Quality Assessment

According to J.S. McTighe, there are 7 key principles to effective assessment. They are:

  1. Establish Clear Performance Targets
  2. Strive for Authenticity in Products and Performances
  3. Publicize Criteria and Performance Standards
  4. Provide Models of Excellence
  5. Teach Strategies Explicitly
  6. Use On-Going Assessments for Feedback and Adjustment
  7. Document and Celebrate Success

I feel like my project covers most of these to varying degrees.

  1. It establishes clear performance targets by providing clear expectations related to outcomes. The rubrics and checklists that I have developed so far are all related to outcomes and have clear expectations and provide a pathway to success.
  2. The products and tasks are related to real world activities. Creating advertisements, either through video, pamphlets or websites require 21st century skills of creation and collaboration. There are also skills involved that relate to 21st century tools as well.
  3. The criteria are public and communicated with students prior to beginning the project. They are also flexible depending on student feedback and needs.
  4. I think providing models of excellence is an area that I am lacking. I think this could be covered by having exemplars for the students to follow. I may not have any specific student examples, but we can use examples from other real word places to examine pamphlets, tourist ads and websites.
  5. The assessment provides specific areas for students to research and create. Perhaps there could be more emphasis placed on the research process in itself. This is an important outcome as well and perhaps something that I overlooked.
  6. There are several checkpoints within the project. They take the form of checklists on modules within the project, as well as self reflection on blogs and rubrics that can be used for self and peer assessment.
  7. Students will be able to see the success that they are having with the project through checkpoints mentioned earlier. The project follows a linear path and has specific outcomes that need to be met. Feedback will be provided throughout the project which will allow students to go back and make adjustments as they proceed.
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Driving Question

This week the focus of our project was creating a driving question. What I came to understand is that a driving question is one that needs to be quite general but still connected to the outcomes. The reason that it cannot be too specific is that it would be too constrictive and limit exploration by the students. I used the analogy of bumper rails in my class discussion forum. Young bowlers might use bumper rails to help them keep the ball from going in the gutter, but it still has room to move freely down the lane. That is what the guiding question does. It allows students to stay within the parameters of the outcomes but freedom to explore the topic through their own lense and style.

We also created sub-questions. These I discovered are very important for keeping a project on track. Because a driving question is so general, the sub-questions are very important to students and teachers to ensure that the necessary information is being learned and that the final project will cover all of the necessary outcomes. When I completed my sub-questions, I went directly to my program of studies and framed the outcomes as questions. This made me feel more comfortable about the project because I recognize that these questions will most likely be the backbone of my assessment later in the project.

 

PBL Phase 1

My first experience with PBL has excited me about the potential it can bring to the classes I teach. I have had PBL in my class more by accident than intentionally. However, I have certain projects that have been “go to” projects that I have tweaked from year to year. I have especially enjoyed watching how engaged that the students become during these projects. The learning is evident in the final products and I often leave these projects sad to move on because of how much energy they brought to the classroom. The projects that I looked at all had varying degrees of usefulness. I like that they all started with the outcomes, which is important when trying to assist people new to PBL see the importance of and significance of PBL as a learning tool. Having essential questions as anchors to always go back to will ensure that PBL is staying focused on what is important.

Although none of the projects that I researched would be applicable to what we are doing in our class, I can see certain examples that I could “remix” to fit the needs of my class. I am borrowing from  a project that I saw called “I am San Diego”. I am going to alter it to meet the learning outcomes of our Grade 3 Social Studies class. In this class, the students are required to investigate the four countries of Peru, Tunisia, Ukraine, and India. The project that I am planning would have the students take on the role of a recruiter trying to encourage people in Canada to visit or work in one of these countries. The essential questions would be:

  1. Who are the people of Peru/Tunisia/Ukraine/India?
  2. What makes Peru/Tunisia/Ukraine/India a place where people want to live? 
  3. How is living in Peru/Tunisia/Ukraine/India the same as living in Canada?
  4. How is living in Peru/Tunisia/Ukraine/India the different than living in Canada?

The students will be asked to create one of the following products:

  1. Video advertisement
  2. Paper brochure
  3. Website

This is what I have come up with so far. I would love some feedback about anything you might feel is relevant.

EdTech 541 Final Entry

Part One: Reflection

I have learned a great deal about how to integrate technology into the Grade 4 science unit, Waste and Our World. This was really insightful for me because this was a new course for me to teach this year. It was great to do some planning simultaneously with my coursework and made for a much better learning environment for my students. One of the most beneficial modules was on game-based learning. This was an area of deficiency for me. I often focus on how students can create using technology. This leads me down the path of doing a lot of work with video and presentations. Gaming is something unique for me and I look forward to implementing this in my planning and teaching going forward.

This coursework helped me to develop my overall awareness of the AECT standards through the lens of science. I often start with the program of studies, which is what teachers should do. But putting an extra filter for technology is excellent practice. I felt like in this course I spent a great deal of time on the Assessing standard. I was constantly questioning if the tools were the best and most appropriate for the task at hand and if they actually improved learning. I think this is especially true for teachers that are excited about technology. We sometimes get caught up in using technology because it is fun, but we should be constantly examining if the tools chosen are the best for the job. Technology should be consistently used but only when it adds value. If the technology chosen does not accomplish this, then another should be looked at or possibly something other than technology.

I have recently become a school administrator and one of my main objectives is to move technology forward in the school. The theory presented by Roblyer, as well as the practice element in the assignments, has caused me to look at technology more critically. Designing learning experiences that are based on curricular objectives is key. The coursework forced me to do this. As a result, I have a new wealth of resources to share with my staff, but I also have a process to share with them. That is the most important part. Sharing my coursework with them would be a great exemplar, but going through the process of designing meaningful learning activities will be where the “gold” is for me professionally.

The curating of resources has been one of the biggest impacts on my teaching practice. Not only did I obtain great resources for Grade Four Science, but it was also very beneficial to read the work of my classmates. There was some amazing work that was done throughout the semester and I look forward to tapping into it. Not all of it was grade specific to my grade level, but like all good ideas, it can be modified to meet my needs. Since I started my journey in EdTech, I often tell people that I have not had an original thought. I just borrow and remix others and try to make them better for me and my students. This course provided me with ample opportunities to do both.

A great deal of the projects and assignments that I created have their foundations in a constructivist approach. They require students to apply knowledge that they have obtained and applied it in different ways. Examples include identifying ways to manage waste and how to limit it. The learning experiences were not necessarily teacher driven, but teacher selected and technology allowed students to deepen their own learning. In a Behaviorist environment, the teacher would have transmitted the knowledge to the students. In the activities created during this course, the role of the teacher was to provide the best resources possible so that students could explore the outcomes on their own and make meaning of them.

Part Two: Blog Assessment

I found blogging to be one of the most challenging items in this course. Not because it was hard, but because I am not the greatest reflector. I am more task-oriented and I sometimes felt like, “oh yeah, I have to do the blog now”, when I was finished the “real work”. However, I have felt that blogging has developed a part of my brain that I do not normally focus on. Being self-reflective is a very important part of teaching and this was a good reminder of that. It also forced me to think about the “why” I chose to do certain things in my course and professional work. This makes me question if I am indeed getting the best bang for my buck when choosing learning activities for my students and staff. Here is my assessment of my work on the rubric scale:

Content 70/70:

I think my bogs show a good level of self-reflection. This was true from my successes and areas of growth. I tried to consistently make connections to my coursework and my professional work.

Readings & Resources 18/20

I consistently used readings from the coursework, as well as other online articles in my blogs. My citations were in APA, but if I am honest, I am always a little unsure of my formatting, particularly with in-text citations. I can see this being an area that I could lose a mark or two.

Timeliness (19/20)

I always tried to have my blogs submitted by Sunday night and I was usually successful with that endeavor. It should have perhaps been a place that I started, instead of finished because it was sometimes the place where I struggled the most with motivation,

Responses to Other Student (25/30)

I am going to admit, I missed a couple of weeks throughout the semester. However, I did find that reading blogs was one of the more enlightening parts of the coursework. I learn a lot by reading others work and this was something that I looked forward to. I also enjoyed reading how others responded to my entries. The feedback was always insightful and pushed my thoughts forward as well.

Chromebook Accessibility Features

“With accessibility features, as well as free or low-cost applications and extensions, text-to-speech is not only a useful tool, it is a practical tool.” (Bone & Bouck, 2016) This is a simple yet profound statement about how low-cost technology can impact a classroom. I have been a Chromebook junkie for quite some time. I began using Google Apps regularly in my classroom 5 years ago. The following year, I partook in a pilot project that enabled my grade three class to become a one: one class.  I remember not being totally accustomed to the ins and outs of these new devices. One day, as the students were quietly working, a Chromebook started to “speak” to the class. This, of course, caused a commotion, what I didn’t realize was that the Chromebook was indirectly leading us to one of the most important functions. A student had inadvertently turned on the accessibility feature “Chromevox”. Little did I know, that would become an important tool for a blind student who was working in a high needs classroom in our school.

Chromebooks have revolutionized learning at our school since. Not only because they are cost-effective, but they offer quick and easy accessibility features for students with high to low needs, which allows them to independently complete work perhaps not possible before. The Chromebooks work on the Chrome operating system. The Chromevox feature mentioned earlier is designed for students with visual impairments. Whenever an option or function is scrolled over on the screen by the mouse, the students is given verbal notifications. The Chromebook also offers other features for the visually impaired. There is high contrast mode, which provides a darker background screen and lighter for front colors to allow better visibility for students that have difficulties viewing the content on the screen. There is also a screen magnifier which allows the user to scroll their mouse over certain objects and make them appear larger on the screen. There is also the large Mouse option which magnifies the size of the mouse and makes it easier to maneuver on screen.

For students with physical disabilities, there are accessibility features that allow the Chromebooks to be more accessible. This includes automatic clicks and highlight mouse cursor which allows students with fine motor skills to perform mouse actions without using the mouse. The onscreen keyboard allows those that have limited typing ability with their fingers to communicated through typed word. There are also many extensions that allow for speech to text. This includes Read and Write for Google.

Ultimately, technology can become the great equalizer in education. Tasks that used to require readers, scribes, or direct assistance from another adult, can now be completed independently. This allows students to gain confidence and frees up teachers and educational assistance to help more students. The accessibility features within the Chrome operating system, as well as extra extensions and apps that are available for download, make Chromebooks a purchase that makes for a high return on investment.  

Works Cited

Bone, E. K., & Bouck, E. C. (2016, 06). Accessible text-to-speech options for students who struggle with reading. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 61(1), 48-55. doi:10.1080/1045988x.2016.1188366

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching.

Obstacles to Using Technology in Science

Obstacles to using technology are something that is near and dear to my heart. As a former Edtech turned school administrator, much of my time is spent trying to limit the obstacles and make it as easy as possible for students and teachers to unlock the potential of technology in their classroom.

Science is an area that technology offers a great deal of potential. From accessing experts, utilizing simulations, or having students demonstrate their learning in new ways like creating movies and podcasts, science can come to life through technology. Unfortunately, there can be several obstacles that keep this from happening. This includes teacher professional development, access to science-specific tools, or cost of devices and tools related to science.

Low levels of science content or computer knowledge and training have been perceived as a barrier to providing technology-rich learning environments in science class. (Songer, Lee, Kam, 2002) This is something that has become very true with the teachers in my district. For several years, teachers had access to science Gizmos that were funded at a provincial level. These gizmos allowed students to experience simulations in science from circuits to chemical reactions. Suddenly, the funding for this at the provincial level was pulled and teachers could no longer access it. Many of the proposed replacements were either inadequate or too expensive to use. As a result, teachers were frustrated to have adopted a technology, only to have it taken away. The fact that there were limited resources to replace these tools speaks to the fact that there are a limited number of quality resources for teachers to adopt.

Professional development is an important obstacle to overcome. Established teachers that I have spoken to, particularly in high school, have a hard time being convinced to adopt new techniques because they often feel that they lack the time to learn and adopt new methods involving technology. However, when given the time to practice and become comfortable with new tools, they experience greater success. Having a mentor on staff or within the district that has expertise in technology and science helps to increase adoption rates. Having mentors and example classes that can demonstrate the power of using gizmos and interactive whiteboards to bring topics alive, can be motivating and encouraging. It also eliminates the “I don’t know what I don’t know” ignorance around technology tools. Another possible option is online PD opportunities. There are many resources available for teachers in the form of distance education that have science specific training modules. (Roblyer, 2015) Interactive tools and movie creation apps can allow students to demonstrate their learning in new and engaging ways other than notes and tests. Also, helping teachers identify experts in their field will allow them to grow professionally as well as opening their students to different perspectives as well as provide information about potential future career options.

The last common obstacle is around cost. Many devices that are utilized in “new sciences” like robotics are expensive. At a time when cutbacks are the new norm, investing in expensive gadgets can seem like a luxury. Convincing stakeholders that investing money in new ways may mean that older things may have to be let go. There can be a resistance to doing this when the old way seems to work just fine, but educators and stakeholders must ask themselves what will be the best investment in students’ futures if we want to develop and train a new generation of scientists.

Resources

Roblyer, M. D. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching.

Songer, N. B., Lee, H., & Kam, R. (2002, 01). Technology-rich inquiry science in urban classrooms: What are the barriers to inquiry pedagogy? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 39(2), 128-150. doi:10.1002/tea.10013

Integrating Technology into Math and Science

Science is not meant to be taught from a textbook. In order for it to truly come alive in the classroom, science needs to be experienced. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to allow students to leave the four walls of their school to experience science first hand. Fortunately, through the use of technology, it is possible to bring authentic learning experiences to students.

When used effectively, science teachers have the immense ability to transform learning. I remember as a student in the pre-internet days “surviving” science class. Studying revolved around memorizing theory and facts from an old worn out textbook. My only memories of science coming alive were doing dissections during high school Biology classes. My level of engagement continually decreased, reaching its low point in high school. I look at the possibilities of how science can look today with envy and awe. Envy as a former student about how I could have experienced it and awe as a teacher of the potential to unlock the possibilities.

The old textbook from years gone past can give way to new inquiry-based approaches to learning. Simulations and gizmos can provide students with close to real-world learning experiences. Static pictures in a textbook can now be replaced with interactive simulators that actually demonstrate important concepts like Newton’s Laws of Physics or the chemical reaction that occurs when an airbag goes off. Not only are these important concepts to learn, they do not have to be learned in isolation. Students can view them in real life scenarios where they may actually use them in their future careers.

This not only applies to practicing skills through the use of technology. 21st Century tools can also be leveraged to provide access to experts in different fields of science. It is such a large area of expertise that it is impossible for one teacher to have complete knowledge of every facet of science. However, many classrooms are now utilizing Skype or Google Hangouts to connect to experts. Geologists, Biologists, and Nuclear Physicists are all a click of a mouse from being interviewed by a classroom of curious students. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became famous for his openness to share with students and bring the solar system into their classrooms through technology tools.

The trick becomes how do we make this common practice in our schools. Many teachers that I encounter have the will to adopt STEM-based inquiry learning into their classroom. They struggle with the skill aspect. As a result science classes have not changed a great deal from the ones that I grew up in. Elementary students often learn about scientific theory and the nature of science rather than doing scientific investigations for themselves. (DeJarnette, 2012) The key is to support teachers in their quest to become comfortable adopting change into their practice. One of the challenges with adopting STEM-based inquiry learning is the scaling back of control and structure that the teacher must adopt. This is especially tricky in elementary classes where many teachers are more comfortable with classrooms that have rows of desks and students working quietly. Research has shown that in order for teachers to overcome their reluctance to use technology is through leadership. This includes having a mentor within their district or building that can act as a coach and sounding board. This could take the form of a technology coordinator, a school administrator or fellow teacher. This person has to make it comfortable for others to try new things, embrace failure and celebrate successes. Without this kind of support, technology use in all classes, especially math and science, have difficulties moving beyond surface level transformation.

Children have a natural curiosity about the world which should be enhanced by the combination of science and technology. It will not only help them understand the world that they live in, but also prepare them for the one that they will grow up in.

Sources Cited

DeJarnette, N. (2012). America’s children: Providing early exposure to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiatives. Education, 133(1), 77-84.

Green, A. M., & Kent, A. M. (2016). Developing Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders Through a Math, Science & Technology Initiative. The Professional Educator, 40(1), 1.

Relative Advantage of Using Digital Games for Content Area Learning

Parents and teachers alike are often concerned with the amount of game time that students expose themselves to. In my previous role as an EdTech coordinator, it was often confessed to me by other teachers that they had difficulty keeping students’ attention “these days”. This was because they felt as though they had to compete with common devices like Playstation, X-Box or other online gaming options. The response that I often communicated was, “if you cannot beat them, join them”. The rationale behind this response was because I am aware that there are many options for teachers to explore when it comes to utilizing games in the Classroom. Unfortunately, teachers either distrust the use of games in the classroom, or they do not know where to get started. However, once they are opened up to the potential of gaming, many teachers become sold on the idea.

The first benefit of games in the classroom is around engagement.  Students that are exposed to games are more likely to experience an emotional connection to the work. Student engagement is defined as, “select(ing) tasks at the border of their competencies, initiate action when given the opportunity, and exert intense effort and concentration in the implementation of learning tasks; they show generally positive emotions during ongoing action, including enthusiasm, optimism, curiosity, and interest”. (Lester & Spires  et.al, 2014) Students are far more likely to invest themselves in activities they enjoy. There is no better way to ensure this than by tapping into what they do in their free time. One of the points of interest is that it appears that both boys and girls benefit from the use of games. In Lester & Spires et. al., investigation of Crystal Island: Uncharted Discovery, a science game aimed towards upper elementary students, both boys and girls experienced learning benefits from gaming to learn science. On the surface, it seems obvious that if we want to engage students we need to tap into their interests. This can be tricky when we feel like we need to tap into the individual interests of a classroom full of students. However, it appears that gaming maybe a common interest area amongst most students. 

Games based learning also provides possibilities as an online tutoring tool. Students can reinforce their skills at home in an interactive manner. The best gaming experiences are not just reward oriented, informing students when they have been successful (ie. earning points etc.) or when they are not successful (game is over or loss of points). Games should instruct students where their mistakes were made and how to correct them. When these elements are present, the game becomes a much more effective and independent tool for the student. Students will play games after school on their own free will. If gaming can be combined with homework and studying, this is a win-win for everyone involved.

It is also being proven that games based learning can help students learn in a more authentic and real-life environment, particularly in science classes. According to Li, games based learning helps students collaborate in authentic learning environments that cannot be reproduced through textbooks and note taking. (Li, 2013). Students often enter school with a natural curiosity about the world and their environment but this often does not sustain itself. Science is a very difficult subject to teach in a classroom. The more teachers can find ways to connect learning to real life, the more engaged students are in the process and the more likely the learning will be transferable beyond the classroom walls.

Games based education cannot replace good teachers and teaching. However, it is an excellent supplement to engage and assist students in their learning. There are still limitations that need to be worked out. For example, connecting games to specific learner outcomes or ensuring that students are learning authentically through real-life situations and not simply rote repetition and memorization. However, I do not think that it is necessarily a bad thing that there are shortcomings to games in the classroom. I have witnessed scenarios where teachers become overly reliant sites like IXL Math. Tools like this can become the main form of instruction which is not ideal for learning. I do not feel games can ever replace teachers, they can only help them and their students by enhancing the learning experiences in a fun and engaging manner.

Works Cited

Lester, J. C., Spires, H. A., Nietfeld, J. L., Minogue, J., Mott, B. W., & Lobene, E. V. (2014). Designing game-based learning environments for elementary science education: A narrative-centered learning perspective. Information Sciences264, 4-18.

Li, M. C., & Tsai, C. C. (2013). Game-based learning in science education: A review of relevant research. Journal of Science Education and Technology22(6), 877-898.

 

 

Acceptable Use Policies

The purpose of an Acceptable Use Policy is to provide guidelines for appropriate use of technology on school-based networks and devices. For this assignment, I examined several Acceptable Use Policies from local school districts, including my own, Edmonton and Calgary public schools. I also referenced one from California.  Their main purpose is to guard students, staff and school districts from the ethical and legal ramifications of the unacceptable use of technology.
Effective AUPs generally outline why they are necessary. This AUP from Edmonton Public School board in Canada clearly states who should have access to networks and how they should be using it. Some AUPs explicitly state that all Internet traffic should be used with the intent of furthering the educational goals of the district. However, there is increasing demands on public agencies like educational institutions to provide Internet access to anyone who sets foot on or near their premises. This often becomes parcelled with the debate as to whether wifi is an essential service or not. That being said, if it is an essential service, school divisions still need a say in the types of activities occurring on their network. This protects them from being liable for activities that could detrimental to student learning, or worse case, illegal.
Another reason for providing a Framework for proper use is to ensure the overall health of the network. Activities that are outside of educational purposes like streaming or downloading movies from services like Netflix are a heavy burden on bandwidth. This has a negative impact on students who are trying to access information quickly and effectively. Also, as we are all aware, there is a danger of inflicting viruses by downloading certain content from services like peer to peer sharing that can not only affect the network, but also the devices that are on that network.
Acceptable use policies also need to take into account student-owned devices. This is where ownership of the network is critical. We want to promote students bringing their own devices to school, in order to increase the overall access to technology within a building. That being said, it is important for students to understand that they have the right to use their device, but it is still a public network and with that comes the expectation that they will follow the guidelines set out by the provider. This is a good life lesson because this is the case in any setting which provides public internet access, from coffee shops to hotels. It is important for students to understand that it is not only schools that are expecting them to follow a particular set of standards, but any public wifi that they access as well.
Effective AUPs tend to follow a structure. A good one is outlined on the Education World website. The structure they recommend includes such things as a definition and policy statement, as well as sections dedicated to acceptable and unacceptable uses. For all students, I think it is important to frame the AUP in positive language. In younger grades, it would be easy for students to begin questioning if the online world is something to be scared of. As students get older and using online tools more frequently, it becomes easier for them to tune this “thou shalt not” message out because the social benefits appear to outweigh the risks. Also, for many, the risks do not cultivate into meaningful dangers immediately so they continue to experiment until something does go wrong. Using the AUP to frame positive behaviors at the younger age, combined with effective modeling helps students see themselves as digital citizens from an early age and make positive decisions.

Lastly, AUPs need to be the backbone of digital citizenship training within schools. If students are expected to sign this agreement, it needs to be referred to regularly. In our school, students are asked to sign the document, but in many cases, they do so without actually reading what is expected of them. Students are then reminded of it when something goes wrong. Making the AUP a living and breathing document will increase its validity to students and leverage it as a learning tool for net etiquette and digital citizenship.

References
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/curr093.shtml

(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.scholastic.com/librarians/tech/techpolicy.htm

1-to-1 Essentials – Acceptable Use Policies | Common Sense Media. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/educators/1to1/aups