Tag Archives: assessment

Animate your language lessons


This is a nifty little application I can imagine would make language learning fun.

Joe Dale (October 11) put me onto the Animate application for language learning on Jose Picardo’s blog

In the About section of his blog, Box of Tricks, Jose Picardo explains the role of technology in student learning:

Technology has been demonstrated to be a powerful motivator, helping to increase confidence and thereby encourage learning. Technology catalyses pupils’ interest, helping to establish an atmosphere conducive to learning and achieving.

Knowing how to make the most of the available technology is an essential skill for teachers to acquire in an age where pupils’ learning expectations are changing radically. Technology ensures that education remains relevant in our students’ increasingly digital lives.

Box of Tricks is full of great ideas for language teachers. Apart from ‘Animate your homework’ some of the many ideas include:

Using Animoto to promote speaking;
Podcasting in 5 easy steps;
Assessing with video: giving students control;
Edmodo: microblogging for the classroom;
Seeqpod: the easy way to take music to your classroom or blog;
Top 5 tips for creating resources for the interactive whiteboard;
Top 10 tips for using technology in your classroom;
Using Voki and a blog in a sequence of 3 lessons;
Wordle: using word clouds in a lesson;
Free comicstrip-creating website …. and much more!

Another great blog for language teachers is Nik Peachy’s Learning technology teacher development blog. Just have a look at his topics in the right-hand navigation. You’ll find exactly what you need for enjoyable and engaging language learning lessons, whether it’s a 5 minute fix or a new application you can add to your repertoire.

If you’re a language teacher and you think that you can’t use much technology in your lessons, think again!

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Filed under Education, humour, photos, play, Web 2.0

Is school bad for kids?

Further to my recent post about open assessment tasks and true learning, you may want to have a look at Clay Burell’s posts on his blog Beyond School. I suppose I’m late to discover Clay but I figure others will be able to share my new discovery. Here’s what he says in his post entitled ‘Beyond school’ : on the death of genius for the sake of college’ (he’s talking about young people’s time being taken over by ‘education’:
‘I mean the ones who are so over-scheduled with schoolwork, homework, SAT test-prep cram schools, and all the other madness that keeps them focused on memorizing the data and pounding out the grunt-work, one assignment and one GPA-increment at a time, year in and year out – from what, grade 9? Or is that too late to begin worrying these days? – that they rarely have time to pull back and reflect on anything at all’.

I can’t help thinking back to my primary school years; for some reason memories of those days keep coming back as a kind of lost paradise, and what stands out is the time spent in idleness. And during that idleness, whether it be walking home from school in the slowest way possible, or sitting in a tree, creating a cubby house – a long-lost sense of freedom full of possibilities, ideas and dreams is evoked. So much time to reflect, time that is taken up now as an adult with adult responsibilities, and sadly, for many young children, this is also the case. By the time they’re in secondary school, the freedom is gone, the dreams taken over by instruction, the self-initiated learning through curiosity replaced by delivery of prescribed content during the school day, and fulfilment of prescribed homework tasks at home.

We would do well to remember that our students were awake to the wonders of the world as very young children – not knowledgeable wondering, but eager to experience, keen to ask questions. But do we, as teachers, ask young people what they’re interested in, or do we make their learning relevant to their world? Do we give them time to reflect? Is reflection valued?

Clay Burell, some time ago (not sure when), set up Students 2.0 to give young people a voice. In the ‘About’ section of the blog, he talks about the past paradigm of schools being effective for the times, but not so any more:

‘For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn… However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost… Everywhere, we see changes: with how business operates, how people interact and how success is accomplished. There is unfortunately one place that remains unchanged, the place that could benefit most from the changes we see today… the classroom.’ He then explains the purpose of the blog: ‘This blog is an attempt to give students a voice in where the future of education is headed.’

I looked up some of the individual blogs of the students involved; it’s great to read what they have to say, their ideas, etc. Here are some of them:
Two penguins and a typewriter
Love and logic
The bass player’s blog
Betaphor

Newly ancient
(archived)

Another thing I’d like to get off my chest:
if we as educators are working towards integrating Web 2.0 tools in order to engage students and create authentic learning, then we drop all that at year 11 because we have to focus on preparing students to regurgitate prescribed curriculum content so that they can get the highest scores and get into university, etc. then it’s crazy. Surely we need a bigger change. Surely this is a mindset change. Otherwise, we’re doing a little Web 2.0 here and there, then we say, hang on, we just have to go back for a bit; this is really important. Just doesn’t make sense.
Does anybody see a bigger change to the whole system in the near future? Is this really going to happen unless we change our assessment criteria?

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

Open assessment task controversy

A topic close to my heart raised by Chris Betcher in his blog, has sparked debate and given the opportunity for many to voice their opinions (and frustrations). Chris teaches at PLC, Sydney, and blogs about the controversial move his school has taken by having open assessment tasks, testing not content memorisation, but student response using what is available to them, eg. the web, iPod, mobile phone, etc.

John Connell responds in his blog:
“Chris is worried by some of the comments that have been posted in response to the Sydney Morning Herald’s piece on the PLC move. He has no reason to worry, unless, like me, he simply feels concern for the evidently lamentable understanding of the nature of knowledge and the purpose of education of all those who are criticizing the move”.

And yes, we should all be worried. I agree with Chris, John and others about the desperate need to revise the examination systems, and this presupposes a re-evaluation of and massive shift in thinking where education or learning is concerned. As far as I’m aware, this shift is only happening in small, isolated pockets of the education world.

I laughed at John Connell’s vivid image of students vomiting their learned knowledge ‘onto a piece of paper on command’ (ready, set, go!) and laughed even harder when he added his frustration with exams being written ‘with a pencil!’ Actually, there’s nothing funny about that at all. Capable, intelligent students are in some cases compromising their results when, like my older son, currently doing year 12 International Baccalaureate (heavily exam-based), they have illegible handwriting and they have to write quickly in exams. This is a laptop school.

My younger son (same laptop school) comes home regularly with homework he has copied from the board into his exercise book – a set of questions, out of context, which the students have to tackle using the latest in pedagogy – INDEPENDENT RESEARCH – which, according to the teacher, is comprised of solitary googling – passing up a trip to the well-resourced library, with no scaffolding, etc. (excuse the pent up frustration with an otherwise excellent school, but I think many schools would be similar).

Homework is also up with the latest technology, and projects regularly assume the form of tables or powerpoint, with powerpoint being the all-time favourite. My son feels guilty if we have a discussion before his homework task, because ‘it’s cheating’ (the independent bit). I’m trying to change his mindset, telling him that it’s the learning process that’s important, and that this process gains much from discussion and questioning, in fact, that’s what learning is all about. It’s a struggle to change from a focus on ‘the right answer’ and ‘a good mark’.

When I was doing my teacher librarian degree through distance education at Charles Sturt University, we had an online student cohort and I used to ask all the ‘dumb questions’. I thought I was slower than everyone, until I started getting emails from students secretly thanking me for asking the questions they were too afraid to ask. Mindset CHANGE needed here!

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0