Digital Formative Assessment

Early in my career as an educator, I became a staunch proponent of utilizing technological resources to collect and analyze assessment data.  I’ve spent countless hours collaborating in the creation of digital assessments and providing training in how to use various platforms to evaluate assessments. All of this, ultimately, with the express purpose of giving kids the information needed to improve their learning.  With technology, the feedback could be instantaneous and that’s the beauty of it. My collaborative efforts, however, focused mostly on summative data.

It wasn’t until the past few years that I actually began to explore more tools for formative assessment.  To me, I could always rely on whiteboards, observation, and discussion to elicit data and monitor student progress.  A little circulation around the class to see what students are producing and well planned questions for understanding allow a quick idea of how a class is doing.  I knew that being able to make informed decisions in the moment and providing corrective feedback ongoing throughout the lesson was essential to success, I just wasn’t putting enough consideration in how digital resources could improve efficacy in this aspect of assessment.

As outlined in the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, there are four attributes to Formative Assessment. They occur in a cycle involving clarifying intended learning, eliciting evidence, interpreting evidence, and acting on that evidence.  This process should be fluid and ongoing throughout instruction to enable students and teachers to give and receive actionable feedback to improve learning.

Timely and specific feedback right in the thick of learning is essential to student learning.

So how can teachers use digital resources to implement strategies that may help in this endeavor?  One possible method, I happened to discover while implementing the Netop student application used to monitor our chromebooks.  Besides using the software to communicate with and monitor students in their use of Google applications, it can also be used to engage students and allow them to demonstrate what they know.  For example, during a third grade opinion writing activity we used Netop to allow students to demonstrate their development of a well stated opinion on the classroom projector. Students were eager to have their screens shared on the big screen while they used tools on their chromebook to identify elements of their statement, receive corrective feedback from the class and teacher, and then revise/edit their writing – on the spot. (Editors note: Netop is available to all SUSD classes. For more information contact Mark or Viry in the curriculum dept.)  For fifth grade math, using Google Classroom, DocHub, and Netop; students demonstrated how to create a visual model representing addition of fractions with unlike denominators. All students completed the problem and random screens were selected for display. Students were asked to justify their thinking with partners before presenting their work on the big screen. While observing student work on the Netop monitoring interface, a common error was identified which multiple students made in the process.  Corrective feedback was given immediately to the class before they even completed the problem. The possibilities for formative assessment through the application in conjunction with other resources seems to be limitless.

Another method that can be used for on the spot formative assessment is the use of Plickers.  The application is free and easy to set up. After creating an account online, teachers can choose from a bank of questions, or create their own, for quick checking for understanding.  Student response cards are printed out using the program and teachers download the app on their phones to scan student responses to get immediate feedback. With the implementation of Plickers I have seen classes reach 80% proficiency for a targeted standard within 15-20 minutes after completing multiple problems through the app and receiving feedback.  Finding misconceptions is easy with the collection of the data and having open discussion. With the correct insight brought about in the immediate evaluation of results, students make adjustments and improve. The data also allows teachers to identify specifically which students will need more support or targeted small group intervention after the lesson.

A digital vehicle that some teachers seem to be familiar with that helps to promote collaboration and discussion are back channel platforms.  But those that have experimented with them or use them faithfully may have not considered using them for formative purposes. During lessons, teacher can have a backchannel running, from an application such as Padlet, where students are asked to post questions for clarification.  Some may feel more comfortable addressing some of their learning needs in this format and do not have to wait to address concerns. Teachers can also ask the class to make predictions while modeling a problem or document their metacognitive process while problem solving. Not only can students become more engaged, but the teacher can gain valuable insight as to what they are thinking and clues to their level of understanding.  When posing questions, the teacher may even ask the entire class to post their answers as opposed to randomly calling names for responses. This makes sure everyone has to give input and, again through an application like Netop, display student work for elaboration and feedback.

With all the new innovations and programs now available, the possibilities seem to be limitless.  It’s up to educators to imagine what new and creative ways they can be used to help students be passionate about learning.  I think we need reminders sometimes not to get too wrapped up in one aspect of teaching pedagogy, or in my case one aspect of assessment, and contemplate how various technological resources can serve multiple purposes in the learning environment.  Our willingness to explore these possibilities I believe can make a world of difference in impacting student outcomes.

Task Before Apps

Recently I was pitching an idea for a workshop on spreadsheets.  The an administrator gently shot down the idea. He had politely listened and then asked a couple of questions, “Are you going to do more than just show the basics of how to start a sheet file? What are you going have the teacher do?  What will be their takeaways? Will this help them in their classrooms?”

His words that impacted me the most were, “True, we are looking for classes that teach applications and programs, but we want classes that put “tasks before apps.”

I drew a blank.  I couldn’t remember hearing that phrase. What does he mean, “tasks before apps?”  My creation for a spreadsheet presentation got shelved.

A week later I attended a workshop by Martin Cisneros.  He presented some 40 plus or minus apps and tools for use in classrooms.  Repeatedly he told us to choose only two or three, and not try to master all of them. As I explored each app as he presented it,  I began to realize what “Task before App” means.  Some apps and extensions he presented were useful. Some were frivolous. Some had no use in my classes.

I understood:  If I don’t have assignments to use the app, then there is no need to teach the app.  Now I understood that administrator when he says, “task before app.”

Let me share just two apps that have become mainstays for me.

First, Keep.google.com;  

keepI use the Keep app to make notes that include lists, links, pictures, note taking, outlining and reminders.  I can even use them as a collaboration tool. The best function of all,  is that this one app will automatically sync across all my devices. I have an icon on my smartphone, an extension on my laptop and on my desktop.  It doesn’t matter where and when I add a note, it automatically syncs with all the other devices.   


Second, Mercury Reader offered by postlight.com.

mercury readerI use the Mercury Reader to get rid of all the clutter on web pages. It simplifies the looks of the page to make it easier to read. I can easily print hard copies or post to Google Documents or to a Google Classroom assignment.  All this make the pages become student friendly.

Other features allow me to toggle to a white on black screen or increase the font size.    I can highlight.  I can send it to a Keep note.  For Kindle owners, the touch of a button will send the file to a Kindle for on the go reading.  

I hope you can enjoy these two apps for the task that need apps.

Working Smart Not Hard Using Screencastify

Ever had the experience of explaining how to do something to students so many times that you abbreviate the steps to the point of ineffectiveness? I am a little ashamed to admit that in my 20 years of teaching, I have noticed I sometimes have grown to assume students already come in with certain skills. This leads to more work on my part in the long run because I find myself repeating and reteaching when I could work smarter, not harder. Let me introduce Screencastify.

Screencastify is an extension you can find in the Chrome Webstore and is used to create screencasts. A screen-cast is a digital recording of a computer screen’s output, which is also known as a video screen capture, often containing audio narration. The most common way I have used Screencastify in my classroom is to create instructional videos either made by me for my students or for my students made by my students. These videos enable students to learn at their own pace, whenever and wherever they prefer.

There are other uses for this extension. Follow this link to see the many ways you can use Screencastify in your classroom.

How to get Screencastify:

  • Make sure you are logged in to chrome (if you are on a chromebook, you are on chrome)
  • Chrome Web Store
  • Search for Screencastify (in the extensions area)
  • Enable extension
  • Allow camera access (it also allows the audio)
  • Choose to save to Drive
  • Choose last choice (with nothing written on it)

To begin recording:

  • Click the extension
  • Click Record Desktop
  • It will “count down” so you know when to start talking
  • Start moving the mouse and TALK
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • NAME THE SCREENCAST

Want your image on the screen as well?

  • Start Screencastify
  • Turn on “Embed Webcam” you CAN choose which corner your image belongs
  • The first few times you may WANT to have the preview on, for me it is distracting and I end up watching myself
  • Record Desktop
  • Talk and move mouse
  • Click Stop Sharing
  • Name the Screencast

Done Recording?

  • NAME IT!
  • It is saved in your Google Drive
  • Depending on the length of the video, it may take a few minutes
  • How do my students see it? Share it with them, put it in Google Classroom, download then upload to YouTube

Here are some example videos my students have made (Sorry but these are student work, so you must be logged into your Stockton Unified Google account to view these videos):

Student video (Yocelyn Chavez, 7th grade, “Using ST Math”)


Student video (Velencia Cromwell, 7th grade, “Using Prodigy”)


Student video (Jocelyn Arredondo, 8th grade, “How to Log Into Google Doc.”) (With an interesting interpretation of how to do a book report!)


Student video (Bryan Gonzalez and Kevontay Makinsey, 7th grade, “How to Log into Khan Academy)


 

Student video (Katia Martinez and Jazlyn Rios-Fox, 8th grade, “How to Build a Paper Box.”)

Thanks for reading, and I hope this helps in some way in your classroom!

Teaching Math In the Digital Age: The Resources (Part 1)

Teaching Math in this age requires a lot of technical skills when it comes to creating and implementing curriculum. Luckily there are many programs out there that can guide you on your path to teaching Math in this day and age. In this blog I will give you a quick rundown of the tools I use with my students as we go from paper and pencil to stylus and screen.

The first and most interesting website to me, which is incredibly interactive, is Desmos. Desmos is geared towards most standards from 6th grade to college calculus. It can double as a graphing calculator and the best part is that it is totally free.There are interactive activities that students can give feedback in anonymity, manipulate graphs, and even play games with. You as the teacher, can easily connect this program and activities through google classroom or many other mediums by creating a class code, copying it, and pasting it into a link in Google Classroom.

This leads me into the next program/programs that I use daily which are Gsuite, (formerly known as Google Apps For Education). The main program that I use to give access to websites and information to my students is Google Classroom. It is very easy to set up and can generate class lists for all of the programs I am mentioning in these blogs. To assess my students I use Google Forms which can allow teachers to insert answer keys into the assessments so students can get instant feedback. It also frees up time for teachers because Forms will do the grading for you. There are always new features coming out, most recently the screen lock feature which will lock the screen as seen in Smarter Balanced and MAP assessments. You can also import grades from Forms into your Google Classroom if you do chose to use Google Classroom’s grading system.

This leads me into Google Sheets which can be used as grade sheets all the way to creating graphs of students’ data. Students and teachers should get familiar with Sheets because it can save massive amounts of time for teachers and gives students a tool to use in their future endeavors. I mainly use it for data analysis of assessments and to post grades in Google Classroom. The students use it to collect, organize, and display data with graphs and tables. I will introduce Sheets to them once we have gone over general statistical analysis tools and how we derive them. Once they know how they work, I will show them that they can compute what would take them 20 minutes into 1 minute. This saves time for the students and allows them to get a better grasp on the story the statistics are displaying.

The beautiful part about Gsuite is that a student can create a spreadsheet and insert it into Google Docs or Google Slides with a few clicks of the mouse. The student can display data in a presentation with a pie, bar, and many other types of graphs of their choosing. The students can all work on these platforms together through sharing them with other classmates, which allows collaboration to be done anywhere, anytime, very easily. Once the students are done with their assignments or presentations all it takes is a couple clicks of the mouse to turn them in to me in Google Classroom.

In part two of my blog I will go over more online platforms that go deeper into Math and Science which can easily be posted into Google Classroom for easy access. If you start with a few of these programs mentioned above, it will not only save you, the teacher time, but it will save the students frustration by making collaboration and access to materials extremely easy.

Assistive Technology on a Budget

Image of students working with a laptop.

Sometimes we only think about computers when someone mentions technology.

When you think about using technology in the classroom you probably think about students using computers, chromebooks, or iPads. At times some students just need a little support with technology to help them with using a pencil. Whether you’re in a general education classroom or special education you have probably experienced that child in your class that hates writing because it is uncomfortable or perhaps struggles with letter formation that is so poor that you have difficulty grading the students work. You could always contact someone that can provide assistive technology for a student but that takes time and we want to provide immediate support so that our students can feel comfortable and grow.

Adaptive techSo, how do we meet the needs of learners as soon as possible? We can try affordable tricks and do-it-yourself assistive technology.  Assistive technology is any equipment, devices, and services along with the changes made to the environment to help support students. There are affordable low technology devices that can perhaps help all students. Many students struggle with fine motor skills  in part, because this generation of kids are used to playing video games or using a tablet versus past generations of children that would simply coloring to build those fine hand coordination skills. Examples of assistive Technology could be anything from special lined paper to pencil grips. There are many forms of pencil grips and some students may work better with some types of grips versus others. If you go to your local Home Depot and Lowes you can get a small piece of foam tubing in which the pencil goes inside the tube and allows the student to have a much larger pencil to grasp. Another device is a wrist brace, which runs about ten dollars at Walmart or any drug store.

I have included a video for creating a weighted marker but it also works for weighted crayons or pencils. The best part you can buy all supplies needed at a local Home Depot or Lowes. The only two items you will need in hex bolts and rubber bands. This allows the top of the pencil to be weighted to help students that hands are shaky when they are writing. In addition to modifying devices there is also simple ways to modify the surface students are writing on. By incorporating slant boards in the classroom you will be able to support those students with fine motor skills. You can affordably have slant boards for all students. A typically 2” or 3” binder will do just fine and either leave in closed or flip it open. Students can do their work on the angled service which benefits students with their fine motor skills, visual motor skills, and posture.

Older Adults and Technology

by Austin Cushman

Everytime I see my dad, born in 1933, using his smartphone and messaging on social media, I say to myself “I never thought I would see the day.” As the emergence of the PC was happening he was a big believer, yes he bought my first Mac, in personal technology.

So, let’s start with defining “older adults” in relation to technology.  Most surveys will use age ranges to define “older adults” and I will reference some of those surveys. I view it as any generation that didn’t grow up with daily access to a PC.  

250px-apple_iieMy experience started with the Apple IIe with the 5¼ floppy disks that was a glorified typewriter and a simple game console.  It slowly grew with the home internet connection, AOL, and continued with the PC, smartphones and apps.

Most of my adult ESL students easily learn the computer basics necessary to access Google Drive, G Suite and the web. However, there are some students, when first learning the basics, feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Occasionally a student will come in with no experience with computers and the web, but will quickly adapt and succeed through daily practice and peer assistance. Older students and those in the workplace have to quickly learn and adapt to the ever changing technology that connects us. Parents must be familiar with it to assist their children or check grades. Employees must be familiar with the basic skills necessary to adapt to any system found in the work environment. The “baby boomer” and previous generations have had to learn how to use technology as adults, bearing the learning curve and expense associated with buying a PC and now smartphones/tablets. With the growth of e-commerce and social media access to information and technology has become more and more a part of our daily lives. It has become more important than ever, though some would argue not required, to be proficient in the basic uses of technology.

So with the growth of technology we see from this survey, the older the generation, the lower the percentage of people who use technology.

Chart showing percentage of adults that go online.

Graph showing use of various devices by seniors vs. all adults.

04-seniors-more-likely-to-own-tabletWe continue to try and bridge the gap, while implementing the new and ever changing technology, and make sure our students and the “older generations” are ready for the 21st century demands.

 

 

 


Source of all graphs: http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/04/03/older-adults-and-technology-use/

Image of Apple IIe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_IIe