Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Upgrading Assessments!

I’ve been working with a local school district here in Western New York on updating and revising their curriculum maps this week. Much of our conversation centered around mapping language, evolution of the maps, and how the maps were reflective of both horizontal and vertical conversations.

Within our conversations we talked about upgrading the assessments to include technology resources many students are already using. We talked about how these tools can provide just as clear evidence as paper and pencil tests where students DO something with their learning and prove that the learning is enduring and ready to be utilized for their next academic task.

I wanted to share what one group of 7th grade Math teachers came up with as a technology integrated product. Note that they are still in the planning phase, but I wanted to share their frame of learning, as what they were talking about doing with their students was exciting to me—and I knew that their students will be thrilled with this:

Rather than a traditional paper and pencil final exam, these math teachers brainstormed other ways to have their students provide evidence that learning has taken place. We talked about embedding technology and what pieces of content were important. Through the brainstorm, we were able to identify skills and content pieces that will ultimately become new components on the map. (See Pics…) We were also able to articulate how this would be assessed, some activities to be embedded within the task, and resources the students would need to be successful. The pictures represent all of our ideas, from which we drilled into the essential information to create the frame for the project design.

What they ultimately came up with was a project where students, in groups, will visually represent what they’ve learned in a movie format using video functions on cameras or some of the school’s new Flip cams. They can use both pictures and video, along with narration, to create a movie about their chosen topic, which is to be one of the six major content pieces taught during the school year.

The teachers have wikis and each group will be given access to their own page where they will embed their video and give some sort of textual support for what they’ve done visually. Additionally, they will learn to use a “fun” web application such as Glogster, Animoto, xTranormal, etc. to enhance their wiki page. The project will involve a presentation piece where they present what they’ve done to the rest of the class, reinforcing the learning for all. They will also participate in a peer review process by using the “Discussion” tab within the wiki to answer essential questions and have ongoing dialogue about what they created. They are going to be graded with a rubric that evaluates not only their performance and understanding collectively, but also their individual contribution to the group.

I’ll post more on this later as I help them hammer out the details, but I was just really proud of what these teachers have decided to do as it exemplifies the notion of “doing what’s best for students,” “creating learning events” rather than rote and traditional lessons, and it does all of this within a solid curricular frame that provides powerful evidence of student learning. Their students are the ultimate beneficiaries here—not to mention the fact that they are going to really enjoy this learning opportunity!


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