Archive for February, 2008

Online Writing Programs- Not Formative Feedback

I’ve begun to look at online writing assessment programs. The one thing that I have noticed is that the feedback is very general such as “May have organization in parts, but lacks organization in other parts”. How helpful is that feedback to a struggling writer? Does it tell him/her what specific parts are organized or what parts are not organized? Does it tell the student what to do to organize the part? Does it provide scaffolding to help the student organize the part? The bottom line is “How likely is it that the student will improve based on the feedback?”

So far the online writing program that I have seen do not give formative  feedback. I’m afraid the students using these online writing programs now  somewhat know  something about what they did without being given the tools to move forward in their writing.

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Let’s save Local History Through our Classroom Technology

Many years ago there was a push for students to produce local histories. I’ve not noticed that recently. In my community, the last school publication on this local community was done about 1990 and then it was very superficial- more of an activity book, then a history book. Like many communities, we have WW I and II vets, the people who owned the original buildings, the people who remember what life was like back “then”, the people who saw the rise and decline of the community, the people who have new visions for the community, buildings that are falling down, cemeteries that are being overrun with weeds, local famous people who few remember anymore, local historical landmarks that are being torn down for new buildings, old documents are falling apart, old pictures are fading away, etc.

Today we have so many classroom technologies to capture quickly people’s memories–digital cameras, digital camcorders, digital recorders. Digital storytelling is a big movement. We should not wait until Veterans’ Day to have people from our community into our classroom. Let’s involve social studies, English (narratives), math (chart the population over the years) science (what technology changes have taken place and its impact on the community), health (changes in water and sewage, types of restaurants) and other subject areas to collect valuable historical information on our community before it is lost.

Let our schools save the local history before no one or no objects tells of the past history. Let’s involve our students in real learning that involves community people. Let our students be of service to the community. Not longer do we ask ” Brother, do you a dime?” but “Brother & Sister, do you have technology to save our past before it is gone?”

Digital Classroom – Technology Rich or Technology Poor

In one room that I teach I have a desktop and an LCD. Not even a printer. It is very difficult to be a Web 2.0 class when there are not computers for students. It is hard to be a Web 1.0 when I just have the one computer. There is no Smartboard, no clickers, or nor other interactive technologies. I’m the only interactive technology. The Tech Director had to modify settings to allow me to use programs like YouTube. There are two log-ins. Sometimes technology is almost too difficult to use.

Yes, I do use technology in class but it takes effort to figure out how to do it interactively. Students answer questions in turn instead of individually answering questions like they would  do if they had their own computers.  Students cannot move at their own pace, they move in -lock step.  Students cannot take online quizzes to measure their progress.

Let’s get rid of digital divide! Let’s harness the  power for learning that technology brings to the classroom.

Sensationalizing Weather and Technology Benefits

I’ve noticed this year that the weather people tend to sensationalize the weather just as the news reporters do with the news. They predict horrible storms and we get a few inches.  They warn about possible ice conditions that could making driving extremely difficult and then we get a very thin layer of ice that melts away in a few hours.

I wonder how much we sensationalize the effects of technology.  My class is doing so much better due to ……

Some questions we might want to ask ourselves:

Do we assess how much the students are learning  with the “new” technology through an assessment instrument? Is that assessment instrument similar to one we normally use in class?  Similar to one used on our school final or a state assessment?

Are we noticing the students’ excitement and motivation and misinterpreting those as their learning?

Has the “new” technology allowed our students to probe more in-depth than without the technology? What evidence do we have?

Does more student talk or even student talk with others in distinct locations give students a more comprehensive learning about the goal? What measurable evidence do we have?

Have we restructured how our students do learning activities in the classroom? Is that restructuring the real cause of the student learning and the technology is just the context of the learning?

Has the “new” technology allowed our students to make more mental connections among their learning?  How do you measure those connections by using concept maps or other assessment tools?

Writing Types Quick Diagnostic – Quick yet meaningful information

I do not want to teach my writing classes with blinders on.  I want to know the students’ entering perceptions about writing and their actual writing skills. I made up a quick online survey on  Zoomerang. The survey asks the students

To identify if they have done this type of writing
If they have done it how many times 1-6
How well they think they do it 4 (very good)-3-2-1(beginning level )

Narrative (Telling a story)
Definition (What something means)
Classification (Categories of something)
Process (How to do something)
Illustration (Explaining something)
Description (What something looks like? Mood?)
Cause and Effect (What caused something? What was the result?)
Comparison (How similar or different are two items?)
Argument/Persuasion (Convince/Persuade about something)
Research Paper

For them to identify their favorite type of writing and why
For them to identify their least favorite type of writing and why

What they do well in their writing?
What they would like help with in their writing.

As soon as they have completed the survey, I have the compiled results.  I now have meaningful information to help me plan the course.  I will change it to help them move forward in their writing.

Backing up data

Over the years I’ve had two laptops die on me. Yes, I had backed them up – a few weeks previous to the crashes. But I still lost much data. Two students last semester had their flash drives toasted so that they could not get data off of them and they needed the data for their end of the course portfolio.

So let’s check: How often do you back up

Your computer?

Your files at school? (How often does the school back up student files?)

Your bookmarks if they are not online bookmarking?

Your wiki or blog- in case your provider does not back it up?

Your flashdrive?

Do you back up your information to at least two different storage device – perhaps an external harddrive and a DVD?

Do you store those backups in two different locations – one at home and one at work? Don’t keep both in the same location! The house of a person I know was destroyed in a fire and all of his multiple backups were destroyed.
Do you save critical files online such as in your Google docs or email them to yourself frequently?

How do you protect your valuable work?

Writing Pretest- Students Top Three Responses to Writing a Paragraph.

At the start of the semester, I asked my 40+ college students to write down what they think of when they think of writing a paragraph. Then they formed small groups and combined their answers. What do you think were the top three answers?

Scroll down to find out.

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Spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Every group came up with these three answers. These deal with the mechanics of writing, but not the content.

Only half of the groups came up with main idea.

No group listed pre-write or brainstorming. Nothing for revising . So much for the famous writing process.

The more we know about what our students think about a process, the more we can help them.


RSS Education with Technology

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