Like many teachers, I have always struggled with making assessment meaningful for students. After reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon I moved from student Google Doc lab reports in chemistry class to blog posts. My goal was for student to build a public archive of curated work that students can feel proud of. For the past few years student blogging has been a success. Click here for an archive of this year's chemistry blogs.
Keeping the above in mind, this is my first year teaching a robotics class in the curriculum and I wanted to institute the same blogging strategy. Unlike chemistry, my robotics class didn't show as much enthusiasm about the blogging process. When I asked one student why his answer was fascinating: "The stuff we make in Robotics class doesn't feel like school. It feels real. Blogging feels like school. They don't really match."
Over the past two years, many of these student's teachers have embraced blogging, and while I firmly believe it to be a powerful, public and authentic medium for sharing work, it was clear from the above response, and others I have gathered, that the students yearned for a more authentic, less contrived vehicle to break down the barrier between the "real-world" and school environments. Our answer: Instructables! Whenever I have to learn how to create anything I, and my students, use Instructables. It's just what we do.
Because Instructables represents a place where "real" people, go to create "real" things, and is run by a "real" company (Autodesk), whose software we use to create "real" prototypes, it felt like a perfect place to help students, in a Robotics class where building authentic "real" prototypes is core to the class ethos, engage in a type of "real" world product showcasing. Once the decision was made (two weeks ago), I jumped in headfirst, and invited students to use Instructables to post not only share their most recent inventions, but outline their design process.
The student's products exceeded my expectations and reminded the power of not only a public product, but also how the power of outlining and unpacking the invention process into steps for others to follow. Instructables provides a fabulous medium where this process happens, not via a teacher created rubric, but via observing the thousands of examples that already exist on their website! Below are three student created examples from my Robotics class at Sonoma Academy.
Each year the technology I leverage in the classroom changes. In search of an increasingly simple, efficient, and streamlined set of tools, I have slowly converged towards the list below. Although significantly shorter than the list from a few years ago, the below tools are chosen solely because they help accomplish my pedagogical mission to spark, organize and quench student curiosity. If you have any questions as to how the below set of tools were specifically leveraged to meet the above mission, please reach out.
My favorite updated Google Drive feature is the ability to record video that is uploaded directly to your Google Drive account from the mobile app. Below are a few images:
I love this new feature as it a) simplifies both the process of uploading and sharing video and b) because the video lives only in Google Drive, the instructor or the student can alter the sharing permissions easily. Because video can privately be shared between teacher and student, this new features allows for video-based demonstrations of understanding (Think-Alouds) and a myraid of other types of reflection that would normally require additional steps if using YouTube, etc., as a medium.
I have begun to experiment with this feature as a way to facilitate a weekly "challenge" problem. Because the problem is recorded in my grade book as extra credit, I wanted an assessment system that ensured that the student at least articulated his or her thought process, rather than simply copy the solution from a partner or the internet. Below are the instructions I am giving students:
Below are three examples of submissions to the above problem I have received from students thus far:
I hate multiple choice questions. Not really sure why I do, as I know a lot of rich critical thinking can be done by negotiating through, creating and identifying distractors in multiple choice questions. Also, as an AP Chemistry teacher, my students have to take a 75 question multiple choice test in 90 minutes. However, I just can’t get myself to give multiple choice assessments. I think, as a fan of standards based grading, I love the ability to grade a question that targets a specific standard using a scale of proficiency, rather than “yes” or “no”.
In an attempt to not run from the need to improve my pedagogy, prepare students for multiple choice questions, but also use multiple choice as more of a formative tool rather than summative, I am experimenting with something called a daily “5-in-5”. To do this, I create a daily set up multiple choice questions, and allow 5 minutes for the students to solve the problems. Students are not graded on the quizzes, but upon completing we immediately grade them together, and students enter their score (1-5) into the same form each time using a shortened URL and a QR code that is located on the top of the quiz. See screenshot below:
When students complete the form, they choose the topic and indicate the “block” (period) of class they are in. This data is then filtered using a pivot table so it is organized by topic and block with respect to number of correct answers. See screenshots below:
To create a “scoreboard” across blocks, I copied the above pivot table to another sheet in the same spreadsheet, and altered the output so that only block and average score across all “5-in-5’s” is displayed. Using the chart gadget, I created a bar graph from this pivot table that will dynamically update once score are added by students. See screenshot below:
This was a lot of work upfront, but now, I simply coy the same URL and QR code to the top of each “5-in-5” and it feeds this system. I made the sub-sheet that that displays the chart public via our class website for our students to monitor, established some cheesy goals like: “Block with the highest score at the end of the week gets…”, and send out a daily updated about the scores. Without entering a single grade, it’s been amazing to see the way this simple, yet visual, rewards/accountability system has motivated students to engage in multiple choice items. Students want to do the “5-in-5”s, not because they want to improve their grade, but because they want to see if they can improve their score from the last one, and if they can contribute to the overall class score, two things I feel create a positive culture in my class, from block-to-block.
Moreover, having time set for multiple choice testing in a fashion that is void of the stress of getting “tricked” or misreading a problem, we as a class have intentional discussions about test construction and item analysis. Conversations like “Which one is the best distractor”? emerge, and help students think about the process through the eyes of a test writer, rather than a stressed out students. Next week I am going to experiment with having the students choose two answers, one for the correct response and one for the most obvious distractor, and report the “5-in-5” score accordingly. Either way, I think it is 5 minutes well spent, and I am excited to see how my students embrace the multiple choice portion of the AP test after preparing this way, rather than via the 30 questions that wold normally precede the short answer section of a boring unit exam.
Below is a video tutorial on how I am using If This Than That (iftt) to have students email their lab conclusions directly to a Google Document. The reason I am moving towards this work flow is two part: 1) Currently students fill out a Google Form, however all of that information goes into a spreadsheet and collaboration between myself and individual students is difficult. 2) Students are blogging pictures and videos of their labs via the WordPress app on one member’s phone or tablet, thus I wanted to leverage that device so they could accomplish all reflection components during the lab simultaneously without having to go to a different computer. Below is a quick tutorial on how I set up the iftt trigger:
Inspired by a fabulous Dan Meyer session I attended at my school last month, I have begun the process of trying to re-frame as many released AP Chemistry problems into inquiry videos as possible. Using Dan’s 101qs/#anyqs videos as a framework, my goal is to create a video that stimulates the students to ask the desired question the problem intends to ask. Rather than posing a scenario for students, providing all the necessary information to solve it, THEN asking the question, multimedia can be harnessed to create a gradually released framework where students are naturally perplexed enough to wonder the question the problem intends to ask. Once this is achieved, further information is provided, eventually scaffolding the students through the problem-solving process. My plan is to use such videos to initiate theExplore-Flip-Apply inquiry process, use them as warm ups the day of an inquiry lab, or even as extension activities after a problem-solving session upon conclusion of a learning cycle. Below is my first attempt. To introduce this process to my students, I surprised them with a group quiz that I would have normally done with the traditional question format.
First I found this released free response question from the 2012 AP Chemistry Chemistry test that fit the standards to be assessed on the quiz:
Then using my iPhone, and with the help of a colleague, I recorded this video version of the question and published to YouTube:
Because I posted the video to YouTube, I didn’t want students distracted by all the other garbage. To negotiate this, I created a URL that would open the video in full screen immediately. Below is how I did that:
After using bit.ly to shorten the link (I chose bit.ly instead of goo.gl so I could customize the address for student ease of access during the quiz), I created and administered the below quiz:
Below is a picture of the process:
When off-loading content delivery, pairing the assignment with a Google form for reflection and critical analysis of the video/text, etc., is a powerful way to facilitate metacognition, but also gather and respond to student questions, misconceptions, etc. However, with a few simple steps, instructors can design a Google form that directs students to specific questions based on their answers, while also creating a simple and efficient way to communicate with students via email directly from the Google spreadsheet. The first video below outlines how to create a “branching” Google form, and the second video outlines how to install and use the “Form Emailer” script to facilitate easy communication with students regarding their misconceptions, questions, etc. My apologies as the below videos don’t have sound so follow them closely :)
Branching Google Form
Form Emailer Script
As a science instructor, I find myself spending a lot of time debating, creating and reflecting on the “explore” phase of the learning cycle. Naturally, “hooking” students, building perplexity, and guiding students toward a collaborative learning objective, IMO, requires much more instructional skill than the “explain” (flip if you so choose) or “apply” phase…or at least so I thought. While the explain phase has continued to be the least emphasized part of the cycle (3-5 minute lower end Blooms delivery), I have not done a good job moving beyond the “drill and kill” tendency of the application phase of the learning cycle.
While in theory, the “apply” phase calls for much more than practice, in chemistry in particular, for me, there is a tendency to get stuck in a “study hall” like environment as students struggle through problems in class. To try and bridge the gap between practice, and also promoting extension and critical investigation of problems, I did a version of Kelly Oshea’s Mistake Game. Students were given a problem, and were asked to solve that problem, but plant one common mistake, as if they are writing multiple choice item distractors. Students then viewed one another’s problems, and qualitatively identified their mistakes.
I enjoyed how this activity seemed to quench the students need to practice problems, however it also forced students to reverse their role, and step into the shoes of the test writer. Not a true “extension” of their knowledge to the real world, but this activity successfully forced students to assess problems through a different lens. To accomplish this, I harnessed the “snapshot” tool in google docs (thanks to @followmolly for this tip at ISTE) to create a fluid jig saw where students created their “mistakes” and then shared them with others. Below is an outline of the process:
1. Create google presentation with one slide for each group and make the presentation public and editable by all.
2. In the presenter notes section of each slide, write unique question for each group.
3. Instruct each group to solve that question on a white sheet of paper, using a sharpie and planted one mistake. See below:
4. Using the snapshot tool, instruct each group to insert picture into the slide. See below:
5. Groups then observe one another’s slides and identified the mistake made.
6. Upon conclusion of activity, facilitate a class discussion where groups discuss the most appropriate mistake.
See an example of the complete slide deck here: