Archive for Pedagogy

Half-Steps, Whole-Steps, Bits and Bytes – ISTE Poster Session Downloads and Resources

The following resources further explain or support my ISTE 2015 Poster Session entitled “Half-Steps, Whole-Steps, Bits and Bytes: Music Fundamentals through Computing.”
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Uses of Technology to Enhance Formative Assessment and Differentiated Instruction

Fall2014_Cover_001

Along with our Academic Dean Richard Kassissieh (@Kassissieh, KassBlog), I co-authored an article on the use of technology in formative assessment and differentiation. The article appears in the Fall 2014 edition of Curriculum in Context, the journal of the Washington State chapter of ASCD. The article describes a variety of ways in which our faculty are using formative assessment strategies to gather and analyze student performance as well as giving students opportunities to engage with content and skills at a variety of levels.

Freehand Thinking in French with Tablets

Posted at U Prep Technology Integration Exchange (UPTIE): Visual notetaking and vocabulary in French classes.

Students use Faculty-Designed Tool to Monitor Deadlines

cross-posted at U Prep Technology Integration Exchange. While I normally don’t post other teacher’s work here, I thought it appropriate so that I could discuss the “how” of the scripts, etc. All credit where it’s due, though– I wasn’t the “idea man” on this project at all.

University Prep students are busy, hard-working and are learning to balance involvement in academics, extra-curricular involvement and athletics. The U Prep faculty knows that helping students assume increasing responsibility for their work means that students must be able to advocate for their needs as well as to take on ownership of their schedule. Sometimes deadlines need to be moved for a variety of reasons, or sometimes things fall through the cracks, and teachers want to know why in order to form a teachable moment with a student when appropriate. Good teachers know that while it’s normal to miss a deadline on occasion, a student missing many deadlines can be an indication that the student needs some additional support.

What happens when a student starts missing assignments across multiple classes, though? Traditionally, teachers have had little opportunity to see when students may be running into trouble across multiple courses. The Math and English Departments are currently piloting a web-based system which allows students to submit a request for extension on an assignment or assessment. This request is sent to three parties: the originating student, the involved teacher, and the student’s advisor. As part of the request, the student explains the circumstances and proposes when they can get the work submitted.

Based on a form designed last year by math teacher Ian McInerney, the system has been running for several weeks in English and Math courses. The form is linked directly in the course’s Schoology page so that students can access it using their laptops or tablets. Rather than being reactive (after a deadline has been missed), the faculty hope that the use of this tool will encourage students to think and plan ahead, and use the request before a deadline arrives. The early results are encouraging here– of the 44 requests submitted so far, 35 were submitted either on or before the due date, suggesting that this tool is part of a students’ advance thinking rather than an after-the-fact reaction.

Faculty reaction thus far is positive, with advisors noting that the tool has prompted discussions with advisees around missed assignments as they develop. One advisor noted that seeing a couple of requests come in from the same advisee for different subjects enabled the advisor to have a talk with the student about the situation and resolve it holistically. While many of the uses of personal devices in school are around completing academic work, this is one example of how U Prep students use them to work on two other priorities of the device program: their organizational skills and communication.

 

Reflective Journaling in Schoology with Discussion Threads

Turning on the "Individually Assign" icon opens up the "Assign to:" box.

Reflection is a crucial element of many modern pedagogical systems. Whether explicitly stated, as by Dewey, or implicitly embedded as part of a process in systems such as Design Thinking and PBL, modern pedagogies place a high importance on the ability for students to self-assess and build metacognition through reflection. I use a variety of reflective activities in my classes, and often they are built-in to a project design cycle. Aside from these more task-oriented reflections, I have students run a reflective journal that is more free-form. I will often ask them prompts which I hope strike a balance between being guided towards critical thinking while being open-ended enough to encourage personal, not formulaic, response. My staple, borrowed from a mentor early in my career, is the every-Friday “What Did You Learn This Week?” (and added to by another, “…and How Did You Learn It?”).

When I started with weekly or daily reflections, I would have students write a couple of sentences on scraps of recycled paper and hand them in. This was relatively quick to set up, although reading those scraps was a) hard to manage and b) somewhat unsatisfying in its closed nature: I could not ask a student to expand an idea or give more context or information. Especially with Friday reflections, I would have to remember to circle back to a student on Monday to ask more, at which point we both may have lost the context or even the original idea.

I’ve developed some guidelines to use online tools for reflection, and now use the discussion threads in Schoology (our LMS) as my basic reflective tool, and am very happy with the system I’ve concocted. Here are my guidelines on the reflective writing setup that I use, and how to build it within Schoology.

Some Guidelines

While different situations may call for differing types of reflection, I default to some basic conditions. Standard reflective activities in my classes are:

  • Private between student and teacher. Reflection is primarily an introspective activity, and students should be able to critically discuss failures and “what went wrong” as well as what went right. Especially early-on as students are learning to reflect critically, this should be visible to the teacher, but not to other students.
  • Able to start conversation/prompt follow-ups. If reflection is a skill to be developed, then giving feedback and asking follow-up questions is an important component of the teacher’s role in reflection.
  • Not graded/assessed. Reflective writing is often free-form and encourages brainstorming. I don’t want these to be assessed activities (although there are cases where I will assess larger, more structured reflection/self-assessment).
  • Chronological/Archived. Students should be able to see past reflections to identify trends and common occurrences, or to remark upon growth.
  • Contextual. Students should be able to connect reflective writing directly to learning activities or resources.

Building the Reflective Journal in Schoology

Using the Discussion tool, we can build individual discussion threads for each student that accomplish these priorities. Since activities in Schoology can be individually assigned to groups or individuals, I can create a discussion thread for each student, which only they will see. I will be able to see all of them, and quickly flip through to look at each student’s work. In addition, since it’s a discussion thread, I can ask follow-up questions, post comments, or even ask students to go back and comment upon past reflections as part of portfolio-building or end-of-unit wrap-ups.

First, I create folder called “Your Reflective Journal” (since students will only end up seeing theirs, I keep it singular).

journalfolder

In the folder, I create discussion threads for each student and title them with the student’s name (e.g. “Journal: Jeff”). When creating the discussion, I choose the Individually Assign option to bring up the “Assign To:” box.

Turning on the "Individually Assign" icon opens up the "Assign to:" box.

Turning on the “Individually Assign” icon opens up the “Assign to:” box.

I can assign the discussion directly to that student. Since the discussions are hypertext, students can embed files or links directly into their reflections. Sometimes our prompts are specific enough to expect an attachment or link, and sometimes students will do that in response to a more general prompt.

When it’s time to read through and see what students have posted, it’s fairly easy and quick to scroll through many in sequence. I open up the first journal in my folder, and skim through. I won’t always post comments or questions (although I do try to comment more in the beginning as we’re learning the skills of reflective writing). To move to the next journal in the folder, I use the “Next” button in the upper-right. While many people miss this navigation button, it makes it very easy for me to flip through my class.

Many people miss this! Go to the next item in your folder, in this case, the next journal thread.

Many people miss this! Go to the next item in your folder, in this case, the next journal thread.

While I haven’t done this in the past, I could go into Course Analytics at the end of a defined period and look at the relative participation levels of each student within their journals by looking at the number of posts. While I don’t assess these outright, using that data could be part of an individual conversation with students who are not participating.

Why Not a Blog?

Students (and all users) can have a blog within Schoology as part of their user account, and blogging is a common platform for reflective writing. As I listed in my priorities, though, I want these activities to be primarily private at this point. Our school settings are such that a student’s user blog can be read by other internal users, and that’s consistent with how I envision the Schoology blog feature being used: to write (perhaps reflectively) for an audience. Blogging is part of our Digital Media course, and students will delve into Social Media as a publishing tool through other activities and structures. As I view the reflection as primarily for one’s self, though, I think that this model (private, embedded within the course) is more appropriate.

How About You?

How do you facilitate reflective journaling or writing in your courses? Do you use a different tool or structure? Would you change something about this model to make it fit your students and course? Please comment or question below!

New Schoology Features – (Almost) Adaptive Assessment for Your Curriculum?

Schoology's new Mastery panel (help.schoology.com)

Adaptive testing is one of the largest buzz-worthy trends in Ed Tech right now– the ISTE conference was absolutely awash in companies selling adaptive testing engines, aligned with Common Core and complete with packaged curriculum materials. It’s easy to see the appeal of adaptive testing: students are assessed on a complete package of learning objectives, and any areas of struggle or difficulty are identified and targeted. Students work at a level which is appropriate for them in rigor and complexity, and can move ahead or given additional reinforcement if necessary. Unfortunately, adaptive testing systems are incredibly complex, which makes them very hard to modify to reflect each individual teacher’s course and curriculum.

Schoology has released a handful of new features to Enterprise customers over the summer which, when used together, form a very powerful formative assessment environment. By using these tools, it’s possible to build quizzes which offer students opportunities to practice skills and content as needed, and report data back to teachers in a very granular and performance-oriented manner. For classes or schools which use standards- or learning objectives-based grading and reporting, the backwards design process of writing curriculum and assessment to match those objectives fits perfectly into this new package. The combination of Learning Objectives, Question Banks with Random Questions and the Mastery reporting panel allows teachers to generate randomized practice opportunities targeted to individual or multiple performance goals, and analyze each for diagnostic data on each student’s performance. Each of these tools requires some setup to accomplish this, so let’s dive in.

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The Boss, 57 Channels, Sushi, and Personal Knowledge Management

(wikipedia)

I remember a conversation my parents had when I was a teenager about the television. I don’t remember the setup, but I do remember my mother bemoaning the fact that, in essence, “There was fifty-seven channels and nothin’ on.” Because the TV served so much garbage, she believed, the TV itself was garbage (I’m oversimplifying, but I don’t think mis-characterizing). My father’s indignant response: “We have the History Channel now! Discovery!” In essence, he focused on the needles of specialized, targeted content amongst the haystack of generalized, least-common-denominator entertainment.

I relive that conversation nearly every day in the context of the Internet’s role in schools and classes, and I believe it’s one of the most important critical understandings of learning in the Internet era. When teachers disregard the Internet as a source of learning, or only allow certain “pre-approved” sources of content, the reasoning almost always comes down to either fear of or experience with students:

  • Using weak sources
  • Wasting too much time trying to find good sources
  • Getting off-topic

I think the underlying assumption is that the Internet is a faster, bigger, louder and more obnoxious version of Bruce’s TV: “A message came back from the great beyond: there’s fifty-seven channels and nothing on.” If we follow this belief to the extreme, we get policy decisions which reflect a view of the Internet as 99% “low-grade” rather than 1% “high-grade” learning potential. Blocking YouTube, social media and limiting the ability for students to email outside of their school/district are prime examples. YouthBeat conducted a survey of their readers and revealed (unsurprisingly) a wide range of opinions about the usefulness of the Internet, but the part most interesting to me was how hard it was for parents to come to terms with the blessing and curse of student access:

With the exception of a few, most parents temper their critiques of the Internet with an acknowledgement of all the ways that the Internet has served their children well– helping them explore their passions, efficiently and effectively complete homework, play stimulating and challenging games, and more. And for many, it’s not a matter of being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but how they can make the most of it for their children…

–Youthbeat.com, “Changing the Conversation about Internet Safety

You know why the Boss couldn’t find anything on his 57 channels? He was flipping channels “round and round till half-past dawn.” Even the History Channel has gone weird in the middle of the night. Skills, context and guidelines matter for successful information management. Thankfully, they’re a whole lot easier with social web tools. Would Bruce have taken the .44 to his TV if he had On Demand and streaming video?

I’ve written before about a couple of the different models of Personal Knowledge Management that are floating around the education world. I believe that while they all phrase things slightly differently, looking at models of networked learning have three common threads:

  1. Input. An active gathering and filtering of information or expertise from diverse sources.
  2. Processing. Creating a personal knowledge construct based on those unique inputs, as processed by the individual learner.
  3. Output. Demonstrating the knowledge construct in order to a) prove understanding, mastery or skills, b) contribute to the further advancement and communal knowledge base, and c) subject ideas to the rigor of communal discourse and public review and ensure that they hold up (or continue to evolve them based on new input)

The metaphor often used to describe Information Management with online networked learning is “drinking from the fire hose”– the idea that there’s a deluge of information and you’re trying to capture some of it while not getting blasted down the street. I’ve started playing with a new metaphor:

Conveyor Belt Sushi (wikimedia.org)

At a Conveyor Belt Sushi restaurant, there is a constant stream of food moving past you. You observe what is being offered, make some intentional choices about what you want to eat (which sometimes involves trying something new which looks interesting) and build your menu around your preferences as well as the offerings available. Sometimes you can make a special request if you want something that isn’t coming around. All of this is happening within many different contexts: families having evenings out, dates, business travelers networking, and more.

The first time you go to a Conveyor Belt Sushi restaurant, it’s a little odd. It takes a little orientation to figure out how to do it. Sometimes, you eat too much, or you get frustrated waiting for something particular to come along. Sometimes you don’t know how/where a restaurant serves beverages since they aren’t coming on the belt. Eventually, though, you figure out the context of this different method of serving. Like I said– the metaphor is still under construction. The key message, though, is that if you walked in, sat down and grabbed the first three things that came down the line, you’d get a mixed-bag. You might not enjoy your experience very much. You might decide that these restaurants were a horrible way to eat. You might go hungry because you wouldn’t want to grab the next dish blindly, but you wouldn’t know where to go next.

You need Conveyor Belt Sushi Management Skills–the guidelines which help you operate successfully in that context.

Recently, Harold Jarche put out a challenge to show your PKM workflows. In the next few days, I’ll show my workflows and the tools that I use, but also discuss these three key stages (input, processing, output) and how to apply them to classroom settings. I hope to do so in ways that can be introduced to existing classroom structures without requiring radical curriculum/classroom redesign (although there are certain underlying assumptions about many classroom structures which PKM directly challenges. Some conflict here is unavoidable). Along each stage, I look forward to hearing the tools, processes or resources which are helpful to you in the same vein!

 

Personal Knowledge Management and Student Process

@KimKierkegaardashian - A mashup of Soren Kierkegaard and Kim Kardashian. Demonstrates understanding of irony?

How do we learn and process vast amounts of information in the digital age? How do we practice filtering and deep thought in an information deluge? Why do we have such rampant disagreements on whether the Internet is a “good place to learn?” For many of us it’s an exciting time to be in education because of these questions. Pedagogues and thinkers from diverse fields are combining their expertise to form a new set of learning strategies that reflect both the myriad sources of information available via networking and the ease with which anyone can demonstrate their thinking and learning for examination, critique and sharing. Going by terms such as “connectivism,” or “personal knowledge management,” many attempts to build a framework of digital-age learning share common threads which highlight the essential skills and processes of a modern learner. Regardless of any particular preferred framework or methodology, these common threads reveal general stages that we can practice, develop, model and instruct. Read more

Products, Process and the Digital Native Fallacy

This is the second episode of my faculty development program. The video is here, but there are additional links and reading, as well as our faculty discussions, at the University Prep Technology Integration Exchange (UPTIE). Enjoy!

Tech Integration: Begin with the End in Mind

Here’s the first episode of my new faculty development program. The full package (some useful links and the discussion) is at the University Prep Technology Interaction Exchange (UPTIE).

Enjoy!