Student Evaluation: The day one method

tumblr_mluyz16Nk01qzi5bfo1_1280This post is for teachers, especially new PBL teachers. Its about getting student evaluations of your practice. If you’re new to PBL or new to teaching there’s a natural concern about how well you are teaching for understanding not just to be interesting, fun or charismatic.

Inspired by a lengthy explanation of how to go about “student evaluations” (related to higher education) I’ve found over several years, there is often an assumption that this is an end-of-course diagnostic. I won’t go back over the issues students have with evaluation of courses — and teaching, there is a ton of literature about that — yet we’re still seeing lots of discussion about the most effective ‘survey’ which is related to what kind of survey tool to use. Again, not interested in that debate either.

What Project Based Learning taught me, though observation, experience and theory is that all PBL course designs begin with the end in mind. So how can you create an effective student evaluation at the beginning, if in actual fact you’re not too sure how each session will go during the project? In higher education, courses are often required to submit exams in say week 5 of a 16 week course, meaning that teachers are often locked into things they can’t easily change. In schools, the hallowed “scope and sequence” is a compliance document and often only certain people can change it, and many teachers see it as bondage. Do not move off the path!

Of course PBL is all about reducing the distance you can see down the path. You know where the end is, you have plan of how to get there and the kind of resources to take on the trip … but can you really design an effective ‘student evaluation’ at the outset?

Yes. It’s remarkably simple if you’re using technology. Just create a blank Google Document and share the link with your students. That document is something you get to comment on, but they get to author. Personally, I like to have students create ‘anon’ gmail accounts from day one too. but I understand some people will have some regulation which might prevent this method. For you, just share a OneNote or a bank document via Dropbox, some internal drive and so on. There is a way you can do this I assure you. Also, share this document with your colleagues … because they too can give you advice and tips just at the time you might be struggling or unsure.

It’s a critical document because it creates trust between you and them — and shows that throughout the coursework/project you are actively thinking about teaching, and what it means to be an effective teacher. As you change, your students change and society changes around you — this approach lets you revisit your values, technologies and what is important to you and your students THIS time not everytime.

In short, the most important document you can share with a student is a blank one.

Now who’s too busy to do that?

Blocked Learning

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Teacher Trauma On Twitter

Image by Ewan McIntosh via Flickr

“But is ‘it’s blocked, I can’t access it”.

But the ‘firewall’ supposed to keep them ‘safe’ does not work. They go home to read and watch it, or use their phones? Are we then to install mobile phone ‘jammers’? We have not created a ‘firewall’, but a brick wall – we are Blocking Learning. We might be ‘covering’ it over with policy, rendering it with policical ‘motherhood’ messages, but behind the rhetoric is a solid wall, that believes ‘the internet’ is somthing that can be controlled and monitored, and that a few people (Senetor Conroy, the czar of communication in Australia –  #nocleanfeed) should dictate our social connections, contracts and learning.

My wife tried to access the EPA this week with her year 1 class. Can someone please explain the criteria used for to evaluate the Envronmental Protection Agencies not condusive to learning if the teacher thinks they are? In fact all the science sites on environment they searched for in Google were blocked. This, despite taking part in an online, DET promoted, ‘science competition’.

IMBEE – a social community in which students can only talk to and friend other members of their group (their class) and all chat is moderated – as banned from use – and so were the fabulous parent and student resources, which included cyber safety. “imbee is a parent approved, teacher endorsed social networking site appropriate for kids and ‘tweens.” Posters and booklets specifically designed to address safety – banned. What is better IMBEE or Habbo Hotel or Club Penguin – both of which have MILLIONS of unmoderated residents.

Learning impairment

Teachers can’t ‘plan’ serious ICT activities, and be sure they will work. Many primary school teachers have little to no ‘relief’ time to plan at school, so have to use their own ‘free’ time. There is absolutely no doubt that the DET is out of control, has too many political masters (who DET say are to blame), and lack of clarity or effective policy that can be aligned and aligned in the classroom. The is for example no DET portal ‘request’ for access – even for an hour to a site. What is the point of putting infratructure, wifi and laptops into schools – if what they connect to cannot effectively allow communication flow ?

A connection to a brick wall, not a firewall.

There are ways to deliver better ‘duty of care’ – the current model is based on fear, lack of understanding and policy designed for physical spaces and objects. Rumour has it that Queensland and Western Australia want to ban any site that has ‘data’ stored outside of Australia. Who thinks this stuff up? With No Clean Feed and Conroy re-introducing the ducking-stool and covert ops in state education departments banning anything remotely ‘engaging’ and doing nothing to facilitate, professionally develop staff etc. Stack this up against  public ‘draft’ policy, that smells like ‘National Curriculum’, Gillard talking about adopting New York Ciry school models, vague attempts to introduce low-end netbooks, recent laptop dumps in High School and the ever promised ‘fibre’ to schools roll out.

What does the DET ‘innovations’ department do?

We all know, much of what we can give teachers is free, already tested and widely reviewed and researched by reputable institutions. Quest Atlantis for example. A brilliant virtual world, we a great global community, that will won’t comply to QLD and WA rumored ‘policy’. Has anyone involved in QA been approached by anyone from these ‘elected’ guardians of education? – I doub’t it. Unlocking virtual worlds or any other technology is not something that will happen unless teachers start making lists, and principles start sending those lists to parents, MPs and lobby groups. List the banned sites. ‘Ah’, you say ‘I can’t put that on a wiki, they are all banned’. But here is what you can do, as I am getting a bit tired of ‘yeah buts’ based on no-consultation from elected representatives.

Perhaps Mrs Gillard would like to discuss? But probably not unless there is an imperative, so maybe we should make one. Theres one thing NOT blocked. And that’s ‘email’. So here’s what you can do, to let the DET know what you could not teach in your classroom.

Take action – let ‘them’ know this is – BLOCKED LEARNING

blockedlearning

Just send an email!

blockedlearning@gmail.com
You don’t need to put in your name or your email address.

A screenshot would be ‘sweet’.

Please include the URL of the site, the grade that could not see it, your state and what you wanted to teach. 140 Characters or less so you can “Tweet it”.
The post will get blogged at http://blockedlearning.posterous.com and perhaps a beneficial resource for our elected state and government officials.

Please share the URL, post on Twitter with #blockedlearning – so we can see the list growing. This will let other teachers know, ahead of time – what is already blocked by the various ‘experts’. If you want to attach a screen shot of your favourite blocked filter message – we can start a meme!. Just attach it to the email, Posterous figures it out.  This is a practical way of using technology (posterous, email and twitter) to highlight the ‘blocked learning’ in K12 – and to save other teachers and students the frustration of trying to learn though the policy or non-teachers and learners.

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Learning with an audience

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Joe Dale, what did you do? – I finally plugged the mic into the iPod and went in search of getting some verbal feedback from 9th grade students who have just completed Green Up. This is, believe it or not, the first time I’ve attemped to make a ‘podcast’, but I hope that the boy’s comments will be of interest.

I asked the boys about how using a large scale, inter-class social network affected their learning, what they did in ICT before being in the Web2.0 Classroom and they happily talked about a range of things. Interestingly, I watching a short part of Jeff Utech’s feed from China today. I’m not sure who was speaking … but some of the questions being raised and discusses in that room – are what these boys are talking about.

30 minutes long and made with Garage Band. I think its a good reflection on the design of the last project, and certainly impressed me in how well they understand what is happening in the classroom. I am sure I was not this savvy in 9th grade.