Thursday, December 9, 2010

Professional Learning and Twitter

I recently was reading the December issue on Educational Leadership, December 2010 | Volume 68 | Number 4 
  (Pages 74-93 ) on "What Makes a Great Teacher?".  In this article the authors describe several characteristics of a great teacher.  One quality listed that resonated most with me was the willingness to grow and be reflective.  However, it is this important quality that often gets put on the "back burner" when teachers are busy accomplishing the multitude of task they need to ensure their day is running smoothly.  When faced with the question of whether I should finish marking student reports or read an informative and thought provoking educational blog, most would finish the reports because it is more utilitarian.  How can busy educators grow professionally, stay connected and learn with little time?  My answer came in the form of Twitter.  Although I am a newbie to Twitter, with only a few weeks of usage.  I have learnt more in these few weeks than I have through several years of school professional development.  What makes Twitter so effective as a Professional learning tool?

1.  140 characters-  twitter only allows you to type in 140 characters, which enables people to be concise regarding what they need to say or share.  If someone wants to dig deeper into the topic, most tweets offer a link to an article, blog or video.
2.  Choice- you can follow and search for different "topic/chats" (ex. Elementary Chat, Science Chat, Social Studies Chat)  and you can follow people who tweet based on similar interests all around the world or even local.
3.  Synchronous and Asynchronous Functionality-  twitter can can as an instant tool for immediate discussion or you can post a problem or question and end up checking the result later.
4.  A large Scope of Topics-  Twitter is a smorgasbord of topics whether it be related to education or something else.  You can use the hashtag symbol followed by the topic "#topic" (ex. #elementary, #science, #caned, #assessment) to find people tweeting about and sharing information.

Here is a screen cast on  my experiences using twitter:

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Professional Development On a New Level

Traditionally, professional development for teachers in most schools can be costly and sometimes frustrating.  Often schools only provided partial funding for teachers to attend a conference that requires travel, food and hotel costs.  Or, we fly several hours to attend a conference only to be disappointed about the learning that occurred.  Have you considered EdCamp?

EdCamp is a growing phenomenon in the field of education.  It is very much like an an unconference.  As definded on the Edcamp wiki, "Edcamp is free (or very cheap), democratic, participant-driven professional development for teachers."  Here is a video clip with a brief explanation of Edcamps:

Here is a blog that lists many Edcamps.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

QR Codes in Science

After reading blogs by Louis Phinney and Keri-lee Beasley about their work with QR codes at their school in Singapore, I was inspired to use this technology in my teaching class.

QR-codes can help bridge the world of paper and pencil with hand held technology devices like Ipod Touch, Iphones and Smart Phones.  In our science area, we often generate screen casts of our lessons and upload them to our LMS.  However, students who are on the go, would rather access this information quickly and easily.  So, we are starting to create
QR codes that link the students directly to these screen casts.  Here is a short video on one way we use QR-codes for science.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hot Potatoes Software for Formative Assessment

The university of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, developed some free software to allow teachers to create interactive assessments for students.  As it says on their website, "The Hot Potatoes suite includes six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web. Hot Potatoes is freeware, and you may use it for any purpose or project you like."  You can access the hot potatoes software here.

I have developed several Hot Potatoes activities and love the simplicity of use.  Once you have created an activity, you can upload it into your course management system, like moodle, for student use or email the htm file to the student directly.  Hot Potatoes software is most often used as formative e-assessment tool.  It is considered Freeware.

Here is a short video of what a Hot Potatoes crossword puzzle looks like on my LMS, Moodle.

Hot Potatoes has a mac and pc version.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Facilitating Inquiry Through Google Street View

I remember my schooling days, filled with worksheets and memorization.  This funny video clip from a Saturday Nigh Live Episode captures what my schooling experience was like;

Thankfully, k-12 schools today are putting a greater emphasis on transferable skills like critical thinking, communication, collaboration and problem solving. I recently read a book called, Curriculum 21, edited by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  The book talks about 21st century learning and what that might look like in schools. Each chapter is writing by a different author, however the theme is the same.  The book challenges educators to enable students to enhance learning beyond the walls of the school through the use of technology.

One way I get my students to question and think beyond the walls of the school without physically going there is through the use of Google Street View.  Here is a screen cast of how Google Street View might be used.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Using Moodle as a Tool for Formative E-Assessment

In 2007, the joint information committee on e-learning published a document that outlined best practiced related to e-assessment.  They advocate that there are many benefits to using e-assessment for both teachers and students.  Some of these benefits include: immediate and instant feedback for the student and teacher, the ability to take e-assessments more than once, and opportunities for further learning. 

It is my belief that E-Assessment (computer based assessment) might prove beneficial because it would enable teachers to manage a very demanding daily schedule and still be able to use assessment information formatively to maximize student achievement and subject mastery.  

Here is a screen cast of how a teacher might use a Learning Management System, like Moodle,  to facilitate formative E-assessment.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Student Response Systems

Classroom student response systems are becoming more and more popular as a tool for agile teaching.  Student response systems or "clickers" can provide teachers with rich, timely feedback on student understanding during a lesson and enable teachers to adjust their lesson immediately.

For example, a teacher may cover a topic on the periodic table of elements and twenty minutes into the lesson students are required to pick up a "clicker".  The teacher asks 4 or 5 check for understanding questions and results show up immediately on the overheard similar to the picture below.
Note:  " E" was the correct answer

If results are not favorable the teacher might continue to find ways to teach the topic, because immediate results indicate that students still don't grasp the concepts.  Or, the teacher could get students to "pair-share" about the questions as a form of peer teaching.  

In the November 2009 issue of Educational Leadership (p.80-83 and 83-84) , Robert Marzano and William Ferriter highlighted the research surrounding diagnostic tools like “Clickers” or Student Responders.  They indicated in their research that when used as a tool for assessment for learning, whereby teachers take the immediate results  from the data provided by this technology, student achievement  increased because teachers were willing to make adjustments to teaching rather than rely-
ing on professional hunches.

For more information about how to use student responders in your classroom I recommend Derek Bruff (2009), Teaching with Classroom Responders.

Here are some companies that provide this type of service;

Monday, October 11, 2010

Formative E-Assessment

The cliché, "Nip it in the Bud", comes from plant origins, whereby gardeners would pull off buds of plants to prevent them from growing any bigger. In modern times, if you nip something in the bud, you stop a problem from becoming serious by dealing with it as soon as you notice it.  In education, this could translate into using formative assessment to diagnose student problems before they write a unit test, midterm or final exam.  One of the promising practices in using formative e-assessment, is that it will give you rich assessment data in a timely manner before errors  fossilize.  Douglas Reeves (2007) in his book titled, Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning, would argue that waiting for standardized test results like P.A.T's and Diploma Exams are to late to make any real purpose adjustments to our teaching and learning.

You can view my video presentation on Using Formative E-Assessment below.