere to pacing guides or to teach in a certain way because that is how it was done at that particular school.

View a larger version of the poster, here. 

CCTE Presentation thumbnail

CCTE Poster Presentation, October 20, 2017

Why It Matters

A persistent problem in teacher education arises when student teachers and novice teachers encounter the specifics of, what is for them, a new teaching context.  As in many other professions, the opportunity to observe during fieldwork, engage in teaching environments in supervised settings that permit increasing autonomy for decision making, and multiple exposures to many teaching contexts (e.g., demographics, grade levels) has potential to improve the likelihood of the new teacher’s success. And with her success follows the success of the students in deep and meaningful learning. The longitudinal study presented here describes the paths participating teachers take toward becoming a professional and continuing to develop as one, as well.  The implication for teacher educators is the importance of making visible the highly variable environments of school and the role novice teachers can play in learning from that environment and helping to shape the context of teaching in that particular setting as well.

Our Inquiry

Matching school practices with what teacher preparation programs impart is a difficult, perhaps impossible task.  Rather, the challenge teacher educators face is one of preparing future teachers such that they view themselves as competent professionals capable of learning from many contexts while maintaining effective classroom environments.  How might (or how do) teacher preparation programs and faculty foster the hunger for learning and for adaptability that characterizes successful professionals in the schools?

Theoretical frameworks.

Two theoretical frameworks were employed as the researchers conducted analysis on the complete data set from this three-year study.  To describe the teacher preparation programs and the school contexts for student and novice teaching, the researchers relied on complexity theory (e.g., Spiro, Feltovich, & Coulson, 1996). Complexity theory posits that complex concepts (and school contexts as we have envisioned them here) resist simplification; that is, teaching requires a capacity for working with ever-changing variables. As a result, oversimplification of what those environments entail, or are perceived to entail, may lead future teachers to view their chosen profession in ways that lead to ossification and unwillingness to change or adapt.

The researchers also viewed the work that future teachers (inclusive of preservice teachers, student teachers, and novice teachers) through the lens of activity theory (e.g., Engstrom, 1999). For example, student teachers often felt they must work quietly without advertising their approach to teaching because more senior teachers tended to enforce structures characteristic of their particular school. The actions of these teachers changed how they viewed themselves and how they were perceived by others as professionals or as members of the teaching community. Activity theory suggests conceptualizing mediation in human action in any given context. Mediated action (Gonzalez, Moll & Amanti, 2005) is the notion that individuals’ learning and development is forged in goal-directed activities, and such action is mediated by the tools, symbols, or social interactions associated with that activity (e.g., Wertsch, 2010; Wertsch & Rupert, 1993). These tools, symbols, or social interactions, sometimes called mediational means, influence and shape human learning and development. When considering mediated activity, we note that, “an inherent property of mediational means is that they are culturally, historically, and institutionally situated” (Wertsch, 1993, p. 230). Therefore, in schools, mediating means may be instrumental (e.g., schedules, assessment tools, instructional materials), social (e.g., cultural practices, interactions with others, policies, procedures), or semiotic (e.g., language systems, mathematics).  Our study examined a range of contextual features in schools, mediational means that shaped future teachers’ actions.

Participants.

Initial work on this study included participants as preservice teachers from entire cohorts of teacher preparation candidates to more narrowly selected participants who had moved from preservice candidacy to student teaching. For logistical and practical reasons, the researchers could not track every member of the initial cohorts of preservice teachers.  From the initial cohorts, teachers in their first year of teaching were selected via convenience sampling for further participation.

Data collection and analysis.

Data collection included observation data, interview data from cooperating teachers, future teachers, and teacher preparation faculty, survey data (see, Henk, et al, 2000.), syllabi collected from the teacher preparation program, and student achievement data. More than 1100 distinct files comprise the data set.

During phase one, as researchers gathered data regarding teacher preparation programs, the individual institutions were treated as cases (Yin, 2009). In phase two (student teaching) and phase three (first year or novice teachers), the individual participants became the focus of the research and their cases informed cross-case analysis (Stake, 2006). Following the activity theory theoretical frame, researchers relied primarily on verbs (Saldaña, 2013) as an initial approach to coding, particularly in phases two and three where student and novice teacher actions were a particular focus of the inquiry.

Analysis was always undertaken using a two-step process to avoid halo effects and researcher bias . Typically, there were two stages of analysis: case-level and cross-case analysis.  In the first stage, researchers participated directly in preparing a case study summary for each candidate from their teacher preparation program. During the second stage, research teams conducted several rounds of cross-case analysis with all researchers reviewing, refining, and confirming results of these analyses.

Findings.

In phase one, university teacher preparation programs often demonstrated a clear vision of their programs, but standards were superimposed later as they were developed or revised. More important, there was typically a high degree of congruence between what teacher educators intended to teach and what candidates believed they learned (TERSG). Preservice candidates grasped the visible aspects of teaching literacy (e.g., having classroom libraries, understanding top down and bottom up approaches to learning to read), but they had more difficulty understanding the diversity represented in the classes they would teach and their roles as professionals.

Phase two (student teaching) findings indicated that student teachers often struggled to merge their knowledge of pedagogy and practice learned at the university with the approaches expected at the school or by the cooperating teacher. Those student teachers who were most successful had participated in preparation programs with clearly articulated signature aspects and were given some autonomy with useful feedback in their student teaching roles.

In the final phase of the study, researchers noted that first year teachers employed a variety of strategies as they attempted to meld their teaching experiences and knowledge with the new teaching context.  At times, the new teachers felt they were valued and treated as emerging professionals, but some new teachers felt constrained by external constraints such as the expectation to adhere to pacing guides or to teach in a certain way because that is how it was done at that particular school.

Conclusions.

Increasing the experiences preservice teachers have in a variety of teaching contexts in gradually released (see Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) experiences may serve to better prepare future teachers for work in school contexts that may not represent close matches to the ideals they encounter during preparation course and fieldwork.  Similarly, planning and executing such experiences may simultaneously promote greater communication between university teacher preparation faculty and the schools where their future teachers will serve.

Selected References

TERSG

Creswell, J. W. & Plano Clark, V. L. (2007). Designing and conducting mixed methods research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Engeström, Y. (1999). Activity theory and individual and social transformation. In Y. Engeström, R. Miettinen, & R. L. Punamäki (Eds.), Perspectives on activity theory (pp. 19-38). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Fontana, A., & Frey, J.H. (2000). The interview: From structured questions to negotiated text. In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed.) (pp. 645-675). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Gonzales, N., Moll, L .C., & Amanti, C. (Eds.). (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practice in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Henk, B., Moore, J. C., Marinak, B. A., & Tomasetti, B. W. (2000). A reading lesson observation framework for elementary teachers, principals, and literacy supervisors. The Reading Teacher, 53(5), 358-369.

Pearson, P. D. & Gallagher, M. (1983.) The instruction of reading comprehension.  Contemporary Education Psychology, 8, 317-344.

Saldaña, J. (2013). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Spiro, R. (2004). Principled pluralism for adaptive flexibility in teaching and learning to read. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 654-659). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Wertsch, J. V., ed. (1985).  Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives.  New York:  Cambridge University Press.

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

 

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