Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Starting E-Portfolios with Grade 11/12 Students in Information Technology Classes.

One of my studies (learning goals) this year is study the use of portfolios in a tech class and look at the  the advantages and disadvantages of this method of assessment.  I have differentiated my Grade 11/12 Information Technology classroom to the point that 3 people will work on Illustrator, 2 students are in an advance course on InDesign, 10 will be doing Photoshop, some are learning an animation program, and a number of them want to learn programming.  

To accommodate this large and diverse amount of assessment (both formative and summative) I want to use Facebook.  I've set up a facebook account for my school work only, asked the students to set up a new Facebook account themselves, where they will only post their school work in my class (no personal information), and they can friend people in the classroom to make comments on their page (peer assessment).  Setting up the accounts, getting students to "friend me" and their friends took two days, and now I need to assess their first posting of a critical thinking comment in regards to their learning of a Web 2.0 program they learned called EasyBib.  I asked them to tell me what they think about EasyBib?  How does it help them?  What they like about it or what they dislike about it?  I asked them to tell me something original and I gave them examples and we talked about them for approximately 10 minutes.

Some answers were great and students got the idea right away.
Easy bib is a great program to use to make bibliographies. If you type in the name of the book,newspaper,webiste and enclyclopedia this website helps you make the bibliographies. I learned from this website that it saves you a lot of time. Also you need the dates you accessed you entered the website. This website shows you the proper format of making bibliographies and I learned how to do so. I will continue to use this website in the future I learned it was very useful.

Some were not bad....
I like easybib because it makes writing bibliographies so easy. it is very easy to use and does a great job with creating bibliographies. its great with all sorts of things such as newspapers, journals, books, and websites

And some need work:
I found easy bib to be very helpfull. It made everything as easy as possible, especially since you can print off the bibliography directly from the website.

Now at  this point I have a couple of matters to take care of right away.  I need to teaching the students how to analyze their own work, how to show critical thinking.  The questions below will help them to go deeper in their thinking.  

Questions to Enhance Critical Thinking 

  1. What is your definition of … ?  Or, What do you mean by …?
  1. Why…?  Or, Explain why….
  1. What causes …?  Or, How does x affect …? 
  1. What is an example of …?  Or, Is … an example?
  1. What is the evidence for this statement?  Or, How do we know this is true?  Or, Why do you think that? 
  1. Which is best?   Or, What do I think about …?  Or, Do I agree or disagree with … ?
The other thing I need to work on is the understanding that this portfolio is exactly that, an educational portfolio that I will see and others as well.  Students cannot play games on it, or make inappropriate comments on each others wall.  Any time they just click on the hands up sign, thats the only comment that gets made.  I need more then that for peer assessment.

That's the third thing I need to consider - the peer assessment but at a later date.  For now, I need the students to go back to their Facebook walls and either accept what they have or add another comment that will improve what they have said.  I'll put up some other questions for them to consider and any new comments will appear again on my wall at the top (easier to correct).  This helps me assess quickly and effectively.  Feedback has been in one day, quick, with comments of "I need more", or "what was so helpful", comments to get the students to do deeper, meaningful comments.  I have given them a mark.  Marks are 1, 3, or 5, and students have had examples of each. I have told them they can up their marks at any time.  I have also told them that in the end we discuss the portfolios, show how much learning was done, and together we give a mark for the learning.  This manner helps me to mark where the students are and how much growth they have done over the months, a better assessment then just grades.

This project is covering a number of areas, maybe too many.  But it's covering e-portfolios, formative assessment, soon no marks with formative assessment, self-directed learning, peer assessment at one point, and finally, team grading.  I understand this may be too much, but I started last year with just the e-portfolios, and now I'm ready to move on.

Wish me luck... And please feel free to make comments about this project.  Thanks again

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Start of a new Learning Path in your new school year

While I read about other teachers' new school year start I consider mine, and I realize, I don't want to talk about this.  As usual, it was stressful with new students, new courses, new rooms, new colleagues and a million of other new things.  This event did not inspire a passion for teaching; rather it exhausted me and continues to do so (the first two weeks are always stressful when you are in charge of computers and still teaching).  You need to learn about new students, understand where each student is at and where you and they want to be at the end of the semester, build relationships with the students,  learning their learning profiles, their strengths, weaknesses, etc.  You need to create a working relationship with new parents, get current contact information, get emails, tell them what you hope they will help you with and what you hope you can do for them. Most of this is done (or try to do) in only an hour and a bit each day, until the next group comes in and you start over again with 30 some new kids.  I can go on and on and I think I'll stop now!!

So what does inspire me to start this year with a strike on, parents, students and colleagues all upset?  My passion is the continuation of learning, both with the students and for the students.  During our professional development session, teachers were asked to create one goal for the year, only one so they could focus on this passion.  This idea came forward from some readings through Twitter on self-directed learning and self-directed managing.  

So what is your goal?  Perhaps Chris Lehmann can help teachers start with their goal.  He recently wrote the following:
You have to be one school. You cannot want one thing for students and another for teachers…If we want classrooms to be active places, so must our faculty meetings be.   If we want to feel cared for by teachers, then we must care for teachers. If we want students to be able to engage in powerful inquiry, so must teachers.

You want your students to become 21st Century Learners, then so must we.  So we too must set goals to make ourselves a better teacher.   

While thinking of your goal of your teaching year you need to consider where you will learn from, your sources, who may help you, is their mentoring available, and what sources of social support and accountability you have built into your learning plan.   Consider the following:

  1.  Who has already learnt from this and what can you get from their learning.  There are a number of books already available from a number of sources.  Find them. 
  2. Use the Social networks out there.   Tweet out to others, asking if someone else has been working in this area.  Consider where you tweet - Use hash tags of your district (#sd36) or open it up to all.  Someone is also passionate about the area you are interested in, and can help.  When doing something for the first time (learning something new), it's nice to have a friend along for the ride so both of you can bounce ideas off each other.  Most teachers are natural sharers at heart, and the media of social networking is a great place to share.
  3. If you are continuing an area you've already started, this can still be your goal, to go further in this area and you can help mentor someone else just starting.  To teach someone a new skill only reinforces your skills more, and helps you see further into the area you are teaching, by seeing through new eyes.
  4. Consider the evidence of your goal and how you will know you have reached this goal.  What will tell you that you have accomplished what you have set out to do?  Sometimes you never do, but make the goal attainable, or maybe smaller goals to reach your main goal.  Remember that when you teach students you break up the task to smaller steps, which are attainable for success.  Sometimes your goal will take more then one year, but that too is fine.  Go step by step.  As the old saying goes “Rome was not built in a day”.  Well I don’t believe the educational system will change in a day, but a number of people in a school changing the way they educate students will make a difference, even if it’s one child at time.  Always remember, you as a teacher make a difference to the world of a child.

    This is a video of the Closing Keynotes speaker from Chris Lehmann from the ISTE 2011 Conference.  Take the few minutes to watch this video, to be moved, motivated, to be passionate, to change your way of thinking of education, and to set your goal to help our students, our kids.  The passion is there, the passion can grow, grow your mind, grow your passion, let your passion inspire the passion of learning in your students, and pass on the feeling...  This is my goal this year, to help others (both teachers and students) to be as passionate as I am about becoming a lifetime learner.  Help them to enjoy learning again.

    Always remember that all of our goals should consider the following."The most important thing that we do is to teach the child in front of us  to become a fully realized person...  If you take nothing else, make sure you realize that these tools, these amazing things we have learned, all that we have done this week has done serves nothing else but to help us all become better people.   So therefore when people ask you what you teach do not say I teach Math, I teach English, I teach Second Grade, say simply I teach children.  That is your job, that is all we endeavor to do...  I want four things for our children.  I want them to grow up thoughtful (full of thought), wise, passionate and kind "

    I want teachers to be the same, to model these characteristics in their goals.