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!

 

5 Ways to Kick-Start “Back to School” Using Social Media in the Classroom

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5 Ways to Kick-Start “Back to School” Using Social Media in the Classroom

1. Instagram – A traditional activity to help students build relationships with each other and the teacher is an “About Me” poster. Why not use the popular social media platform, Instagram. Using a class hashtag, students can tag posted pictures, sharing everything from their favorite spot to read in the school to an important person in their life. Not only would this be a collective space to grow relationships, but during the in-class sharing, students could refine communication and storytelling skills.

2. Voxer – This trendy, new social media platform allows voxers to continue the conversation through various modes including text, voice, and pictures via a threaded discussion. Students could share goals with each other, provide advice to underclassmen, or answer questions posed by new students or visitors. This versatile platform makes collaboration a snap; easily pass pictures, ideas, or voice comments to group-mates.

3. Twitter – Twitter is quickly becoming the new “Facebook” for people under 21 (mostly because their parents aren’t on it yet). Teachers can model advantages of connectivity by tweeting with a “Sister School”. Succinct writing opportunities to share a glimpse into the “life” of a typical teen in their demographic area provides a lens to students unmatched through vicarious means. Multiple perspectives of current events and issues, connecting to experts, networking, and building a positive, on-line presence are all possible in 140 characters.

4. Facebook – Personal triumphs, recognizing good deeds, daily gratitude to those who helped you survive another school day; all of these posts on a School’s Facebook Page which is designated to share the unrecognized “Good” that takes place daily in the halls of our schools, can be achieved through Facebook.  Submissions can remain anonymous, and messages approved and posted by a small group of students. When ownership is placed back into the hands of  students, their contributions become a recognizable part of the positive culture!

5. Remind – A safe and free way to text students, athletes, and parents. The cellphone: the first thing a students checks when they wake and the last thing looked at before bed. Creating groups in Remind early in the school year, as a communication tool, saves time and guarantees that everyone receives the same message. From an athletic team, a school club, or even classroom assignments, Remind allows teachers to text important news and reminders that will reach students and parents alike.

Best of Luck in the 2014-2015 School Year!

Connected Educator: The Why!

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October is designated at “Connected Educators Month” (initiative of the Office of Educational Technology at the U.S. Department of Education ) which has sparked reflection on my own journey of becoming  connected. Five years ago, I was a high school English teacher embarking on a new a district shift; an educational environment with ubiquitous technology access for students and staff. Every staff member, district wide, along with all students in grades 9-12 were given laptops.

My first year as a 1:1 educator was a “normal” progression in learning the educational device (laptops) and taking small risks of incorporation into daily routines. The second year of teaching in a 1:1 environment shifted my pedagogy and curriculum from substitution to redefinition. (SAMR model) Spurring this shift can be attributed largely to relationships built by becoming a connected educator. No longer was my classroom limited by time and space, instead my students were creating and collaborating with others around the globe. Participating in meaningful and relevant opportunities that allowed for deeper understanding of content, engaging and relevant project based learning, and understanding their unique voice and contributions to an online global community.

Last week I reconnected with Erin Olson , Bev Berns, and Nancy Movall. Erin, Bev and I initially met on Twitter. We connected our classes and met virtually before paths crossed later that year, providing a face to face opportunity. The blogging community we formed was one of my earliest and most meaningful collaborations as an educator. Our students were forming a virtual writer’s workshop, honing communication and collaboration skills. Students wrote and responded weekly to each other, participated in many local and national events (NYTimes Learning Network Blog)  and even added their voice virtually as Problem-Finders, not just solvers, to the ITU Telecom World 2011 Meta Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. The love of writing, and the value of connecting from the blogging community is still communicated to me through student posts, tweets, and messages!

Our collaboration  turned to the state level when we were introduced to Nancy Movall, a forward-thinking leader whose motto, Better-Together to do the Right Work for Kids, has become a guiding compass for many of us! Nancy’s vision, which is still being shared, evolving, and refined is providing the best opportunities for students through the sharing of blended education via technology (this is over-simplified of course, but a short explanation). Iowa’s Communities of Practice provided opportunity for us as educators to share our passions and talents to develop blended curriculum for Iowa Student! Nancy believes in the power of a collective group and has championed for me personally countless times! Forever grateful!

So, how do the previous examples illustrate the power of being a Connected Educator? Consider the 4 Goals of Connected Educator Month:

  1. Helping more districts promote and integrate online social learning into their formal professional development

  2. Stimulating and supporting collaboration and innovation in professional development

  3. Getting more educators connected (to each other)

  4. Deepening and sustaining the learning of those already connected

Without drawing the obvious parallels between the Goals and my personal examples, the success of student learning found within my own classroom was fostered and enhanced by “getting connected”! Content understanding, transformation of knowledge to demonstrate one’s own learning, and searching out connections via social media to support their personal learning were the immediate student transfers.

October may be designated as Connected Educator Month, but building connections, sustaining relationships, and promoting the power of online collaboration should be part of every educator’s daily life! And if you already are a Connected Educator, do your part, get more educators connected!

Connected_Educator_Month

A New Beginning

No, I am not new to the blogging world, and this isn’t my first rodeo; but I have decided to retire my old blog and create a new one. So this is it, welcome! And while I will still write about literacy and technology, this blog will include a larger view of education fostered by new learning and opportunities.

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After thirteen years as a high school English teacher in small town Iowa,  I began a new “edventure” as a school improvement consultant for AEA267 this past August. As with any change, there have been many ups and downs beginning this new career. And when things get tough, besides reaching out to a few of my supports, I remember a post I read last year when I was considering this job offer. Written by Vicki Davis  “Developing a Mindset to Go from Good to Great,” the first sentence has continually resonated with me, “Sometimes in order to be great, you’ve got to leave some good things behind.”

So, after 13 years in the high school I have finally graduated, and just like all of my past seniors, I find myself treading in unfamiliar waters. I am excited, nervous, and continuously learning, all at the same time! And although I left a good school with awesome students; my sails are set, my goals are lofty, and I am eager to meet challenges knowing  great things are ahead!

(p.s. thank you to Aaron Becker, whose small comment encouraging me to share last week has has sparked this change ~ grateful)