Reaching for My Goals


Proof I Learned: CEP 813

Wow, what a class. I honestly think this is the most I have gotten out of a class in a long time! Not once did I feel as though my time and effort were being wasted. I enjoyed learning everything that I did, and although my submissions (such as this one, even!) seem to happen at the final hour, I feel as though I put my best efforts in and I got so much out of the class in return. Thank you, Spencer and Colin, for a fantastic course, and thank you for your individualized, prompt, and meaningful feedback. Knowing that my submissions would be read and responded to with genuine comments made it much easier to stay motivated throughout the semester and I feel like I learned so much from that!

And now, without further ado, here is “Proof That I Learned.”

Module 1: Foundations of Assessment and Evaluation
     Major Takeaway(s): The biggest takeaway for me from this module was the distinction among assessments of, as, and for learning. I had never considered that before, and as I worked through this class, I found myself identifying if my assessments in my teacher-life fell into each of the categories. It was also comforting to know that as I worked through iterations of projects, that it was never a one-and-done type assignment; I was encouraged to grow and learn from what I’d submitted previously. Prime examples of that are my Rubric 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. At first, I felt like I was fumbling around, trying to determine what on earth I was supposed to be getting out of these assignments and readings, but eventually I figured it out. Rubric 1.0 is pretty rough, and I think it was pretty obvious that I didn’t quite grasp what I was looking for, but since it was an assessment AS learning, I knew I could grow and learn from it.  I also learned about the assumptions we make about students and what they know. I’d only ever considered them at a surface level, but after this module, I began examining them more closely in my professional life.
Looking Forward: As I stated above, I have begun attempting to identify if assessments I give in my own classes are assessments of, as, or for learning, and I am trying to incorporate each of those into my courses. I want my students to learn to love learning simply for the sake of learning, and by feeling comfortable trying and making mistakes, and then learning from those mistakes, I think they will benefit more than I could ever imagine. 

Module 2: Assessment Driven Instructional Design
     Major Takeaway(s): In module 2 was where we really started getting into formative assessment and what it really is. I remember reading this statement the first time through the module and it really resonating with me: “If the instrument is poorly designed and does not actually tell me anything real about students’ understanding, then the instrument and the information it has generated will have no value. If this is the case, and the information from a poorly designed instrument is used to inform instruction, then students’ learning may suffer rather than improve.” A well-designed assessment instrument can give incredible information about what a student knows and in what direction you should bring him/her. I wrote a critical analysis of the “Mid-Module Quiz,” which is a common assessment given in math classes, where I applied the principles of UbD. I also tweeted that I was tickled to find that some of the policies in place with my virtual school are ones that Marzano mentioned as best practices!
     Looking Forward: I have started tweaking my mid-module quizzes to better reflect the best-practices of formative assessment. Since the purpose of the quiz is to inform my instruction for the remainder of the module, I want it to give me the best data possible. I am obligated to give pre-made quizzes (I teach for a virtual school), but I also have added questions and make it a point to incorporate some of the skill checkpoints into my weekly check-ins with my students. 

Module 3: Feedback
     Major Takeaway(s): I loved this module. Feedback is something very important to me, as I am someone who gets very frustrated when my efforts are not taken seriously or when I can tell that the feedback I’ve received has been copied and pasted to several students. I take my job of providing students with feedback on their progress and mastery very seriously. Hattie and Timperley wrote that when feedback becomes more than just informing a student on his/her “correctness,” and incorporates instruction and constructive criticism, the student is more likely to learn something from that feedback that is actually applicable.  I strive to do this every day, as I want my feedback to be as meaningful as possible to my students. 
     Looking Forward: The list of tools to give students feedback was the best part of this module! I have those programs all bookmarked and have a goal for Christmas break to figure out a few of them and how to incorporate them into my courses. I’m trying to figure out what will help me save time and be more effective to my students. It’s so hard to learn math by reading a paragraph and looking at a sample problem, so I know it would help students to have either video or auditory feedback (a plus would be being able to watch me work out a sample problem while they hear me talk about it!).

Module 4: Designing Formative Assessment in Digital Contexts
     Major Takeaway(s): I enjoyed this module because of my current employment for a virtual school in Florida. While many teachers are trying to just incorporate technology into their classroom, my entire classroom is completely digital. This presents its own set of challenges, though; it’s not all rainbows and butterflies! One takeaway I had here was in regards to young people today being true Digital Natives. So often, we make an assumption that all students seem to be born with an innate love and affinity for all things technological, but that just simply isn’t the case, and I see that daily in my own classroom. I assume that my students can attach a document to an email, can insert a photo into a document, and can do basic troubleshooting on their own. These are not safe assumptions to make, as only a handful of my kids are digital natives, but the others need to be taught (and taught explicitly!) how to do and use these skills. 
     Looking Forward: I made videos for my students, walking them through various skills that are needed for success in my (and other) virtual courses. These are short how-to videos for when a student is lacking in a particular skill. I plan to continue offering these short videos to them as I discover other skills they need.

Module 5: Content Management Systems
     Major Takeaway(s): In this module, I really enjoyed being able to explore different CMS’s. My ultimate favorite was Canvas, because of the options it gave me as a teacher for both assessing and giving feedback to my students. I wrote here and compared three different CMS’s. Prior to this module, I though the one I used with my school was awesome; however, after comparing it to Canvas and Schoology, it’s obvious that Educator is inferior. The very first school I taught at was an alternative school and it felt like we were stuck back in the 90s with the materials that I had access to at the time. We didn’t use a CMS, but I was fresh out of college and considered myself very much a digital native, so I always wanted to use one effectively. This assignment gave me a chance to explore very specific parts of each LMS.
     Looking Forward: I am required to use Educator with work, but am toying with creating a Canvas course for additional help and review as I work with my students in Educator. I just don’t have the freedoms in Educator that I have in Canvas, including video feedback and creating assignments with multiple assessment types. 

Module 6: Using Digital Games for Assessment
     Major Takeaway(s): I think my takeaway here may be different than most from this course, since I was unable to actually us the Minecraft program for the intended assignments. Rather, I used Angry Birds and described in this and this the limitations and difficulties of technology in assessments. We can plan the best lessons and activities, but unless the technology is flawless, there will always be someone or something that prevents the entire group from being able to complete the activity. “The best laid plans oft go awry,” #amIright? 
     Looking Forward: I am tweaking my Angry Birds assignment as well as my assignment from FAD3.0 to actually be able to use them in my class. I’m not certain if it will work out to do the assignments this year or not, but I definitely want to include them at some point because it will be a great representation of my students’ true mastery of the information. 



Formative Assessment Design 3.0

After several iterations, peer feedback, instructor feedback, and tweaks and changes, it’s finished. My FAD 3.0 is below. I am quite proud of this assessment, and as we worked through the different versions of it, I found myself applying these principles to my real-life assessment design (more on that to come in my “Proof I Learned” blog post, coming soon!). I definitely feel like this was such a useful assignment. So often in graduate courses, we design projects based on hypothetical situations, often focused on the ‘ideal’ classroom. I know that I could actually give this project out to my students and it would be an excellent representation of their mastery of this particular skill set.

FAD 3.0

CMS Assessment 2.0

After receiving feedback from one of my colleagues as well as an instructor for my course, I’ve revised my CMS Assessment 2.0 to reflect their suggestions. I chose to use Canvas for this assignment because of the ease of creating different question types within the same assessment. I like that I could ask students to complete several different tasks and that my feedback to them can be more than just a few typed sentences.  I also really enjoyed that even as a novice user, it was fairly straightforward to jump right in and get started. If I were to design a course from the ground up, I’d definitely use Canvas for it! I’m currently enrolled in a Canvas course for my Professional Learning Community in my teacher-life, and from the student perspective, it has been easy to navigate and figure out.

You’ll find my screencast in the embedded video below!

Angry Birds in the Classroom

Since I wasn’t able to get Minecraft to work, I was given the go-ahead to use another game, but still complete the same assignment. I have used Angry Birds before in a lesson on quadratics, but only touched on it. I am contemplating actually developing this idea into one I use in my courses, to help students go a little deeper into both the quadratics as well as gaming. My screencast describing my initial thoughts, as well as demonstrating the game, is below.


Technology is great…until it isn’t.

Monday, November 20, 2017

This week’s assignment was to play around in and create a screencast within Minecraft. When I first saw this week’s task, I was so excited, because it looks like something I would really enjoy (especially as a math teacher! There is so much math involved in Minecraft!). However, I wasn’t able to get the program up and running and don’t have the right set of troubleshooting skills to figure out what I was missing on our home computer. Disappointed is definitely not the right word for this!

I think this is a perfect example, though, of the limitations of gaming in education, and specifically, using games as a part of assessment. I used to be at a 1:1 iPad school, so was constantly searching for ways to seamlessly build technology into my curriculum. Every time I thought I had an excellent activity planned, technology got in the way for at least one student and prevented them from being able to complete the assignment. Either their iPad/device/computer stopped working for some unknown reason, the internet connection was too slow, or too busy, or non-existent, the game wasn’t available on that particular device, or a myriad of other possibilities. I had to have regular alternate assignments available in case the planned activity was impossible for some students. This created twice the work for me, to have to create two assignments for each activity and then have to grade the different versions, as well. It was frustrating to students who wanted to participate but couldn’t, and frustrating to me because I wanted all of my students to have the same experiences.

I think using games in education definitely has its merits, and I was pumped after watching Jane McGonigal talk about the effect that games can have on society, but I think we also have to be cautious about throwing all of our eggs into one basket. Not only do video games have a negative connotation, especially in regards to education (likely because of their addictive characteristics and thus, students spend hours playing games instead of studying, reading, or practicing skills), but access to them isn’t something we can provide to all students. We would have to make a conscious effort to provide equal alternates for students who don’t have access or who are overwhelmed by bright, busy screens.

I know we are at the beginning of an era of “gameducation,” so I am so curious to see where this goes in the next decade or so. I bet that when computers were new in schools, many people were resistant at first because of the lack of access and the new-ness of it all, but now you are hard-pressed to find a school without them!

CEP 813: CMS Assessment 1.0

This week we were challenged to actually make an assessment using one of the CMS’s we explored last week. I chose to use Canvas. At first I wanted to use Educator, since that’s what I use in my everyday work life, but I kept seeing on Twitter how much my other classmates really enjoyed using Canvas. That’s when I decided I’d give it a try and actually make something I could use with my own students. I couldn’t actually ever give this exact assessment, since all of my courses are housed in Educator and I don’t have the freedom to incorporate outside sources like this, but I definitely plan to use similar type questions in the future when assessing students.  Online assessments are so much more meaningful for students and teachers; as teachers, we can gather and manipulate data more efficiently than ever before. For our students, they can demonstrate their mastery in unique and creative ways that don’t have to involve a five paragraph essay. Even my students who struggle with handwriting can still be successful on an internet-based assessment. At the same time, though, using a lock-down browser to ensure academic integrity and instilling good values in my students regarding being responsible digital citizens is a must. Overall I really enjoyed playing around in Canvas and I was wishing I had mock-students that could take my assessment for me, so that I could practice giving feedback.

Below you’ll see a screencast I made, describing some of the details of my assessment and how it relates to Rubric 4.0. The screencast was only supposed to be less than two minutes long, but mine is a little bit longer… I was excited that I’d managed to get all ten of my Rubric 4.0 criteria in there that I HAD to mention them all.



CEP 813: Formative Assessment Design 2.0

This week we worked on the second iteration of our Formative Assessment Design. From peer feedback last week, it was recommended that I articulate the directions and provide a copy of the rubric I’d use to assess my students; I’ve included both of these in this version. Scroll to page 4 to get to version 2.0!

CEP 813: Assessing CMS’s

What an eye-opening activity this was! I explored three content management systems– Schoology, Educator, and Canvas. The one I am currently using for work, Educator, was my favorite until I played around in Schoology and Canvas! My biggest challenge in being a virtual teacher is quick, meaningful feedback within the course. In the brick-and-mortar classroom, feedback in math often comes in the form of demonstrating a problem and discussing– orally– the process and applications for it. I have found it difficult to give constructive feedback quickly and effectively within my virtual class because feedback comes in the form of sentences. So many students do not read carefully, so expecting them to learn how to correct their understanding of a complex mathematical concept via sentences is not reasonable. Schoology and Canvas offer video feedback! That would be an incredible opportunity to be able to include a short instructional video when I notice that a student has a major misconception.

I really liked the familiarity of Schoology, as I’m an avid Facebook user and I liked that it was similar to my feed there. However, the possibilities within Canvas seem limitless– I didn’t find anything that I couldn’t do in Canvas, either from my own exploration, a quick Google search, or from the “Intro to Canvas” course I found on the Commons and imported into my sample class. I think that Canvas would definitely encompass everything I needed it to in order to be an effective math teacher.

My analysis of the three LMS’s can be found here. Comments and feedback are welcome and appreciated!


Final Iteration: Rubric 4.0

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I have finally put all the pieces together to form Rubric 4.0, an assessment of assessments. As I put the finishing touches on it, I wondered how a state standardized assessment might measure up to our definitions of a “good” or “effective” assessment. Several criteria I know offhand would definitely score in my “inadequate” column; I think I will be looking at this spring’s standardized testing with a new lens!

You can find Rubric 4.0 here. Feedback and comments are welcome!


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