Assessment: Who’s in Control?

Originally posted on Inquiry Within.

Inquire Within

What if students were able to choose when and what they wanted to be assessed on?  That simple question was posed by colleague, recently to me in a staffroom chat.  It quickly exploded into an hour long discussion, that resulted in about 2 weeks worth of work on re-imagining my classroom experience for next year.

I think I was alway comfortable with the idea of students choosing their own topics or concepts for inquiry, but I was never able to come up with many good assessments that allowed for good student initiated action.  It was hard to think of open ended assignments.  My colleague’s question allowed for an end-around to the problem of the teacher structuring tasks, and then making students fit their learning and inquiry into the teacher’s structure and time-frame.

Luckily, I teach within an MYP context, so there are skill driven objectives set out for…

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Infographics in Abundance

I’m always a little bit wary of info graphics, largely because as a scientist/mathematician I want to see the raw data too, just to make sure sure I agree with the presentation of the data.  However, that doesn’t mean that all info graphics are incorrect and they are increasingly more popular, so teaching students to evaluate them is an important 21st century skill.

The Aside Blog has a fantastic page full of links to various info graphics for you to use in class.  I also love the video they highlight by Column Five which talks about specific visualization strategies for presenting data.  So if you’re interested in data visualization and info graphics, head on over to the blog and start indulging your inner data geek.

CheckThis: Student websites without a login.

Have you ever wanted to have students create a website, but either a) students did not have accounts on an appropriate hosting site (i.e. wordpress, blogger, google sites, wikispaces, etc), or b) you don’t want students to waste time on complex coding or layout?  If so, then CheckThis.com might be what you’re looking for.

This site is a simple tool for creating websites for quick feedback, but without the hassle of having to log in.  It’s as simple as heading over to CheckThis.com and clicking the Start a page now tab.

You or your students will be directed to a blank slate ready to insert information and links quickly.  Add a title, and then select one of the green tab options to insert text, a link, or a video.  Unfortunately there is no content uploading feature, so images and videos need to be hosted on Flickr or YouTube rather directly on the page.

Once you have inserted your content, then in the top right corner of the page you can select from a few options before publishing.

Selecting the Settings Gear will allow you to mark the page public/private/hidden, as well as how long the page will last.  This second feature is great for concerns of privacy.  Students work can be marked Hidden and to expire in One Week.  This will give you time to assess the information, but greatly reduce the chances of someone maliciously finding your students.  This combined with the anonymous nature of publishing provides parameters for strong protection of students that other publishing platforms cannot provide.

The Paint Drop will bring up various Appearance options such as the background image and basic color selections.  This will allow you to customize your page, but not provide so many distractions for students needing to quickly publish their information.

When the page is completed, selecting the Publish option will allow students to publish their site without a sign-in or opt to use Twitter, Facebook, or Google to save their work.  If work is published without a sign in, a link is given to bookmark for future editing if modifications are needed.

Suggested Student Uses:

  • Quick 1-2 period websites to present research
  • Share group brainstorms with the rest of class
  • Create a website instead of a report and include video and images

Suggested Teacher Uses:

  • Create quick web portals for various learning topics
  • Create quizzes that will expire in one week
  • Make a simple class website

Twitter

Twitter is by far one of the most useful PD tools I have come across.  I was at first skeptical, and like many thought it was for finding out when celebrities did silly things.  One of my colleagues convinced me to try it out for educational resource sharing, and I haven’t looked back since!

Twitter allows you to follow who you want to follow.  It also allows you to look where you want to find information.  Use hashtags to find relevant information (#edtech, #edchat, #math, #science, #flippedclassroom, #etc).

Personally I use a twitter feed embedded into my class page to send quick updates without having to access the page code.  That allows me to share information with students quickly, without them having to have a Twitter account.  Those that do have accounts can also share with others on the class page.  This in combination with Google Calendars means I don’t really need to edit my main class page all year!

It’s a bit tough if you’re using WordPress to embed a Twitter Widget, but if you use another platform such as Moodle, Google Sites, Blogger, or any program that let’s you embed objects, then you can easily include custom searches or profiles.  You can check out my G7 Science homepage if you’re interested to see how I use it on a regular basis.

TED Talks

TED’s tagline is: Ideas Worth Spreading.  Sounds like education to me!  Some of TED’s talks are great at motivating teachers to teach better; some are great for motivating students to want to learn; others are great specific examples of ideas and topics you may be teaching.

Be careful when you head over to TED.com or you might find yourself chewing up 20 hours of time!  It is an addictive place to get motivated.

If you’re interested in using TED Talks on your own website, you can easily click the SHARE button just below the video.

After you have selected SHARE, then you will see various options for embedding.  If you are a WORDPRESS user make sure to grab the specific code so that it will show up appropriately in your blog.  Otherwise, grab the embed code and insert into your own page.

Here are a few of my favorite examples!


Be “Less Helpful…”

Or so Dan Meyer suggests.

Check out his TEDx talk on how we can help our students better learn mathematics, by being purposely less helpful.  I have started to integrate problems like this in my own G7 classroom, and have found that it has increased engagement, collaboration, and inquiry amongst students.

Dan also has tons of great ideas to use in your own classroom.  I highly recommend Dan Meyer’s 3 Acts: Incredible Shrinking DollarShower vs Bath?A Lousy Mathematical Problem, especially Graphing Stories!