Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Reassessment Doesn't Work, Right?"

Teachers often wonder, "What is this teaching our students?"

The opportunity to reassess "gives students something for nothing." Some teachers are worried that students will fail a test to find out what's on it, using the first attempt as a kind of review. I'm not one of those teachers. These same teachers are also concerned about the added work reassessment places on their part. Although I do not share these concerns anymore, they deserve attention.

For the past two years, I've been developing an approach to conditional reassessment. It aims to ensure that students who choose not to do the work before a summative assessment must complete the work before reassessment. Likewise, students who chose not to do the work before an assessment, and are satisfied with their grade, are not penalized for the incomplete practice or homework. What does anyone have to gain by doing that?

The safety net is the frequency of checks for understanding that precede summative assessments. Ideally, the checks for understanding consists of well-tracked formative assessments, but I sometimes use a series of short summatives that are recorded but not factored into the summary grade by default.

The decision to factor an assessment becomes a question of evidence. For that matter, I'm not concerned about whether the evidence comes from a unit exam or a short quiz. The only time I feel safe with regard to reporting grades is when the evidence tells me something about student achievement. Furthermore, the means through which the evidence was obtained should never damage a learner's confidence. Sure, kids will get their feelings hurt from time to time, like any of us, but it should not be to the extent that it gets in the way of educational goals.

"Okay, how is this fair?" 

After two years of treating assessment this way, I have only worked with about three students who could achieve advanced mastery without completing the practice or homework. Further, I have never had a student go through my reassessment process more than three times in a year. That's about 7 percent of the total assessments.

If you're really concerned about work habits and whether or not reassessment is fair to the student who did it well the first time, then look at it this way: the three-time re-assessee was still evaluated 93 percent of the time based on first attempts. If you determine summary grades on a 0-100 scale, this student's choices are still becoming of an "A" student. Statisticians understand that there's little to no observable difference between a 98 and a 90, given the relatively small evidence sample sizes we use to report grades. So what makes teachers the greater authority?

"I'll tell you how it's fair!"

All students get the opportunity to experience knowledge seeking over point chasing. That's what makes it fair. Letting students make lots of choices that place their education in their own hands requires frequent feedback, of various types, to support students throughout the learning process. Although this process is not full of successes in the traditional sense, it does, however, allow students to learn more about what they know and don't know, as well as how they learn new information and strengthen existing knowledge.


Another question I get is, "What does this look like in your classroom?" 


The work flow shown here is a generic sketch of how evidence of understanding is handled in my classes (click or touch). The practice and homework are assessment for learning and rarely calculated in summary grades for reporting. However, numerical-based feedback as well as commentary are almost always provided and tracked. NOTE: (1) Choose either numerical or commentary forms of feedback, not both. Whenever numerical is used, students focus on the number. Commentary is the only type of feedback known to lead to achievement gains. (2) Review of student work and assessments is effective when it is student-led. Students can complete tracking sheets that show assessment items in relation to an achievement level of the standards. Students also complete a reassessment agreement. Providing this kind of practice helps students communicate more effectively with their parents, as well.

The purpose of this approach to assessment is to provide students with the opportunity to become accountable for their education by providing safe choices. The strategy that keeps me sane throughout this process is called consequences with empathy (from Love and Logic). Click here for a quick sheet on empathetic responses.

Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and stories about successes and failures. And remember, ask yourself if the issue is about point chasing or knowledge seeking.





7 Activities with TodaysMeet

TodaysMeet is one of the most powerful classroom discussion tools. Here are some suggestions. 



1. Use TodaysMeet as a "parking lot" for questions that come up during the lesson.

You've heard of the "ask-it basket," right? Well, it's this way to allow students to ask questions without interrupting class or to ask questions that are difficult to ask in front of everyone. It doesn't work in my class, never has. But TodaysMeet does work, which is probably attributable to the fact that students do not have to change their primacy platform for communicating.


2. Send links to all students in the classroom quickly.

Although there are other ways to do this, using TodaysMeet to send links will keep discussion info in context with the learning materials.


3. Use guiding questions before students watch a video.


Access to guiding questions can be made available before the learning activity to allow, for example, those students who feel more comfortable with a lesson preview before class can be at ease and ready to learn.


4. Create Wordle from transcript after discussions to analyze what students understand as most important


What was most important in our discussion? A quick copy/paste into Wordle.com will visually represent the frequency of words. Try displaying the Wordle for a journal reflection activity after the lesson or at the beginning of the next class.


5. Use transcript to give daily grade based on participation


Each transcript can be saved as a PDF, making it easy to assess participation for a three-week progress report. It's also strong evidence for parent conferences (positive or intervention).


6. Two or more classrooms engage in a conversation as they listen to the same content at the same time.


With an inexhaustible amount of videos and podcasts available, students from different classes can listen to a live podcast and have a back channel discussion on TodaysMeet without interrupting. Since we all tune in and out, the back channel often better keeps their attention, while making the departures from listening relevant.


7. Before a science lab, students record their hypothesis. After lab, they respond about the conclusion.


The teacher can project the hypothesis before and after the lab for discussion. Teachers have the transcript for assessment and students can access it for lab reports. This use also works for anticipation guides, thesis writing, and even math solution defense.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Widgets, Embedding, and Links

This post is the introduction to my presentation at Lone Star Technology in Action. The purpose of the workshop is to share and apply ways we can deliver digital content to learners who access our websites.

Throughout this process, please keep in mind how each choice you make facilitates learning. Additionally, understand that the novelty of technology is experienced differently by our students, most of whom are digital natives. 

Widgets


Widgets are used to bring content from another site to yours.

Workshop Examples:

FeedGrabber (up to 3 RSS feeds for free)

Remind (anonymous SMS)

TIP: Twitter widgets can be placed on Google Sites via a third party feed builder. I've used Wordpress to make a Twitter widget into a link and embed into Google Sites via link. 

Embed Code


The ability to place a YouTube video, a Quizlet card deck, or a Slideshare presentation onto your site means learners will have access to rich content. 

Workshop Examples: 

YouTube


Quizlet

TIP: To figure out where in the HTML code your embed code needs to go, cheat by typing in something like "ssssss" in editor view and find it in HTML view. Highlight your "ssssss" and paste the embed code (Ctrl V). 

Links
Links are the most common way to connect learners with content from another site or within yours. They can be placed in text, text boxes, and images. Text boxes and images are especially helpful when users are accessing site content with touch screens.

Google Docs

TodaysMeet

I hope this helps you bring your web content building to the next level. Please comment below or on my Facebook page. http://goo.gl/YMpuhN (You might like it.)

Monday, July 7, 2014

5 Sites for Word Fun

Click or touch for each site.

Eye Chart Maker




Wordle




Tagxedo



Word It Out




Word Sift