What does Assessment look like in Makerspaces?

Makerspaces provide new affordances for learners and creative types to explore new and exciting branches of learning, creating and exploring from 3-D printing, e-textiles to computer-assisted-design. This leads me to wonder about the role or best stance for educators in this environment. According to Barniskis (2014),

“…many teachers are used to teaching a large group of children to work on one project at a time. However, in a makerspace environment, each student may be working with different tools and processes. The teacher needs to be comfortable with a considerable quantity of chaos in such an environment, as well as skilled with all of the tools and able to switch gears quickly.” (p. 6)

In particular, it is the “switching gears” where educators assess learner proficiencies to inform next steps that is the subject of this paper. First, we’ll examine makerspaces pedagogies and consider the teacher’s/facilitator/coaches role, then explore and analyze the use of “traditional” assessment strategies in makerspaces, and finally, suggest three assessment strategies that seem well matched within a makerspace. Overall, we will consider the role of assessment in makerspaces and how does it need to be modified or adapted in this setting to help our makers?

Makerspace Pedagogies

In makerspaces, the role of learner has evolved from a passive recipient of information to the learner as an active creator and/or maker. The new affordances like 3-D printers, programmable robots, e-textiles, among many others provide a new and increasingly complex canvas for digital designers to build and make. With externals like MakeyMakey, Lego WeDo or Mindstorms, a makerspace can also be an environment that encourages makers and creators to computer program using languages from with “low floor” like block-based Scratch, or text-based Arduino or beyond. Yet, even with these tools that encourage creativity and design where students and makers might pursue their own projects, the role of the coach/educator/facilitator is crucial. They can encourage students to not only learn new skills but also feel comfortable and confident to create, make and perhaps even innovate. Striking a balance between teaching established and traditional elements and principles of design and also encouraging them to innovate can be tricky. The role, stance and practices of the educator are critical so that makerspaces can become a unique place for creativity and design and not simply another room where a specific a set of instructions are “delivered”, then copied and then assessed. Perhaps in critically examining our assessment and evaluation practices we can find approaches and practices that best support our makers and creators in makerspaces.

Current Assessment strategies

Being evaluated is a key and yet sometimes challenging experience for most students (and perhaps everyone) historically and today. Yet educators acting as mentors can have a vital role in helping others develop their ideas and improve the design and functionality of prototypes. The role of mentors or coaches requires a modified approach than a traditional – teach then evaluate model. A review of makerspace literature and research seems to indicate that traditional evaluation and assessment methods continue to be considered as indicators of progress. For example, in some studies, the focus of assessment has been less on creativity and more on specific measureable outcomes determined beforehand by the teachers and curriculum designers. While determining key concepts and core fluencies is critical, perhaps a more flexible learner-centered approach would seem to be a better strategy than one based on immoveable standards. This is especially important in spaces that encourage creativity, innovation, design and perhaps arts. In regard to e-textiles, Peppler (2013) emphasizes art first “… that the e-textile designer is less concerned with coding efficiency—having as few lines of code as possible—than with achieving a particular artistic effect” (p. 38). Assessment remains a critical strategy to help mentor our makers and creators to extend their learning through their Zone of Proximal Development. (McLeod, S. A. 2012 para. 1). Yet in some studies, the justification for makerspaces seems to fall back on numbers to quantify students’ outcomes and progress.

“When we analyzed their final Scratch programs using Brennan and Resnick’s computational thinking framework [2], we found that 100% of the projects used sequential statements, loops, conditional statements, event handling, and 85.7% (or 6/7) of the projects used operators.” (Davis, 2013, p. 440).

Here is another example “…when the multimeter was used, boys had the equipment in their hands 75% of the time on average to only 25% for girls.” (Buchholz et al., 2012, p. 283).

These quotations seem to focus on specific quantitative measurements (i.e. use of specific computer science skills and use of a specific tool by gender.) Both these measurements are important as ONE form of analysis yet neither evaluation indicates a focus on creativity or innovation. Furthermore, they may actually be only a small step from a mark-based assessment with such narrow focus. For example, a student might earn an “A” mark for simply including a certain amount of loops in their project.  Perhaps a model where students and teachers negotiate shared objectives would encourage more creativity. Kohn (2011) seems to reject any traditional form of teacher determined grades in educational spaces saying instead “…students can be invited to participate in that process either as a negotiation (such that the teacher has the final say)…” (p. 6). No doubt, the promotion of computational thinking and gender equality are critically important indicators for success, but perhaps assessment in makerspaces should be specifically focused on creativity, innovation and digital citizenship (helping others) above other specific technical requirements. In other words, a successful project might not include all the computational requirements nor be in the hands of a specific gender and still produce a creative and innovative prototype. Perhaps then assessment strategies should focus away from marks as indicators and instead look towards more qualitative methods that demonstrate a maker’s thinking and detailed progress. In addition, it is unclear whether a grade reflects the “potential” of an idea or a “snapshot” of the project at that time. Subsequently, this type of mark-based assessment in quantifiable terms obscures rather reveals student progress, creativity and potential.

Three Methods of Assessments

Perhaps makers and educators might instead work collaboratively to critically evaluate designs based on principles like Design Thinking that encourage both process and final product through a variety of activities and practices. Based on research into makerspaces and practices, three types of assessment tools seem to be good fits for makerspaces: design journals, reflections and badging.

Design Journals

A design journal can be either physical or digital and is a place to notes and instructions about a particular prototype or program. With prompting, students can not only write about the process but also be prompted to engage in new forms of thinking and processes like design thinking. Design thinking is an excellent process to solve challenges and promotes a similar mindset to makerspaces with its emphasis on creativity, design and iteration. One excellent example of a design journal is found in the project page of in the web-based Scratch 2.0 site. Scratch is an excellent tool for block-based coding and has both Papert’s “low floor (easy to get started) and high ceiling (can be used for increasingly complex projects). (Resnick, 2009, p.63). In addition to a page to create block-based commands is a project page which could be a design journal. Each project page (Figure One below) has three sections for writing: instructions, notes and credits and a comments stream. The first area provides a place for instructions critical for those wanting to run the Scratch program. This area explores the use of each sprite, backgrounds and other commands.

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Example of a Design Journal Figure One

The Notes and Credits section provides a place for the programmer to comment upon the design of the program including sources for resources used, a brief summary of their thinking, current progress and next possible steps. These possible next steps might be influenced by the comments section (which can be toggled on or off) by fellow programmers and Scratch users to provide feedback for the original programmers. Comments have the potential to be a shared and logged conversation about programming and specifically Scratch. In its highest level, it is collectivism where programmers and designer collect their best ideas on programming and designs in the Scratch forums. In Scratch, an ultimate form of flattery is the re-mix where programmers make a copy and tinker with a new iteration of the program which also includes a vital and transparent record of the original creator. This “built-in” design journal provides excellent opportunities for assessment as educators can observe not only the program but the programmer’s dialogue with themselves and others. Educators could even join in the collective conversation embedded directly in the project with comments, suggestions and encouragement of their own. According to Nichols (2015), “as students document their thinking they are supported by community partners who act as mentors to promote their thinking and give them the real-world exposure and experience they need to overcome challenges” (para. 5). Nichols calls them “thought-books” and they could serve as a hybrid design journal and place for reflective writing. It is important to note that design journals could be in many different forms from traditional physical books to more sophisticated online creations like the OneNote Class Notebooks. (See Figure Two below for an example from one of my classes).

ON

OneNote Class Notebooks provide a sophisticated tool for designers and educators as the digital format would allow the curation of a notebook that could include embedded physical sketches, notes, photos, animations, documents, videos, links to 3-D designs (i.e. Tinkercad) and even involve audio and video conversation as either a shared private conversation or even public if shared online. Perhaps the OneNote ClassNotebook moves the Design Journal up the ladder up in the SAMR model on technology integration from the substitution ring towards the augmentation or modification stages. (Puentedura, 2014, p. 2). Not to suggest that this amount of complex technology tools are always necessary and may even “get in the way” through diverting focus. After the potentially and rightfully “messy” of a design journal, the next assessment tool for educators allows for more focus on thoughts and words.

Reflective writing

For more depth into the thinking of learners in makerspaces, reflective writing could be another assessment tool for educators to explore the metacognition of makers and creators. Using tools like physical notebooks or even digital forms like blogs, makers and creators share their goals, process and experiences from their perspectives. If this reflective writing is shared, then educators and mentors can potentially have insight into the “black box” that is a learner’s thinking. Access to this form of writing allows mentors and educators to help learners “level up” and reach the next stage for their progress or even when to “move on” to something new in the Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). In short, makers and learners need to focus on the process being as important (or perhaps more) than a “final” product. Reflective thinking and writing should take place at various points (say beginning, during and end) as creation and making is occurring so that educators can see the process of student thinking and suggest next steps or extend thinking further when needed. Educators and mentors can leverage reflective writing of makers and creators to provide feedback in the form of constructive dialogue. They can also use this tool to plan next sessions and provide learning materials and guidance for the specific needs of makers and learners. Indications of progress and identifying next steps are part of the final assessment strategy using badging.

Badging

The awarding and distribution of badging can be one way to facilitate the conversation between makers and mentors through the awarding, earning and sharing of micro-credentials. “Digital badging recognizes learning and growth wherever it happens and helps people connect their accomplishments across institution types.“ (Fontichiaro, 2015, What is digital badging? para 2) Digital or physical badging has the potential to recognize and indicate learning outside of traditional classes and in unique environments like makerspaces. These tools are new to education but have been successfully used in organizations like Scouts or even objective-based video games. In other words, some students would have prior experience with badging in both physical and digital badges forms. However, bringing this assessment into the new and evolving “anywhere classroom” including a makerspace offers new opportunities for learners and educators to record their progress.

Badging could be an excellent indicator of the wide variety of skills, abilities and progress made by learners in a makerspace. However, there are a few criticisms that should be examined before utilizing badging for our makers. Some like Seliskar have cited badges as a motivating tool, yet I think that using badges only to motivate could have the opposite effect. (2014, para. 1) They might serve as a motivator in the short term but might be better served as a digital indicator of learner progress as issued by educators, mentors and specialists. The idea of a “badge economy” is a much more powerful concept with a longer timeframe as they provide a record of subject or skill mastery. In a “badge economy” student earns a backpack of badges with each carrying everything needed (i.e. metadata) to understand the badge (who gave it, what is it for etc.) Sunny Lee, a product manager from Mozilla suggests that  “(t)he digital backpack enables the learner to be able to curate and manage the image that they want to represent to the rest of the world…the idea is that we’re kind of laying down the plumbing for this badge economy to flourish. Now, we need some badges circulating around the economy to jumpstart it.” (Ash, 2012, p.28) Makerspaces would seem ripe for the creation of many badges (i.e. mBot programmer) that learners could add to their backpack. (See Figure Three below for example badges.)

Figure Three Sample badges

 

In this assessment model, students acquire key knowledge from a curated list by educators, curriculum designers or specialists in order to earn teacher-created badges. Teacher created badges are essential as they could serve as indicators for makers/creators or programmers to “level-up” their skills. For example, educators could indicate and celebrate students’ initial progress on a particular tool (i.e. Level One) but create a scale to encourage them to explore the tool and their own creativity in more detail (i.e. Level Two…)  According to Grier, “… the best approach to scaling digital badging is not to focus on students, but on their teachers.” (2015, para 3). Teachers can provide the expertise to encourage next steps and extend thinking.

Perhaps an even more student-centered approach is a co-creation model between learners and educators to create a unique learning pathway for makers. This co-creating model has the potential for students to demonstrate core competencies but leaves room for creativity and innovation so critical to leveraging the potential of makerspaces. Like “stepping stones’, learners navigate their progress throughout a specific area of focus with badges as indicators and then earners decide to keep private or share (with interested parties) along the way. Teachers might help students create a “…portfolio that reflects the skills and knowledge they have developed, as well as evidence…” (Grier, 2015, para. 11).

These badges could then be shared online at the discretion of the badge earners. Ash states that “…the badge earner must be responsible for managing his or her own badges.” (2012, p. 28). Putting the sharing permissions in the hands of the learner is critical as no doubt in their mind or the minds of others (institutions, employers, even peers etc.) some badges will have more weight than others. This is certainly a valid criticism but the metadata in each badge will indicate the date, issuer and skills learned and demonstrated for clarity. This metadata is a clear indicator of learner’s progress with sharing permissions at the discretion of the learner. The transferrable and sharing potential for badges through sites like credly.com or badgelist.com and housed on wikis, blogs or websites provides new opportunities for learners to share their progress, learning and success. This not only allows learners to find success but also to create a strong digital footprint potentially leading to future learning and collaboration opportunities in global settings. The Mozilla Open Badges might provide this global setting as place for learners to collect badges earned and issuers to add badges in a learner’s digital “backpack”. (See Figure Four below) However, the appealing nature of the issuing of these micro-credentials is that earners can decide to showcase and share the progress and achievement through the web to interested parties (i.e. recruitment for makers) in global market place of the internet.

 

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Figure Four – Sample from digital backpack or eportfolio

More on Collaborative Assessment

Collaboration beyond student- teacher relationship also offers opportunities for makerspaces. The successful collaboration of educators, curriculum designers, researchers and specialists will aid learning environments and makerspaces that emphasize design and making through varied perspectives on student progress and perspectives. “If teaching artists partner with the shop teachers, home education teachers, and computer science educators in schools, a multifaceted makerspace can emerge.” (Barniskis, 2014, p. 7) Makerspaces can be a good gathering point for conversations between learners with many different types of specialists and experts on next steps and sharing of progress.

Design journals, reflective writing or badging need not be public but can be the basis for crucial conversations concerning next steps between makers and peers or makers and mentors. Educators might plan out time for makers to have these conversations which will only help the makers in their learning but also provide evidence for educators on the progress of students. Even the conversation could be used for assessment, which might be recorded through a page in a design journal, written reflection or even a badge. Making a “pitch” and hearing feedback from peers or experts are an important element in the design thinking toolkit for educators and makers.

Finally, conversations with other parents, guardians and other important figures in a student’s life can have an impact on learning and assessment as educators gain a wider perspective of student progress. Creating connections between home and school through open communication between educators, parents and students can be important to help educators create authentic experiences for students to learn and make progress.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Based on research into makerspaces and practices, three types of assessment tools seem to be a good fits for makerspaces: design journals, reflections and badging. Design journal and reflective writing are two strategies that emphasis metacognition and encourage learners to self-evaluate their progress in makerspaces. Learners can then choose what to keep private, or share with peers in a co-learning or collaborative structure and finally, engage with experts globally. Use of reflections at different stages of projects with a variety of audiences can also be critical to encourage increasing authentic feedback, assessment and evaluation for makers. Reflective writing and design journals are powerful tools for design thinking strategies. Badging is another pedagogical strategy that might serve to clearly indicate the desired outcomes (i.e. design, computer science as well as an implied gender balance) and yet encourage students to explore a breadth (and depth) of maker tools in an open-ended way. In addition, these forms of assessment are easily incorporated into design club routines and workflow. (see Figure Five below) If makerspaces offer new pedagogy and opportunities for students, then challenging and critically evaluating our assessment practices is vital if we are to encourage student success and innovation.

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Figure Five Workflow model

In terms of assessment, I do not mean to suggest that creativity and innovation should be the only focus in a makerspace as no doubt equitable access, student enthusiasm, gender equality, computational thinking, curriculum expectations, digital citizenship are vital. In fact, the powerful affordances in makerspaces may even allow makers to make progress regardless of the stance of educators. However, switching between a teacher-centered to student-centered stance and using assessment practices like design journals, reflections and badging allow for mentors and educators to better explore the “black box” that is the mind of the makers. These tools could provide the necessary support for makers to grow and flourish. According to Fessakis et al. (2013) “… the teacher’s role during the proposed learning activities (computational) was critical. She encouraged and supported the children to overcome their difficulties, controlled the various coordination issues that came up (e.g. the next player’s turn) and handled the cases where the children seemed not to be able to deal successfully with.“ (p.86). Overall, makerspaces offer learners to opportunities create a unique pathway with new and exciting experiences for learners and mentors who can support, assess and even co- learn.

References

Ash, K. (2012, June 13). Colleges Use ‘Digital Badges’ to Replace Traditional Grading. Digital Directions, 05(03), 26. Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html?tkn=SPOFHItvuFGEOUO0jyGFYbA5FMSXhWNiR5R8&print=1c

Barniskis, Shannon, Crawford (2014). Makerspaces and Teaching Artists, Teaching Artist Journal, 12:1, 6-14, DOI: 10.1080/15411796.2014.844621 retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com.uproxy.library.dc-uoit.ca/doi/pdf/10.1080/15411796.2014.844621

Culutta, Richard. (2011). Zone of Proximal Development. retrieved from <http://www.innovativelearning.com/educational_psychology/development/zone-of-proximal-development.html>.

Davis, R., Kafai, Y., Vasudevan, V., & Lee, E. (2013). The education arcade: Crafting, remixing, and playing with controllers for Scratch games. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, 439-442. New York: ACM. doi: 10.1145/2485760.2485846

Fessakis, G., Gouli, E., & Mavroudi, E. (2013). Problem Solving by 5-6 Year Old Kindergarten Children in a Computer Programming Environment: A Case Study. Computers & Education, 63​, pp. 87 – 97.

Fontichiaro, Kristin, and Angela Elkordy. (2015 26 Mar). Chart Students’ Growth with Digital Badges ISTE. Retrieved from https://www.iste.org/explore/articleDetail?article=Chart%2Bstudents%2Bgrowth%2Bwith%2Bdigital%2Bbadges&articleid=320&category=In-the-classroom>.

Gerstein, Jackie, (2013, March 16th) I Don’t Get Digital Badges. Retrieved from https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Grier, Terry. (2015, 31 Oct.). So You Want to Drive Instruction With Digital Badges? Start With the Teachers. EdSurge News. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-10-31-so-you-want-to-drive-instruction-with-digital-badges-start-with-the-teachers.

Horvath, Joan and Cameron, Rich, (2015, May 5th). The New Shop Class: Getting Started with 3D Printing, Arduino, and Wearable Tech, Apress, Technology in Action

Ito, Mizuko, Kris Gutiérrez, Sonia Livingstone, Bill Penuel, Jean Rhodes, Katie Salen, Juliet Schor, Julian Sefton-Green, S. Craig Watkins. (2013). Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA: Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.

Kohn, Alfie. (2011) The Case Against Grades. Educational Leadership: November 2011, Retrieved from http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/case-grades

McLeod, S. A. (2012). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved from www.simplypsychology.org/Zone-of-Proximal-Development.html

Moura, Karly, (2016, January 17th) Gamifying our STEM Lab Challenges.  Retrieved from  http://karlymoura.blogspot.ca/2016/01/gamifying-our-stem-lab-challenges.html

Nichols, Garth. (2015 Sept. 10th) Inquiry & Design Lab. The Teachers Guild. https://collaborate.teachersguild.org/challenge/how-might-we-create-rituals-and-routines-that-establish-a-culture-of-innovation-in-our-classrooms-and-schools/ideas/inquiry-design-lab>.

Ostashewski, N., Reid, E., and Reid, D., (2014). Introducing 3D Printing to the classroom using inquiry: A case study describing implementation, challenges and successes. pp 1597-1605  EdMedia  Tampere, Finland

Puentedura, Ruben R. (2014, November 12th) SAMR: First Steps. Retrieved from http://www.hippasus.com/rrpweblog/archives/2014/11/13/SAMR_FirstSteps.pdf

Seliskar, Holli Vah. (2014, May 16th). Using Badges in the Classroom to Motivate Learning.” Faculty Focus. Retrieved from http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-badges-classroom-motivate-learning/.

Siko et al. (2013). Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes. Retrieved from http://www.wfs.org/futurist/2013-issues-futurist/september-october-2013-vol-47-no-5/top-10-disappearing-futures/disap-0

Turri, Dan et al. (2013). Disappearing Future 2. Educational Processes. September-October-2013  Vol.47-No.5

Resnick et. al. (2009). Scratch: Programming for All. Communications of the ACM November 2009 Vol. 52, No. 11, p. 60 – 67 Retrieved from http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/Scratch-CACM-final.pdf

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Putting Students First: Using Learning Theories to update Projects and Spaces

build own countryCollaboration is often cited as a key 21st century skill yet students rarely get a opportunity to observe educators in the act of working together. In my role as a technology integration specialist, I consistently collaborate with other teachers, openly when possible, so students can observe and model. The creation of clear, transparent and shared projects between educators aids learning goals and student success. Add in access to creative, technological tools and students have powerful ingredients for learning. Shared objectives not only reinforce the work of a classroom teacher but also validate the learning from the student’s perspective. They might say “this is important as we are exploring it in two different subjects, Information Technology and Social Studies (perhaps more!)” This cross-curricular and integrated approach has been a fundamental aspect of learning and progress in my classes, in computer labs or increasingly anywhere tablets (and wifi) take us. However, my recent thinking, research and discussions on learning theories have led me to acknowledge that much more is needed to put the learner first. How much can I “learn, unlearn and relearn” my approach? (Toffler 1970) More specific connections with learning theories and leveraging vital collaboration with the collective intelligence of peers and colleagues in my current course of study, would improve learning and teaching in my learning environment. This “levelling up” approach has been applied directly to my current and future curriculum and project planning with students. “Upgrading content requires deliberate provocation…what content should be kept,…cut,…created.” (Jacobs 2010) Using experiences with Grade Five students, I will explore benefits of current approaches and leverage established and evolving learning theories, specifically humanism, cognitivism, behaviorism and constructivism in order to upgrade the learning environment for my students.

In the third term of Grade Five, students are often expected to more formally present a researched topic in Social Studies. Taking the pre-2013 revision of the Ontario Social Studies curriculum as a guide, Ancient China was the topic and students were assigned to research martial arts, food, clothing etc. Students were then asked to present their discoveries. When critically examining this project from a humanist lens, it is clear the students might have to “manufacture” their connections to topic, especially when they are assigned by the teacher. Yet connection with the material was a vital assessed element as manifested through enthusiasm, performance and creativity. In fact, much effort was made for teachers to find the right topic to fit specific students with understandably mixed results. These are clear signs that although assigned presentations were appropriate for meeting curricular goals, some tweaking and updating would be necessary to engage students from a humanist perspective. In fairness, our curricular documentation has reflected this change in the 2013 revision with an emphasis on an inquiry-based learning model where students are encouraged to ask questions and research using a variety of sources (primary, secondary etc.) and assumingly leverage new web-based search tools when appropriate.

From a behaviourist perspective, students were encouraged by a secure environment and often felt safe and supported by a variety of educators, peers and parents. Not surprisingly, students loved showing martial arts movies, dressing in beautiful silk and eating Chinese delicacies too. At times, students would use handouts with crosswords, games, stories  and other techniques. We often used presentation tools on the computer (i.e. Power Point, Voice Thread etc.) for engagement and interactive purposes (i.e. Jeopardy, online commenting) These last two strategies were often a great help when exploring more facts-based material (Emperors, Religion etc.) From this analysis, I would argue that students were aided by behaviorist perspective with praise, support and even scaffolding when appropriate. Students were encouraged by the teacher to demonstrate their observational learning skills by leading the class through materials in a teacher-like manner. (By Grade Five, they have much experience observing many teachers in action to use as a guide.)

From a cognitivist perspective, this project has challenges as students are assessed on their performance of their research rather than emphasizing a more gradual accumulation of knowledge, thinking skills, organization, project management or even collaboration. They could also be much more potential for input upon the accumulated scholarship or collective intelligence on a particular topic. In addition, this accumulation only built upon prior research skills (in Grade Four) and towards skill development for future research (Grade Six). In practice, projects were often discarded at the end of the year with little option for retrieval beyond an occasional video recording. Perhaps its place in a portfolio, (digital I would suggest) would add retrieval options, give more clues to thinking processes, knowledge acquisition, accumulation and assimilation. Assessment based on the performance/product alone would give educators less data than a performance combined with analysis of the process through documents like a portfolio most importantly accompanied by comments on the materials. Idealy, this might provide clues to a student’s metacognition and perspective. In fact, Piaget might see this project as more about accepting the research of others rather than “…creating men and women who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done; men and women who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify.” (Piaget, 1952)

From a constructivist approach, our presenter’s performance and ability to engage the students would be based in their “radical constructivism” as suggested by Glaserfeld. In other words, students would be more interested when they can construct meaning to the material with their own inquires. Their ability to accommodate and accumulate puts much pressure on the student to construct and present the materials in an appealing, thought provoking and simulating manner. In fairness, much scaffolding, support and guidance for this was provided by a variety of educators. In fact, students were encouraged to be creative could build or construct their presentation in any manner (i.e. story, drama, multimedia presentation, game, demonstration, samples etc.) However, perhaps a more inquiry-based model is more student centered and would be better supported by constructivist theory.

Our latest project with Grade Five students is less performance based and provide a more opportunities supported by a variety of learning theories and approaches. This “levelling up” or upgrade to the curriculum allows  students more choice (Humanist), while maintaining a consistent level of encouragement through a supportive environment (Behaviorist), provides an emphasis on the analysis of thinking skills in both the process and product (cognitivist) and finally, allows students to create and construct their own meaning and learning (constructivist). Finally, this new approach has the potential to tap into the collective intelligence of our class of digital experts, online sources and eventually when comfortable connect (connectivism) with others.

In specific, students were asked to create their own country after learning and profiling elements of the Canadian Federal government as an observable example. The key components were a “thought book(sample) and a website creation tool (Google Sites). Unlike the prior individual project, students worked in pairs to create their My Country web pages as emphasis on social learning would also benefit students as they can help and aid each other when needed. “Hence, the principle and method of ICT integration in education is as follows: ICT is a means to organize paired interactions in the problem solving process as well as a means of cooperative educational activities in the classroom (teacher – student – group of students).” (Kalas 2010)

Each team was asked to profile their own country based on the criteria from their research and their own creativity and imagination. Scaffolding on using the technology to create pages  was provided by videos (YouTube playlist), links, resources and students were encouraged to work collaboratively. Time was spent encouraging and modelling good collaboration as mentioned above and has foundation in Bandura’s social learning theory. Creating a the videos worked well as an opportunity for students to work within their zone of proximal development (ZPD) as students could watch, pause, rewind and play steps to complete their objective like changing the theme or adding images and links. In addition, teacher-led mini lessons or collaborations with supportive peers aided students to progress in their ZPD. The assessment process was changed from an emphasis on a final performance/presentation towards a gradual process enhanced by technology options like “revision history” and practices like “check in’s” to monitor students progress.

In addition, students were awarded badges (my list) rather than marks based on their creations and these badges were awarded throughout the process than at the end (perhaps too late!) Probably the most exciting element was the opportunity for the students to inspired (and potentially create) badges of their very own based in their interest, achievements and ideas. This appeals from both a behaviorist (“I’ll have that badge I created please”) and humanist perspective (I have designed success myself through the creation of my own badge. Here is my conversation with a student (video only viewable by FDJ) on this and my screencast in student-inspired badges. Based on this conversation and  observation of him leads me to believe that he and his partner is demonstrating Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” when working on this project. Finally, The “final” product being web-based is easily archived, shared and retrieved as both an exemplary for next year’s students and as part of a digital portfolio for the student.

Overall, a reimagining of all our projects and activities through the lens of all learning theories suggested that the learner is at the center rather than the curriculum content. The learner is supported by collaboration from a number of sources including a dedicated partner, educators in a variety of disciplines, other supportive peers, links to learning materials online and specific step-by-step screencasting videos for modelling. In addition, the opportunity in this example project encourages students to be creative on their web design while demonstrating necessary social studies learning goals. Accessing this project online through access to a lab, tablets in the classroom and even at home provides opportunity for anytime tinkering, iterating and creating. However, applying this example further and situated in learning space dedicated to building and construction could be even more powerful for learners. Being surrounded by the “buzz” of creative individuals in the act “flow” no doubt helps too. In fact, here are no limit to the possibilities for this project to include a variety of mediums including digital (paint and sketching (i.e. Flags), audio recordings (national anthem), animations (promoting the country, video, incorporation of web gadgets (a calendar of holidays), even programming through applications like Scratch (a web based games about the country) to Papert’s programmable drawing in Logo. Also physical creative mediums like painting, building with wood, plastics should not be ignored as they can be easily added to the web space through embedded video or photo. Finally, digital to physical mediums like 3-D printers or performing robots provide a new medium for learning. In short, our learning theories tell us that creative learner-centric activities in well designed spaces like makerspaces provide students with the opportunity to self-actualize.

Mini Maker Space 1
Sources

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:. TED talk. (Feb. 2014.) “Flow, the Secret to Happiness.” http://www.ted.com/talks/mihaly_csikszentmihalyi_on_flow

Glasersfeld, E. von, (2001) The radical constructivist view of science. In: A. Riegler (Ed.),Foundations of Science, special issue on “The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science”, vol.6, no. 1–3: 31–43.

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes. (2010) Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development,  Print.

Kalas, I. (2010) Recognizing the potential of ICT in early childhood education © UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education, http://iite.unesco.org/pics/publications/en/files/3214673.pdf

Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas, New York, Basic Books

Piaget, Jean. (1952) The origins of intelligence in children. International Universities Press

Pink, Daniel H. (2009) Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. New York, NY: Riverhead,  Print.

The Ontario curriculum – Social Studies Grade 1 to 6 (2013 revised) http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/sshg18curr2013.pdf

Toffler, Alvin. (1970) Future Shock. New York: Random House,  Web.

Tsu-Raun, Christian (Jan. 2014) Creating a Mini Maker Space 

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wyatt, Valerie (2009) How to Build Your Own Country © Citizen Kid, Kids Can Press http://www.scholastic.ca/clubs/images/activities/HowToBuildYourOwnCountry_2029_teaching.pdf 

Digital Badging: a valuable addition to assessment practice

Badging sample
Why Badges?

There is no question that kids (and adults) love shiny new toys and for educators, digital badging is trending as a practice to aid motivation, learning and student achievement. Anyone familiar with boys or girls scouts (my son is a cub!) know that badging is not really new and like the military serves as a critical element in their programme. Badging is used as motivation for encouraging their members to learn, achieve and is proudly displayed on sashes and uniforms during ceremonies or special occasions.

Today in education, students today of all ages can have access to a (free!) digital space (call it digital portfolios, blogs, websites or even cloud storage) where earned badges and achievements now have a place to be displayed to a potentially global audience. Dependent on the age of the student, their digital space can be teacher or student-curated. The opportunity to modify the degree of sharing from private or public and access to specific groups like parents or experts in between. However, I cannot help but ask whether digital badges aids motivation to learn or even diminishes it? I was inspired to this critical analysis from my own experiences, discussions in a class on Behaviorism and Jackie Gerstein’s well articulated blog post called “Why I hate digital badges.” (Spoiler alert: She doesn’t but is rightfully critical and cautious that badging should not replace evidence of learning among other ideas.)

However, I find that badges can aid the assessment process when used to celebrate, recognize and motivate student achievement and learning. Offering badges can offer students choice to earn, achieve and learn but should be not linear in their application (i.e. one badge at a time.) This experience will be familiar to those students who commonly unlock achievements in video games. (And I have a sneaking suspicion we all know might know a few student gamers in our classes:) Allowing students the option to complete tasks and curate projects in any order I believe replicates a differentiated instruction strategy of choice boards and would be appealing for students. And like games, some badges would be easy to earn than other more complex requirements.

I also like how badges can be a tangible reward that might be placed on blog, wiki or social media site. And after reading Jackie Gerstein’s article, I agree that the matching of badges with a digital portfolios or web spaces is essential so that interested parties can “click through” hyperlinks to examine related photos, videos, files and creative work for specific evidence of learning at a level of detail dependent on the observer. However, I am admittedly reluctant of the place of badges when transferred from one class to another. In other words, even the most well designed and transparent badging system is best used over the course of one school year with one teacher. Although Mozilla hope to apply standards to badging through their open source Open Badges initiative. (So watch this space!) Even higher educational institutions are getting in on the badging act.

Badges allow students to be rewarded for selected and specific achievements within a unit or course of study. In a mark-based system of assessment with rubrics, students may be reluctant to work towards something that is not marked. No question and full disclosure here, some students do struggle with the idea of shifting from a mark-based model to a standards-based one. Badging can help with the assessment process as students are able to be recognized personally for their achievements when achieving a badge by the instructor and can be key collaborators for peers interested in earning a particular badge. On that last point, badging is also a differentiation tool as like all initiatives Roger’s bell curve applies. Having badging will motivate some students (and I would argue a large majority) but may not be for all and I think that is ok. An educator might have to use different strategies to motivate, inspire, support and teach. (Yes, badging is certainly “no magic bullet” but can an evolving practice that I argue offers benefits to all involved in the learning process.)

I have been experimenting with badges in both Primary, Junior and Senior environments and find them a useful to aid the assessment process.

Below is a diagram of workflow in my classes and badging would enter in between Stage 5 and 6 of the process where projects are commented on, assessed and returned. As for platforms, I have been using KidBlog (sample) with primary students and Google Sites with both junior (sample) and senior (sample) students. Although, next steps with Grade 12 students would be to use services like Squarespace and the Adobe Creative Cloud as requested (Their requests and they are right…)
BVG Workflow sample 2014

How to create badges

Creating using Power Point

Creating using Credly.com

Also classbadges.com is an excellent resource for creating badges and even collecting embeddable options. For me, I have a folder that I use with all my badges in it (HERE) and create and collaborative with colleagues on Google documents with the requirements for each badges.

Further discussion on badging

I look forward to sharing my continuing practice with badging and eportfolios but remember that as assessment change, adapt and evolve (hopefully for the better) celebrating and encouraging student achievement is fundamental.

Here are a small sample of sites on badging. I look forward to further discussions and chats on Twitter and specifically at #badgechatk12.

Using badging with K-12 – http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/using-badges-classroom-motivate-learning/

Higher Education example – Masters in Education through Badging – http://etale.org/main/2014/09/07/you-can-now-earn-a-masters-degree-in-edtech-through-competency-based-digital-badges/

Shelly Terrell’s slidedeck on adapting assessment to be missions – http://www.slideshare.net/ShellTerrell/meaningful-elearning-with-digital-badges-missions

Jackie Gerstein’s blog post with a critical examination of digital badging – https://usergeneratededucation.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/i-dont-get-digital-badges/

Kate Ash’s features of digital badging – http://www.edweek.org/dd/articles/2012/06/13/03badges.h05.html?

Nellie Deutsch’s post on badges as virtual rewards – http://www.emergingedtech.com/2013/06/the-evolving-use-of-badges-in-education/

Technology’s Promise: How can we leverage technology to aid learning in the 2014 and beyond? EDUC 5101 Synthesis

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There is no question that learning in the internet age is completely different from any time in history. Traditional structures, routines and institutionalized practices in education (like all other industries in 2014) are being categorically replaced by the promise of technology for a more open (and seemingly endless) access to resources, expertise, information (in varying degrees of relevance and accuracy) Most importantly, technology’s potential to connect individuals, experts and learners from across the globe in real time is quite profound. In the last decade in particular, the classroom with its familiar set up of desks, chairs and chalkboard can potentially be replaced as a monopolizing hub for learning as we can learn anywhere, collaborate locally and globally and frequently do using technology The potential for redefining learning tasks and the struggle to survive and hopefully thrive in this new learning environment, has been experienced by all stakeholders in education including the learner at the center, parents, teachers, administrators and politicians. This post will explore four topics of areas of discussion: curriculum relevance, the role of standardized testing, socio-economic disparities and finally the resistance to change traditionally characteristic of our educational settings. The problem based learning model and approach by Dr. Desjardins is vital to our analysis as we take on the roles of the stakeholders and attempt to identify the problem, current situation, desired situation, obstacles, knowledge and resources towards approaching a solution from one perspective and then from another perspective and so on.

pbl3
“To begin with, the concept “problem” (P) can be described as being equivalent to the difference between a current situation (Sc) and a desired situation (Sd) or goal, and this difference becomes a difficulty as it is multiplied by the number and size of the obstacles (O) that stand between these.” (Desjardins, 2011 – Source)  

No question that our curriculum has to evolve to make the needs of students today (at least?!) and tomorrow (ideally).  A significant majority of students feel disenfranchised in schools. (Ito et al., 2013) They seem disinterested in both the content and pedagogies that characterize traditional approaches to learning in K-12 environments. (Ito et al., 2013) We, as educators, have to be committed to change, upgrade and re-define tasks if we are to attempt to prepare students for an uncertain future with important life and learning skills. As always, the focus must be on creating an enhanced and connected learning environment rather than teaching technology in isolation. According to Heidi Hayes Jacobs, educators should be upgrading and updating tasks constantly to help prepare students for tomorrow rather than learn the skills of yesterday. She suggests a number of updates to consider: content and assessment (what to keep, cut, create and add to a portfolio?), program structures (by grade, use of time, space), use of technology, media literacy, globalization, sustainability and habits of mind (thinking habits to all succeed in life). A mention of Dr. Punterdura’s SAMR model is also a relevant and important lens to critically and honestly examine all learning with technology. When integrating technology into instruction and learning, perhaps our goal for updating is to move an increasing amount of tasks to the re-definition level. From a curriculum leader or administrator’s perspective, providing opportunities for staff to become connected through school collaboration embedded into their weekly schedule would also aid teachers to plan rich learning experiences (more re-definition tasks) for students. Another invaluable solutions is encouraged our teachers to become connected educators who use external collaborations, social media like Twitter, webinars as well as action research and conferences to aid their students and learning community. The accessibility to leading educators, researchers, academic and pedagogical leaders as well as experts on any topic through digital means (i.e. Skype, email, IM etc.) is too rich a resource for educators and administrators to pass up. In short, creating connected educators with vibrant Personal Learning Networks (PLN) is going to be a more powerful way to upgrade curriculum and learning for students than traditional top-down staff meetings or even one-off conferences.

From the student and parent perspective, each of these stakeholders is keen to experience activities that showcases a student’s strengths and prepares them for future success. Engagement then becomes key and seeking connected learning experiences is one strategy where the learner can participate, learn by doing, face constant challenge and be able to explore the interconnectedness of learning not only to prepare them for the outside world but as an active participant immediately. An example of this is found on the Scratch 2.0 website where enthusiasts of coding and programming from all walks of life are able to share, remix and build programs by topic, function or theme. From collections of projects by topic, subject even principles like loops provide a venue for showcasing and learning skills in a public setting purposefully. Sites like Scratch, Google Apps, Prezi or Voice Thread (link to more by parts of the SAMR model)  where creativity is encouraged and designers have the option to share work to a limited or specific and when appropriate a wider audience will not only motivate and engage but also allow students to become digital leaders with a positive digital footprints upon graduation.

Politicians on the topic of curriculum relevance have to listen to their educational advisors and economic leaders and support initiatives that will allow for graduates to find economic independence and be happy as measured on the Happiness index. As educators in 2014, I think we have the opportunity to leverage a variety of assessment tools including diagnostic to plot a learner’s position on continuum of learning. I find in my practice that some traditional questions (especially when using a combination of open and closed questions) are helpful for a quick check for learning and feedback and this aids both learners and educators. However, at the end of a unit or period of time, when student needs to demonstrate a fuller spectrum of their learning, a digital portfolio of student work, artifacts and achievements is definitely a better gauge of their progress. In 2014, the ability to take pictures, videos and links to digital content (always protecting student’s personal data and likeness) could allow “testing” to reflect a learner’s true perspective especially if curated by them dependent on age. Politicians aided by academics and administrators could then examine student’s created artifacts for specific criteria and benchmarks. This is no doubt a longer process of assessment, especially for those keen on clean and simple numerical data. However, in 2014 I would argue that no one can have their learning boiled down to a grade level or number!  This document shared by a colleague demonstrates the student’s perspective and input on the potential and exciting future possible for students. (source)
student's imagine future of education

Funding and support for open source and publicly funded learning initiatives can certainly aid the digital divide that is taking place in Ontario and to an even greater extent internationally. (Chen et al. 2014) As most initiatives and educational technology move to a cloud based model, access to a web enabled device unlocks a wealth of rich learning opportunities for students. Luckily, the price of one device is becoming increasingly affordable to point of complete market penetration. Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) initiatives in schools can increase the integration of technology in class as along as students who arrive to school without, are provided with a device without stigma or a vast gap in access to tools accessible to others. (i.e. If classes are using tablets, students should not using computers and vice versa.) As educational technology becomes increasingly entrenched in schools, parents with limited purchasing power are going put tremendous pressure on schools to provide devices to maintain equity. Partnerships between companies and schools in need can also be encouraged by politicians and administrators to provide devices in a mutually beneficial exchange of student use for ethical and discrete data collection and research. BYOD can help but can also reinforce inequity and therefore a 1:1 environment with all teachers and students sharing a similar device is more ideal.

Governments also have a role to place in providing funding for technology hardware and seemingly free educational materials (software, digital textbooks,  web based etc.) accessible by all students in a learning community or province. The example of Bitstrips for Schools is one web tool where a powerful and creative online tool is freely available to Ontario students. Administrators and school leaders have an important role in advocating the needs of the students and considering the resources, tools and especially technology to meet the needs of their students.

Educational institutions have traditionally been skeptical to changes and adopting new technologies and learning practices in the classroom is wholly dependent on the teacher. (Chen et al. 2014) This critical approach has merit when the focus is on maintaining a high standard of learning in the classroom but has to shift as the teacher-learner relationship evolves in the internet age. Educators no longer have a monopoly on knowledge and in the information age, students from all ages have the potential for greater knowledge on a specific subject than the instructor. Successful instructors will shift their focus on process and provide opportunities for students to demonstrate a synthesis of their ideas, adapting one format (writing to multimedia or multi-sensory etc.) or even leaving it up to the students (depending on the age) to select their own form of expression to meet the learning goals. This flexible model creates an environment where change is welcome and adapts to the needs of the students. Administrators are also encouraged to support teachers whose innovative practices help their students and by allowing them to share with others in their internal school PLN and external PLN to more input and suggestions. An open approach to new ideas and modes of learning is a strong element of creating a vibrant learning community.

Another important resource for all stakeholders in educators (from the learner to the politician) is the adoption of a growth mindset as proposed by Carol Dweck. By transitioning to a growth mindset rather than a fixed one, all stakeholders in education are encouraged to note that our skills, achievements and practices are not fixed and can constantly evolve to be better and more effective. No doubt failure is an important, necessary and acceptable outcome for new ideas and initiatives. This is so true when working online as “pulling the plug” or horror of ‘no wifi” can bring Plan A to a grinding halt! However, the capacity for new student centered models where parents, educators, curriculum leaders, principals and politicians all work from the mindset that FAIL stands for “First Attempt in Learning” encourages innovation and risk taking that forms the basis for the economy in society today and in the future. Another quote that supports a dynamic of change and innovation is from Heidi Siwak “You are only ever working with your current best idea.” This expression of integrative thinking offers an approach that would help educators and administrators use the tools (in our case technological) currently available to help students but be willing to reflect, critically examine, change, revise and update when a new approach or technology becomes available.

Collaborations, partnerships and connections between many perspectives leveraged through technological tools and face to face discussions and interactions become critical for growth. Creating connected learners, educators, parents and politicians allow all stakeholders to share, debate and discuss new approaches to learning and education. Learners need to feel that they can connect their ideas and interests to curriculum whenever possible through technological tools like social media, cloud based creative and productivity tools, educational games and simulations. Parents need to model themselves as the “primary educator” in their child’s life, supporting a growth mindset and seeking help and be recipients of support when social, societal, economic factors inhibit the growth of their child. Educators need to similarly adopt a growth mindset with their curriculum documents, adapting to the newest, best expressions of technology and supported by investigations and interactions within their PLN. Administrators need to focus on school wide assessment practices of both students and educators to create a vibrant learning environment where each student has an individual learning plan and both educators and students are continuously looking to grow with confidence. Politicians are in a position to look longer term and support Ontario’s citizens in each stage of life, with learners at the center, while considering the needs of parents, educators and learning communities with funding, support and a growth mindset. In short, technology’s promise is tied directly to an individual’s ability to learn, unlearn and relearn as Toffler states below.

21st-cent-illiterate
Sources

Achieving Excellence: A renewed vision for Education in Ontario
, Government of Ontario,  2014.
Digital Learning in Ontario Schools, People for Education, 2014.
Dweck, Carol Mindset, 2007.
Desjardins, F.J. PBL: Thoughts on the “Role” Effect, 2011.
Ito et al. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design, 2013.
Jacobs, Heidi Hayes (editor) Curriculum 21, 2010.
Puentedura, Ruben R. SAMR and Curriculum Redesign 2014.

My #summerofpd – A few activities to “level up” my #edtech skills

A summer break for teachers is definitely a privilege and an opportunity for growth.  The intense, 24/7, always on, crazy schedule during term time sometimes demands a complete break to rest, recover and recharge!  I definitely get that and felt that I took enough time to feel refreshed but also decided to use this time to explore  a number of opportunities to “level up” my #edtech skills through some self-initiated studies. (Perhaps the absence of my enthusiastic camp-bound kids was a significant and contributing factor!)  Here are some of initiatives I explored during this time I dubbed the #summerofpd.

1. Certified as a Google Educator
ARC Google Educator Aug.2014

This site offered teacher-created screencasts with accompanying documents for educators to explore how Google Chrome, Docs, Drive, Calendar, Gmail and Sites can aid teaching and learning. The Level 1 tests were straight forward with everyday experience using the apps but the Level 2 questions  proved challenging as their specificity really tested my revision and study skills. (I’ll have to remember that feeling come December when my students mention all the ISP’s, exams, activities, clubs, teams, events presentations on their to-do list.)  Here is a brief summary of my particular favourites. (More detail to come as I can’t give away all my future blog posts!)

Gmail – Added tabs and tags to sort and organize my messages easily (i.e. academic studies, receipts, notifications, personal etc.)
Google Sites – Created student portfolio templates (Hapara Dashboard makes the process even easier)
Google Calendar – Built shared course calendars for myself and students and ready to assign project calendars student led collaborative assignments
Google Chrome – Created distinct users (home vs. school) and pinned tabs to keep important sites keeps separate yet easily accessible, also some added great apps like Powtoon and extensions like Clearly or goo.gl URL shortener
Google Drive – Collected a number of a good screencasts on using Google Apps. I focused on Google Forms and Google Drawings which were relatively unfamiliar to me. Here is a Google Drawing I created as a model on how Google Classroom (another recent release to explore!) will adjust the workflow in my classes.
BVG Workflow sample 2014

Overall, I passed all the exams and that felt good! Here is the proof. Next steps, will be to include my learning into my professional practice and then share with colleagues in my PLN internally and when appropriate externally too.

The link to the Google Certification site is here and even if you do not decide to pay for the tests, there are some amazing teacher-created videos on many Google tips and tricks.

2. Became a Graphite Certified Educator

The Graphite Certified Educator programme appealed to me as an excellent strategy to review and explore the exponentially increasing amount of educational apps, software and websites now available. (I think of this site as Wikipedia for educational technology.) With so many educational technology resources released frequently, this opportunity to “crowd-source” and collect reviews and experiences of educators is invaluable as a tool to stay “current” in busy times and be able contribute my own ideas and suggestions when inspired. I am lucky enough to explore much educational technology in my professional practice, academic practice and self- professed GeekDad moments (i.e Right now its all about the Sphero 2.o with my two but I digress…)

The Graphite site has many features but here are the sections I would like to emphasize.

Field Notes – Here educators create and share their reviews of  educational technology (#edtech) resources (apps, websites and software). Through crowd-sourcing and the work of many, there is an excellent opportunity to collect a vast database of information to benefit those interested in reading reviews from educators with experience with the technology. (After all, how many of us spend time “clarifying” things on wikipedia.org! I think I have a problem as I have to “wikipedia” EVERY form of media (book, article, movie, show etc.) I read or watch 🙂

Boards – a perfect place to curate Field Notes and educational resources (apps, websites and software) together on a particular theme. I built a board called “Kids Can Code” that allowed me to collect reviews and links on programming for kids from familiar ones (i.e. I even added my Scratch review too) to unfamiliar software  and everything in between in terms of familiarity and quality.

App Flow – A place to share “gourmet” lesson plans which integrate technology successfully into lessons. I like the emphasis on a “Hook” too as an important element for all exemplary lessons,  as can be an overlooked element for successful learning. (I think Daniel Pink covers this in his A Whole New Mind book.) App Flows could be excellent resources for teachers especially when just getting started with a particular #edtech resource. I hope to share my best “gourmet” lessons and resources from my professional practice when appropriate. Sometimes an app, software or website gets even more interesting when you read the specifics on how educators uses it to successfully enhance learning. App Flow provide the app and how is integrated successfully in the class. Helpful!

3. Completed a MOOC ” ICT and Primary”

Full disclosure, I was encouraged to explore a MOOC in a recent graduate course but I signed up for it as it was completely relevant to my professional practice (and I finished the whole course too!)  Here is a link to a full blog post on my takeaways from the MOOC called “ICT and Primary” from the University of London.

In addition, to these opportunities, Twitter and LinkedIn continued to be excellent places for “micro-PD” to collect resources, explore new ideas and connect for professional discourse. Overall, I am deeming the #summerofpd a success (You can do that when it’s self-initiated!)

~Anthony

Leadership and Technology: becoming a transformational leader

I learned much in my Leadership and Technology course. (So busy to even update this blog recently.) However, one of our tasks was to create a learning log of my journey which is available at http://arclearninglog5103g.wordpress.com/ which allowed to me exercise my writing and blogging instincts on a new page.  (So hopefully, I am not totally out of practice!!!) My main takeaway was to apply new learning in my role as a technology leader in my school. To me a transformational leader requires vision, collaborative skills, creativity, supported by well founded research and interested in good pedagogy that improves learning.

I also added the text and some of the elements of my Learning Log to my professional blog after some feedback from colleagues. Next up, I begin a Technology and the Curriculum class in May.
highlights here

Thanks!

Mobiles in the 1 device classroom and beyond

Everywhere you look mobiles are having a dramatic impact on the world around us. Ask yourself…how have you used your “phone” in the last week? I sure your answers are varied and will amaze you.

But what about the classroom…teachers are realizing the potential for the anyplace, anywhere, anytime aspect of mobile devices as an powerful resource for learning, creating and sharing.

“In addition, since the fourth quarter of 2010, smartphone and tablet sales have exceeded PC sales – and the growth trends continue to favor these newer devices. Mobile devices now account for 13% of global Internet traffic – and rising.”

Source: http://readwrite.com/2013/05/13/mobile-is-taking-over-the-world

Here are 3 examples of sample activities for teachers in the one device classroom.

1. Use your phone to record (i.e. oral assessments, collaborations and for multimedia projects) I use Evernote, VoiceThread and an app called  Recorder Pro)
2. Take pictures as Assessment as Learning (i.e. spreadsheet with check boxes or take photos for reviewing, sequencing and reflecting)
3. Access and edit critical files (schedules, team lists, check lists, PDFs )through apps like Skydrive, Dropbox and Google Drive (in the last one, up to 50 people can collaborate on one doc, spreadsheet or presentation)

My examples are from the Apple App Store but if that specific app is not available, there are many similar alternatives in other app stores (most are free too!)

With mobile technology (phones and tablets), learning is now anytime and the “classroom” anywhere. Many people are using apps to learn, create, communicate and share in new and exciting ways. However, I believe it is a mistake to focus on the apps themselves. Instead, perhaps the focus should be on how mobile tech. creates new and engaging learning opportunities for ourselves and students. Dr. Puentedura’s research examines how we use the technology to transform and redefine learning experiences for students. See my blog post on Puentedura’s SAMR model which has been a great influence on my integrated approach to educational technology. How can we use this technology to provide new pedagogies to prepare them for the future? As for apps…as the iPad ad says: “there is an app for that!”

Here are some learning opportunities for mobile devices and some example apps.

  1. Read (and discuss) Professional Development articles on your subject or interest (i.e. Zite, Flipboard, Twitter…)
  2. Collect and curate articles, graphics, videos… for sharing (i.e. Delicious, Diigo, Pinterest…)
  3. Scan, display and analyze student work (i.e. HD Scanner, Camera app,)
  4. Create a digital notebook of student work for assessment and sharing (i.e. Evernote, Good Reader)
  5. Transform text into audio (i.e. Qwiki, Speak! or adjust assessability settings in an iPad)
  6. Create a collaborative digital poster (i.e. Padlet, Lino it)
  7. Create a collaborative graphic organizer (i.e. Popplet)
  8. Create, edit and share a slideshow or movie (i.e. iMovie, VoiceThread, Animoto)
  9. Connect your class with experts, teachers  or other classes (i.e. Google Hangouts, Skype etc.)
  10. Write, record, sketch your notes (i.e. Penultimate, Notability)
  11. Compute complex calculations (i.e. Calculator, Numbers etc.)
  12. Organize, share and manage your school calendar (i.e. ITeacher Book, Google Calendars etc.)
  13. Quickly contact groups of students or teachers through text messaging (i.e.  Remind 101)
  14. Make sketches to teach and share (i.e. Educreations, Explain Everything, Show Me)
  15. Sign or annotate and return a .pdf without printing (i.e. Acrobat Reader, Good Reader)

This is list is far from exhaustive and I hope not too overwhelming.

Hopefully, you have had at least one takeaway tip. I have enjoyed sharing my research and ideas from colleagues to help you and your students. Thanks for reading the final tip before summer. (Yippee!)

Anthony

My Twitter handle for questions and further discussion – @anthonychuter
F
or further discussion of this topic check out my group project and research on mobile technology in the class.

Creating and sharing graphic organizers using Popplet

digital popplet2
Popplet is a great mind-mapping and graphic organizer tool to aid planning and writing. Not only can you add text to your graphic organizer but you can also add a variety of sketches, graphics and multimedia. Collaborating with multiple authors is easy through a shared link as your file is stored in the cloud. (The hidden notes page is great for assessment or feedback from you!) Finally, the presentation mode allows you to create and navigate through a path of views from one “popple” (box) to another through your arrow keys.

Here are a few screencasts I made, that you are welcome to use in your classes. Lots more available on YouTube.(without my squeeky voice through:P)

Creating an account in Popplet

Getting started in Popplet

Student sample –Gr.4 Canadian physical region http://popplet.com/app/#/311851
Gr.4 Muslim Influence on the Medieval Europe – http://popplet.com/app/#/812393
Diversity of Living Things – Educator sample http://popplet.com/app/#/901161

This software is available in Windows and iOS and recommended for students from Grade 4 and up.

Voice Thread with one iOS device or a full lab

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Once I decide (by hunch or “crunch” from my PLN ) that I am willing to try a particular ed. tech. tool, I immediately start my testing process. As an ICT specialist, I find myself exploring a breadth of digital tools. However, a real depth of knowledge is critical for evaluating whether a tool is effective for a specific age and stage, suitable for curriculum integration and promotes 21st century fluency. One strategy for exploring a resource with depth is to integrate the tool with learning as much as possible over the course of a term with a variety of ages, groups and situations. That way I can really get a handle on its potential and limitations. Over the last year, I have been exploring Glogster EDU, Bitstrips for Schools, Popplet (all great BTW and worthy of review) but this term Voice Thread has definitely been my software of choice. (Ok full disclosure, I recently gained access to the Voice Thread admin. tools which was a huge advantage.) Switching between the app on my IPhone and software on a computer has been an excellent “one-two punch” for creating and recording projects, research and learning.

Voice Thread with One iOS device

Circulating the class with my IPhone, I quickly and easily recorded students’ thoughts, ideas and research in the “hustle and bustle” of the classroom. This term, our Grade 1 and 2 students researched specific topics (animals, mapping etc.) on the computer using the excellent Pebble Go site. As I was circulating, I was able to stop, take a quick screenshot or a picture of their collaboration in action and then record audio of them with my smartphone. Some students shared original ideas but other simply read their research which was an excellent way to record their ideas and learning. This collection of thoughts, ideas and collaboration was not only a good source for sharing but also an effective assessment tool. Listening to their progress allowed me to easily analyze their progress. This recorded information was available to be played for me or the students in the next class so I can extend their learning and cover areas that were missed or not explored in depth. What a great record of informal and formal assessment!

Here is an example. (We have a strict privacy policy at our school so the example is only screenshots and voices. Although not shown I recommend using photos of the students to really bring projects to life.)

Voice Thread for Students

We purchased a subscription for students and I introduced this software in our computer lab to our Grade Three students. We had great fun creating avatars, recording using microphones, webcams and sharing ideas. After a couple of classes to explore built-in tutorials and some specific screencasts from me, students were familiar with the interface and we began to use VT to collect and record our research on the Titanic. VT is an excellent and superior 21st century tool, that allowed us to record student ideas, research, questions and collaborations. Eventually, it became an authentic document and record of student learning and ideas with potential for further study either as an assessment tool or just a fun presentation for parents, students who know the students well.

Last year was the 100th anniversary of the crash and so our school had many activities related the centenary of the disater. It was SO popular and educationally rich we continued with research with this year’s Grade Three (We called it Titanic 2 the sequel!)

Here is our collected research on the Titanic. (This is the non-webcam version to preserve the safety of the students.)
titanic screenshot

I also asked our Grade Five students to create a short “how-to” project using Voice Thread to show their expertise on a topic. My other goal was for them to familiarize themselves with the interface prior to a major research project later in the term.

Here was my Introductory Voice Thread.

Here is an example from one of the students. (Again, I disabled all the webcam clips but hopefully, this will provide some ideas of our progress so far…)
More formal projects were to follow. This year students are studying Ancient China.

Commenting in VT

Commenting is probably the most important feature in VT to transform traditional one-way multimedia presentations into interactive and collaborative research presentations. Users can add a comment by typing, recorded audio, uploaded audio or record using a webcam. With my Grade 5’s, I asked them to create and upload a slide using PowerPoint for students to provide feedback. I also included commenting as part of my rubric to encourage them to make positive contributions to the ideas of others. (see below) I like Tony Wagner’s ideas on this. He provide these suggestions for peer editing “Be kind, be specific, be helpful and give steps” from his The Global Achievement Gap book.

Other resources and tips for using VT

1. Use Avatars for their identities

Ask students to add a cartoon representation of themselves. It provides a personal touch to your projects without giving away any privacy.

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Here is a quick list of websites on creating an Avatar.

1. Bitstrips for School (need an account) 2. Lego 3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4. The Simpsons 5. Nintendo Mii

2. Upload Power Point slides

The page templates are the perfect size and are excellent for title pages, bibliographies and collages of pictures. When viewing VT’s in the presentation, the hourglass option allows users to zoom in. Perfect for collage but try to use high res. photos.

3. Use high resolution pictures 

This depends on your audience but expect to use photos at 800 x 600 pixels minimum. You can display the project in a small window but fullscreen is the best. (Go big or go home as the saying goes.)

4. Use identities in creative ways

Students came up with creative uses which were amazing including using different identifities for different character or “experts” in their project. i.e. Now let’s hear from Confucius talk about…) or having a quiz on a page with 2 identifities to represent a sound effect for “right” and another sound for “wrong”.

5. Create a feedback slide

After the projects and presentations, students were encouraged to leave a helpful comment on a specific page in their Voice Thread.
vt dog feedback

Overall, Voice Thread performed very well in a variety of situations (class, lab, groups, pairs, whole class teaching etc.) and with various devices (desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet.) The free app and account make it an essential addition to a teacher’s smartphone (only IPhone or IPad currently) for recording student learning, progress, ideas and collaborations. Our language teachers really loved this tool as they could easily share audio recording and use devices to record student progress for evaluation.

Further Questions

How is this software being used to enhance learning and 21st Century skills?

Prior to using Voice Thread, students researched and wrote for the teacher as the primary audience. With VT, students created a vibrant record of inquiries, questions and learning. The best moments occured when students posed questions about the topics without prompting and the other students responded. This record of facts, opinions and conversations was dynamic and could then be shared to a wider audience within school community including students, parents and teacher through our LMS (Blackboard).

What steps did use to protect the identity of students in this online digital tools?
Voice Thread encourages students to upload a picture to represent themselves when commenting. Instead of a photo, students were asked to create an avatar as way to identify themselves withour giving up any privacy. See my above example from Bitstrips but there are many fun options for students to create safe avatars. (see above)

Next Steps

Consider using he same Titanic presentation with comments for the next year’s group so that students can build upon the knowledge gained from the prior year’s students. However, I’m wondering is that is too much pressure on students to come up with new ideas? Perhaps a new topic would be better choice…