I loved this assignment! It provided the perfect opportunity to think strategically about how to weave together some truly amazing tools for differentiation into a year-long emphasis on informational text. Throughout the year, students will read selections appropriate to their Lexile ranges in Newsela, interact with question and prompt-embedded media via Zaption and Actively Learn, record vocabulary learning and development via Quizlet and Padlet, and work collaboratively to visualize key ideas and details via Piktochart infographics. Interaction with peers and the teacher will occur via Actively Learn and Blackboard, and NoRedInk will serve as a meaningful "If-Time" activity for those fast readers to learn and practice application of mechanics/usage/grammar skills.
Essential Question: How can I use both formative and summative assessment to enhance (or at least not interfere with) intrinsic motivation?
Ah, the irony of this week's topic. So much of my current role in education revolves around assessment -- but not necessarily the kind that inspires students or supports intrinsic motivation...for students or their teachers. As a District Testing Coordinator, I spend hundreds of hours each year attending trainings, reading manuals, preparing materials, providing workshops, monitoring testing sessions, compiling reports, and evaluating data related to myriad state and district assessments. After many years in the classroom, then as a building administrator, and now as a district-level leader, I see value in assessments, in general. I agree with Linda Bond's observation in our reading this week: "Public demands for accountability, and consequently for high standardized test scores, are not going to disappear" (1996). The climate of education in the U.S. includes high-stakes tests...and that's that. I don't foresee these types of assessments going away, so I have learned to embrace the data generated by these measures (though I do believe the amount of time spent on summative assessments like these is out of control).
James Popham has long been an assessment-thinker with whom I share many beliefs. He hits it on the nose when he writes, "To support actionable instructional decisions about how best to teach students, norm-referenced inferences simply don't cut it" (2014, p. 64). NRTs have their place; I believe it is important for educators, parents, and students themselves to know how they stack up when compared to others of the same age or grade. However, if we really want assessment to make a difference in the classroom, then assessment must play a role much larger than just providing an official measure for a student's cumulative folder or report card.
Vicki Davis (take a moment to bow down in awe) notes in an Edutopia blog post, "Good teachers in every subject will adjust their teaching based upon what students know at each point. Good formative assessment remove the embarrassment of public hand raising and gives teachers feedback that impacts how they're teaching at that moment" (2015). Amen, sister! Common Sense Graphite, Davis, Dyer, and Brown provide list after list of free and low-cost tools that measure what students are learning, provide instant feedback, engage students, and help build intrinsic motivation because the feedback happens now, when the students need it most.
Bond, L. A. (1996). Norm-and Criterion-Referenced Testing. ERIC/AE Digest. Retrieved from:http://www.ericdigests.org/1998-1/norm.htm
Brown, P. (2015). EdTech Tools Get Creative with Formative Assessments. edSurge. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/n/2015-01-12-edtech-tools-to-get-creative-with-formative-assessments
Common Sense Graphite. (Retrieved 18 Apr 2015). Top Tech Tools for Formative Assessment. Common Sense Education. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/top-picks/top-tech-tools-for-formative-assessment
Davis, V. (2015). 5 Fantastic, Fast, Formative Assessment Tools. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/5-fast-formative-assessment-tools-vicki-davis
Dyer, K. (2014). 33 Digital Tools for Advancing Formative Assessment in the Classroom. Teach. Learn. Grow. NWEA Education Blog. Retrieved from https://www.nwea.org/blog/2014/33-digital-tools-advancing-formative-assessment-classroom/
Hatboro-Horsham School District. (2013). Understanding Formative Assessments. YouTube video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ab4hbIsOonU
Kohn, A. (2008). Who’s Cheating Whom? Phi Delta Kappan. Retrieved from: http://www.alfiekohn.org/article/whos-cheating/ 13 April 2015.
Popham, J. (2014). Criterion-Referenced Measurement: Half a Century Wasted? Educational Leadership, 71(6), 62-68. Retrieved from Egan Library http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=94925708&login.asp&site=ehost-live
Tomlinson, Carol Ann, and Moon, Tonya R. (2013) Chapter 6: Assessment, Grading and Differentiation. Assessment and Student Success in a Differentiated Classroom. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Web. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=135&docID=10774725&tm=1428975296051 13 April 2015.
Essential Question: What is brain-based learning and how can it inform problem based learning and differentiation?
Over the course of the last 15 years, I have read a great deal about brain-based learning (with interest in the topic beginning during a school-wide action research project in 2000), but pairing brain-based learning research with problem-based learning and differentiation this week helps make all of it even more important as an impetus for change in education that could surely result in increased learning and achievement for all students.
In my experience, when teachers and administrators think about "differentiation," they see the faces of a few students in their collective minds' eye: They think of "those kids" who need something else, slightly modified to fit a special learning need, a desire for enrichment, etc. Jensen's research flips this idea on its head: . "Almost 90% of human brains are atypical, damaged or in some way not healthy. ... Instead of there being mostly 'typical' students with some with 'differences,' the brain research tells us the opposite" (Jensen, 2014). Differentiation shouldn't be something that happens for some students in the classroom; rather, it should be the norm for all students, as the research overwhelmingly supports how different the vast majority of students in a given classroom really are.
I am fascinated by the research Jensen cites related to the impact of technology in strengthening a human being's cognitive capacity. "Completing tasks administered by computer-aided instructional programs that have subjects identify, count, and remember objects and hold those objects' locations in their working memories can increase attention and improve working memory within several weeks, even generalizing to improve performance on other memory tasks and an unrelated reasoning task" (p. 57).
Sitting and getting may have worked for many adults currently serving as teachers in K-12 classrooms, but the research is clear that strictly lecture-based instruction for hours on end just isn't the most effective path to student learning. Especially for students living in poverty and struggling learners, we must incorporate strategies and approaches that support high expectations, variety, and the use of research-supported instructional strategies should be non-negotiable. "We must stop using low IQ as an excuse for giving up on children and instead provide positive, enriching experiences that build their academic operating systems. Students' brains don't change from more of the same" (Jensen, 2009, p. 65).
Technology can definitely serve as a powerful tool for learning that is both brain-friendly and practical in problem-based learning environments and for differentiation. Tech tools allow teachers to customize learning for students while providing them with opportunities to preview, prime, review, repeat, and practice in ways that is not humanly possible for a single teacher in a classroom with more than one student. It provides students with both safe, appropriately paced, and relevant learning activities that are "just right" for each student. In addition, it offers students chances for "trial-and-error learning" that Jensen notes as being important.
In addition, empowering students to learn for themselves by learning about their own learning should be part of every classroom, K-12. Dr. Donna Wilson writes, "A student who is excited about being in the driver's seat and steering toward learning success may well be destined to become an independent thinker on the way to charting a responsible course for school, career, and life. Being metacognitive can be likened to being more conscious, reflective, and aware of one's progress along the learning path." Jensen's research and writing support intentional teaching and support of metacognitive activities in the classroom, as well. "Encourage students to set their own goals, share them with others, and talk about why they chose them" (2005, p. 37). Don't allow students to be passive "fillers of space" in the classroom; instead, we must ensure that classrooms are places where students are not only encountering content and tasks that are appropriately designed and differentiated for them, but where that learning matters to them. When students are encouraged to engage in thinking about their thinking, they will discover the connections between and among content areas, lessons, units, and real life.
Edutopia. (2015). Brain-Based Learning: Resource Roundup. Retrieved on 10 Apr 2015 from http://www.edutopia.org/article/brain-based-learning-resources#graph4
Jensen, E. (2011). Brain-Based Learning. YouTube video. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HyYhoCqo58w
Jensen, E. (2005). Teaching with the Brain in Mind (2nd Edition). Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=6&docID=10089220&tm=1428258945648
Jensen, E. (2009). Teaching with Poverty in Mind : What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It. Alexandria, VA, USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development (ASCD). ProQuest ebrary. Retrieved from: http://egandb.uas.alaska.edu:2081/lib/uasoutheast/reader.action?ppg=28&docID=10375878&tm=1428259489468
Jensen, E. (2014). Guide to Brain-Based Teaching. Jensen Learning. Retrieved from http://www.jensenlearning.com/pdf/10MostEffectiveTips.pdf
Wilson, D. (2014). Metacognition: The Gift that Keeps Giving. Edutopia. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/metacognition-gift-that-keeps-giving-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers
Essential Question: Where do opportunities for differentiation exist within the Lord of the Flies and Mazerunner scenarios?
For both of the #diffimooc tools, I focused on creating differentiation strategies that would support students outside of Minecraft. Having spoken with students who were involved in #Givercraft last fall, I know that students become engaged with the text as a result of the project...but I also want to ensure they have plenty of opportunities to think about what they are reading, process it with their peers, and make sense of the characters, plot, setting, etc., before, during and, after engaging in the Minecraft scenarios.
For both Lord of the Flies and The Maze Runner, I created activities to go along with each one of the scenarios that will require students to discuss the text and work with classmates to complete tasks related to both the novel and the challenge presented in the scenario. The online tools I selected to use with each scenario are fairly simple to use, require no sign-in (with the exception of Piktochart, which is free), and lend themselves to creative text-based responses based on students' reading and understanding of the text. The English teacher in me just can't emphasize enough the number of opportunities I believe students need to think critically and demonstrate their understanding via the written word.
References & Resources:
Tammy Van Wyhe: rural Alaskan educator, leader, learner, writer.