Archive for the ‘students’ Category
Posted in assessment & reporting, learning environments, students, teaching strategies, technology, thinking, web 2.0 learning, tagged assessment, behaviour, class_dojo, formative_assessment, note-taking, twitter on April 15, 2012 | 2 Comments »
A little while ago I was lamenting with my Literature class that it wasn’t always easy to document how that class went and establish what to do next, both of which are critical for effective planning, reflection, and formative assessment practice.
I take notes on student progress (formerly in OneNote, latterly in Evernote) but it takes discipline (and time) to do that after every lesson, let alone in that lesson itself. I might do that once a week, so I often don’t even have a record of who I’d had a good learning conversation with each lesson and, importantly, who I hadn’t spoken to 1-1 for a while in class.
It’s something that concerned me again recently when, at the end of term, I asked the students to complete a short online survey of how the course was going for them. Most of the results were positive; the students felt they could learn, were challenged to think and participate and enjoyed the range of activities, though one wag suggested that I could improve my tech skills
However, the lowest response came from the question: ‘Do you have a good sense of how you’re going in this class?’. It’s something that is difficult for Year 12 students sometimes, especially early in the year when they haven’t done much School Assessed Coursework (SACs) and it’s one place where a short 1-1 conversation can have much more impact than any general or group activity you set up.
But, who have I spoken to recently? Is the problem I began with.
So, I was very interested in the possibilities of the unlikely tool named Class Dojo which promises real-time behaviour monitoring. I saw the program from Roger Zuidema on Twitter and recorded that I was about to invent this!
I was surprised to get a pretty quick reply from the people who make Class Dojo too, proposing a Skype chat sometime about how it could be improved, which I’d like to do sometime.
How it works is you set up your class, who get zany colourful avatars, and you record good behaviour or bad in the class very easily via web page, iPad or iPhone. They get +/s or -/s against their name and the tally adds up. Over the lesson, or the week, or the term or whatever period you decide.
I’m lucky to work in a school where disruptive behaviour is rarely a problem but I was very interested in how this tool might be used to record learning behaviours. Our school’s reports, for example, include a set of ‘Positive learning behaviours’ from ‘Participates in class discussions’ to ‘Is organised and up to date with set work’ that teachers are asked to record in terms of how often they’ve seen their students exhibit those behaviours? Always, often, sometimes, rarely? But how do teachers record those behaviours and could Class Dojo help?
One of the first things I did was enter my students names and then showed them how the class looked via the data projector in class. They’re Year 12 students but they loved the quirky little pictures, immediately wanted to customise theirs (you can’t) or swap with someone else (you can’t).
We then looked at the behaviours section, which is at the heart of the program. We looked at the default behaviours (out of chair!) and talked about what + or – behaviours might look like in our Literature class, and then added them. One of the nice things is that you can set the positive and negative behaviours yourself and can even vary them from class to class. So, I can set up a series of learning behaviours that suit my senior Literature class, which are different to the ones I want to establish with my tutorial group in the wellbeing program. Here’s the behaviours we agreed on.
We agreed on these positive and negative behaviours and I was ticking off some of the things in Class Dojo through the class. This year I’ve started using a student as ‘class blogger’, who records the class discussions, rather than doing that myself all the time in OneNote, (they’re put up on the class wiki) and that’s helped free me up more to direct discussions or take records like this. So you click on the student names and assign ‘points’ as you go and it even pops up on the screen with a cool sound if you want.
At the end of the class, you get a report something like this
or you can get a report for each individual student, from any duration (whole year so far, this lesson etc) and you have the option to email that report card to a parent or student or email all the cards (it remembers the email addresses once you’ve put them in once)
I don’t think our school would approve of zany colourful non-letterheaded reports being emailed to parents, but I was happy to send them to students, always in a positive way to celebrate some ‘points’ they’d gained during the class. I wouldn’t want this to be a negative thing, and I wouldn’t be showing negative scores a lot, or giving them I hope. But, ‘not doing the homework’ is a pretty clear – in a Year 12 year.
Is it perfect? No. Is it a fun, simple and useful way to clearly document and share the good things that are going on in class? Yes. You need to have internet access and more importantly, your students on board; to involve them in the discussion about criteria and be clear and objective about how you’re using it: it’s not an assessment, it’s a tool for improving learning.
I plan to keep using it with my Literature class and wellbeing class this term and see how it goes.
I’ve embedded the Apple announcement on text books below. I’ve already heard some negative reactions in the twittiverse arguing that this is another examples of Apple’s ‘walled garden’ approach, and that locking schools and districts into Apple systems entirely is not a good move. It seems there’s other questions too about whether these textbooks will be available on other platforms (unlikely) or available in other formats (very unlikely).
Nevertheless, I’m quite excited about it, particularly from a writer’s perspective. Could I write my textbook and have it on the Apple bookstore without the intermediary of the publisher? Like musicians do now? Could we break down the systems and empower good teachers and good teacher/authors and share their expertise more widely? And I’m definitely going to download the publication software.
But I have reservations, and they are more around the idea of the textbook in the first place. Maybe the textbook thing is bigger in the United States than here, or maybe because I’m an English teacher there isn’t generally the reliance on a textbook beyond the set novels and plays.
The video says they are going to change ‘one of the cornerstones of education: the textbook’. But is the textbook really that critical? How does this change learning? Or teaching? And, will replacing the traditional textbook with a ‘bells and whistles’ version change the classroom experience? Where are the collaborative tools, the feedback, the personalisation, the differentiation, the user-created textbook that we’ve talked about for some time.
There’s no doubt it will look pretty, it will save a lot of printing and heavy schoolbags for kids with iPads (oh yeah, how many is that right now?), they can be updated easily and they will be more engaging. But every time I hear ‘engagement’ as an argument for new software and hardware I cringe a little. There’s got to be better reasons than that. We shall see!
I had one of those, ‘thank goodness that effort wasn’t totally wasted’, moments a couple of weeks ago when doing some revision work with literature students to do with podcasting.
Teaching the poetry of Gwen Harwood earlier this year I was very keen to include as much audio as possible; after all poetry really lives when it’s spoken I feel.
So, I organized for each of the poems to have a definitive ‘reading’ by a student who knew the poem well. Hearing the poem is critical so I recorded each student reading in Audacity and saved them out as .mp3s which I put on the class wiki. I also recorded a series of mini-lectures on each poem, about five minutes each just talking through the poem like I would in class. So, each poem had a wiki page with a reading, a mini-lecture and the student contributions and notes.
I didn’t think much about it, although to be truthful I was a bit disappointed that students didn’t see to see the value in the audio. So, in the very last lesson of the year I was pleased and surprised that a student from another class told me that she’d been listening to the audio and that it had been the most powerful thing for her own learning. That made it worthwhile somehow.
And justified me buying a new Yeti microphone in the recent Apple sale and putting it under the Christmas tree for a present to myself.
So, next year, more audio supplements to the teaching, more attempts to bring these works to life and maybe even a return to some of those rambling Ed-tech style podcasts I did a couple of years ago!
Well, it’s not really Graduation DAY, because she finished the course last year, but tonight is my daughter’s graduation ceremony at Monash University. Like lots of young people to day it’s been a fluid journey from double-degree to single-degree to shifts in emphasis and interest, discovering what she can do and what she loves (and doesn’t – take that marketing!) along the way.
Truth is, she doesn’t even want to go to the ceremony; ‘it’s only an Arts Degree…’ and ‘Do I really have to hire a gown?’ and all that. And, she’s already doing further study and doesn’t see this really as any end-point.
But, I’m glad we’re going to stop for a little while tonight and celebrate a moment in that journey. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
And, I couldn’t be more convinced, if ever I needed to be in these strange times, of the absolute centrality of learning in your life; the critical nature of the things we do in teaching and learning.
Above: First day at school; doesn’t seem that long ago!
I’ve blogged before about my belief that the ‘shock and awe’ trend in Victorian Transport Accident Commission (TAC) advertisements over recent years is not likely to lead to improved road safety. You don’t teach people by trying to scare the hell out of them; it wouldn’t be all that ethical if you even tried it! Education is the key.
And the latest cool campaign coming out of some ad agency (your taxes at work) with the radical punchline: ‘Dont be A Dickhead..’ is hardly likely to be any more effective, even with some gratuitous references to Twitter and Facebook thrown in.
What was more interesting to me was to see the campaign derided by opposition politicians in terms of the effect it might have on teachers trying to maintain respect and stability in the classroom.
One report in the media today said:
Opposition Transport spokesman Terry Mulder slammed the campaign for undermining the Brumby government’s much-hyped Respect campaign.“It is appalling. Would John Brumby use that language when he is addressing a group of school children?” he said.“It makes an absolute mockery of John Brumby’s Respect Agenda. It is shocking message one of the worst I have ever heard.”
Family First Senator Steve Fielding warned the ad campaign will make parents and teacher’s jobs much harder.“Parents already face an up hill battle trying to stop their young kids from swearing and these ads make this job even tougher,” Senator Fielding said.“I think the person who approved these ads has been watching too much of Gordon Ramsay.”Mr Fielding says some common sense needs to be used in sending out road safety message.
Love the cheezy catalogues that begin proliferating from Dec 31st on! Tomorrow, it’s true!
Having just been in a discussion on the old Nicholas Carr article, Is Google Making Us Stupid, which threatened to lurch irrevocably about how they couldn’t concentrate as well as we, and how it was up to us to do something about them or else they wouldn’t be able to think as deeply and powerfully as us, I was interested to read The Millennial Muddle by Eric Hoover which has as its byline: ”How stereotyping students became a thriving industry and a bundle of contradictions”
I’ve never totally bought the new-gen, gen-y, digital native divide that demographers and social scientists often love. I like the divide less when it seeks to depict young people as shallow, narcissistic, attention-seeking and unable to think. The students I work with aren’t like that, and I’m more likely to go along with Negroponte and see these students as more worldly, more connected and more diversely literate than those before them. Negroponte can get all misty-eyed about this, but I’d rather his optimistic appraisal of where they are, than the ones who keep wanting to turn out students into us.
Hoover explores the divisions that exist in all the stereotyping in an interesting way. As a rule I say, beware of generalisations!