Monday, July 27, 2015

Why Portfolios?

One way I know I will have done a good job in my role as a tech integration specialist is if I can help my school adopt electronic portfolios. Electronic (or digital) Portfolios are today's versions of a traditional artist's portfolio. Fundamentally, an electronic portfolio is a digital platform upon which students can place text, video, and audio.  It is important to note that all student work does not go into a portfolio. It is important that students curate their own work. Thus, it is up to a student to decide which assignments to showcase.

Portfolios are particularly effective tool for fostering metacognitive reflection. To curate their own work, students have to think about what makes it good work. Now, if too dependent upon grading and others' evaluation of their work, students might simply place in their portfolio their work with the highest grades. At one level, this is natural and appropriate. But at a deeper level, if we want students to reflect upon what is quality and what is the fundamental purpose of learning, perhaps portfolios can begin to move us away from the way we currently assess students. However, even if portfolios do nothing to change the way we grade students, we would still foster metacognitive thinking when we ask students to curate their own work. By my way of thinking, schools don't do enough to foster this type of thinking.

What's in it for the teacher?
It would be so powerful to see the arc of a student's growth over a year and, more importantly, over several years.  A portfolios utility in this area is almost self-evident. When looking at the work of a student we haven't taught before, we are "flying blind" to a certain extent. We wonder about a student's effort, ability, and understanding.  However, a portfolio would allow us to place a student's work in a broader context. We could know if it is a strong effort. We'd have a better understanding of a student's ability.  

Imagine the powerful conversations one could have with a student after you asked them to curate their work for a trimester, term,  or month. Think about the conversation an advisor could have with an advisee. Ideally, this teacher thinks it would be awesome to have a portfolio conference in which a student shares a portfolio with parents- talk about taking ownership of learning!

Now, I have an agenda here (don't we all?). Discussions at this level could and would challenge the whole enterprise of assessment — and specifically why we are evaluating students as opposed to how we are doing so. I strongly feel we have to move past William Farish's factory model of assessment.
For all of human history until the Industrial Revolution, human beings learned without being graded. In this post-industrial era, shouldn't we rethink what it means to assess students?

I am excited that some 6th-grade teachers will use the portfolios my students created last year. I also excited that my colleagues teaching 9th-grade history with me are also excited by the possibilities of portfolios. Evernote and Google sites are two possible platforms for portfolios. Of course, there are many others. Since we are a google drive school, we are going to first try google sites for portfolios here at our school.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Search Google Using an Image- aka reverse searching

So, sometimes I come across stuff that I bet all my students know and I just figured out.
Do this:
1. Go to google images and search "Paris"
2. Drag an image of the Eiffel Tower up into the search bar and drop it there.
3. Viola!

be amazed like me.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Connect Using Twitter

Do you have a blog or website that you'd like to promote via twitter? I'm really new to appreciating Twitter. I've long thought it silly. Who wants to follow some silly celebrity and who cares what they think anyway!?! But I've recently started using it as a PLN (professional learning network) and who I follow and am starting to engage with enriches my learning and will in turn enrich my teaching. Here's how to add tweet buttons to your website so your readers can spread what you're writing. Think of how powerful this could be. How to: see, here I'm doing it too. (Of course, if using blogger, one has a twitter share icon at the bottom of each post.


Sometimes the best tools are the simplest ones. Talkboard is one such tool. Check it out!
So, this is an IOS device only. It isn't going to work on a windows or android tablet, laptop, or desktop. It WILL, however, work with your iPad.

Talkboard is free, extremely easy to use. Essentially, Talkboard lets one create a collaborative whiteboard.
How could I use it in my classroom?
-Let's say in history class we were looking at a map. I could copy a map and draw a trade route. Anyone with an iPad could draw on top of that picture adding questions, notes, details, etc.

- Or, while I'm not an art teacher, it could be cool to have students simultaneously creating on the same "canvas" while on different screens either in the same room at the same time or at different locations.

In a Lit. class, kids could document and diagram characters in a book they are reading.

On "Pope Day", many teachers might be figuring out how to share information with kids in real time. Keeping this app open along with a backchannel tool (padlet, drive, todaysmeet) would let you post a math problem, map, picture that kids could actually see, talk about, solve in real time all while being able to ask questions and talk. There is an audio feature in Talkboard. So, while looking at the same screen from separate locations- students can talk to each other and to their teacher.

Did I say it's easy to use?

Thanks to Dan Crowley for sharing this app with me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Fire Hydrant

In preparation for my new position which will call on me to advocate for the use of technology, I've really tried immersing myself in technology. I'm learning, or re-learning, that learning doesn't happen in a linear progression. Instead, I bumble around barely figuring things out and then a bunch of things fall into place at once and I get it. Also, the more I know, I realize the less I know. The metaphor of drinking from a fire hydrant has been used to describe what it's like keeping pace with the tech revolution happening around us. It is an apt description.

I'm also appreciating all things google more and more. Sometimes, I view google as an evil empire of sorts. I get leery of how much info they've accumulated and monetized. But for ease of use, google rocks.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

PBL and Rubrics

What about PBL and tech? I've long been a proponent of good PBL (project based learning). I've come to realize a few things about choice and assessment. First, regarding choice. we have to give the students real freedom of choice in design and execution of a project. Better yet, we should give multiple choices of projects for students to choose from so they feel and have real control in their education. This, of course, naturally relates to assessment. I'm a fan of rubrics- however, with rubrics we run the risk of a tyranny of the checkbox, in which the students simply views the project as little more than checking boxes. What if a project is brilliant but doesn't fulfill all of the requirements? Is that a flaw of the project or are we guilty of making all students jump through the same hoops. My rubrics have become very open ended. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Explain Everything: Task 8

So, I find Explain Everything cumbersome in parts, but also really powerful. I played around with it to come up with this less than polished example you see below. However, while I find it cumbersome, I also see some obvious ways to use it. It won't for me ever be a presentation tool I think it could be a great formative assessment tool. Heck, one could easily use it for summative assessment as well. I've put a link below in case the video itself does not play. I shared this to google docs and then had to download to my thinkpad. If solely using my iPad, I'd have to share to youtube or vimeo.

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