Exploring DS 106 Assignments

For Tech Task 5b, we were asked to complete two different assignments from the DS 106 Assignment Bank . The first assignment that I chose was in the ‘audio assignments.’ For this assignment we were asked to read one of our favourite children’s books. I read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. Kevin Henkes was and is still one of my favourite children’s literature authors. I had fun using garage band to alter my voice after I had recorded the reading. I think that students could have a lot of fun creating their own stories on an audio program like this – it could be a very meaningful ELA project for students of varying ages. Check out the link to hear my reading of Chrysanthemum!

Sound Cloud – Chrysanthemum

For the second assignment, I chose to do one from the ‘writing assignments’ section. For this assignment we were asked to choose a movie and create a tweet that described the movie. I chose this one thinking it would be a fun task, which actually turned out to be a lot more difficult that I had imagined. Through the process of creating my tweet, I couldn’t think but how this could be a meaningful assignment for students to learn how to summarize and find the themes of books. In the end, I chose to do the Disney Classic, Aladdin.

My tweet is as follows: “One step ahead of Jafar, thanks to my #magiccarpetride”


Finding Truth

For the introductory segment of our tech task 5A, we were asked to read an article discussing the contradictory view points on drinking coffee, and essentially whether or not it will result in a longer or shorter life span. As I was reading this article, it became very apparent how one cannot believe everything they read. In addition, many times you will find that people are surprised when they hear an opposing point to a study that has been done. My question is, why are people so surprised that there is an opposing side? There will always be an opposing side. I would question that there has ever been a study/story/belief where there has been one side that EVERYONE agrees on. While I must add that without opposing sides we would not grow as a society and that there are many positive factors to having opposing sides… one being that it means we are all not robots… yet. Lastly, it apparent that it is always extremely important to learn who the source of the information is, and how credible this source may be.

For the next segment of this tech task, we were asked to dig deep into a blog post and decide and comment of what view we side with on the topic. I chose to dig deep into a post entitled, School isn’t Like a Job.

When reading this post, I found that the author made some very interesting points. Others must have also found his post to be of interest for, there were numerous comments resulting in where the conversation took off and got very interesting. This post stems from the scandal in Alberta where the teacher was suspended for giving out students’ zeros, and most importantly the reaction of the general public to this issue.

A quote that I loved from the post, which I must bring light to was, “The reward for going to school is not the grade. It’s the learning.” I love this. It would make a great “philosophy of education” quote. The problem however is, grades are an active and required element in our schools systems. If only we could have the power to eliminate the specific grades that we give to students and truly focus on the learning – what a powerful classroom that would be. However, currently that is not the case, so we must do the best with what we are given and figure out a way to use the grades in the best possible way that is meaningful for the students. A comment that another blogger left on this post also intrigued me. The individual wrote, “What does the grade communicate?” I think that this is such a powerful question. How can we use grades simply as a form of communication between the teacher and the student? How can we do this in a positive manner that will benefit the students learning experience? An example that I will use is this class ECMP 355. The grade that I will receive in this course is one that I will self-produce. What will that grade communicate to me as a student over a grade that I was given based off of three multiple choice tests? In my future I am definitely going to keep this question in the front of my mind. Whenever I am doing an assessment of any kind I will first question, what is the purpose of this assessment. By doing  so that I can be sure that I am “assigning” the grade to what I was in fact assessing. Secondly, I will ask myself “what is this grade communicating to the student?” Is it doing its job?

Overall, this topic of assessment is a touchy subject with both educators and non educators. As I said previously, I also do not think it is going to be something that everyone will ever agree on. That is okay too. In fact, the disagreement, as long as it is done so in a respectful manner, will also most likely help give educators a push to continue to improve their methods of assessment. Personally, I do think that we are in need of change of grading and assessing our students in the typical way we do using one single letter to represent a wealth of work that the student has done for us. However, I also realize that this is not something that is going to change overnight. In society the way that assessment and grading is done and thought of is so very superglued into peoples’ minds,  there will be a great deal of resistance. With that being said, I think that we may be closer to a change than it may seem. The fact that there re so many meaningful conversations between passionate educators regarding this topic is a huge sign that we are taking steps in the right direction.

The Hidden Wonders of Google

For the second portion of this weeks tech task, we were asked to explore google and its many hidden wonders. After the session with Michael Wacker, a google certified instructor, I became aware of many different programs or apps that google has to offer that I was not aware of before.

In the past two of the google programs that I was aware of and used were google docs and google scholar. The neat thing about google docs is that you can have multiple people working on the same document at the same time. It is a valuable tool when working as a group on a project. It saves the document to a shared space that all the members can access on their own, continuously updating the document every time someone makes some changes. This is a program that I believe could be used in a classroom with students to allow them to easily collaborate with one another on projects. Google scholar has been a tool that I have used numerous times over my years in University. It is an easy tool to use when you are trying to find scholarly articles on a topic. One of the reasons that I enjoy using google scholar over the databases on the library website is because the search tool  on google scholar is much simpler. Even if you do not know the most efficient way to search to get the best results using the “and” / “or” properly, you will still be able to find information that is useful.

One program that google has that I was not aware of was the google photos, called Picasa. I downloaded this program to my computer and started playing around on it. It automatically uploads all of your pictures on your computer to this program and then you are ready to edit and share your photos using many different options. So far this seems to be a simple, useful tool.

Another new program that I am now aware of is TestTube. This is super cool. You can edit, pre watch, add captions and much more to your videos before you post them onto YouTube. I think that this tool could be incorporated into projects for your students when they create videos. The different options available on TestTube are all separated and therefore user-friendly. This is definitely a tool that I will keep in mind to use in my future classrooms.

Google Groups is another program that it has to offer that I have started to explore lately. It seems very straight forward, which I like because I easily get confused with technology. In Google Groups you can create a group where you can  all stay connected  with one another. It is basically like emails to each other, but you all get them – creating a discussion board type of thing. You can join groups based on interest, and search for groups based on subject matter. This seems like a very cool tool to use to be able to stay connected – a concept which is continually becoming more apparent to me.


Testing Our Students – The Results Are In!

For this weeks tech task, my google survey was on methods of testing our students in the classroom. I asked for feedback on what my peers believed that the best way to test for student knowledge was. The choices were, multiple choice, short answer, true or false, essay question, matching or other. After a whopping 10 replies, the results are in! Short answer wins with seven, three for essay questions, two went with the other option saying inquiry projects, and another other option was answered as hands on tasks.

I was happy with the results because multiple choice was not answered once… thank goodness! Testing my future students is something that I have mixed feelings about. I think that when a teacher creates a test they must do their best to keep in mind what is the best way for the students to show what they know. I was inspired to make my survey on this topic because last week I wrote a midterm in another one of my spring classes. It was comprised of 40 multiple choice questions and three short answer questions. I always struggle with the use of multiple choice questions because I really do not truly believe that is the best indicator of what someone knows on the topic. I have written many tests over my 4 years in University, and it never fails that I will struggle with the multiple choice portion of the exam. I often find myself frustrated because I feel that I could write a ton of information regarding the concept being questioned in the multiple choice question, yet I struggle with deciding which is the “most appropriate” answer. I also get frustrated with exams when I feel that I know much more on the topic then I was allowed to show by answering the questions. As a result, I struggle with considering what will be the best way for me to assess what my students know. One option that I have considered is giving the students a blank piece of paper with the topic at the top, then ask the students the in whatever way worked for them (jot notes, writing, drawing, lists, etc.) tell you what they know. This is just one idea of many that are possible to find ways to test your students knowledge in ways that truly measure what they know.

Overall, I was pleased with the results of the survey and am glad that my peers, who are also future educators, are considering what is best for the students when creating tests.

Tech Task #3 A

One of the podcasts that I found and have subscribed to is called, The Whole Child Podcast. This is an American based podcast however, they discuss many interesting topics concerning education such as assessment practices, responses to diverse student needs, connecting curriculum to a real world context and much more.

The podcast that I listened to was called: “Whole Child Around the World: A Good School is a Good School.” I found this particular podcast to be very interesting. There were guest speaker from around the world from the United States to the Middle East to Germany discussing special programs in their school systems that are working towards a better experience for the ‘whole child.’ Some of the interesting, yet common theme between the speakers was the idea of what schools look like if we really put the child at the center. The concept of what a holistic approach would look like was discussed. It was suggested that to work in the reality of the life of the child that does not simply just include the school, for the influence of the media, family, peers, and the community is huge. Therefore, to ignore these contexts of the child’s life would not be taking a holistic approach. Another interesting suggestion was how community school relationships will enhance student involvement in schools.  In Germany, they focus on the thought of aligning health and education and working towards ‘giving students a push’ so that they can continue on their own. The speaker from Germany compared this to the comprehensive school health approach in Canada – cool, I have learned about this!

Overall, it is inspiring to hear so many educators from around the world essentially working in collaboration with one another to focus on the future of education where the students needs are at the center of the focus.

Two other podcasts that I have found to be very interesting are:

1) Learning Matters  This has many interesting educational topics explored.

2) Long Elementary This is an elementary school’s podcast site. Super cool to see how this school uses podcasting in the classroom to support student learning.