Monday, May 28, 2012

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are non-threatening and open-ended, allowing students to develop a variety of emerging skills in an informal, holistic setting. Ongoing feedback from either the instructor or classmates deepens student understanding and develops communication and leadership skills. Web 2.0 tools like Edmodo, Voice Thread, Wikis, or group blogs allow students to communicate their problem-solving ideas and respond to the solutions of others. As Tuttle stated in his Stages of Formative Assessment, a student responds to the prompt and has an opportunity to hear responses from peers or others. This sets the stage for collaboration and helps the students form their own learning. The instructor can also diagnose the response and share feedback with the students to guide learning before wrong concepts are cemented into their thinking.

For example, I can use Edmodo to present a Problem of the Week (POW), have the students post their individual solutions, and collaborate together on the various methods they used to find their solutions. In addition, the instructor can offer improvement strategies based on the specific learning gaps of each student. By collaborating with peers, students receive multiple perspectives and enhance the way they originally viewed the concept or prompt. Since the pace moves rapidly in an online setting, instructors should respond at least twice a week to help students stay focused and moving in the right direction. Instructors may also create online study groups based on grade level or student interests. Feedback may consist of private messages, peer comments, inline comments in a Word document, rubric based scores, and open discussion feedback. The students are given clear expectations of what to do with this feedback, including:
  • Redo the assignment
  • Correct mistakes
  • Respond through comments to prove mastery of the content
  • Perform an alternative assessment. 
When students are given an opportunity to collaborate with classmates, they enrich the learning experience, deepen their understanding of the concepts, and are more likely to retain what they have learned through meaningful reflection.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Accessibility for All Students

When I first started teaching at UCLA five years ago, I modeled my syllabus after that of my mentor’s and was pleased with how detailed it was. I soon realized that most of my students were not referring to it, even though it offered critical information for completing assignments throughout the quarter. I have tried several times to simplify it and make it more user friendly, while still including the important assignments and information. After reading about Accessibility, I now realize that I have to take a serious look at how to add headings, create a sub-heading system that makes sense, and possibly include graphics for some of the student activities explained in it. This week’s assigned reading totally opened my eyes to realize that I have not considered students with special needs in my course material. Within the seminar content sessions, all of my lessons are hands-on, use manipulatives of some kind, and are designed for visual learners—which is my strength. However, now that this brick-and-mortar setting is morphing more and more into an online interaction with my students, I realize that I need to address these other learning modalities as well.

 Recently, I viewed some educational videos that I was interested in showing to my elementary students. The videos were designed by students from MIT in Massachusetts who wanted to answer student inquiries and make math and science come alive for our students. The only problem is that most of the student presenters speak so rapidly that I cannot understand or follow everything they are saying. Since I am a native English speaker, I can only imagine how frustrated my bilingual students might be trying to follow these presentations. Yet, if they slowed down their speech and had subtitles, these videos could offer tremendous support to math classrooms around the world by offering real-world connections for everyone.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Methodologies of the Online Instructor

Reflecting on the information covered in this module so far, how might your instructional methodologies need to change in an online or blended learning environment?

I currently teach a seminar at UCLA that has morphed into a blended learning environment simply because I do not have an office where the students can meet with me outside of our assigned class time. As a result, I receive about twenty e-mails a week in which I give feedback on homework assignments, send makeup work for missed classes, and respond to their myriad of thoughts and questions. They appreciate that I call them all by name in the class and I love having the individual connection with each of them on a personal level through the e-mails. They all must pass the same basic material, but I am available to give support or to direct their thinking in the right direction when they need help solving the Problem of the Week (POW) or developing a lesson plan.

What skills and strategies might you improve or expand upon in order to best support student learning in a blended or online environment?

However, my experience with Shiloh University is completely different. The university is entirely online and I do not know the students who can live anywhere in the world. As a result, I am eager to expand my Socratic questioning skills and to be more comfortable as a facilitator in the discussion forum and not the one in charge. I want them to see how mathematics connects with our lives and can be applied creatively to solve problems, so I need to learn how to create problem-based math learning activities that the students can collaborate on together and build a sense of community within the class. I also need to expand my technical skills so I can create an interesting blog site and help the students present who they are to each other as well. With all of the quality math videos available online—such as those from the Khan Academy—I can spend my focus on other areas of directing the student research and learning. I want to impart to them a passion to learn and not just to be content to pass the class. I know this will be an expanding experience for me, but look forward to the challenge.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reflection and Personal Learning Goal

Recently, I took the SmarterMeasure online assessment test to determine my readiness for learning in an online, technology rich environment. This tool confirmed that I am a strong visual learner and am highly motivated to succeed in the online learning environment. One interesting area where I can improve is in the use of technology in my life. Since I do not own a cellphone, have never sent a text message, and do not do my banking online, my score in this category was yellow. Already in this class, I have learned how to set up my own blog site, create a wiki, and embed video into my pages. Although there is still much to learn, I am such a strong visual learner that this is all beginning to flow together for me.

My score for technical on this assessment was 100%. I have access to the equipment and software that I need to be successful in this new learning environment. My elementary school has a tremendous amount of state-of-the-art equipment, and there are several tech savvy people there who are willing to help me learn more. Although I was very comfortable with iMove HD, Apple changed their program and I still need to make friends with the new iMove 11. However, I am motivated to learn and want to help my students use the green screen option to put themselves into their photos and reports--as I know this will spark their enthusiasm to do research and learn.

My goal for this class is to learn how to create engaging discussion forums and interactive learning projects for the college students in my Basic Mathematics online course with Shiloh University. Already I have learned that I can have my students create exciting introductory pieces by making wikis to introduce themselves, and want to expand this to include giving the students opportunities to share problem-solving strategies with each other as they work on group projects. I am also interested in learning how to properly cite references, get written permission, and teach cyber ethics to my students--especially when it comes to posting photos, songs, and other possibly copyrighted material to their sites.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Build communication lines with parents

One important instructional approach I use in my classroom is to invite parents to participate in our math lessons. Each Friday, family members are invited to attend our Dad, Mom, and Me Math Friday class. This builds valuable communication lines with parents and allows me to model important strategies and mathematical concepts they can reinforce at home.

Growth Patterns
Graduation Day

3-D Building Plans
These Friday classes also build positive adult math role models and develop tremendous self-esteem for the children. Since most of the parents were born in other countries, this is also an excellent way to include other solution methods and develop an appreciation of mathematics from various languages, countries, and cultures.

All activities are hands-on and focus on the new CORE mathematics standards. The parents appreciate learning how to help their children at home and enjoy participating in the sessions.

Our Mom and Me Math classes started in October 2011 and continued until spring break in April. We had a graduation ceremony and gave parents certificates and "We Appreciate You!" blue ribbons.

Several times we even had dads take off work so they could participate as well. This sparked enthusiasm with some of my colleagues who also successfully taught a few sessions this year. As a grade level, we plan to expand the program next year to include more third and fourth grade classes.

During these math lessons, a family member can give individual support to the child and learn together as they explore each activity. In a constructivist classroom it is important to give children time to explore and make sense of the ideas rather than just teach, so I model for the parents how to step back a little, and allow the children time to search for solutions, wonder about the concept, and justify their reasoning.