Assessments: Some fast ways for classroom use

Here is my latest blog post for Edueto Magazine, published November 25, 2015

 

edueto1

Assessments: What are some fast ways?

Assessments are an area where you could devote a lot of time trying to find the perfect assessment that would enable all students to have an equal opportunity to show what they know and can do with the material. There are many forms available both in the traditional paper format, or perhaps project format, and now with all of the web tools available, there are many more options for assessing students. In prior posts, I mentioned a few of these assessment tools just to give you an idea of what some of the options are that are available to teachers for use in the classroom. I could tell you the ones that I use most frequently but that does not mean these same tools would be the best choice for you and your students. So it depends on what type of assessment you are looking for, formative or summative, and what do you want the students to show by completing it, that’s where I would begin.

Some fun ways to start

Do you want a way to get a quick idea of whether or not the students understand the basic concept or a group of vocabulary words for example? Then you could use something quick such as Kahoot or Quizizz. Or an even quicker way to ask one question possibly to start your class, is to use a tool like PollEverywhere and ask students one question at a time and then look at their answers.  Maybe you are looking for a different way to have students discuss something and need more options available for students to enter longer answers or even include images or other links as part of their answer. Those options are available now as well. But first, for the time being, let me tell you about two tools that I find to be quite useful on a regular basis in my classroom for quick assessments.

Kahoot and Quizizz

Since I have already discussed Kahoot! in my prior blog post, I will only state again that it is a great option for engaging the students, assessing their learning, having data quickly available and having some fun with the students in the process. A newer option that I have been using is one called Quizizz. Quizizz functions in a way similar to Kahoot and other tools like it in that students can access it by entering a join code, teachers can create their own quiz or search for some that are available on the public database. You can add images, provide a variety of choices, mark which answer is correct, but the only difference is that once you launch this assessment, the questions and answers appear on each student’s device.

You can set a timer so that the students have to answer each question within a certain time, but once they answer, they immediately get feedback and are surprised by the appearance of an image, a “meme” if you will, that pops up in between each question, which basically tells them they are either correct or incorrect. It is highly entertaining and the fun part about it in addition to these features is that when watching on the Smartboard you can see in real time how each question is being answered, tallied with correct or incorrect or not answered yet.  The display almost resembles a race and you can see each student’s progress across the screen.  At the end you can access the questions at the bottom, save the data and see how each student answered, look for trends, and so much more. Like some of the other assessment tools, you can have all of the results instantly and download a spreadsheet or a chart to get the feedback. The chart is even color coded to make it easier for you to see the areas that are in need of some additional instruction or use it for any other type of data analysis that you prefer. There are a lot of options available for you to analyze the results, so I recommend you just explore it on your own and find what benefits you and your classroom.

How do the students like Quizizz?

I always like to find out from my students how they feel about some of these tools, I find their input to be very important since in the end they are the ones that are using it.  I want them to be engaged in the activity, enjoy the learning, as well as have some fun in the process. I was excited to try Quizizz for the first time and my students were very excited while playing it, their surprise and reaction to the images that popped up and seeing their progress really did make for a meaningful, engaging experience.  By the way, the options enable you to mix the questions, remove the memes in between questions, and many more choices.

How about some discussion or online collaboration?

Another tool that you may consider if you have not already used it or heard of it is Today’s Meet. Today’s Meet is a backchannel discussion tool and is a great way that you can quickly create a question for discussion in your classroom or as I have used it in the past, set it up similar to online office hours where you are available for students to ask questions live, and it keeps track of the questions and you have a transcript available for others who may have similar questions. But it is a great way to discuss any variety of topics in class, perhaps during a video or another activity.  It also gives students an alternate method of responding which does not require paper but they can simply connect to the room through their phone or device and enter their name and their response. People can comment back and forth to each other and it really is a quick way to open up discussion in the classroom can be used at the start of class before even beginning the lesson to determine opinions or ideas that students may already have about a certain topic.

How does it work?

To begin, once you have created an account if you want, creating a room for your meeting is very simple.  All you need to do is go to the website, create a name for your room and share the link with whoever you need to access the room. You can choose to have it open for a specific period of time, you can even create an account and claim that room and use it as an ongoing basis. Whatever your needs are, quick answers or more extended discussion topics, Today’s Meet would be a very easy tool to begin using in your classroom. It does not require any of the users to have any login information other than the link and the transcript of all conversations can be saved and referred to later if needed.

 

So as I said there are many more choices available for assessing or having your students be more involved in a discussion, but if you want to start off quickly, these would be two really good ways that you can start. In my next discussion, I will add on a few other ways that you can use for classroom discussion, backchannel chatting and alternate assessments for your students. Thank you for reading, please contact me with any comments or questions I look forward to hearing from you. Twitter: @rdene915

The past week

This past week  MEDIUM

I love the fact that there is always something to be learned, every day, from anyone. New experiences, new takes on something, new perspectives, learning takes many forms. This past week has been no exception. With the start of #21stedchat last week and learning about Medium straight through the end of the week, I learned many different tools and concepts for use in my classroom.

It is exciting to have the opportunity to share this with my students and colleagues. I am thankful for all of the interactions I have with family, friends, my PLN and all who I come in contact with each day. Without these people, I would not have the same inspiration and motivation I have for continuing my learning journey. I am excited for new learning opportunities this week and for trying some new web tools and ideas with my students and getting their feedback. And I look forward to some time over the break to catch up with family and friends and to spend time working with these new great ideas I have learned from my Twitter friends, colleagues and students.

Recent post as part of EdSurge article, thrilled to be able to contribute

Thanks to edSurge for this opportunity. November 5, 2015EdSurge

Crowdsourcing Professional Development: Six Tips From Tech-Savvy Teachers

Rob GrimshawRob Grimshaw
Nov 5, 2015


Nearly all teachers are now using digital tools in the classroom, but according to a recent study from the Gates Foundation, most aren’t satisfied with the effectiveness of those tools. That’s not entirely surprising: the edtech community hasn’t historically been intentional about giving teachers a seat at the table. Rather than spending time in the classrooms or designing tools that respond to the needs of teachers, edtech giants design solutions that “work great, if only we could get teachers to use them properly!”

But teachers aren’t waiting for the tech industry to play catch-up. We’re witnessing the birth of “crowdsourced PD” as tech-savvy teachers share millions of resources online, exchanging tips and techniques to make edtech work for their kids and classrooms—and solving a few real-world challenges along the way.

Since launching our marketplace earlier this year, we’ve had the chance to meet dozens of inspiring, innovative teachers. We asked them for recommendations on how to best find and deploy tech in the classroom, and their responses could prove useful to other teachers and edtech companies alike. Here are some of the highlights:

Start with Your #1 Challenge

Rachelle Poth, a high school teacher in Pennsylvania, had this advice for tech developers: there is no point in tech for tech’s sake. Instead, start with the biggest—often overlooked—challenges like parent engagement, student engagement or classroom management. For teachers: Focus on integrating something new to address a challenge or opportunity in one area, then fully explore its capabilities before adding another tool. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you try too many things at once.

Rachelle has seen this work first-hand with Celly, the first tool she integrated into her classroom. “Initially, I wanted Celly to eliminate the disconnect I often felt with students. I used the tool to send reminders to students about what they needed for class, or, if students were absent, to tell them what they missed.” Over a two year period, Rachelle’s use of Celly expanded. Today, she uses the tool to “answer student questions, send images of text and worksheets, provide helpful links, take a poll, organize activities and even have a scavenger hunt.” By starting with a specific challenge and expanding over time, a tool identified to address a communications “disconnect” wound up playing a much larger role in her classroom.

Safety First

Teachers are telling us that data privacy is a critical priority. Rachelle’s guidance: “Whenever I look for online resources I always ask myself two questions: is the resource secure and private? Can I monitor the activity of my students?” Look for the privacy policy, and don’t ignore the fine print. Ed tech privacy policies should be written in plain English. Freemium tools should not require detailed information, or a credit card up front. And if the website displays inappropriate advertisements, that’s clearly a red flag. Once the technology is implemented, many teachers work with students on using pseudonyms when they create logins and create a regular habit of resetting passwords.

Beta Test on Yourself

James Cho, a fifth grade teacher from New Jersey, told me that before he implements a resource, he always creates a student account first and interacts with the product as if he were a student. Cho gauges how user-friendly the product is by trying various settings and scenarios on different devices. When using something new, it’s important to understand how it can benefit all types of learning styles.

Ask Students for Input

If the resource passes your test, it’s time to ask the toughest judges: the students. The most successful tools are ones that engage and excite students, prompting them to ask if and when they can use them again. Joe Fosum, a seventh grade teacher in California, has nominated a small group of students in his class called “tech gurus,” who try new tools and provide feedback. This can be a great way to help teachers decide between two similar products, since students often give honest insight into what best helps them learn.

Consider the Long-term Cost

To make an impact, tech should not only work within a classroom or school budget–it has to work at scale, without imposing massive time or financial costs.

Cost-conscious teachers often take advantage of free trials, which buys them time to explore, research, and collect student feedback. Jessica Cobin, a third grade teacher in California, encourages teachers not to get discouraged if a company’s website doesn’t promote previews or free trials. She recommends emailing or calling customer support to ask for one; chances are, they’ll be eager to oblige.

Jessica also encourages teachers to scrutinize user reviews of new technologies, which could reveal hidden costs or fees over time and help you better understand if cost will be an issue in the future. Do products offer discounts as the number of users increase and usage scales? Or, are there hidden costs that kick in as more teachers get on board? Some products appear to have low costs but require an upfront investment in “systems integration” to upload the data that makes them useful. Don’t forget that your time has value as well – ask vendors whether their products can communicate with your student information system, or if they’re reliant on manual data entry to scale. Save yourself time by asking questions early. What might work well in one classroom might not work district-wide if the time or financial burden for teachers is too great.

Fail Early, and Often

Even if you do everything right, experimentations with technology could still fall flat. James Cho is a risk taker like so many tech-savvy teachers that we’ve met, and he told me that greatness can’t be achieved without a tremendous amount of trial and error. He believes that “failure should be seen as a wonderful opportunity for learning rather than a hindrance. True learning happens when students move beyond the boundaries of their comfort zone, so teachers should constantly find new ways to challenge students with the technology at hand.”

Understanding the education technology landscape can be a full time job—not easy when you already have one—and it involves changing lives in the classroom. As technology evolves and improves, I expect the education community will also find ways to streamline the research and implementation process. Meanwhile, teachers should continue leveraging the greatest tool in their arsenal: one another.

Rob Grimshaw is the CEO of TES Global. You can find him on Twitter @r_g.

Imagine Easy: Recent Post I wrote on Project-Based Learning, Published October 26, 2015

Available at: Imagine Easy

IMAGINE

Project-based learning (PBL) is something that I have integrated into my classes more over the past few years. I started thinking about alternate ways to have students:

  • produce authentic assessments,
  • enable them to use something that was interesting and engaging for them, and
  • would provide some real-world experiences.

Project-based learning not only provides opportunities for students to collaborate or drive their learning, but it also teaches them to problem solve, and helps to develop skills integral to their future, such as critical thinking and time management.

SUPPORTING ALL STUDENTS

As a foreign language teacher, I need to assess my students in a variety of ways on a regular basis. As we all know, not every person learns the same way or has the same interests. In terms of assessment, some students can learn the material really well, but when a traditional test is given, their information and knowledge somehow disappears.

When this first happened in my classes, I began looking more at ways to assess my students–but to provide assessments which led to more authentic and personalized work. I wanted to provide an equal opportunity for students to achieve success in showing what they know (and can do) with the information that they have learned.

A great way to do this is through project-based learning. There are an increasing number of tools available for use in the classroom that enable students to have a choice and be creative, while also learning valuable technology skills.  These tools give students options for showing what it is they have learned and can do with the material, but in a way that is comfortable and relevant and meets their interests and needs.

BENEFITS OF USING DIGITAL TOOLS FOR PBL

The options provide students with a variety of choices for showing their creativity, make learning more meaningful, and they become more engaged in what they are doing.

Many tools are available, both on the web and as apps, that serve to engage, motivate, and inspire students to learn more. The benefit of using web tools for PBL is twofold.

First, students can create something vibrant, engaging, and meaningful because they have put their personal touches on it and, as a result, attach the content material with what they have created. They retain the information better because they have created something for a real world experience.

It also teaches them the vital technology skills that they need moving forward, and gives them skills that can be used in other classes, and for their future. Learning to create multimedia presentations, quickly access resources, and communicate with others helps to empower students, and give them more control in their learning and growth process.

PAPER OR DIGITAL, PBL BENEFITS EVERYONE

There are many options available for project-based learning, whether it be in the traditional paper format style or through technology. Either way, giving students the opportunity to create a project to evidence the learning is beneficial. It not only leads to authentic products and meets the students where they are, but also gives them an opportunity to express themselves more, because it is more personalized and pertinent to their needs and interests. PBL leads to a more student-centered classroom and provides opportunities for students to learn from one another.

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