Promoting Peer Assessment-Using Blogs in Communication Arts
When Erica Rogers and Dan Barnes, communication arts teachers at Parkway West High, were redesigning a cumulative activity for their English III students, they were looking to create an activity where students would be writing and revising work throughout the year, culminating in a final portfolio of work. Applying a simple, stable technology took this project to another level of engagement and effectiveness.
The goals of the redesign were 3-fold:
Show student progress over time
Archive the work so it could be displayed as a portfolio
Enable peer commenting for draft versions
The solution: a blog for each student.
Blogging is in no way a new technology. It's been around since at least 1995, one of the earliest and easiest ways to publish on the web. The concept of blogging is simple - create a post and publish it for others to view and comment on. Blog posts can be organized in a host of ways, making it easy to view an author's growth over time, and blogging is a uniquely public act -- every page is searchable and shareable.
Erica and Dan chose to apply blogging to their project in order to capitalize on its archiving and publishing abilities. Students ...
were grouped together with peers from other classes, creating an authentic audience for their work. Students were given due dates for posting their work as well as for adding their comments.
posted both a draft for comments and a final version for review. This established a sense of growth that both the student as well as his peers could see.
were required to comment in specific ways that were designed to promote valuable feedback to their peers. Comments were defined, focused, and assessed by the teachers. You can check out Erica and Dan's feedback forms here and here.
This, in addition to in-class peer edits as well as teacher-edits, constituted a third round of feedback for every draft. But what Erica and Dan noticed was that it was the audience of "strangers" that seemed to make this feedback cycle something different than the others.
Feedback from Beyond
Creating for a public audience changed how many kids went about the drafting process. Erica sums it up nicely,
"Why would you want to create something you weren't proud of?"
Students were concerned how their work was going to be perceived by students outside the bounds of their classroom, and they created with this in mind. Students cared about the feedback they were delivering to and receiving from others, even going so far as to greet their teacher at the door with "My partner hasn't posted his paper yet!" The public nature of the publishing process meant that failing a due date didn't mean that a student was frustrating her teacher - it meant she was letting down her peer.
An Example and an Explanation
Check out the blog to the right for a sense of what students were working on. I've linked Dan's write-up of the experience, a paper he recently completed for graduate school where he describes the positive impact of this application of technology on his students' achievement.
In all, this project stands as a nice reminder that powerful uses of technology don' t have to be complicated uses of technology.
Simple tools applied to specific needs can increase student investment and motivation without overwhelming the teacher.
So far, Parkway School District has participated in three different videoconference programs through Whirlidurb, with another one scheduled in December. Overall, these videoconferences have been very beneficial to student learning due to the preparatory activities, the opportunity to interact with classes around the country, and the real life connections students are able to make.
Two of the conferences have been the Book Blitz program with a kindergarten class at Green Trails and a first grade class at Shenandoah Valley Elementary. This style of program features a read aloud and a writing component. The students began the conference by brainstorming some ideas about what Thanksgiving means to them. Then students interacted with the Book Blitz host, as well as two other classes that were located throughout the country. It was a great learning opportunity and provided different perspectives from kids living in different regions.
Another type of conference is the Community Helpers program on meteorologists. The focus of this conference was on how community helpers keep us safe. In this case, the first grade classes at Hanna Woods Elementary had just completed a weather unit in science. The students were able to ask authentic questions of an expert in the field as a culminating activity. At times the meteorologist asked questions of the participating classes which allowed them to transfer knowledge.
Kindergarten classes at Hanna Woods Elementary participated in another type of program, Show and Share. This program focused on living and nonliving things. Each class had to bring items to the conference that they could describe so other classes could infer if the object was living or nonliving. This reinforced vocabulary skills as well as letters and sounds.
We have found these videoconferences to be well organized learning opportunities for 21st century learners. Learning extends beyond the walls of a classroom with connections made across the country. We would like to thank CSD and New Links for providing Parkway School District with these wonderful opportunities.
Lesson Designing Revolution: Using Wikis to Collaborate and Plan
Being productive and getting things done both rely on planning and being organized and the Communication Arts teachers at Southwest Middle have employed a wiki to do just that.
Before the start of the school year, the 7th grade CA teachers were discussing how they should share materials with each other. They knew that they wanted to plan, share lessons and distribute assessments throughout the school year. Knowing that sending emails back and forth would be too much effort, too confusing, and simply inefficient the search was on for other options. Their initial thought was to use GoogleDocs, but since they were unable to upload Smartboard Notebook files, they decided to create a Wiki that would host all the information needed.
The Wiki is only seen by the four CA teachers and other invited guests. The homepage consists of a calendar that has all important dates for the school year (breaks, dates for common assessment, dates that we will be out of the building). They also put our pacing for our lessons on this calendar. The sidebar consists of a Reading/ Writing I Can link that host all information pertaining to the I Cans for CA. The most important link is the individual units. Within the unit link, we upload all our lessons (and record who is creating the lesson), all exit slips, assessment, cold reads, and additional worksheets.
It has been helpful because all material is uploaded and easy to find. Honestly, the Wiki has been such a time saver and a helpful way to work with each other to ensure BEST PRACTICE for our students! Also, the Wiki has been an effective and efficient way to collaborate with each other!
Thanks to Stephanie Gillum, Shannon Shafer, Stephanie Reinhart and Jenni McHargue for sharing this time saving tip.
Publish Student Work - Online
The first tip I sent out to schools was one that was quick to put in practice, but big on return: impose a NO TEXT rule for student presentations. This week's tip is like it:
Publish student work online.
If your students are creating something - anything - for your class, a growing body of research is demonstrating that students learn more deeply when they are working for someone other than their teacher or the peers in the classroom. If someone were to ask your students, "Who are you doing this project for?" and their answer would be, "Our teacher", a few simple changes to your assignment could dramatically affect your students' motivation and engagement.
Students create all the time, in school and outside it. They create for their peers, for their family, and for themselves. In the last ten years, they've been creating more and more and more content, filling up terabytes of space on the internet with everything from profound reflections on identity to absolute drivel. Why the increase? Because it's easy. Technology, especially mobile technology, has lowered the threshold of effort required to share with the world.
But the threshold hasn't just lowered for personal publishing - it's lowered for educational uses, too. There are compelling reasons to leverage these publishing media in our approach to teaching, and the number of those reasons is growing. Recently, Derek Bruff, the director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching, wrote,
"Social pedagogies [approaches to teaching that leverage social reasons to learn] can provide sufficiently strong motivations since representing knowledge for authentic audiences can satisfy students desires for connection and sharing." [1. Social Pedagogies as Framework for Online Learning]
Publishing work online connects students to real people who aren't in your classroom, imbuing student work with a sense that the product ought to be worth viewing.
Publishing in this way raises student anxiety about work, a condition that can actually promote learning, and brings a new context to the role of a teacher. Bruff illustrates this with the picture below.
Publishing for an authentic audience produces the stress of performance, a somewhat negative emotion, but couples it with the positive experiences of making connections and sharing. When students are placed within this dynamic, the "teacher" is cast in a different light. Instead of the sole evaluator of a student's product, she is now the keeper of skills that will help that student perform well in the eyes of an authentic audience.
Will this work for all students? Of course not. Each of us views the task of performing for others a bit differently, but teachers at West High and West Middle have found that adding "audience" to their teaching toolkit has changed the way students are approaching their work.
A few 'homegrown' examples
The slides below outline 3 different levels of authentic audience.
Low-stress: A teacher groups students in one of her classes with the students in another of her classes. No teaching partner is needed.
Collegial: Two or more teachers in the same school building or school district combine efforts and direct students to view and/or collaborate on required work.
Distance: Two or more teachers, located across the States or world, connect their students, opening up opportunities for discussion not only about content, but about culture and perspective as well.
Authentic audience isn't just something good for students. As adults, we understand how creating for others drives us to work harder, think deeper, and make connections so that our creations are something we can take pride in. Oddly enough, we often call this "teaching."
What audiences might you open up to your students this year?
Each year Peter Papulis asks his geometry students to apply abstract knowledge of proportions, similarity, and ratios to their own experience - through manipulating images in Smart Notebook. Students take snapshots of one another next to prominent places around school, pull the images into Notebook and estimate the height or length of their subjects. If you'd like kids to collect, annotate, or measure images, Smart Notebook might be your simplest solution.
"The pre-work makes the project work." - Peter Papulis
This is Peter's second year with this project, and he's noticed that preparing students with the necessary mathematical vocabulary and walking them through the process prior to entering the lab has made all the difference. Here's his pattern:
Students begin the unit looking at proportion word problems, gathering an understanding of the vocabulary of proportions and a sense of what proportion is all about.
Once vocabulary is in place, Peter surveys to see who has a iPhone or iPod Touch in the room, arranging the groups so that there's at least one in each group. He then asks the groups to download the free Multimeasure app and experiment with estimating. The app uses the same mathematics students are learning in this unit. One of Peter's goals is to demonstrate to students that mathematics isn't something that's just on paper. Math is used in tools and problems that surround us, and people can capitalize on that in order to make a profit - as the makers of this app (which has a for-cost counterpart) have.
After the hook with the app, it's back to the classroom for a "hands-on" approach to this idea. Using real rulers and example pictures, students work out how they can use proportion to estimate the height of common landmarks around the world.
After the practice, Peter takes a portion of one period (~45 minutes) for students to take pictures around the school using cameras checked out from the library. Each group had at least 3 pictures of a student (the reference height) standing in front of a portion of the building or other landmark on campus. They are given a rubric and tutorial before beginning the work
The next day in the lab, Peter oriented students to Smart Notebook (his instructions are here), and the final day is reserved for student work: uploading images, calculating proportions, and annotating their slides. The final product? A student-created estimate of the height or length of a place they walk by every day:
Students must position their cameras as close to "reality" as possible. A tilted shot will skew the estimation of the larger object.
When calculating the reference height of their peers, students must use the metric system rather than the English system of measurement (e.g. six feet, two inches should not be written 6.2, but converted into metric units - 188 cm).
Without the separate "Math Tools" plugin from Smart, ratios can be a challenge to draw on a PC, but Peter's students worked around this in a variety of ways.
Peter's unit is effective for many reasons. From the perspective of educational technology, he leverages tech to both hook his students (through their experiences with the app) as well as provide for personalization and choice (as students are able to travel around the campus and select their objects of choice). All the technology is fairly easy to use, moving tech into the background and allowing the curriculum to take it's rightful place: front and center.
If you or your students are looking for a way to gather and annotate images, Notebook is worth a look!
Connecting a Face to Your Curriculum
This week's tip is a list of 3 unique websites that highlight projects, issues, and dreams from real people around the world. If you're looking for a way to bring a face to the curriculum you cover in your classroom, you might consider visiting one or all of these.
With the social nature of the web, connecting others couldn't be more easy to do. The three sites below do an impressive job of collecting support for individuals, teams and causes around the world. If you haven't checked these out before, they are well worth a look. Simply search for a city, state, or country and read the personal stories that appear.
Kiva.org - Created with "a mission to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty", Kiva enables individuals to connect with entrepreneurs from around the developing world. Kiva community members can sponsor interest-free loans to any number of projects.
Change.org - This website is a place where anyone can start a petition, send it out, and gather support for their cause. Social media is changing the decisions of companies and government agencies around the world. Change.org is a small window into how that's happening.
Kickstarter.com - A new home for "starving artists" and entrepreneurs in the developed world is Kickstarter.com. Countless documentaries, albums, inventions, and other creative works are supported here, through the power of online networking.
The web offers a unique chance to bring the stories of individuals into our classrooms, and the sites above might just have a story that will hook your students into that next unit.
Parkway Digital Film Festival
Youre invited to the Parkway Digital Film Festival! See stars on the red carpet, experience films at the On Demand Festival, and take a seat to enjoy the featured films. The doors will open at 5:00 pm.
Featured films will be shown in the auditorium of the Purser Center on April 26th beginning at 6:00 pm for elementary students and 7:30 pm for secondary students. Take a seat and enjoy the show!
Films that are part of the On Demand Festival will be available for viewing throughout the evening in the atrium of the Purser Center. Choose which films you would like to see by selecting it from a touch screen monitor.