Monday, September 13, 2010

"Nycole's Little Kitten" Plot Assessment

This is a sample project I made for my students.  To view the entire project's expectations, visit this page.Nycole's Little Kitten on Storybird

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Grading Online Dicussions

 I just responded to an online classmates’ discussion board post about the challenge of grading online assignments, such as discussion board and blog posts.  I’ve also found that it can be challenging, but I have developed two systems which require honesty and responsible behavior from my students.

For discussion boards, I do not respond to each student.  Instead, I expect them to respond to one another and submit their work using a Google form. Then, I just skim the posts—I see it as they were having an in-class discussion and I was observing.

For blog posts, I use another Google form and Google Reader.  The students submit their work using the Google form, which contains instructions, a simple rubric, and a place to paste links to their posts.  This form collects all of the assignments in a spreadsheet, but I normally just use it to see which students completed the assignment and the grade they expect to earn.  My TA also checks these forms and comments on posts throughout the week.  In Google Reader, I have organized my students’ blogs into folders, English 9 and English 10.  Every weekend, I tackle one folder.  I read each student’s posts in Reader and comment on one post in Blogger.  So far, this system is working.     

My Forms:
·         Sample Discussion Board Form
·         Sample Blog Assignment Form
·         Sample Student Blog Comments Form

Students: What are your thoughts about the forms we use?  Do you mind that I only respond to your posts every two weeks?

Adults: What strategies do you use to grade online discussions?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Loving the Jing at the Top of My Screen

During one of my recent courses, a classmate emailed me asking how I posted links to my students’ blogs on my classroom blog. Instead of typing out the instructions or creating a slideshow of screenshots, I created a Jing video tutorial. Since I already had Jing installed on my laptop, I just plugged in my microphone headset, asked my study hall students to work silently for a few minutes, recorded the video, uploaded it to Screencast, and emailed the link to my classmate. The entire process took less than five minutes. The video may be viewed here. Using screencapture tools, such as Jing, enable me to quickly record and share editable images and video with audio.

I’ve experimented with free screencasting tools for around a year. Before I began my master's program, I had made a few video screencapture tutorials for my students. But through course texts, my students’ feedback, and my own observations, I’ve learned that video tutorials are not an effective delivery method for multiple-step instructions. Now if I am introducing a new process, such as creating an account in a Web 2.0 tool, I have developed two effective strategies. My students prefer that I drive them through the process: I demonstrate the process step-by-step on my SMART Board while walking around the room to troubleshoot and encouraging them to help one another. However, I also like to create screenshot slideshow tutorials when possible. When following slideshows using a split screen, they practice working independently—this also creates archives of the lessons to be used by absent students.

This week, I used screencasts and screenshots within a digital storytelling lesson. First, I showed my students a screencast video created by the producers of Storybird, a free digital storytelling Web 2.0 tool. Then, I instructed them to create accounts by following my specific instructions posted in PhotoPeach, a free Web 2.0 slideshow tool. I used Jing’s screenshot and photo editing tools to create the slides within my PhotoPeach. If I had opted to create a screencast from scratch, I could have used Jing.

Students: How would you use Jing if it was installed on your laptops?

Adults:  Is Jing the best free screencapture tool?

Photo Credit:Jing Pro – Record HD-quality Videos for YouTube Originally uploaded by Ivan Walsh

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Create “Intrinsically Motivated Lifelong Learners,” Not College-Bound Test Takers

The current American education system creates children capable of regurgitating what has already been discovered (particularly the discoveries of Western White men). To be successful in our system, students need to attend college. In order to prepare for college, young students must become proficient at mastering the routine of memorizing facts, formats, theories, processes, vocabulary, and formulas which are monitored through standardized assessments. After earning high grade point averages and scoring highly on the entry-exams, students are accepted into colleges where they read literature and scholarly texts, listen to lectures from scholars, and write papers which are only valid if they are filled with citations of experts’ ideas. Upon graduation, students are handed a diploma as proof that they have mastered the routine. This entire process ignores the successes of non-college educated people, such as Walt Disney, and the findings of psychologists, such as Jean Piaget.

Even teachers must follow this process, since our education system is rooted in a monolithic model of instruction and learning. Though future teachers examine learning theories, such as behaviorism, constructivism, and cognitivism, they still memorize content to pass standardized multiple choice and written response exams to earn a credential. However, they are never objectively required to demonstrate the ability to engage with students, coworkers or parents; create short and long term plans; manage a classroom; or actually implement lessons built around the learning theories they were required to study. The most basic requirement of becoming a teacher is showing mastery of the learning system and academic content—not demonstrating an ability to teach.

The tradition of respecting those who have become encyclopedias of knowledge has allowed the masters to control the education system. Though we know that a truly educated person does not need a diploma, such as William Shakespeare, the current system is managed by those with diplomas. As a result, the “creative and innovative minds” Jean Piaget encourages educators to create are only encouraged to express themselves through occasional standards-based projects (Ccaldero, 2007).

Looking back at my undergraduate teacher preparation program, I was repeatedly encouraged by Mount St. Mary’s College’s Sister Kieran Vaughn to create “intrinsically motivated lifelong learners.” However, I had to simultaneously create thematic units filled with entry assessments (to find out what they don’t know), differentiated instruction (to fill in their gaps), interventions (to really make sure they understand), assessments (to prove that they know it), and re-teach lessons (in case they didn’t get it the first time). Even within one program at a very small college, I was guided toward teaching based on progressive outcome goals but still prepared to continue facilitating the routine of regurgitation. As educators, it is our goal to create “intrinsically motivated lifelong learners,” not college-bound test takers. Besides, grading regurgitated content is boring.

Ccaldero. (2007, September 17). Jean Piaget . YouTube. Retrieved August 20, 2010, from