PBL: Assessment as Learning

The assessment tools we developed for our PBL project were centered around student input.  The “As I See It” evaluation allows for students to express what they need to learn, the approach to learning they plan on taking and what they expect to accomplish.  This touches upon the aspects of student articulation and ownership of their work.  Another formative assessment we chose was a class discussion.  However, the format of this has not been decided.  I think this might be an area where we can take student input in how they best feel the discussions should be conducted.  Thus, each class that does this project might take it in a different direction.  This article in Edutopia by Dr. Richard Curwin offers 5 suggestions for livening up the class discussion.  Finally, the learning checklist is the weekly tasks that each group must complete in order to keep their project moving forward.  While this is not learner focused, it is a on-going, publicized performance target.

Our summative assessments are the video presentation that each group will create to demonstrate how to solve a particular type of GED problem and the actual GED Ready – the official practice test for the GED.  For test security reasons, we can not provide access to the actual questions on the GED Ready, but we have provided links to sample questions that are similar in scope.  Since the overriding goal is for students to pass the GED, these videos will become valuable tools for the students (and future students) to use to serve this purpose.

I think one part that we might need to include is more documentation by students of things they have accomplished along the way.  Whether they use journals, learning logs, VLOGS or some other tool, the students need to express what they are learning, have accomplished, still need to accomplish and ask any questions they need answers to in order to move forward.  Maybe the classroom discussions will serve this purpose, but I think adding this step beforehand will make the discussions move along more smoothly.

This entire process is a large change for my teaching style.  With the previous GED Mathematics test, which was 80% multiple choice, my focus was on getting students to learn what they needed to pass the test.  In some cases, this involved test taking skills that weren’t math specific.  Now, with the change in test structure, students must be cognizant of the necessary Mathematical skills they need to pass the test.  They can’t just plug in numbers and use trial and error.  Therefore, individual learning differences matter so much more and I need to take that into account when helping each student.  On the old test, pretty much, one type of strategy per problem worked.  Now, students need to be able, more than ever, to express if they are understanding the problem, how to solve them and why the solutions work.


Project Based Learning: The Beginning

This is my first experience with Project Based Learning.  I come in to this class with 8 MET courses behind me and yet, I come in still feeling uncertain about what to expect.  While I have begun introductory research on PBL, I still do not know what a project entails in time, resources and planning.  My early readings have me believing that PBL could be a good strategy for where I teach, but my unique situation creates many questions that I want to answer. Can PBL work when students enter and exit the class at different times?  How do you conduct PBL when students are working on different content and at different levels?    I teach GED students. Their focus is on learning what they need to pass the test.  They know they only have to be in classes until they pass.  Therefore, there is no set time for them to be in class like a traditional school.  What kind of difficulties does this pose for PBL and how can they be overcome?  Hopefully, when this class ends, I will have answers to these and other classes


Module 3 Reflection and Summary

Task:  Can you recognize one or two voices and/or tones from the in the activity you completed this week? Do you notice these voices and/or tones in your current discussion board responses with students, if applicable? Discuss potential changes in your approach to discussions in the future. Take into account the need to rely less on hearing your own voice in favor of supporting participants reflections and learning.

Let me start by restating the activity.  The task was to choose a role (Student, Principal, Teacher who wants social networks in the classroom, Parent in support of proposal or Parent opposed to proposal) and respond, with appropriate voice and tone, to the student association’s request to allow access to social networks at school.  My initial response follows below.

As an educator who was stifled from fully utilizing technology, I stand before you today in support of opening up social networking to the student body.  I have heard the concerns of Ms. Harris and Mr. Farmer.  They are valid.  But I believe to hide and shield students from these sites is the wrong course of action.  My colonel in the Army taught me that it may be the Air “Defense” Artillery, but we don’t defend.  We attack!  I realized then that it was a philosophy I used my entire life as a student who was bullied.  My parents taught me to fight back, and I did.  Maybe not always in the right way, but I confronted adversity head-on. And I never had my lunch money taken!  Ironically, one of my bullies later became a fraternity brother of mine.  In the same way, I am not here to fight against you.  Instead, I want you on my side.  I want your input.  I want our students to be prepared for their future – a future including more technology than we can even imagine today – and have the skills and tools to handle any obstacle they face.  And that is why I am here today to announce that I am a pro-technology candidate for the school board.  God bless you and God bless Ampipe High!  Go Bulldogs!

The tone of my initial posting was Whimsical/Humorous/Imaginative.  I posted playing the role of an pro-technology educator running for the school board.  I interspersed hyperbole throughout my comments in order to sound like a politician on the campaign trail.  When I was discussing my history of being bullied, while handled in a lighthearted manner, it was as a Personal Muse.

(Note:  For those wondering, the Ampipe Bulldogs is from “All the Right Moves,” with Tom Cruise and Craig T, Nelson.)

In a response to a classmate’s post calling for an after-school program to educate students and parents on social networks, I posted the following:

I have some questions concerning your proposal for an after school program to educate parents and children on social networking.

1.  Would it be mandatory?  If not, what incentive would there be for people to attend?

2.  Where is the money going to come from?  In today’s age of budget tightening, how are you going to pay for a new after school program, especially one that might not be supported by the constituents?

While my tone could be construed as Curious/Informal, I think it clearly reads as if I am against the idea without knowing the answers to my questions.  I could eliminate the first question in part one.  For the second part, a better rephrasing might be, “In today’s age of budget tightening, how might we pay for a new after school program?”  These changes would come off as less aggressive.

I don’t currently have discussion boards with my students (I teach in a face-to-face environment).  At times, I catch myself using some of less desirable tones with my students.  However, in my discussion board posts with my classmates, I make every effort to review my comments before sending to try to minimize any negative voices or tones. Unlike the spoken word, we get the chance to see our words before others “hear” them. While I should follow the old adage of thinking before speaking, a long time lag would be awkward.  I would look funny to my students standing there and mentally backspacing (or deleting).

EDTECH 523: Module 2 Summary

In this module I have accomplished the following:

  1. Read, read and read some more.
  • community building
  • collaboration
  • best practices
  • national standards for quality online courses and teaching
  1. Completed draft of Principles for Effective Online Instruction
  2. Began working with my Collaborative Inquiry Project group

I struggled early on with this module due to all the reading and the uncertainty of what was required with regards to the draft of principles and the group project.  I had to force myself to read as much as I could in order to understand the four areas listed above.  The draft of my principles was difficult for me because I was not sure of what to include and what not to include.  Only after looking at a few classmates examples, did I have a grasp of what was required of me.  The group project was also a little confusing, but my group mates reassured me I was not alone.  Together, we were able to come to an understanding and devise a plan for our project.

I think all the hard times I had with this module has helped me to better understand the material.  It has also given me a better perspective on what is it like for some of my students who I see working hard in class and not knowing if it is paying dividends.  For many of them, if they improve on their GED tests but still do not pass the test, they only see the failure.  Getting them to realize that it takes time is a difficult.  Being in their shoes with this module allows me to better understand why they feel as they do and better able to help them overcome this thinking.

Wiki Reflection

For EdTech 523, I am asked to write reflections.  The first one involved reading  the following article:

Meishar-Tal, H., & Gorsky, P. (2010). Wikis: What students do and do not do when writing collaboratively. Open Learning: The Journal of Open and Distance Learning, 25(1), 25-33. DOI: 10.1080/02680510903482074.

The assignment is to reflect on the differences in the types of collaboration experiences I encountered in a “project” wiki vs. the “writing” wiki reported on in the article and how I might facilitate wiki collaboration in my own classroom.

I want to present my findings from the article.  Students tend to add and modify when writing in collaboration.  The most common editorial action is adding sentences.  Students rarely delete another student’s work.  Students take ownership in what they contribute and are reluctant to be critical of other students’ writings.  The wikis take on a threaded discussion format.  While all students contribute, most editorial actions are performed by a small group of students.  Just as few students do most of the editing, few items get most of the editing.

My experience with the wiki project was similar.  Everyone participated (as required), but some students took a more active role.  With the (planned) lack of direction, they lead the way in posting their icebreakers and provided the model for others to follow.  They also organized the wiki.  One student created a survey to gather the thoughts of the other members of the group.  This gave us a guideline of what the groups thoughts were without having a long, drawn out discussion.

If I could utilize wikis in my class, one of the biggest lessons I learned (as designed by the instructor), was to be specific in tasks.  We are a group of highly educated individuals, yet we felt uncertain of how to proceed with minimal instructions.  Imagine how our students would feel.  You want to develop independent, critical thinking skills, but people are naturally tepid when placed in a strange environment.  Therefore, I would introduced the wiki in small, guided steps and slowly evolve in to larger, more independent projects.

Here is the link to my icebreaker, “Student Crest“.

EDTECH 521 Reflection Journal

Here is a link to my EDTECH 521 Reflection Journal.  It will be updated weekly, so you can come back to this thread to view it.

Copyright and Fair Use

I write this after watching an episode of “Cake Boss” where they made a Dr. Seuss cake for an elementary school’s reading program.  I wondered about the fair use principle of the decorations.  They incorporated many of the characters from popular Dr. Seuss books.  My thought (even though I am neither a lawyer nor did I sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night) is that they satisfy the four principles of fair use.

One of the things I left off my site was a video.  I had found a couple of videos to consider, but I didn’t want to violate copyright laws, so I did not use them.  I could not find permission on the sites and I did not have the time to contact the owners.  However, Dr. Hung suggested that one thing to consider with respect to my portfolio is to update pages with new techniques as I learn them.  I plan on doing this after this course is over.  Then I can seek permission to use videos and add them to my page.


Accessibility on the Web

This lesson was about accessibility of web-pages.  I chose the screen reader tool because my wife has some vision issues.  While she can still read, she has to enlarge the text quite a bit.  The screen reader might be something for her to consider.

In this lesson, the key elements to learn involved adding absolute links, formatting them and putting in anchors to jump around on the page.  As always, I thought the text itself was going to be the most difficult part.  Once I got started, it went smoothly.  The formatting of the text is where I had 3 minor errors.

1.  I put in <p> tags before my <h2> tags.  Don’t do this.

2.  I forgot to put quotes around my id names.  Don’t do this either.

3.  I had a missing </p> tag to close out a paragraph.  Especially don’t do this.

I was able to find all of these mistakes thanks to the validator and the sample pages.  The validator led me to the lines I had with errors.  I couldn’t always see what I was missing.  By looking at the sample, I could see what they had that I didn’t (or didn’t have that I did).  This allowed me to fix my errors.

I am getting more and more comfortable with the Dreamweaver software.  I’m getting more comfortable with my text.  I hope the rest of the semester goes as well.


Typography on the Web

This project linked a page to our website.  Click on the Netiquette page link and you can see the page I created.


The first thing I did was to search on Netiquette rules to get an idea of things to include.  I decided I wanted NETIQUETTE to be an acronym to help readers remember these rules.  Thus, I chose 10 rules that could be represented by each letter in the word.  Some were quite easy, while others required a little ingenuity.  Afterwards, I then just wrote what each of the 10 rules meant.  The last thing, was to work on the formatting for the page.

Once again, Dr. Snelson’s videos were extremely helpful.  I could not get my callout box to correctly float to the right.  I also ran into the problem of my footer moving to the top of the page.  No matter what I tried, nothing worked.  Then, I remember there was a video on fixing problems.  Good thing, cause I don’t think I ever would have figured it out on my own.  How did the first person who did figure it out do so?  Like the number of licks in a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

As I move forward, I am sensing, while we will be learning a lot more about Dreamweaver, the page formatting will be the easiest part.  I think what will be the toughest part for me is to determine what actual information to put on the page.  Once I can figure that out, the modules tend to guide themselves.  Oh, and let’s not forget all the reading!