Sunday, February 21, 2016

AP Lit Digital Learning Day

I have cross-posted this from my English blog as it crosses the boundary between English and Educational Technology.

AP LIT Digital Learning Day

On Wednesday, my Advanced Placement students did something unthinkable until tAhat day!

What do you ask?  My students were able to use their cell phones in class to participate in a Twitter chat. Now before you get too excited, please realize that this was a carefully aligned and planned event for just for AP Lit students.  Students and teachers interacted pleasantly, analyzed poetry carefully and learned important lessons about social media.  Students across the nation participated in #aplitdld throughout the day.

Matt Brown @ibMrB and Susan Barber @susanclaireb developed and facilitated the #aplitdld Twitter chat.  They chose the AP level poem "An Echo Sonnet" and developed the timeline of analysis questions to engage AP English students in the text during the Twitter chat. You can view both the poem and the questions in the Google doc below.

You can view the process of the chat through this @Storify.

The event was daunting to my students in the beginning. As they walked in the door, I suggested that they should go get their phones out of their lockers. They wondered aloud if I was trying to trick them I assured them that I was not and would not.  Many did not have a Twitter account and a few felt too self-conscious to tweet. Those that did were truly attempting to answer the predetermined questions related to the text. Sadly, a few of the students later deleted their tweets to preserve their anonymity and to hide their "AP nerdiness" from their friends.

My principal, Mr. Fatih Bogrek,  kindly provided permission the morning of the event. Thanks to Susan Barber,  I was able to provide the outline and rationale for the chat.  Unfortunately, due to the tight timeline, I was unable to prepare my students for the expectations of a Twitter chat. As expected, my students rose to the challenge.  I was able to use the chat as an opportunity for a simultaneous discussion of respect and accountability on social media. I placed the Twitter feed on the whiteboard so that students not actively participating could still read the chat feed and follow along. All the students had a paper copy of the poem with the questions. Susan Barber emailed me later to say that they plan on more of these chats later on this spring.

My final thoughts on our #aplitdld Twitter chat include the appreciation of my AP colleagues who dared to bring adolescents together on social media to discuss poetry. I know that future chats will be beneficial and may deepen the analysis my students are willing to do if they know they have a global audience reading their analysis. The idea that authentic audiences are important in developing strong writers continues to resonate.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

UPDATED: ACT Aspire-Even more positives with linking studies

ACT Aspire

At first blush,  ACT Aspire provides teachers with actionable data to use this year.   Arkansas dropped PARCC and decided to use ACT Aspire for the required state assessment.  In the eyes of the state legislature, ACT Aspire will help prepare our students for the ACT college entrance exam.  It will take years of data before we can say that is true. But, using the tests that are available this year, there are many positive outcomes for our students with the newly provided linking charts. We are now able to see the relationship between the interim scores and the potential Summative scores. We are also able to link our student's ACT Aspire score with their NWEA RIT score!

Our school has chosen to give three ACT Aspire Interims this semester.  The interims do allow the students to practice the question types.  But, sadly only the English test is currently allowing teachers to see the actual questions so that they can be reviewed in class.
(Interims do not contain the writing test, nor any open response questions)

The data available to teachers following an interim is impressive.
Reports include
1.  Individual student reports that contain their score on each test given
2.  Student performance by grade or class
3.  Subject proficiency by group (groups students as above or below the group average to help teachers group their students based on the report)
4.  Skill proficiency by group (groups students by broad skill category)
5.  Subject proficiency by student

The most helpful report is the last one.
6.  Response Content Analysis- teachers can use this report to view the questions/standards that the students missed as a grade, class, or individual. We review each question with individual students to help them learn how to answer each type of question they missed.  As with all tests, knowing HOW to answer is as important as knowing the correct answer. For example, the pronoun questions on the English test can be answered by looking at the sentence and matching the pronouns, usually.

Our school has decided that the Classroom Periodics are encouraged but not required. Each Classroom Periodics is a short five question 15-20 minute test aligned to one or two standards. Our ELA department has decided to try out these periodics during our Saturday Camps. Today, we completed our first Classroom Periodic in Reading. My ten intervention students completed the five questions in roughly 15 minutes. The test results were ready as soon as the students completed their test. As with the Interim, the actual reading questions were not available to view. We were able to log in as a different student and work through the questions with the correct answers on the board.

MOST EXCITING! This week, teachers received linking reports from ACT Aspire and NWEA. These linking reports are critical to understanding how our students are performing. I've provided both of these reports in the Resources section below. The good news is that even more of our students appear to be proficient/Ready or capable of meeting or exceeding the ACT Aspire Benchmark.

If you are interested, you can view the ACT Readiness Benchmarks on page 4 in the pdf below. The scale scores for each test are also provided. Three descriptors are provided to help parents understand the score. (Ready, Close, Or in need of support)

ACT Aspire Linking Interim to Summative Assessments
NWEA Linking study that correlates ACT Aspire and NWEA
Understanding ACT Aspire results video
Understanding Results pdf
Scale Scores

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dreaming Big! Students Can Remember logins

In a perfect world, Chromebooks could be prepared and rolled out to students on a yearly basis ready on the first day of school. This idea is my dream. Though, perhaps not a realistic dream. As more and more schools begin to purchase devices for their students and intervention platforms to remediate or advance, schools have the need for students to access easily all of their platforms with one sign on. It has been estimated that 25% of class time is wasted simply trying to help students sign on to a platform.

Many companies are promising this service for a fee. Districts have limited funds and often the administration is truly unaware of exactly how difficult this process can be for teachers. As an example, in our ELA classrooms, our students regularly access the following digital platforms

Google-(including Gmail, Blogger, Classroom, and Drive)
@PearsonRealize and Pearson EssayScorer
i-Ready @curriculumassoc

We have also tried @ThinkCerca, @SpiralEducation, and many other platforms this year.

So what is a teacher to do? Some keep a notecard file on their desk with every login for every student. I suggest that we teach the students to be responsible.  Each student should keep a Google folder with all of their logins and passwords. Students can then add to the list as needed.  The Google Doc can contain the link with the name of the platform, along with the username and password. Students can easily share this Google Doc with their parents and teachers. Ideally, the students choose login with Google whenever possible.

I don't long for the days when I only had to worry about pencil and paper. Just as in those days, we need to empower our students to be responsible for their materials. Their current materials just happen to include usernames and passwords.