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: