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.


PBL: Lessons Learned While Creating Driving Question

This week, we started our Project Based Learning lesson.  I say we because I am working with a partner, L’Maro Bell.  There are some obvious advantages to working with a partner, but there are some disadvantages, too.  Communication is not easy.  We did meet online once to discuss the beginning, but most communication has been via email.  We both have other commitments that prevent us from working on the project at certain times.  Therefore, you have no control over when you get a response.  This leads each of us to input our own ideas and wait for the other to comment, which could lead to changes – thus creating double work.

The first thing we needed to do was to decide on what the project was going to entail.  Originally, I was looking towards a project encompassing all subjects of the GED test, but L’Maro felt we might want to scale it down to one subject – Mathematics.  That was a good decision.  Still, we are looking at a project that could encompass many topics.  Our project centers on students choosing a math topic that is on the GED test and researching how to solve problems within the scope of that topic.

This course, like the Instructional Design course I took last summer, requires a lot of preparation.  Unfortunately, I have always been an on-the-fly teacher.  Writing detailed lesson plans have never been a strong point.  I knew what the lesson was and I would wing-it while teaching.  I believe this will serve me well when teaching a PBL lesson, but my early research into PBL – which is a new experience for me – tells me that detailed planning and preparation are a must in order to prevent the project from delving into utter chaos.

As I am sure most of my classmates have done, I have reviewed the suggested resources.  I have also searched for other resources, hoping to find something about utilizing PBL in the GED classroom.  Sarah Rich has provided some resources she found that have helped define the focus.  However, because of my lack of experience with planning, the best resources I have used have been my fellow classmates’ projects.  Even though they are completely different topics, by reading them when I was stuck for how to proceed on a section, they helped inspire me or provide direction.

Finally, when I think of the Ultimate Driving Question, I think of this:

Module 6 Summary and Reflection

Module 6 involved the presentation of a synchronous lesson.  My partner for this project was Marci Smith, who is also a math teacher.  Based upon her suggestion, we chose to do a lesson on transformations.  Our main synchronous learning strategy was the solo fishbowl. This strategy lend itself well to the lesson because it allowed students to practice sketching their transformations and receive immediate feedback on how they were doing.

Since Marci has taught this lesson much more recently, she adapted her plan to a synchronous environment.  I handled much of the administrative work in Adobe Connect by setting up our layout, adding polls and creating the whiteboards for the fishbowls.  We split up the instruction of the lesson into four main parts:  the introduction activity (taught by me), the main lesson (Marci), the fishbowl activity (me) and self practice (Marci).  In order to be prepared, we spent two nights going through the lesson in mock fashion on Adobe Connect.

Overall, the lesson went well.  Working with Adobe Connect for a second time, I found that it was easier than the previous time.  We ran into an issue where Marci was not able to stay connected and I had to start the main teaching portion, but she was able to get reconnected and pick it up without missing a step.  We did prepare more than we needed for the time allotted, but we had planned for what to eliminate without compromising the key points of the lesson.

Reflect on assessment of learning outcomes in online environments. Consider the following questions in your reflection:

  1. What are appropriate assessment strategies in synchronous and asynchronous delivery methods?

The best type of assessment strategies in the online environment are formative ones: assessment that occurs ongoing throughout the course.  This could be informal assessment in the form of immediate feedback during a live lesson (such as our solo fishbowl activity discussed above) or more formal assessment using a rubric.  In the asynchronous environment, reflection post such as this are extremely useful tools to assess a student’s level of knowledge.  Students should seek out feedback from their fellow students.  This form of assessment helps to create the collaborative community that drives much of the virtual classroom.  Students should provide feedback on how well the assignments met their learning needs.  Finally, in order for online learning to have any value, the students must realize that their participation in all activities is vital.

  1. Does this look different than assessment in traditional classrooms? How and why?

The biggest difference between the online and the traditional classroom is in quizzes and exams.  While online classes can administer quizzes and exams, to rely on them to the extent they are in a traditional classroom would be faulty.  While test security measures can be created online, assuring that the student taking the test is the actual student of the class can be, while possible, an impractical feat.  While a student could get someone else to do his/her work in the online environment, the time involved would make it infeasible.


Pallof, R. M., & Pratt, K. (2007). Building online learning communities: Effective strategies for the virtual classroom (2nd ed.).  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

Module 5 Summary and Reflection

In order to create my synchronous lesson evaluation, I decided that it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think I could top Chickering and Gamson’s 7 principles.  I started with them and researched the internet for expanded information to create the specific points to look for when evaluating a synchronous lesson.  Finally, I used this  SynchronousLessonEvaluation to review the two lessons below.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was a hands-on tutorial on using various Photoshop features.  The instructor gave the student the opportunity to choose which features she wanted to learn about.  The instructor demonstrated the tool and then the student was given control to practice.  This was the right strategy to use.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could have been done with more students with the cracker barrel strategy. Prior to this lesson, certain students would be assigned a tool to instruct in a given virtual room.  The other students would then move around the rooms and learn from their classmates how to use the tools.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

The lesson could be done asynchronously by recording the instruction and having the students view the video and practice what they learn.  However, by having the instructor there in the synchronous environment, the student is able to get immediate help if they are having difficulties.  Personally, I would rather have the synchronous learning for this topic as I know how frustrated I would get if I could not get the tool to work right.


  • Was the strategy used appropriate for the content/material being covered?

This was an icebreaker activity where students meet other students.  Pairing up in breakout rooms to ask each other questions is very appropriate.

  • Might another strategy have been more effective? How? For example, if direct instruction was used, can you think of another instructional strategy that might have been more effective, or just as effective – like a cooperative group activity. Or perhaps the lesson didn’t need to be delivered live at all.

This lesson could be done asynchronously, but if time is available for the students, it is better handled in a live environment.  I feel the icebreakers in the courses in the MET program take up too much time; time that could be added to some of the longer, more content-related projects at the end of the course.  Instead of breakout rooms, the activity could have been handled in a whole class setting.  This wouldn’t necessarily be more effective, but just as effective.

  • One of my objectives is to get you to identify instances when content delivered asynchronously might be more appropriate given the time and energy involved in developing and delivering live instruction. Another is to start thinking about some alternative ways to deliver instruction. Even if the strategy was totally appropriate for this lesson, can you think of a way to improve the lesson with the addition of other activities involving alternate instructional strategies?

A magnetic brainstorm, where students post words that describe themselves.  If you see a word someone else posts that fits you, you can increase the font size.  This would be similar to how tags increase in size the more they are used in a blog.

School Evaluation Summary


I expected this to be one of my more difficult assignments due all the writing involved.  When I first started, those expectations seemed confirmed.  My initial thought was that two weeks wasn’t going to be enough; I would need that much time to fret over how hard it was going to be.  However, once I got going, the project- while no means simple – became less daunting.

Rating each section and subsection would seem the easiest par for a numbers guy.  Some of the areas fell out of my level of knowledge or expertise.  Those were the Administrative and the Connectivity.  In order to better understand them and accurately rate them, I talked to others at my institution.

Once the ratings were completed, I knew I had to justify them in the summary.  I knew why I rated each area as I did, but communicating it in a written summary was going to be  a task.  I started with the easiest ones, Curricular and Support.  I felt I knew these ones best as they most pertained to my position.  As I completed each section, I had more faith in my ability to do the others.


Upon reading the summaries of others, I discovered that I was not alone in feeling that we are not utilizing technology efficiently.  Many classmates shared similar feelings of frustration with their schools’ technology standing.  In some ways, I began to realize that my school was even ahead of many others in some ways.  We have Promethean Boards that allow for much application of technology.  We have more access for students to computers.


My initial reason for seeking a Masters of Educational Technology was to be able to better use technology in the class room.  After this first course, I believe it would be more beneficial to convince my school to develop a technology department that could support the teaching staff.  That would require being able to convey the necessity of such a department through a process much like this evaluation.  I believe that I have gotten a start in that direction.  Hopefully, by the time I graduated, I will have a finish to go with that start.





Technology Use Planning Overview

What is technology use planning? 

The Guidebook for Developing an Effective Instructional Technology Plan (1996) provides a very good definition:  “Identify the technology needs of the individuals and organizations in your educational institutions, identify the technologies that can be applied to those needs, and identify how they can be applied” (Al-Weshail, 1996, p8).  Like the guidebook, technology use planning is fluid; constantly changing and being updated (Al-Weshail, 1996, p5).  Technology use planning will both state where an institution is currently and where it desires to be in the future (Al-Weshail, 1996, p9).

Getting Started

The National Educational Technology Plan 2010 can be an effective and powerful resource for technology use planning by being the cornerstone of any educational technology plan.  From that cornerstone, many foundations can be constructed.  On top of those foundations, one can build a multitude of structures.  However, these structures and foundations all rest upon the cornerstone’s five components:  Engage and Empower, Measure What Matters, Prepare and Connect, Access and Enable and Redesign and Transform  (NETP, 2010).

Every school has different resources (foundation) and personnel (structure), but the overall goal (cornerstone) should be the same:  to give the future’s movers and shakers (today’s students) the capability to deal with whatever future arrives.  How those students get there – the routes they take, the vehicles that drive them – may be different, but if the plans come from the same basic elements, all students will have the opportunity to get there.

Developing the plan

In the article “Developing Effective Technology Plans”, John See emphasizes developing short term plans (See, 1992).  Even though this article was written 20 years ago, before many of today’s technology was created (and much of the technology of that time has since become obsolete), the words he write are still relevant today.  I agree with See’s contention that technology changes rapidly, but that doesn’t mean totally eliminating long-range planning (See, 1992).  It just requires that the plan be flexible.  Plan for the future, but don’t be locked in on a technology that becomes outdated.

See’s contention that technology plans should be driven by application (output) and not technology (input) is dead on (See, 1992).  Too many times, those who make the decision are not the ones who work with the technology.  They gravitate to the latest and hottest without regard to whether that technology is a right fit for the staff and students who work with it.  This point is further emphasized by his arguments against technology for the sake of enhancing technology programs (See, 1992).

See makes the point that technology should go beyond just computers.  In it, he states:

We are all used to seeing the finished products of WCCO and ABC or NBC. They use the right video grammar. When kids turn in a video project, we look at it with professional standards in mind and say, “What a piece of junk. Was it really worth all the time the kids put into this product”. What we really need to remember is what our first attempts at writing the letter “A” looked like. Then put early attempts at video production into the same light.”  (See, 1992)

I believe this is a message that teachers need to remember everyday (because I know I forget it everyday and have to remind myself).

I think that See oversimplifies the point of teaching “computer literacy”.  While we probably don’t need a whole class on how to use a computer, especially with many of today’s generation, new technology still needs to be taught in order to use it effectively.  I have ActivExpression devices with my Promethean Board.  Most of my questions are multiple choice.  And while that is a simple process, when I get a new student in the class, s/he has to be taught how to use the device, starting with turning it on.  But, many of this how-to learning can be part of the course curriculum.

See is correct when he discusses teacher’s awareness, application, integration and refinement (See, 1992).  However, he is preaching to the choir.  The staff is the first to say they need to have development time for new technology.  However, this requires eliminating other development that is obsolete or overdone.  Unfortunately, the same administration that makes technology decisions on what to purchase are the ones to decide what development is required.  And many times, these administrators never were teaching professionals or they were not very good at it.  Everything starts at the top and if the top is strong, the staff will be, but if the top is weak, even great teachers can be hindered.  To make the most of technology, those who use it, need to be trusted to learn it when given the time and some control of the funding to purchase the right materials.

Personal Experience

Before my school purchased Promethean Boards, the staff was given an opportunity to see them in action at a local school.  This gave us the chance to give intelligent feedback prior to the purchase.  While the decision to purchase them was practically made at that point, we were impressed with them as a staff and would have request approval.  Still, it would be better to see if the people who actually use them to make a case pro or con.  Also, while we went through 3 days of intensive training, many of our older teachers still only use them as glorified white boards.  I went through advance training and even train our new staff on them.  However, I still don’t use their full potential.  The reason for this, is because we are not given the time to prepare or continual development of our skills.  How many times do I really need to have annual training on the TPS report?  Thus, while I use mine everyday, I don’t feel I always justify the expenditure.  This is not to say we shouldn’t have bought them.  Instead, we should make sure we utilize them to their maximum power.


The reason I started this program was because of my growing interest in using technology in the classroom.  Hopefully, when I complete, I will have the opportunity to use what I have learn to make a difference in technology planning to better the educational value for the students.


Al-Weshail, A. S., Baxter A. L., Cherry, W., Hill, E. W., Jones, C. R., Love, L. T., . . . Woods, J. C. (1996).  Guidebook for developing an effective instructional technology plan: Version 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/downloads/guidebook.pdf.

National Education Technology Plan (2010).  Transforming American education: Learning powered by technology.  Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/technology/netp-2010.

See, J. (1992). Developing effective technology plans. The Computing Teacher, 19(8).   Retrieved from http://www.nctp.com/html/john_see.cfm.