High Scores

When I log into my school board email system I am presented with a news feed that is received by all the teachers in the district.  Usually there are short stories about the accomplishments of different students/teachers in the board.  A few weeks ago I saw a “news release” that told about two students in our board who graduated high school this year with an average of 100% (based on their best 6 grade 12 courses).


What kind of assessments are these students exposed to such that they are able to score 100% on EVERYTHING?!

I can see how it may be possible for a student to demonstrate all of the knowledge requirements in a course, but as teachers we are responsible for far more than knowledge-based assessments.  I can only assume that if a student can finish with 100% in all her courses, then there has definitely been an over-emphasis on traditional tests and projects.  This is disappointing to me.

As teachers in the 21st century we need to create engaging learning environments where students are challenged to be critical and creative thinkers.  We need to develop assignments that encourage students to be resourceful and self-directed.  We need to provide opportunity for students to have meaningful collaboration and teamwork.  And we need to be aware that we are preparing our students for a world where the problems that need to be solved don’t fit on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, nor will they be solved with “test taking skills.”

Over the past few years, I have been trying to make the following changes to my classroom:

  1. Students learn from each other as much as possible.  Nurturing a classroom community is very important.
  2. Developing assignments that absolutely cannot be completed by copy/paste, memorization or “cramming.”
  3. Creating some projects that are broad in scope to allow students to “make it their own” in meaningful ways.

Personally, I think that the tradition of publishing the names of the students who have achieved the highest overall average in the board is an obsolete practice.  It comes from an era in which marks were emphasized above all else and the marks were based on old-school assessment practices like traditional tests, quizzes and homework checks.

In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, achieving high marks in high school will only be one predictor of future success – and not the best one by far!  Instead, look for students who are intrinsically motivated, who are creative thinkers, who are self-directed learners, and who are able to build and maintain personal learning networks.  These are now (and have always been) better indicators of future success than a student’s graduating average.

Image Credit:  clspeace

Google Cloud Connect

I am always coming across new web tools that help me in my life or in my classroom. With so many web tools popping up all the time, it is difficult to find time to evaluate all of them. In most cases, I will experiment with a new tool and drop it right away. However, every once in a while a tool comes out that makes a significant impact on how I “do things” because it allows me to do something entirely new, or make something I already do faster and easier.  This year I have fallen in love with Google Cloud Connect.

Here’s the situation – I am constantly updating my teaching resources: I create new assignments, I update rubrics, I tweak my templates, I redesign my presentations, I change my writing style. Even when I assign my students an assignment that I developed last year, I always take the time to modify it. Does it need a picture? Is the question confusing? What did students get stuck on? Is the document well laid out?

The reason that “tweaking” is a problem, is that it becomes very difficult to keep my class website updated with the latest versions of each document. Many times, I have made significant changes to an assignment but forgotten to update the web version. This can lead to a major problem when I have some students who lose their assignment sheet and decide to work from the web version of the document, not realizing that the assignment has changed.  Google Cloud Connect is the perfect solution to this problem.

Here’s how it works:  Google Cloud Connect is an add-on for Microsoft Office.  Once installed, it uploads every document you open (automatically or manually) into your Google Docs web archive and keeps the changes you make in sync with the web version.  More importantly, as soon as the document is uploaded, Cloud Connect creates a unique URL for accessing the document online.  By default, all documents are available only to you when you log into Google Docs, however you can also change the sharing permissions on the document right from inside Microsoft Office.

This service has been a huge time saver for me.  From now on, when I update my class website, I create links to the web version of each document stored in my Google Docs account rather than uploading the file to my server space.  Now, every single time I make a change to one of my assignments, the change is immediately synchronized with the web version, so my website is always up to date with the latest version of a document.  No more uploading – It’s automatic!

This service has also come in handy many time for sharing files with other people.  Often other teachers ask to have a copy of something I have created.  In the past, I would have to attach the file to an email, which can be very slow for large presentations with lots of images.  Now, I can simply share the link to the file in an email message.

Cloud Connect has also allowed me to do more marking of student work digitally.  For example, I can open a rubric file, fill it out, save it with a unique name, and email the link to a student without having to mess around with attachments.

Finally, Cloud Connect simply backs up every document I start working on so I never have to worry about losing my work.

As a Google Docs user I have considered transitioning away from Microsoft Office entirely.  I do love Google Docs, and it has a place in my life/classroom, but I am not yet ready to abandon Word and PowerPoint altogether just yet. The reality is that I am a master at word processing and formatting, and there is a lot that I can do in Word that I cannot yet do in Google Docs.  For now, Cloud Connect acts as a perfect bridge between Microsoft Office and Google Docs.

Interpreting the OCT Professional Advisory on Social Media

It is clear that social media will continue to have a profound impact on our society, and the lives of our students.  More and more, teachers are turning to social media to foster learning opportunities both in the class and beyond the walls of the classroom.

Recently, the Ontario College of Teachers released their Professional Advisory for the Use of Electronic Communication and Social Media.   If you have not read it already, you can find it on the web here.

In the advisory, the College address the importance of maintaining a professional relationship with students in all forms of electronic communication.  It also provides a list of guidelines that all teachers are expected to follow.  At first glace, it would seem that the OCT is prohibiting the use of social media because of the tone of the document, however this is not the case.  In fact, the OCT is a stong proponent of the appropriate use of social media in the classroom.   The OCT produced a video as a companion to the professional advisory.  It is about 6 minutes and well worth watching.

I was pleased when the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario released their own response to the OCT professional advisory.  ECOO exists to share and disseminate information and to advocate and promote the effective use of computers and associated technologies in the education process.  Their press release is also worth reading.

As a final word, I would encourage all teachers to think about the possible benefits of leveraging more social media in your classes.  There is no question in my mind that it has had a tremendous impact on my classroom.  More than anything, we need to be discussing the pros and cons of social media, and finding ways to maximize the benefits and minimize (or eliminate the risks).  After all, we need to meet our students where they are!

Finally, We Can Access YouTube

For years now it has felt that my school board has been filtering more and more of the internet for students.  It seemed that any site that even had the word “game,” “social,” or “share” was automatically blocked by the board firewall.  As a teacher who likes to experiment with technology and Web 2.0 tools, this has been increasingly frustrating.  There have been many times where I discover a really amazing service from home and develop a lesson around it, only to find that the service has already been blocked at school.

For the longest time, YouTube has been blocked by the firewall.  As a Science teacher, YouTube is an absolutely amazing resource.  There are so many great videos that are useful for demonstrating the applications of science and making the curriculum content more engaging.  A few of my favourite “content related” videos are:

Waves and Sound – Backin’ Up (from schmoyoho, using AutoTune)

Relative Motion – Here It Goes Again (from Ok Go)

Collisions – Exercise Ball Mayhem (from Bensoin)

I have often been told that the school board cannot grant open access to YouTube because of the potentially offensive material that is posted there.  I never really understood this reasoning because students have full access to this content from home and the internet is filled with offensive content that is not filtered from school.  Besides, teachers should be properly supervising students when in a computer lab so that they are not able to view and share offensive video content.

I have also heard that the school board does not have sufficient internet infrastructure to allow all students access to streaming video sites, which I think is a fair reason (although it reveals a different issue for the longterm vision for technology access in schools.)

Last year, the school board started providing teachers with an override code to the filter.  It wasn’t a full solution, but it gave us some additional access to sites like YouTube.  However, in the last 2 weeks there has been what I would regard as a major shift – Students and teachers have been granted full access to both YouTube and Twitter!

What impresses me about this recent development is that after many years of tighter and tighter constraints on internet access, I believe that my school board is starting to realize the untapped potential of bringing Web 2.0 into the classroom.  It signals a changing mindset among “the higher ups” that instructional technology is not only an asset in 21st century learning, but a necessity for creating engaging learning environments for our students.  I hope this trend continues.

Personally, I struggle with filtering the internet in secondary schools.  I think there are some things that we can all agree have no obvious use in an academic school setting, like pornography.  But, I really don’t think that gaming sites, and social networking sites are that big of a problem.  If anything, the issue is one of adequate supervision.

What are your thoughts?  Should we be filtering the internet in schools?

Image Credit:  VancityAllie

Video Supply Lessons

A few years ago, I came across this blog from Mr. Robbo called “How I Teach When I’m Away From Class,” and I thought it was a brilliant idea.  Basically, rather than leaving long and detailed written lesson plans for the supply teacher to read to the class, he records a short video of himself explaining what the students are expected to do.

I have used the technique a few times, and it is wonderfully successful.  My students have always responded well to it.  I think that seeing my face at the beginning of class helps students to remember that, even though I am not present today, I still very much want them to have a productive learning day.

The example video below is a “lesson plan” I left for my grade 10 Applied level Science class two weeks ago.  It was really important to me that I do the video lesson plan for this group of students because they generally do not respond well to change.  It was also still very early in the new semester and I wanted to reinforce the expectations we had been discussing at the beginning of the year.  (Have you ever noticed that even good students try to take advantage of supply teachers?  It seems they lose all sense of behavioural expectations.)  I also think that it’s great when you can show the students what they are going to be working on in class while you are away so there is no misunderstanding.

If I am organized ahead of time, I like to record my lesson videos at school and put them on the school network drive so it is easy for the supply teacher to show.  I have also put the video on a USB stick or, worst case scenario, uploaded the video to my website to be shown from there.

At the time when I recorded this video I could not find my digital camera, so I had to use my cell phone instead (which is why the quality is poor and the recording is so shaky).

As a precaution, I still type up basic instructions for the supply teacher so that they know what the video instructions are going to be about ahead of time.  This is also a good backup in case there is a tech issue and the video cannot be shown.

What Does Watson Mean To You?

Perhaps I am being too bold, but doesn’t Watson, the IBM supercomputer and “Jeopardy! champion,” demonstrate clearly that there is very little value in the memorization and regurgitation of information?

For those who may not already know, Watson is an artificial intelligence program developed by IBM to answer questions posed in natural language.  What makes Watson so remarkable is its ability to interpret some of the nuances of human language (puns, jokes, cultural references).  Recently, Watson competed in a special Jeopardy! series of “Man vs. Machine” and won by a significant margin.

It has been clear to me for some time that we live in a world of information abundance, which has changed our lives in profound ways.  At our fingertips we have access to an unmeasurable amount of information – providing answers to virtually any question.  But until Watson came along, we still needed a real human’s critical thinking skills to process the information.  After every Google search, humans naturally ask questions like, “is this the information I was looking for?”, “does this information seem accurate?”, “is there a bias in the results?”, etc.  Now, I know that there is still a LOT of thinking that a computer can’t do, but it seems to me that the gap is getting narrower.

As teachers in the 21st century, we need to help students refine their skills, not fill their heads with content.  In this day and age, information is cheap and readily accessible.  Our energy is much better spent instilling within students a curiosity for life and love of learning.  We need to help students think critically and develop problem solving skills.  We need to provide them opportunities to communicate and collaborate.  We need to empower them to be independent and self-directed people.  We need to give them a place to discover their talents and appreciate the talents of others.  We need to nurture their creativity and innovation.  And we need to help them care for one another.

I think that every teacher should ask the question of themselves:  At the end of my course, what skills will my students have developed?  I don’t think that Watson will be able to answer that question any time soon.

Hidden Curriculum

This past Thursday was the start of a new semester – a new group of students and a new opportunity make some changes to my teaching.  It’s always refreshing!  I have often said that one of the best parts of being a teacher in a semestered school is the chance to “reboot” twice a year.  You can build on all of the successes from the previous semester, and let all of your mistakes dissolve away.

Over the past few years, I have worked hard to refine my “Intro Day Presentation”  (although, it actually spans multiple days.)  I have written about this presentation in greater detail here.  The most recent addition to my presentation is a focus on the aspects of my classroom that I deem the “hidden curriculum.”

A hidden curriculum is often thought of as the “lessons” learned in an educational environment that were not openly intended.  According to Wikipedia, the concept of the hidden curriculum “expresses the idea that schools do more than simply transmit knowledge, as laid down in the official curricula.”  My hope is that by exposing the hidden curriculum of my classroom to my students, then they will have a better sense of what is truly important for their learning.

So far, I have identified 6 items in my hidden curriculum:  Collaboration, Self-Directed Learning, Problem Solving, Making Connections, Creativity, and Character Education.  I say my hidden curriculum because I think that a hidden curriculum is very much a by-product of the type of learning environment a teacher creates (often unconsciously).  By definition, a hidden curriculum is not overt.  It has been through a process of reflection I have realized these items are embedded skills that my students are required to develop in order to be most successful because my teaching strategies and my assessments rely on the skills of my hidden curriculum.

Below, I have given a brief summary of the language I use when explaining these items to my students.

1. Collaboration

“To learn Physics, you will need to rely on others for support.  You will also benefit greatly from being an active contributing member of our learning community.  The more you are able to give (using your own talents), the more you will get from this course.  In this course, you will have lots of opportunity to refine your skills of collaboration.”

2. Self-Directed Learning

“Learning Physics cannot only happen for one hour each day.  You will need to look for opportunities to learn about Physics outside the walls of the classroom.  You will need to reflect on your strengths and your weaknesses, and seek out opportunities to improve your skills.  In this course, you will have lots of opportunity to refine your skills for self-directed learning.”

3. Problem Solving

“Physics is about understanding the natural world.  In order to build your understanding of Physics you will be asked to solve challenging problems.  Some problem solving will occur by applying concepts of Physics to difficult questions.  However, you will also be using your skills for problem solving when working with others, designing and building projects, and performing inquiry investigations.”

4. Making Connections

“Physics connects to our lives in a multitude of ways.  I will do my best to bring those connections into our classroom so that you can learn about the cross-curricular nature of Physics.  As you learn about Physics, begin to look for those connections on your own.  You are encouraged to share your insights with the rest of our class in order to help others see the connections to their life also.  In this course, you will have lots of opportunity to refine your skills for making connections.”

5. Creativity

“Learning of any kind is a personal journey.  You are encouraged to be creative in the ways that you choose to learn Physics, and the ways that you communicate your understanding to your teacher and your peers.  In this course, you will have lots of opportunity to develop your creativity in how you express yourself, how you solve problems and how you contribute to our classroom community.”

6. Character Education

“We cannot learn in a space that does not feel safe.  This year, you will be encouraged to reflect on your personal character and the ways in which you contribute to the inclusiveness of our learning community.  In this course, you will have lots of opportunity to develop your personal character.  Remember, it’s nice to be nice!”

In recent years, I have really de-emphasized the actual curriculum content of my courses in the first few days of school.  I believe the emphasis should be on establishing a positive classroom community first and foremost.  This semester, I have tried hard to communicate the idea to my students that our Physics/Science course is only the context for learning much bigger skills – skills that extend far beyond our course, or even our school.  I tell them, “If you want to learn the Physics curriculum in a deep and meaningful way, focus primarily on learning the hidden curriculum.  These skills will not only service you well in our course, but throughout your process of life-long learning.”

If you’re a teacher, consider what is your hidden curriculum?  What skills do you expect students to develop that are not part of the overt curriculum?  I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Image Credit:  olaerik

Levels of Classroom Management

I was looking over my stockpile of draft blog posts when I rediscovered this one and thought I would finish it.

I have been thinking more about approaches to classroom management this past month because I have been working with a student teacher from OISE/UT.  In trying to help my student teacher understand the subtleties of classroom management I was telling him how I have come to understand that there are three levels of managing student behaviour in a classroom setting, and that I have progressed through each of the three levels over my years in this profession.

Level 0 – No management

This is not really a level at all, but it’s where I began in my first year.  The basic mistake that I made is having the assumption that if you simply treat students nicely, then they will do the same for you.  The problem is, students and teachers don’t always have the same definition of “nicely.”  At the time, my definition of “nicely” was “please sit quietly and take down all the notes without talking to each other.”  I didn’t yet understood how to engage a teenage brain for 75 minutes.  Looking back I think that my students must have been pretty bored, so it is no surprise that they felt the need to be disruptive – their brains needed to!

Of course, students have some inherent ability to behave due to their socialization, so my classroom was not complete mayhem.  Some good learning occurred, but it was not a great “learning environment”; equipment got broken often because there were no firm expectations on students; I was usually exhausted because I was always putting out fires and reacting to small behavioural interruptions.

Level 1 – Compliance

I didn’t take long at Level 0 before I realized that if I was going to keep students in line, I was going to have to demand it.  This was the stage when I created a list of classroom rules and referred to it often.  I started requiring students to be absolutely quite during lessons.  I started to rely on consequences more readily – calling home, detentions, lectures, and sending students out of class.

I don’t want you to get the picture that I was a strict disciplinarian because I really wasn’t.  Discipline is not in my nature, so it was very foreign for me to give students detentions or send them to stand in the hallway, but I did it because I thought I had to.  This stage was also pretty exhausting for two reasons:  First, I always felt like I was giving lectures, calling home and using my personal time to supervise detentions; Second, I had to present myself as a bit of a “tough teacher” in order to demand respect.  As I have said, this is not my personal character at all, so it was very tiring for me.

Level 2 – Tone (agreement)

Level 2 is where my classroom management really started to go in new directions that had positive results and that fit with my personality.  I call this level “Tone” because I really started to hone in on the atmosphere in my classroom as mechanism for moderating student behaviour.  I remember the first time I delivered instructions in a new way.  I communicated my expectations about student behaviour before starting a lab … then I stood there silently looking at the students, holding their attention for a few long seconds (though it felt like 5 minutes).  I was not upset, or demonstrating frustration – Instead, I was holding their attention so as to communicate just how important my expectations were.  In that class, they internalized my high expectations for their behaviour and I realized just how much of an impact my tone would have on student behaviour.

The tone or atmosphere of the classroom moderates student behaviour.  It makes students accountable to the teacher and to each other, not because students believe they will get in trouble for misbehaviour, but because students internalize the sense that poor behaviour is unacceptable.  If you are a new teacher, you may have a hard time understanding what I am saying here (I am struggling to explain it), but if you seek out a role model teacher at your school, you will feel the difference in their classes and the ways that they interact with their students.

I think that this level of classroom management can also be called “agreement” because it involves getting students to “buy in” to the expectations of the learning environment.

Level 3 – Community (engagement, empowerment)

Building “community” is the highest level of classroom management that I have achieved so far, and it became a major part of my approach to teaching only 2 years ago.  I realized then, that having a positive tone of high expectations might dissuade some students from using disruptive behaviour to “take away” from classroom learning, but it did not inherently encourage students to use positive behaviour to “give back” to the classroom learning.

Creating a classroom community takes time, but it is time worth investing.  At the beginning of each semester, I allocate a significant amount of time to community building activities and teaching students to interact with each other in positive and fulfilling ways.  Each year, the activities change, but they generally emphasize the following points:

  • Everyone must know everyone else’s name (students will be working with everyone at some point in the semester)
  • Creating a sense of belonging (every person has something to contribute and is a valued member of our community)
  • Developing a set of norms that facilitate learning (My three questions are:  What do you need from me to help you be successful?  What do you need from each other to help you be successful?  What do I need from you to help you be successful?)
  • Teaching students the value of cooperative group learning

At the level of classroom community, every behaviour can be measured by its ability to contribute to the classroom community, or take away from it.  At this level, students will mostly manage themselves.  When intervention from the teacher is required, simply asking the student to reflect on how their behaviour is affecting the community as a whole is often enough to bring them back into the sphere of learning and sharing.

If you are trying to get a better sense of how I build community in my class, you may be interested to see My Intro Day Presentation, or look at A New Approach to Classroom Expectations that I tried this year.

If I have learned anything about classroom management, it is that managing student behaviour is a personal journey.  The levels I have outlined above are the levels that I progressed through and they represent approaches to classroom management that resonate with my personality and teaching style.  I also know that my journey is not complete.  I hope that in a few more years, I will be able to tell you about Level 4-6 as I discover what they are.

Photo Credit:




Small Successes

Although I am a strong advocate for the use of instructional technology, I have never been a proponent of “technology for technology sake.”  In actual fact, my approach to education has little to do with technology and much more to do with creating 21st century learning environments that will prepare our students for a world that is rapidly changing.  Of course, technology is one component of creating these types of learning environments, but not the most important part.  Instead, we need to help teachers think differently about what “their job” is, and help student think differently about what “school” is.

The past few weeks I have had a few interactions that have made me believe that positive changes are happening in the world of education.  I wanted to share these success stories with you.

My Grade 10 Applied Science class has 22 really nice kids.  Generally speaking, they are not excited about Science, but I do my best to make it interesting and engaging for them, and we usually have a pretty good time.  I have always worked hard to model for my students an appropriate use of technology.  I am probably one of the few teachers in my school who does not have a “NO CELL PHONES” policy – Instead I have an “APPROPRIATE USE” policy.  At the beginning of each year it sometimes feels like I have opened Pandora’s box because I am constantly having to manage students’ use of their cell phones.  It takes many focussed conversations and a lot of modeling, but eventually students start to “get it” and I don’t have to work so hard any more.  This Monday, my Grade 10 class really got it and it was so cool to see.

Students were doing some reading in small groups about the different ecozones on Earth.  One of the short articles made reference to flying squirrels and one of my students asked me what they were.  I tried to explain it but I knew that a picture would communicate the concept much better so I pulled out my phone and Googled it.  They thought that was pretty great (and that flying squirrels are pretty creepy).

Ten minutes later I overheard Jas say, “what does epiphytic mean?”  It wasn’t 30 seconds after when I heard Nicole reply, “It’s a plant that can grow on another plant.”  I was completely caught off guard (mostly because even I don’t know what epiphytic means!).  When I asked Nicole how she knew the definition, she said, “Sir, I just looked it up on my phone,” as if I had just asked her a mundane question like what she ate for lunch.  I got so excited that I called everyone’s attention to praise Nicole publicly and reinforce her decision to use her cell phone in an appropriate way for our classroom.

Of course I expect that my students will still make poor choices about their cell phones from time to time, but I believe the message is getting through and that is a success story worth sharing!

Other success stories came from a few teachers at my school who recently attended the OSSTF Toys and Tools:  Technology in Education conference with me.  I was pleased to hear that they enjoyed the conference and have been trying some new “tech”-niques.  Some teachers from our Social Science department were inspired by Danika Barker’s presentation at the conference to start their own social network using Ning.  When I was talking to these teachers, they were excitedly telling me how the social network has already become an enriching experience for their students because …

“students are learning and sharing outside of the classroom, any time they want”
“students are learning from each other”
“students are making deeper connections”

It was like music to my ears!

Also in the past few weeks, I have had many teachers come by my office to tell me how they have been using web 2.0 tools in their classes:  PollEverywhere to facilitate a unit review, Voicethread to facilitate online discussions, MixedInk to practice writing lab reports, and the list goes on!

As a teacher who endorses the vision for 21st century learning environments, it can sometimes feel like we are very far away from reaching that goal.  However, a significant shift will take time and it is important to step back and recognize the small successes along the way.  These small successes give me a lot of hope for the future of teaching and learning.  If you have a success story to share, please tell us about it in the comments.

Image Credit:

Cell Phone – Mykl Roventine

Flying Squirrel – nikoretro

Assessment As Learning

There continues to be a big push in our school board to incorporate more “Assessment As Learning” into the learning process.  Basically this means helping students to develop skills for self-evaluation and metacognition.  One of the ways that my department has opted to try and integrate this into our science curriculum is through the use of student friendly check-brics.

One example of a simple check-bric might look like this:

Criteria Met Not Met
My graph includes a title and labeled axis.
My graph includes a line of best fit for the data and an equation of the line.
My graph has a caption, briefly describing what the graph is about.

white space – please ignore

The check-bric above is the type that a student might complete before handing in an assignment.  Generally, the point is to help students self-reflect on their work so they can make the necessary improvements themselves.  In my class, after the students complete the check-bric above, they are given the chance to take their work home and improve it before it is handed into me for more formative feedback.

Over the last year, I have started to use check-brics not only for students to assess their work, but so they can also assess their learning.  For example, if the students were participating in a learning activity, such as a scientific investigation, I will develop a simple check-bric for my students to look at before and after the task.  Below is an example of one I used the other day for a learning activity about accelerated motion:

Statement Yes Kinda No
I have a good understanding of how to use the motion sensors
I have a good understanding hot to use the Datastudio software
I understand why a distance-time graph can have different shapes
I can explain what is happening in a distance-time graph based on the shape
I understand why a velocity-time graph can have different shapes
I can explain what is happening in a velocity-time graph based on the shape
I know how to calculate the speed of an object from a d-t graph
I know how to calculate the acceleration of an object from a v-t graph
I know how to calculate the displacement of an object from a v-t graph
I can see how an understanding of accelerating objects relates to objects in real life

white space – please ignore

What I like about this approach is that students can see before they begin an activity, what the activity is designed to teach them.  I think that if a student is aware that “understanding the shape of a displacement-time graph” is important and that the activity is their opportunity to learn this concept, they will be more likely to ask for help from other students or from me while the activity is going on.

white space – please ignore

At the end of the activity, I do not need to collect any “product” other than the check-bric.  The learning results of this particular activity were pretty good:  About 8 students put mostly all YES, about 14 put mostly KINDA, and about 4 students put mostly NO.  Immediately, this tells me who my “experts” are in the class, and who needs the most extra help.

The part I am really excited about is what I hope to do with this data.

My first thought was that I needed to seek out the students who did not understand and talk to them directly, and I will definitely do that.  But, I am also attempting to empower my “experts” more and get them involved in using their mastery to help others.  I have arranged for pairs of experts to record a short video (less than one minute) explaining how they understand one of the rows of the check-bric.  They are encouraged to use words and diagrams as they see fit and they can use the department’s Flip video camera any day after school.  Ultimately, they will post the videos to our class social network for all other students to see.  I am really hoping for a positive response to this, so that it can become a regular occurrence in my class.

I see the creation of student videos as a really valuable use of the assessment as learning data for a number of reasons:

  1. It empowers students to see themselves as having something of value to share
  2. It distributes the responsibility of reteaching content to weaker students from the teacher to other capable students
  3. It provides opportunity for the “KINDA” students to re-approach the content, even if I may not have time to get around to each of them individually
  4. It permits all students to review the subject content at a time that is convenient to them – whether they are in the library at school, at home, or visiting their grandma for the weekend (Comment:  I think that asynchronous learning will be a big part of the educational landscape of the future)

I am excited about how this first attempt will go.

Image Credit:   KTVee, Mechki