Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Focusing Instruction on What Counts

Flipping the Commons
Focusing Instruction on What Counts

If it's rote, base-level thinking, don't evaluate them on it - give it to them... Focus assessment on the bigger stuff that actually matters!

When we make rubrics there often seems to be something about the "looks" of the final product... And the looks may have to do with rudimentary tech skills. Actually, not even tech skills: specific-program skills. All too often kids can get a great mark on something because their presentation or their tech-created product looks pretty - never mind the content. Teachers of course strive to balance the field, and I think I've found a good way to tackle a bit of this...

I'm in the process of creating tutorials that step students through this rudimentary tech stuff (that we shouldn't really assess kids on). They are 2-minute clips that show students how to click, where to click, and what to click to make the programs do what they want. By throwing them up on the Keeler Commons Virtual Space students are able to watch these videos when they want, where they want, and as many times as they want. This frees students up to focus their time on the content, their ideas, and their thinking rather than the how-to of technology.

The true benefit of this is that it puts me in different places at the same time. During a recent class my voice could be heard from 5 computers in the commons, helping kids with the "click here, then here" type stuff, so I could spend my time asking probing questions and focusing on the good work. It also helped set up a culture of support within the student community... a student asks another student, then checks tutorials, then asks me for help. All this while I am conferencing with groups and helping them assess the content and quality of their work and the expression of their ideas.

Giving 24-7 tutorials builds independence in students and anytime we build independence we build student success.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Kindergarten Loves Winter!

WHAT: Green Screen Video
WHO: Kindergarten
WHERE: Marlborough School

We wanted to help our kindergarten students to develop a sense of expressing themselves orally. We wanted them to experience something they would be passionate about. Most kids love winter and thought would be cool to ask our kindergarteners what they love about winter, what they enjoy doing outside in the winter, what they wish they could do and anything else they like about snow or winter.

The green screen is the perfect resource for this project. All we needed to do was to find some video footage of winter scenes. YouTube did not provide anything that was worthy, as we needed video footage with no panning (panning would make the actor seem like the are floating along - unless they 'move' with the pan). Also, we decided to use video footage would really make the background come alive rather than using still photos.

We ended up using video from our own backyards, playgrounds and school yard. This footage would work well and with a few added props, the students would hopefully feel like they're really in the scene.

Enter the green screen. Enter the nerves. The cute, little, shy kindergarten students froze up the moment the camera went on. They couldn't say anything, they struggled to pretend, the sons they did produce was almost inaudible - I suddenly thought this learning task would flop.

To try and help the students remember what they needed to do when performing in a video, we made a simple checklist assessment. After each student had a chance to practice their performance, the small group then assessed their peer using the checklist.

The performance definitely improved after introducing the checklist.
Here some sample finished video (This is still a work in progress - We will add more when it is completed):