Technology and Student-Centered Assessment

Formative and summative assessment are familiar terms to most students and educators. When used intentionally, both assessment types can be used to identify student needs and help educators design differentiated learning opportunities. Student-Centered Assessment, on the other hand, is a less familar term with many educators. Student-Centered Assessment can be used during the process of learning, at the end of units, or even extend across a student’s year. The three key components that all Student-Centered Assessments have in common are: identified standards and learning targets, they are best utilized during the learning process, but can be adapted to also serve a more summative need, and finally, they are designed to be used by the student! Below are three specific examples, along with technology tools that I find fit the desired intent.

  1. Self-Assessment – When used while the learning is taking place, self-assessment is an effective tool which places ownership in assessing and learning back into the hands of the student. Self-assessment promotes learning by having students reflect upon their strengths and weakness in their own work. When used during the process of learning instead of at the end of the learning, self-assessments generate areas that are personal to the students, a time to revise and rework their product, and the ability to measure their work to the learning targets, standards, and personal skills. Self-assessment can be in the form of rubrics, checklists, or evidenced in written or oral responses.                 Google Keep would be an excellent digital tool to support the use of checklists in self-assessment. Google Keep is simple to use, easy to share, and is customizable for use. Google Keep Options
  2. Peer-Assessment – Similar to Self-Assessment, Peer-Assessment is best done during the learning process. In fact, it makes no sense to have students use this tool after the product is completed. Peer-Assessment employs students giving feedback to each other that is specific and evidenced by specific examples that are aligned to the learning target. Many educators find this tool great in theory, but students struggle when applying. Scaffolding, modeling, and clear expectations are needed to not only help students find areas of focus in another peer’s work; but also, explicit instruction and practice of soft skills that address collaboration and communication? How does one effectively work with a peer in a collaborative setting. What type of feedback is most valuable? With these objectives in mind, along with the professional understanding that the student doing the fixing is the one doing the learning; utilizing something like the “Suggesting” setting in Google Docs provides a digital tool to support Self-Assessment. “Suggest Edits” instead of directly writing on the work, editing, or even commenting, shifts revision and reflection back to the author of the piece.                          Adding Suggestions to Google Doc
  3. Portfolios – Two types of Portfolios are commonly used in the educational setting. First, a portfolio can be used as a “Process Portfolio”. A process portfolio would be documentation of a students growth, from novice to master, typically based within a unit and have an identified group of standards or learning target. When used throughout the learning, process portfolios can act as a documentation of a student’s journey in learning. It can help them set goals, and serve as a visual to remind students where they began and how their understanding transformed during the unit. A second type of portfolio found in educational settings is that of a summative collection of their best work. While examples of student’s learning could be placed throughout the learning process, a summative portfolio demands the student to reflect on their work throughout the year, evaluate it against the determined standards or learning targets, and then justify the pieces they place within the portfolio as the ones demonstrating their best work. Summative portfoliosare best used organically, and travel and change with the student as they progress through grades.                                                                      Google Sites would be a versatile, digital tool for either type of portfolio. From embedding images, documents, and videos; to uploading mp3s of vocal solos or embedding multimodal creations, Google Sites have always been a perferred choice with my former students.                                       Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 12.18.47 AM

Resource Used: Students at the Center

 

 

Cross-Discipline Literacy: Gradual Release of Responsibility

Gradual release

At the middle and secondary levels, teachers are traditionally isolated by content area and grade. And although, we, as professionals, understand the hypocrisy in a traditional educational environment (life is not so neatly departmentalized, the blurring of concepts, skills, and content exists); it is difficult for some educators to see the relationship between what is being taught in their classroom and what is being taught down the hall. Calling upon our elementary educator friends, we are reminded that literacy is the thread that ties all of the areas together. And through the practicing and mastering of these literacy skills, our students gain opportunities, understanding, and communication skills that they will use long after they leave through the doors of our schools. Today’s students must be able to locate, understand, evaluate, and use written information and multiple literacies in both their personal and academic lives.

In theory, this connection of literacy throughout the content areas helps to reinforce reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills in all students; in reality, fear and frustration runs rampant in the minds of teachers when they hear the words “All teachers are reading and writing teachers”.

To create a culture of literacy within a building, an “All Hands on Deck” approach is needed for systematic change. No longer can pockets of excellence in reading comprehension instruction exist; focused goals and high-quality, sustained learning must occur to equip all teachers properly. Along with a toolbox filled with comprehension strategies and understanding of text structures and styles, I tend to agree with the thinking of Fisher and Frey as to the clarification of my position on this:

“We do not believe that ‘all content teachers are teachers of reading.’ We are not discussing reading comprehension with the expectation that this take front and center in every math, science, history, arts, or elective course. However, reading and understanding texts is a central feature of every course” (11).  So, while literacy may not be the focus in each classroom, everyday, it is an essential component to every class.

The key is, You, as the teacher, are the best reader and writer in the classroom. Modeling your thought process when discerning information in content-specific text is essential. Take, for instance, an industrial arts educator. Teaching literacy would not include a study on Huck Finn, but rather, modeling and practice in reading and comprehending texts normally found in that area. How does an architect read a blueprint? When looking at a bookshelf, how does a woodworker interpret design, structure, angles, etc. We read fiction with the intent of identifying plot, conflict, characters; these same strategies would not be applied to informational text.

Strategy: Gradual Release of Responsibility

Structural framework used to increase reading comprehension containing four components. The framework is organic in nature, meaning, there is no specific order or rate in which to use each component. Formative assessment identifies student needs and allows teacher differentiation. Technology integration is one solution to differentiate within the classroom to meet the needs of all students. (After each component, a technology integration tip is listed)

1. “I do” Minilesson in which the teacher establishes the focus, goal, or concept and models the thinking aloud to the class. (Technology Tip: A teacher or class YouTube channel. Students are able to rewatch minilesson containing the teacher modeling the comprehension strategy, or choose from a collection of videos with the same focus but different content)

2. “We do” Teacher prompts, questions, and cues students’ thinking through guided instruction and facilitation. (Technology Tip: Try a tool, such as EdPuzzle, to embed questions, cues, and prompts into videos)

3. “Do it together” Collaboratively, students apply previous learning with academic discourse to complete a task. (Technology Tip: Voicethread captures the thinking of students through text, voice, and annotations. Provide one task for the class, and allow collaborative group work to be demonstrated and shared on VT)

4. “Do it alone” Students, individually, apply understanding to an authentic task. (Technology Tip: Students use Explain Everything to demonstrate individual application of learning on an original task)

Gradual Release of Responsibility is a framework that can be applied across content and grade-level. Modeling your thinking aloud on how one approaches texts/visuals/graphs in our content area, supports comprehension strategies used to understand information. And although literacy is typically thought of as an ELA standard, it plays an essential role in the lives of our students; equipping them for future endeavors when life isn’t so neatly divided by subject area!

 

Undervaluing Teacher Perception in Assessment

Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot, ish, and many others; recently released his animated short entitled The Testing Camera. Described as a “whimsical poke at high-stakes, standardized testing,” The Testing Camera, paints an all-true reality of education today.

Teaching to the test, students measured by the test, teachers evaluated by the scores their students receive on the test; with this constant focus in today’s education systems, is it any surprise that: teachers have began to question their own professional perceptions? Undervalue their day to day interactions with students? Rely solely on the test score to dictate curriculum, label and track students, and justify their own strengths as an educator?

Most recently, during a writing workshop training, a teacher expressed the joy and affirmation the framework, specifically small group instruction, has provided her in terms of formative assessment. Identifying a student need; providing examples, practice, and opportunities for improvement; targeting a specific writing skill the student is on the cusp of mastering; and continuous checks to follow-up on goals are not done through standardized testing. Instead; this type of formative assessment/observation allows the teacher to differentiate in the moment, make professional decisions based on individual students, and demonstrate the power of good teaching. Hearing this reflection simultaneously made me happy and sad. I was thrilled that this teacher regained her professional voice, but was saddened that it was lost in the first place.

This post is not intended to debate the necessity of standardized testing; instead, it is to draw attention to this culture and provide an alternative view highlighting the value in and the ease of formative assessment can in our contemporary classrooms.

Jim Knight refers to formative assessment as a GPS to “gauge how well students understand what is being taught.” As part of the Big 4 to Improve Instruction, developing and using formative assessment effectively provides insight into gaps in content planning and/or pedagogy thus allowing teachers to target learning. The formative assessment GPS allows teachers to see what direction students are heading (are they way off course, or close to the goal), which pedagogical practices were effective with which students, and a map for navigational purposes to determine teaching style (inquiry, modeling, example, etc.).

While it is clear the benefits to the learner that formative assessment provides, the ease of crafting and administering such “checks” in today’s technology-rich classrooms further add to these for both the learner and teacher. In a recent blog post by Jeff Zoul, entitled “Reimagining Learning,” Zoul reflects upon the paradigm shift in teaching and learning in a ubiquitous technology education environment. Citing Richard Culatta in his identification of challenges in education and the role in which technology can help to solve these, Zoul touches upon assessment, writing, “We can provide real-time feedback to students, an ‘LPS’ version of a GPS system in which we—and our students—know where every individual learner is currently at and where each needs to go next. We can tailor the pacing of instruction to the needs of each learner.” These two specific points align with the benefits I outline below.

Technology Assisted Formative Assessment Provides:

  1. Real-time glimpse into students’ understanding
  2. A space for all voices to be heard and recognized
  3. Opportunity for immediate feedback and differentiation of instruction
  4. Data narrating the students’ learning journey
  5. A transfer of ownership of learning back into the hands of the student

Savvy educators understand that technology tools are only as powerful as the content they are paired with, the student choice given in the unit, and the cognitive demand placed on the learner. With this in mind, I offer the following tools for exploration:

Technology Tools for Formative Assessment

forms-iconGoogle Forms

Google forms are adaptable and provide a plethora of question types to meet needs. An Exit Ticket is a common use of Google Forms. Student answers are automatically collected in Google Sheets and allow the viewer to see responses in a variety of ways. In essence, results can be cleared, and the same Form could be used each day. Paired with a script, such as Flubaroo or Form Mule, Google Forms can provide immediate results and feedback to students.

logoSocrative

Socrative is an interactive platform, where students answer questions in real-time and receive immediate feedback. Socrative is device friendly, accessible from tablets, laptops, and smartphones. It also reports individual students, as well as whole class reports which appeal to many educawtors.

imagesKahoot

Kahoot is a game-based response system where students are motivated to be on the top of the leader-board. To play along with the facilitator, a student may use any device with a web browser (no account is needed).Kahoot encourages the teacher to blend the learning experience by constructing a social, game-based assessment while folding the learning in between interactive questions.

imgresNearpod

Nearpod brings the interaction to the student’s screen. Interactive, engaging, and customizable in both creation and response, Nearpod provides monitoring of student’s progress. Control of when and who sees the questions provides a different alternative to Socrative. There is also a “draw” response option, perfect for those sketchnoters.

images-1TodaysMeet

Although not a new tool, TodaysMeet, is the prime backchannel for the classroom. Ease in setting up a room (virtual space), real-time capabilities, readability, and the option to save the transcript; TodaysMeet provides a voice to even the quietest student. Recently added features now allow moderation of content, private rooms, and longer lengths in room reservations.

imgres-1Poll Everywhere

A favorite with students, Poll Everywhere is an audience response platform that promotes interaction, ease, accessibility, and a visual of the responses. Poll Everywhere is another tool that has been around for years, but has recently added improvements to the site. Additions include: differentiation in visualizing the responses (wordcloud is one), embed a voting widget on your site, as a student, access a single webpage where the questioned are “pushed” to you. Answer questions via phone, twitter, or webpage. Poll Everywhere is a perfect tool for a bell ringer, diving into the material immediately or connecting to the previous day’s learning.

 

 

Thank you to Jeff Zoul, Mike Jaber, and Leslie Pralle Keehn for contributions to this post.  Appreciate you!

 

Reimagining the Writer’s Notebook

writersnotebook

In a Writing Workshop classroom, the Writer’s Notebook  serves as the heart of the community. The notebook is a gathering spot for inspiration/brainstorming, recording learning gained from minilessons, along with many other purposes.

Traditionally, this notebook has been concrete, filled with blank paper eagerly waiting to be filled. The writer’s inkblood poured onto to it’s pages, scotch-taped quotes and pictures hung out from the edges, practice examples, quickwrites, rough drafts; all filled the emptiness. Depending on the teacher’s philosophy and preference, these sacred notebooks, NEVER, EVER… EVER left the classroom; in fear they would be lost, damaged, or forgotten at home.

Working in a district where all students were provided laptops demanded me to reimagine the traditional Writer’s Notebook to one in a digital form. My goal was not to be a paperless classroom, in fact, many of the images contained within our Digital Writer’s Notebook were first done on paper.  Instead, I wanted to:

  1. Increase student enjoyment in writing.
  2. Move all writers forward.
  3. Consume and create traditional and digital literacies.
  4. Share their writing with the world.

A Digital Writer’s Notebook allows the freedom to incorporate a multitude of mediums. The accessibility allows the writer to add inspiration to this collective spot via multiple modes (phone, computer, tablet) at any time and from anywhere. Freedom in text, embedding videos, or inserting images provides the writer choice in communication.

All of these advantages proved to encourage students to write more and think more about writing. They began filling their Digital Writer’s Notebook, not because it was the designated class time, but because they were inspired! And those students who chose to sketch, draw, or keep a paper Writer’s Notebook (I am a firm believer in student choice) uploaded pics of their notebook (if they chose).

Using a Google Folder students were able to organize their Writer’s Notebook into different “Sections” or documents. Using Google Drive allowed students access from any device and the ability to set the document to work offline for times when there was no internet access.

Example of a Writer’s Notebook “Inspiration/Brainstorm” found here.

A Platform for Student Voice: My Inspiring Idea presented at the Google Teacher Academy

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At the Google Teacher Academy, I was selected to share an “Inspiring Idea” with the group. It was with great honor that I shared my passion with the cohort; Utilizing Technology to Connect Students, Enabling Them to Share Their Voice with the World.  (Student names have been changed)

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I smiled at Mr. Noonan through the screen of our shared Google Hangout as he read the next question for debate. Our students, standing on opposite sides of the globe, nervously listened to him speak as they sheepishly smiled at one another. Noonan began, “Did Man invent God as a reason to exist? Sylvia,” he added, “you may go first.”

Sylvia, Noonan’s student from Sweden, moved a bit closer to the computer so her words and body language were evident to both classes. She greeted Michael, my student in Iowa who waved backed, poised to debate with Sylvia. Sylvia was a top student in Noonan’s class; a skilled speaker with great intellect. But, in Iowa, my student Michael was the student body president, a thespian, a leader in our school who possessed skill and knowledge to match that of Sylvia. Sylvia began, arguing that God was not real, citing multiple personal experiences, backing them up with the philosophical thinking of Sartre and Kierkegaard; she spoke with ease. And although I was impressed, I was excited for Michael to counter, I knew that my student had experience in debate, but also the confidence and charisma to engage an audience.

Sylvia recapped her points and Michael moved towards the screen. The class smiled knowing that they were going to witness a master student weave his experiences as a preacher’s son, with his vast theology knowledge to argue against Sylvia.

Michael opened his mouth to speak and out tumbled the word, “Sorry….. I guess I disagree.”

I shifted in my seat from the uncomfortableness of the moment. The word “Sorry” ringing through my head! This was not the Michael I knew. His struggle continued; his voice weakened. I clenched my fist, digging my nails into my palm, wanting to bail Michael out of an awkward moment, but knowing I shouldn’t. As his time came to an end, he once again apologized for his opinion and quickly sat down. The bell rang; we were all saved.

With advances in technology, our world is shrinking. And while we want our students to contribute to the sea of global communication that they are immersed in, that one example shined a light onto what was missing in my teaching. From that point forward, I made it my priority to equip all students with the skills necessary to communicate effectively through various modes while maintaining their own identity. Realizing that their truth and opinion is just as strong and “right” as another person’s truth. Growing up in Iowa helped shaped them into who they were today and they should be proud they experienced bonfires and fireflies, playing with cousins in a hayloft, or the humidity that made bugs stick to their legs in the summer.

Through a connection on Twitter, I had met John Noonan, a philosophy teacher at an IB school in Sweden, which was comprised with mostly diplomat’s children from around the world. In Iowa, I had a homogeneous makeup of white, middle-class, Christian students who had connected with students around the state and nation but not globally.

We designed a unit around Albert Camus’ The Stranger. Co-teaching, John would focus on existentialism and other philosophies and I would apply the different lenses to the literature and poetry we were reading. Google hangouts and Google docs allowed for the real-time collaboration necessary to not only increase student understanding on a difficult concepts, but the shared document between the two classes served as a backchannel during the lectures; allowing us to view student thinking,misconceptions or questions, and to provide a common place for collective learning. When the planned hangouts were completed, the students urged us to continue the collaboration.

Noonan and I paired the students for a collaborative debate/presentation, using digital means to cross the global divide and broaden knowledge. Students once again turned to GAFE because of the collaborative nature, creative possibilities and ease that were needed to connect and communicate. What we didn’t expect to happen was the out-of-class friendships that were built. Our students started using google chat and hangouts to work on their projects, and also build relationships with their new classmates. They soon realized that they had more in common than different and what started as an off-the-cuff remark of “We want to go to Sweden to meet our friends” turned into a reality. In September the students approached the school board for approval for their international trip. We were immediately approved and began raising money, acquiring passports, and determining schedules and lodging.  In the fall we were in Iowa reading Hamlet,,, later that spring we were standing in Hamlet’s castle.

Just because something is difficult to measure on standardized tests does not mean that it is not important to teach. Communication is changing as rapidly as technology, and because of this, we need students to be able to communicate effectively, advocate for themselves and others and realize the importance of maintaining their identity. Although this connection was a springboard for an international learning experience; connecting, collaborating and creating beyond the four walls of the school building increases engagement, is easily replicated, and can provide a platform for students to share their voice!