Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Hassle Free Diagnostic and Formative Assessment Data

Educators are being asked to use assessment data to drive instruction. From starting your class with diagnostic assessments, to keeping on track of progress with formative assessments, teachers know how important it is to understand student competency levels as part of demystifying instruction.  As states move towards high-stakes summative assessments, technology can be leveraged to provide year round feedback to ensure more successful results on these important tests.   The following tools can help provide hassle-free diagnostic and formative assessment data.  

Diagnostic Assessments are a great way to identify student capacities prior to starting the teaching effort.  Typically these assessments are done as pre-tests, self-assessments and collaborative brainstorming sessions.  Prior to the digital classroom, diagnostic assessments didn’t always provide a granular detail of the classroom.  In some cases students appeared to have a strong understanding of a concept, but in fact were lacking in fundamentals that were required for the next lesson to continue. The following tools help teachers get valuable diagnostic data that can help them locate those that might need additional support.

Diagnostic Assessment Tools:

Kahoot is a game-based classroom response system. Create and play quizzes, discussions or even surveys (which we call Kahoots) using any device with a web browser. Students engage in the quizzes as it transforms any technology environment, including BYOD, into one that is equipped for interactive quizzing.

Answer Garden
Answer Garden is an awesome student response tool that allows you to present a question or topic to a group, gather responses and display responses in a word cloud. This tool can be used as an effective brainstorming, discussion, and icebreaking tool in and out of the classroom.

Padlet is an awesome virtual version of old school sticking post-it notes to the board with additions that make it an exciting collaboration tool for the classroom. Padlet allows teachers and students to share ideas, links, photos, files, videos etc. to an online board that can be utilized in many different forms. Padlet is a great addition to any classroom.

Formative Assessments are a big part of the modern student's academic career.  With the addition of technology, these assessments provide improved information and the ability for the teacher to react quicker.  In the past a teacher might have generated test results using a bubble sheet or graded papers manually.  Often the data received from these results was linear between the teacher and student.  Modern formative assessments when taken using classroom technology can provide the teacher with data that relates to their performance on specific measurable goals, not just an individual's performance on an exam.  In addition, tools exist today that allow for assessments to be part of video content as well as embedded into presentations.  This allows for a greater variety of assessment opportunities that are less intrusive to the instruction process.  

Formative Assessment Tools:

EDpuzzle is an online tool that allows you to take videos from an online source, edit or trim to the parts you need, and add your own voice or annotation to the video with a built-in quizzing feature. EDpuzzle is an excellent tool for flipping the classroom or creating a video lesson.

Socrative is an assessment tool that allows students to use a variety of technology devices to take formal and informal quizzes and assessments online and have the results reported back to the educator. The results are then presented in an easy to understand representation that helps teachers make correlations that they might have missed with more traditional assessment methods.

Zaption allows video content from online sources, trim that content and add text and quizzing information. In addition preexisting Zaption videos live in an online library and can be used in your classroom.

The Online Disinhibition Effect

When we interact in face-to-face settings, even though we might not know it, we are following unwritten rules of conduct.  These social rules have been established and enforced since our birth.  Although they are rarely sanctioned by an authority figure, they often involve social consequences.  As an example, when you are talking to a room full of people and you notice them starting to fall asleep, you might change your pitch, tone or even the information you are trying to convey in order to not suffer the consequences of people nodding off.  These unwritten rules are also the reason you keep your shirt on when walking through the grocery store.  Unless a person is purposefully trying to violate one of these social norms, we tend to follow them without incident.

What happens when you take away face to face social consequences when communicating with others?  You get the online disinhibition effect.

The online disinhibition effect is a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interactions with others on the internet.*  Psychologist John Suler researched this effect and identified six factors to why people react the way they do when there is a perceived separation of the social norms that govern face-to-face interactions.  

The results of breaking the traditional social norms while under the effects of online disinhibition can sometimes come in the form of cyberbullying.  Although this gets lots of attention, there is a far bigger issue at stake for this upcoming generation.  Poor decisions can ultimately lead to the loss of a job, or not being able to get one in the first place.  Even decisions in high school, such as posting photos from a party, or talking about drugs or alcohol could impact a person’s  ability to get a job many years later.  As employers are starting to utilize the public nature of social media sites to check in on current and potential employees, it is more important than ever to treat all your social media interactions with careful scrutiny.  

The solution to combating the online disinhibition effect is education.  The more you know and understand about the way you communicate, the less likely you are to abandon traditional social rules in the digital space.  

Here are some links to some great places to get started with teaching how the internet works, to help with the online disinhibition effect. - Online Saftey Education - Explanation of Complex Subjects Including Tech - Family Internet Education - Safe Internet Use from the FBI
Younger Students:

-Jason Cross-

Friday, January 8, 2016

Use a Technology Roll Call to Prevent Loss


Your school has invested money in a large scale technology implementation.  Student all have a device, and in some cases they are allowed to take them home.  Although the school and teachers are excited about using the technology, the actual use of the devices is scattered and inconsistent.  At the end of the first year of the technology implimentation the technology team sets up and event to retrieve all of the technology from the students.  Many of the devices are missing.


This scenario is common in many technology programs, especially if you plan on having expensive technology go home with students.  The key issue of this scenario comes from the fact that in the early implementation of whole school technology, teachers are not using the technology in a consistent way.  In some cases, as unfortunate as it is, many of the students are not utilizing the technology at all.  This lack of use, places less emphasis on the technology.  Students that accidentally lose the device, are not in a hurry to replace it, and often fear repercussions from letting teachers or the technology team know about the loss.  By the time the school finds out about the loss of technology often several weeks (or months) have passed, making the recovery of the devices much more difficult.


Technology Roll Call.   In the early days of a technology program, I recommend strongly having a daily (at least weekly) roll call for the technology.  This means once per day, when attendance is normally taken, the teacher should have the students proclaim their attendance by holding up the device, or having it on their desk.  This ensures that each device is in the building each day.  Any students that do not have their devices present for more than two consecutive days are elevated to speak with the technology director or the school office.  This puts more emphasis on the technology and also allows the technology team to determine any loss within days of it going missing.  In addition the teacher can do a brief inspection for any broken glass, or damaged machines.  These can then be fixed promptly before the situation gets out of hand.  The result of this will be the decreased loss of equipment, and the increased emphasis on the importance of the technology to the students and school staff.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

It is time for the VR Classroom

In January 2016, Oculus will be releasing the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality device that is as impressive as the name indicates.  Recently they also released the Oculus VR by Samsung.  A $99 device that transforms your cell phone into an amazing VR headset.  There are also many other virtual reality devices heading our way.  Google has done an inexpensive Google Cardboard implementation that brings 360ยบ views to everybody for pennies.  Soon the market will be flooded with headsets, glasses and other virtual viewing devices that will shape our entertainment.

Remember however that this technology is still in its infancy.  Like the dot matrix printers of yesterday, they will soon be replaced with high definition versions with views so real you will be immersed in virtual worlds.

Now imagine this.  30 students in a classroom getting instruction about the human cell from an excellent teacher.  The teacher is explaining the cell and mentioning what activities they will be doing together in groups and as individuals.

A switch is flipped.

None of these students were in the same classroom in real life.  These 30 students are from around the world.  The teacher is one of the finest subject matter experts, and her lesson plan is flawless.  And while the teaching is happening, and the switch is flipped, something very unexpected takes place.  All of the students are suddenly immersed inside a virtual human cell.

They are in a classroom without walls and boundaries.   As the cell starts up the process of protein synthesis the teacher pauses for a moment to point out the chemicals that are about to come into contact with one another.  Suddenly all of the students get it.  They lived it.  They watched it happen in a world so engaging they can't escape its glory.

This is what I think Virtual Reality can do for education.  History class is now an everyday virtual field trip to the places and times where events happened.  The understanding of these events comes from learners of all types experiencing the content in several different ways.  Combine the virtual reality with other forms of technology and you have yourself a spicy learning sandwich.  And at a price we won't be able to refuse.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Microsoft's Continuum Might Impact Educational Technology

Every teacher knows the frustration of texting in class.  Idle tech does the devils work.  The day of the cell phone basket, the place where students put their phones before entering class, might be a thing of the past. It is possible that teachers soon will be saying "everybody, get out your cell phones, time to work!".

With the release of the Lumia 950 and 950xl, Microsoft shared with the world a new vision for being productive with your cell phone. Continuum is the system they have created to allow a Windows 10 enabled cell phone to work as a full blown PC when hooked up to a small dock. Now instead of a laptop, you carry around your cell phone, which acts just like a cell is supposed to, but also works as a desktop computer. At that moment when you need to be increasingly productive you simply plug it in to a full size monitor and instantly boost your options for getting work done.  Pair that with the cell phones ability to boost to an optional two terabytes of storage, and you can take your entire office with you everywhere you go. As technology shrinks and becomes more powerful, it doesn't seem crazy that most phones will eventually work like this. If other cell phone manufactures follow the lead, every student will be carrying around a full size computer in their pocket.  All the school will need to supply is a monitor, keyboard and mouse.

It really makes good sense for the business world, but it might also be a tremendous idea for the education space. BYOD is interesting because there has sometimes been a disconnect between the types of devices and the ability those devices to be productive using the variety of educational tools out there.  It isn't always easy to make a lesson plan for all types of devices, but it is easier to make one if the student has access to say, a full size browser window.  If cell phones move in the direction that Microsoft is looking to steer them, student owned and carried devices could become powerful tools in the classroom.  Tools that teachers could count on, utilize for real work and rely on being compatible with most lesson plans, LMS systems and productivity suites.  By allowing them to simply plug into screens and keyboards at the school, students would be tapping into the unused power of the mobile device.

While it might be a few years for an idea like this to catch on, I think it could be a great one for BYOD programs.