31 May 2013

Assessment: Flubaroo & Google Forms

Flubaroo is one of those tools I have been aware of for some time but also one of those who kept escaping me. However, with the advent of my new Unit that is all about understanding text, I saw the opportunity to try it out.

I first came across the script gallery in Google Forms at the GAFE Summit Singapore, in September 2012, where I learned how to make my forms send automatic emails - brilliant! I even earned a little certificate to celebrate my geekiness (thanks Jay Atwood). This was when I first learned about the possibility of Flubaroo, but it is only through using it that I have come to understand and appreciate how useful it is.

We are studying the novel Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, to explore the concepts of individuality, conformity, prejudice and tolerance. We are asking, do we dare to be ourselves and let others be themselves? Each week, learners have to perform a variety of tasks to demonstrate engagement, appreciation and understanding of the reading. One of the tools used to assess this is a Google Form, with between 9-12 questions on it, that tests their comprehension of the chapters read that week.

Preparing the Questions
Prior to teaching the novel, I collected resources from a variety of places and sifted through them to fine tune the learning I wanted to happen. I used these resources and my own reading of the text to select the best questions I though might allow learners to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding - some were straight forward and tested surface meaning, some asked for inference, some asked for consideration of the language etc. I also decided on a schedule of reading to determine which chapters would be assessed and when.

Setting up the Forms
Create a Form through Google Drive
For each review for each set of chapters, I created a Google Form.

In Google Drive, click "CREATE" and select "Form" from the drop down menu. I named each one according to the Chapters it pertained to.

Be sure to include questions asking for learners' names as well as their email addresses, as Flubaroo will automatically email results to them if you want it to.

I used multiple choice, check box or scale questions, as Flubaroo needs a set of data to grade against, and absolutes are easier than the myriad potential responses that text or paragraph responses may illicit.

Once all questions are entered, select a theme, if you wish, and save your form. Here is an example of the Form created to assess understanding of the first set of reading; Porcupine Necktie to Chapter 4.
Example of my finished Google Form

Once saved, your form will have a new, empty spreadsheet associated with it. For more on using forms, read Tips on Using Forms.

Creating the Answer Key
To create the answer key, which is used to mark all learner responses, simply complete the form with the correct answers and submit it. Be sure to enter your name too, so you can identify this entry later as the answer key. Click here for help on how to find or open the form you just created.

Share it!
You can now embed your Form into a Google Site, link to it from a website, or simply email your form to your learners. Click here for instructions on how to get a link to the form. All learner submissions will automatically be entered into a spreadsheet, which will look something like this. As you can see, my responses, with the correct answers are in the first field of submissions.
Example of completed spreadsheet form
Flubaroo it!
1) Install:
Open the spreadsheet associated with the form. From the "Insert" menu, click "Script". You'll be presented with a "Script Gallery", from which you can install a multitude of useful "scripts".
Script Gallery: Flubaroo

To install Flubaroo, type "Flubaroo" in the box at the top, and click the 'Search' button.  Once you've found it, click the "Install" button.

After installation, you'll see a new menu in the spreadsheet called "Flubaroo" (it may take a few seconds to appear). 

2) Grade:
Once you have assigned the form, learners have completed it and it is  ready to grade, just select "Grade Assignment" in the drop down menu from 'Flubaroo' in the tool bar.
Ready to grade?

Flubaroo will ask you a few questions, such as:
  • If any questions should not be graded
  • Which questions are for the purpose of student identification (e.g. name, student id, email)
  • Which submission should be used as the answer key
Once answered, Flubaroo will grade your assignment according to your answer key. It is really quick.

Choose your answer key etc.

Flubaroo will automatically create a second spreadsheet named 'Grades'.

What is really useful about Flubaroo is that it not only provides a summary of the responses but also flags up learners with particularly low scores, as well as highlights particular questions that scored quite poorly overall too. For example, if less than 60% of students get a question incorrect, the question will be highlighted in orange to alert you as something that needs to be addressed.

3) Email:
The Flubaroo menu will now offer you the ability to email each learner their scores, view a summary report, or regrade the assignment. You might want to regrade the assignment if more learners submitted answers, or if you want to throw out a question that most learners got wrong. 

When emailing grades, you are also offered the option to include an answer key in the email, which my learners have found very useful in determining questions they answered incorrectly. The email will include their total score, and their score for each question with incorrect answers highlighted in red. You can also include a customised message.  Note: You will only be able to email learners their grades if the original assignment had a question asking them for their email address - and they have entered it correctly.

4) Histogram:
On the 'Flubaroo' menu, you can also choose 'View Report', which provides a histogram of the results that you can also email to yourself.
Histogram of Results

I have found using Flubaroo as really useful tool to ensure learners are understanding the novel as we read. They know it is coming so it means they have to keep on top of their reading but it also allows me to see which areas are being misunderstood if many are getting answers incorrect. It also allows me to closely monitor individuals who score particularly poorly so I can talk to them to assess what they problem might be.

In conjunction with Literature Circles, I have found the weekly reviews work to complement each other and cover many different skills ranging from basic comprehension and summarising, to inference and discussion about symbolism and imagery. The fact that it grades so quickly, emails the results AND lets them know where they went wrong AS WELL AS offers a breakdown with flag of problem areas, has meant I am able to deal with issues as and when they arrive to allow me to adjust the teaching and learning required. Give it a go!
With thanks to Jay Atwood at the GAFE Summit for first opening my eyes to the world of Google Form Scripts and http://www.flubaroo.com/flubaroo-user-guide#step1.

30 May 2013

A Learner's Experiment in Social Conformity

Currently, we are studying 'Stargirl' by Jerry Spinelli and exploring the ideas of tolerance, individuality, prejudice, and conformity. The driving question behind this unit is, "Do you Dare to be Yourself?" with the sub-question, "Do you Dare to Let Others be Themselves?". One of the assessments is an independent research project exploring the themes mentioned above, but of a topic and with a research question of each learner's own choosing.

Stanford Prison Experiment, 1971
One of my learners has been exploring the idea of conformity and has been researching the Stanford Prison Experiment, the Milgram Experiment and the Asch Experiment. He had already written the draft of his report but we'd spent some time discussing his desire to conduct an experiment of his own along the lines of the Asch Experiment. He wanted to know if his peers would conform, even when they clearly know that everyone else is wrong.

Today, as our lesson began, he informed me of his plans. His needs often have to be addressed as and when he has them. Fortunately, I was able to set the class off and we mangaged to discuss his ideas. He had one question that he wanted the majority of the class to purposefully get wrong - whilst two members of the class were to be unaware of the 'experiment', to see what they would do. Very quickly, I whipped up a plan that would allow his expeirment to take place.

First, I created a short Google Presentation 'test'. We decided to add in two 'dummy' questions before the 'experiment' question, to try to make is seem more authentic. I also decided that it should be set up as a test to measure how quickly the class can process information. The questions were multiple choice with three options, A, B and C and I stuck up a big A, B and C at different areas of my room for them to move to to show their answers. The first question asked who their English teacher is, with options including me, another teacher and a learner. The second question asked who their Form teacher is, with the correct answer, another teacher and another learner. The final, 'experimental' question asked who the Principal is, with the answers being the actual principal, George Clooney and President Obama.
Asch Experiment, 1951

Next, I sent off the two learners chosen to be 'unaware' to the staff room (the furthest room away from our classroom) to find a support teacher (who I hoped was not going to be there), telling them she had said she wanted to be with us to take part in something happening later in the lesson, but might have forgotten. Once they left, I quickly explained the experiment to the remaining members of the class, who decided to all go to President Obama for the 'correct' answer to the final, 'experimental' question.

The class then settled back into their work, when a learner, who we had forgotten had been at the nurse, appeared back in the room. He became a third 'unaware' to add to the mix. Minutes later, the two envoys returned, informing me they had searched high and low for the support teacher, had found her, and she was on her way! Seconds later, she appeared at the door apologising profusely for having forgotten we had arranged for her to be in the lesson! I managed to take her aside and explain the situation (she was aware of the learner's research and had been involved in discussions about his experiment) and she decided to stay - which added more authenticity to the situation.

Learners continued with their writing and when the time for that portion of the lesson was up, I gathered them into the middle of the room to explain the test that the support teacher and I wanted to perform on them. I explained that they were to go to the letter on the wall of the answer they considered correct as quickly and sensibly as possible. With a laptop set up to record the 'experiment', we started.

The three questions were shown successively, in the same order outlined above. And guess what - all THREE of the 'unaware' students followed the majority to the incorrect answer that President Obama is our school Principal! It was incredible. They said they just went along with the crowd, without really reading the question properly or thinking about it properly, confirming just how easily we conform to the majority viewpoint.  It was brilliant and I admit that I was a little shocked by just how easily they followed along. After a pause they did look twice and then moved, but their initial response was to go with the crowd.

I am so proud of this learner's progress, his thinking that has gone into this research, and his desire to put into practise his research. Once he has included his own experiment alongside the other research, I am looking forward to reading the final draft of his report which opens:

"Were things like the holocaust committed by monsters who eat golden foiled babies for dinner, or were they committed by 'normal' people, the kind of people who play ball with the children and the dog, or go to the theatre to enjoy a school performance, the kind of person who would help an old lady cross the road? These experiments show that, under the right conditions, people can do horrible and illogical things."

25 May 2013

The four eras of digital technology in education

Educational Technology in Context
To begin the course, Foundations in Technology in Teaching and Learning, I have had to research to come to an understanding of where technology has come from to learn where it is going. Studying 'the big picture' of technology in education leads me to understand the early perspectives that "shaped and defined" it to try to gain insight into the true role it will play in the future.

The Four Eras of Digital Technologies

1950- late 1970s: PRE-MICROCOMPUTER ERA
IBM 650 Computer Consoles, 1956
  • the first computer was used for instruction; MIT pilots are trained using flight simulators (1950)
  • the IBM 650 teaches binary arithmetic to school children in NYC (1959)
  • universities use main-frames systems for programming (1960-70)
  • Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) emerges; universities using mainframes and mincomputers in schools (early 1970s)
  • schools begin using computers for instruction and administration (mid to late 1970s)
  • Luehrmann coins the term computer literacy as CAI movement declines; in 1978, Molnar warns that non-computer literate students will be educationally disadvantaged (late 1970s)
Late 1970s- 1990s: MICROCOMPUTER ERA
  • the first microcomputers enter schools (1977)
  • Integrated Learning Systems (ILS) are identified as cost-effective solutions for instruction; movement away from stand-alone systems towards central servers with connected machines (mid 1980s-1990s) 
1993-1998: INTERNET ERA
  • the World Wide Web is born (1993)
  • online and distance learning increases (1994)
  • virtual schooling begins (1995)
  • International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) creates standards to guide technology skills for learners and teachers (1998)
Apple iPad

  • social networking gains mainstream popularity (2005)
  • Amazon releases the first ebook reader, Kindle (2007)
  • Partnership for 21st Century Skills creates framework (2008)
  • iPad, the first handheld computer, released by Apple (2010)
I think the point that struck me the strongest from this, not least regarding how long educational technology has been around (longer than I have!), but the fact that the term computer literacy (Luehrmann) has been around since the late 1970s, and, even more importantly, that as far back as 1978 (before I even started school!) there was warning that that non-computer literate students will be educationally disadvantaged (Molnar). I wonder why it is, now we live in a whole world of technology, where it shapes our everyday - in the developed world at least, we are still having to struggle at times to justify its use and effectiveness?
Important links:-
ISTE Standards
21st Century Skills
ICT Competency Framework for Teachers

Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching:
Preface (v-vi), &
Ch. 1, "Educational Technology in Context: The Big Picture"

24 May 2013

Learning Junkie Strikes Again...

In the academic year 2012-2013 I took or qualified in the following Professional Learning:-

Extended Essay Category 3 Training (IBO, Malaysia)
Google Apps for Education Teacher Certification
Presenting Read? Me? at Hands on Literacy Conference 2012 (Singapore)
Designing New Learning Spaces (Stanford University)
Professional Learning in the Digital Age (Virtual book club with the author)
English B IB Diploma Training (IBO, Online)
E-learning and Digital Cultures (Edinburgh University)

Most of the learning from the above is documented in this blog. 

Now, at the end of the year, not feeling the need to slow down for some reason, I have begun my Masters in Education and Instructional Technology at the University of Maryland University College.
This advanced degree program focuses on integrating technology in the preK-12 schools to strengthen and transform teaching and learning. The program provides the knowledge and skills needed to incorporate technology effectively into preK-12 curricula, instruction, and assessment; to develop expertise in current and emerging instructional technologies; to gain deep understanding of the role of technology in the contemporary school; and to lead change efforts at the classroom, school, and district levels.

These pages will document my exploration and learning throughout this course - which, with a full teaching job, may take some time ;)

Teaching and leading beyond boundaries

Teaching and leading beyond boundaries
I feel I completely share the vision of UMUC's Professional Education Unit Conceptual Framework to "surpass boundaries of time and place, conceptions about the limitations of students, and maintenance of the status quo in teaching, learning and leading" (p.3) as embodying the exact same standards, skills and ethos I wish to instill in my learners.

The idea that the vision of UMUC's Professional Education Unit Conceptual Framework is to empower us to teach and lead beyond boundaries is one that excites me as something I hold dear for my learners. As an English teacher, I see my role as one that is changing to meet the needs of current learning and futre needs. Literacy to me means being able to read, understand, respond and communicate via paper, pen, video, film and digital means. Boundaries exist for me in regards to traditional styles of teaching and in terms of what are perceived as my role, but I want to push them, break them down and do more.
UMUC Professional Education Unit Conceptual Framework
January 2013

My goals for this programme are not only to learn more and get better at what I do, but also to gain a solid and authentic grounding in the latest research and thinking in this field to assuage any sceptics that fail to grasp how technology can move learning forwards. I want it to empower me to make informed decisions that allow me to "implement transformational instruction" (p.3) in my classroom. I want to prepare my learners "for a changing world" (p.5) and provide "effective educational experiences"(p.5) that are personalised for each and every learner's success.

I envisage that this course will allow me to empower learners, not constrain them within notions of what education once was, but to explore what it might be, can be and will be.
UMUC's Professional Education Unit Conceptual Framework, 25 January 2013

18 May 2013

"A wonderful contribution to the field of global collaborative projects"

I am currently working on the culmination of my Flat Classroom Teacher Certification course, which is a collaborative Global Project Design. I have worked with a colleague from Wisconsin, USA to modify and develop my 'Dare to be Yourself' unit, designed for my Year 8 and 9 learners this term.

Originally written to address the problem of intolerance and lack of kindness, the 'Dare to be Yourself' unit, using the novel Stargirl, has been utilised to become a Global Project that can be delivered across the world and allow learners to connect and observe the similarities that exist in our world, with the hope of building individual, social and global conscience.

In preparation, the following feedback has been received from one of the course facilitators:-
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
from Goodreads

"AMAZING!!!! Seriously, this is one of the most thoroughly and thoughtfully planned out projects I have seen. You have chosen a timely and timeless topic that students across the globe will love. What I think is most valuable about it, is how grounded it is in English Language Arts standards that English teachers anywhere can use for an in depth unit of study. You’ve broken down the whole process beautifully with your week by week timeline and all of the resources that have been provided. The website is so well-designed and I think teachers and students alike will be energized and excited to take on this project. I love the Animoto handshake and the strong, explicit guidelines for netiquette and appropriate digital citizenship. The quad-blogging along the way is a wonderful way to develop community throughout the project and provides for rich engagement and discussion about the novel and its themes. The choice embedded in the final projects really allows students so much creative freedom to express their ideas and take action. I love the celebration/showcase piece as well...global dance in Google Hangout, too much fun!! This is the type of project that will stick with students their entire lives. Bravo!!!

I strongly encourage you to incubate this project in the Fall...it really is a wonderful contribution to the field of global collaborative projects!"

To receive feedback like this from a respected global educator with extensive experience in this field is so heart-warming. This is my first attempt at global project design and to receive such glowing feedback boosts my confidence and reassures me that I am able to compete in a blossoming field. To think that my work can contribute to "the field of global collaborative projects" is incredibly reassuring and exciting!

The final presentation happens on Sunday 19 May at 8am Singapore time/Saturday 18 May at 7pm Wisconsin time via Blackboard Collaborate and a blog will follow.

16 May 2013

Creating Characters Using Receipts

We are lucky enough to have published author, Sarah Froggatt, as a parent of one of our learners. She came and shared her knowledge during Book Week and, this week, I invited her back to teach learners about characterisation.

Sarah sharing her expertise about characterisation
with Year 9
Sarah covered the basics and the essentials using lots of great examples from print and film, such as Roald Dahl's, The Hitchhiker, everyone's favourite detective, Conan-Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, and even Pixar's The Incredibles.

Once learners had learned about and discussed characterisation, I introduced the receipts! Having collected receipts from staff over the past month, I have a exciting selection of varied and wonderful clues about potential characters. The idea came while reading our current novel-study Stargirl, whose protagonist has a penchant for following people in malls and coming up with stories about them. She uses these 'stories' to decide on how to be 'kind' to the stranger in some way (this also inspired my Random Acts of Kindness Project). I offered learners a 'lucky dip' from the bag of receipts. Using the items on the receipt, leaners are using the checklist provided by Sarah, to create exciting, dynamic and interesting characters.

I was really surprised at how engaged they were by deciphering the items on the receipts and how quickly they began using them to infer characteristics such as age, race, gender, motivation etc. They said it was much easier to think up a character based on the receipts rather than from scratch, even though it was really challenging for some learners, whose receipts listed foreign exchange transactions or those with a only a simple vanilla latte...

Rip the Page! Adventures in Creative Writing.

Recently, I have implemented some time at the start of each lesson for creative writing. I have allowed learners to bring in their own 'special' books and have given them 20 minutes at the start of each class to explore and play with language, as well as put into practice some techniques we have been learning.

I have tried a variety of methods to inspire their creativity including:-

  • free writing - no boundaries, write what you want/feel
  • art-inspired - we visited the IB art exhibition and they wrote based on the work that 'spoke' to them
  • walk-around - we moved about the school and stopped in various places to write what we saw/felt/heard/smelled etc.
  • breathing kindness - to build on the work we are doing to develop kindness in our current unit, based on the novel Stargirl, we did some meditation. Each inhalation 'sucked' out of the world something unpleasant, negative or unkind. Each exhalation transformed that into something pleasant, kind and positive
Last week, Year 9 were working on reviewing and consolidating their understanding of sentences. In our creative writing time, I challenged them to use their learning to create sentences that were grammatically correct, yet did not make sense!

Learners were provided sentences starters and asked to finish them; the final sentence was not to make sense, but had to use correct grammar and punctuation. Learners then chose their favourite sentences and played around with them, explored patterns and experimented with editing and reworking the order and syntax until they had created poetry.

Read some of the results below, or visit the Year 9 Blog to read more.

Whatever you do, don't make sense!

The Creative Mind by Katie Walker

At the top,
tomorrow waits for the future that we will soon call the good old days.
The hiding place of rain shivers underneath the turtle’s shell.
The antonym of pink is showers, no love.
If you look underneath peace, you might hear nothingness.
When you toss sadness to the wind, it returns in an owl’s eye.
At the center of boredom is an anonymous thrill.
The rock bottom of October will never await the never-ending string.
When you tiptoe through the Valley of Happiness, you might find a reflection.

Untitled by Paarvv Goel

At the top of tomorrow waits a table with wheels and an attached gun
and knitting kit.
The swirl of loneliness sounds like an old man drinking water.
When you toss sadness to the wind, it returns as
a glue stick.
When you tiptoe through the valley of happiness, you might find a gold marker.
The shape of the past fits inside a wine glass.
The enemy of green hides between the window and
black piece of paper.
If you jump into the present, you’ll land on
If you look underneath peace you hear
a book.

Food for Difference by Bronwyn Watkins

At the centre of the eye is boredom.
At the edge of silver is a shimmering smile.
The swirl of loneliness sounds like a single heart-beat echoing;
the centre of the eye is blood red.

Toss sadness to the wind, and it will await your arrival.
Valley of Happiness: walk through and back down, devils beware!
Keep climbing to the top of tomorrow and find an old friend.
Toss sadness to the wind- it is a boomerang.

For more great creativity and inspiration, I recommend this great little book:
Benke, Karen. Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing. Boston: Trumpeter, 2010. Print.