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Objective Assessments

Assessment

Are tests the only objective assessment of student learning?

“If assessment is to be a positive force in education, it must be implemented properly. It cannot be used to merely sort students or to criticize education. Its goals must be to improve education. Rather than ‘teach to the test,’ we must ‘test what we teach.'” -Lockwood and McLean

Dictionary.com defines objective as: “not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased” and assessment as “the act of assessing; appraisal; evaluation.”

My test taking sense causes me to immediately respond in the negative to the question that opens this post. Are tests the ONLY objective assessment of student learning? No. There are many other forms to objectively assess student learning.

For example, students can be assessed without bias and based on facts by completing performance tasks, creating and maintaining portfolios (electronic or otherwise), creating and presenting demonstrations, and via teacher observation.

While reading and reflecting on this topic, I encountered this wonderful infographic on Edudemic:

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So again, are tests the ONLY objective assessment of student learning? No.  They are one of many different types of assessment and are designed in a plethora of ways with and without technology. I believe in order for any assessment to be objective and without bias that they should be more than your typical standardized test. I am glad to see the shift away from our massive state standardized test and toward the current computerized SBAC assessment (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). I have only seen it once with my last class because it is new, but it is more than your typical “test” and is made up of a variety of question types, ranging from multiple choice, to free response, to performance task. While tests are often the assessment used to assess student learning, they are not the ONLY objective way to evaluate student learning.

(GCU TEC 538 – Reflective Blog Post #4)

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Technology Infused Classroom

technology infused classroomWhen thinking about what a technology infused classroom looks like, I found I agreed with what the Innovative Designs for Education Corporation published as it’s 10 core principles of successful “learner-active, technology-infused” (LATI) classrooms:

  1. Learning from a Felt Need
  2. High Academic Standards
  3. Higher-Order, Open-Ended Problem-Solving
  4. Student Responsibility for Learning
  5. Connected Learning
  6. Collaboration
  7. Individual Learning Paths
  8. High Social Capital
  9. Technology Infusion
  10. Global Citizenship

Learning from a Felt Need indicates that students learn best when given an authentic situation to respond to rather than simply having material presented to them.  The latter is largely how students receive a majority of the information in school. Learning from a felt need would have students learning about area and perimeter by being presented with a real life problem that required them to know area and perimeter for in order to create a solution.

High Academic Standards does not indicate the new Common Core standards, it indicates that students are expected to achieve at high levels. In order to do so they must utilize every resource around them. The teacher isn’t their only resource.  There are their peers, experts in the field of study, the Internet, as well as many other resources that reach beyond the classroom.

Higher-Order, Open-Ended Problem-Solving requires that students are able to respond quickly to problems that are presented to them and are able to “think outside the box.” Situations change rapidly in today’s world and equipping our students with the skills to be successful in the 21st Century is a must.

Student Responsibility for Learning has been a favored topic of mine for many years. It has always been my firm belief that in order for a student to achieve, they have to take control of their learning. They cannot sit back and expect their learning handled for them, they must be an active participant. They must have a say in what they are learning and how they are learning it, they must set their own goals and set out to achieve them. Educators can certainly assist students with all of this, but they cannot do it for them.

Connected Learning states that the learning students do is connected to their lives outside of the classroom. If students can see the connection between the subjects they learn in school and what their daily lives expose them to, what they have learned will be cemented.

Collaboration is a word I have heard with much more frequency over the last several years in education. It seemed to me that it was aimed primarily at teachers, in that we should be collaborating with our colleagues in order to better assist our students on their academic paths. Lately however, the word collaboration has been aimed at the students and appropriately so. In today’s world we rarely do anything in isolation. We are always working with others to achieve a goal.  Our students should be prepared for this reality and can be via collaboration on authentic educational tasks.

Individual Learning Paths is differentiation. The fact that educators need to differentiate in order to best serve their students is not a new concept, nor one I find any fault with. Students will learn best when instruction and authentic activities are geared toward their learning levels.

High Social Capital refers to the relationships students have with not only their teacher but other adults who are part of their academic journey. Students will perform best when they feel that the adults in their lives care about them, what they have achieved, what they need help in, and generally provide them support on not only an academic level but a personal and emotional level as well.

Technology Infusion requires that technology is in the hands of the students. Education has come a long way in that many teachers are comfortable teaching with technology as a way to enhance the content, but it is my opinion that there is not enough technology in many (not all) public schools so that it is in the hands of the students to create with.  It is only through the creative process that information is truly absorbed. Technology is a part of all of our students lives in some way, they need to be provided the opportunity to create with it in meaningful ways and see that there is more to technology than video games. As an aside to that statement, I am not demeaning gaming as a valid strategy to achievement, I am saying that presently much of the gaming students do is without much academic value.

Global Citizenship aids students in defining a strong sense of self when they realize there is a much larger world beyond the doors of their classrooms. Students need to feel connected to the world at large, beyond Fontana, beyond California, and beyond the United States.

So how do I plan on having a technology infused classroom? I plan on using the limited technology I have available to me and making the most of it. I plan on continuing to be an educational technology advocate and do my part within my school and my district to continue to emphasize the need for more technology so that we are better able to prepare our students for the 21st Century. My question to decision makers is, how can we prepare students for the 21st Century when we don’t have regular access to the technology we need?

Websites of Interest:
A Prezi on LATI
LATI Principles

(GCU TEC 538 Reflective Blog Post #3)

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Red Ribbon Week

Red Ribbon Week 2014

Hello Families!

Next week is Red Ribbon Week at Dorothy Grant Elementary.  The image above is what we have planned for the students to do to celebrate and reinforce the importance of being drug free. It is important to note that on Tuesday for sports attire day that we ask students to avoid wearing anything related to the Raiders or the 49ers as local gangs use those teams to represent themselves.

I will be awarding students tickets and points each day for participating in the Red Ribbon Week activities. The tickets are good for a school wide raffle and the points will be special Red Ribbon Week points I award on Class Dojo that can be used toward earning reward lunch on Friday.

There is also a creative writing contest for grades 3-5. Students are encouraged to write about living a healthy and drug-free life. The writing can take the form of a poem, essay, or realistic fiction. We will be working on these in class and they are due Thursday, October 9th. You are more than welcome to begin discussing this topic with your child and helping them with ideas for what they might like to write about.

As always, feel free to message me on Class Dojo or via email.

~Mrs. Ruiz

RedRibbonRedRibbonWeek_KinderArt

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Grading

Hello Families,

Since we have adopted the Common Core, our grading and scoring have changed. One of the more noticeable changes will be the lack of letter grades.  In primary, you were likely used to seeing Outstanding (O), Satisfactory (S), Needs Improvement (N) and Unsatisfactory (U). Once you receive your first progress report (which you should this week) you will see there are no letter grades and the district’s new Common Core grading key is:

4 – Thorough Progress: exceeding grade level standard
3 – Adequate Progress: meeting grade level standard
2 – Partial Progress: approaching grade level standard
1 – Minimal Progress: below grade level standard

The 3rd grade team will be scoring your child’s work in this way as well and you may see a 4, 3, 2 or 1 on work your child brings home. The following is what the grade level team determined as a grading scale:

90% to 100% = 4
70% to 89% = 3
60% to 69% = 2
0% to 59% = 1

I hope that helps you to understand the scoring on your child’s papers. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me via Class Dojo or send an email.

~Mrs. Ruiz

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Visual Literacy & the Internet

visual literacy

Visual Literacy is not a new concept.  As a matter of fact it was concept given a name in 1969 by writer and educator John L. Debes. To put it simply, visual literacy is defined as the ability to make meaning from what we see. The fact that this concept was around before the Internet and much of the technology we have now demonstrates that it transcends the barriers of time. Even before it had a name, people were making sense of images in their own unique ways.

Educators have been using visual literacy in education for quite some time. Students are often shown photographs or drawings to make meaning of a topic they are being taught. I myself remember my political science class in high school where we studied and made meaning of political cartoons.  I remember enjoying that very much and learning a great deal about the historical period we were studying. That was visual literacy, and the fact that is a vivid memory for me all these decades later further justifies for me the power of visual literacy. Even in college, in my humanities class, we had to study images of art and make meaning out of what the message the artist was trying to convey. Once more an example of visual literacy. The issue before us now is we have the Internet…how do we continue to harness the power of visual literacy in the digital age with 21st Century learners?

developing-21st-century-critical-thinkers-infographic-mentoring-minds

There are so many images available to us on the Internet. Some of my most favorite ones are the ever popular “infographics.” I enjoy finding relevant ones and breaking them down with my students. What is most interesting to me are the things my students will identify as they study the graphic. The same is true for your traditional still image. Just today I was revisiting the concept of patterns in math and showed my students this photo:

patterns
Discovery Communications, Inc.,  . Animal print & ripples on sand dune. [Image]. Available from http://www.discoveryeducation.com/

I told my students I would be showing them an image. I did not tell them why or what it may relate to. Then I had them do a 5 minute quick write of whatever came to mind when they looked at this image.  I was curious to see if the concept of pattern came to mind for any of them.  After the 5 minutes had concluded, I had them share their quick writes with their desk buddy, and then finally with me.  For those who shared out their ideas, only one mentioned the concept of pattern. Several of the students wrote short stories about how they would survive in the desert or about the animals that had been there as there are animal prints in the sand.  We did discuss the concept of patterns and where we find them, and the conversation on the whole was a lively one. Many students asked if I would continue showing them photos like this and asking them to quick write as they enjoyed it. I assured them I would.

Strategy

The quick write situation I described is one way I will be using the Internet and visual literacy in my classroom. The study of infographics in the way that I studied political cartoons in high school, where we scrutinized every aspect and looked for symbolism and subtle hidden messages is another. However, that is me as an educator using images with my students. How will my students use the Internet and visual literacy to communicate? In this digital age, I want my students to find images that convey something to others, that support their learning, or cause their peers to think. Not only do I want them to locate such images, I want them to create them. It is at this point where the obstacle that is ever present gets in my way. The distinct lack of technology. I know I am a broken record when it comes to this bitter topic, but it is a reality in my classroom. I wish my students each had a tablet of some kind at the very least.  The ideal would be them each having their own laptop computer to work with in class at any time. While a reality for some students in this country, and likely in this state, it isn’t for mine. I recognize that simply complaining about this issue won’t get it resolved. As always I have to figure out some creative work around to getting technology into the hands of my students to create with and to demonstrate their understanding of what they are being taught.  For the time being the solution that I have employed has been reaching out to those parents and families of my students who have technology readily available at home and know how to use it. I was thrilled to have one such parent reach out to me recently and ask how they could add an image or a video to a Web 2.0 tool we are using as they helped their child complete a multimedia project for me. I instantly recorded a tutorial for just what they needed via Jing and sent it to them. I saw that student’s completed project today and it was perfect. It was truly a bright spot in my ongoing struggle to show my students how to use the Internet in ways that support their education and demonstrate their construction of knowledge.

(GCU TEC 538 Reflective Blog Post #2)