Trial and Error

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”
– Attributed to Franklin D. Roosevelt

The last two days have been, I feel, rather successful overall. I have had mainly primary classes and have been able to get stuck into a few parts of the program that I wanted to test, and have learned a lot about how to administer those aspects of the program.

First of all, my initial thoughts conducting formative assessment was to have the class watching one of my book studies videos whilst I spent time with one, two or three students, depending on computer availability within each classroom. I realised that with the state/quality of most computers in classrooms that that would not be particularly feasible. What I spent yesterday and today doing, with four classes, was quite different to what I originally envisioned when I developed the program.

I have fairly free access to the school bank of laptops at the moment, which helps with this. What I have been doing is assigning students in pairs to the laptops, having them log in and open up MS Word. They have been asked to create a recount or narrative, within which they must demonstrate their ability to utilise particular editing and formatting functions, such as changing the font, font size and colour, text justification, lists, bold, italics and underline and a series of other skills.

Students then save this document to my flash drive, and I then open each one, assess which skills they have successfully demonstrated and record the date for each skill within a master spreadsheet against their name. It has worked quite well thus far, and I think that I will continue with this process.

The other option that I have considered is providing students with a sample of dummy text, and asking them to edit it to demonstrate particular skills. This is how I think I will assess their ability to utilise some skills such as the grammar and spell check functions.

It has been interesting noting down which skills students possess, and thus far the skill sets have been fairly consistent, across all students in the primary classes (with the exception of year five students who are away this week on a camp). The majority of students can utilise bold, italics, and underline, as well as change the font, font size and font colour. There have been a handful who have inserted an image, a text box (which was not a skill I asked them to demonstrate) and insert borders, and one student inserted a watermark.

I have also now utilised the myEdapp website with a handful of classes, and the more I use it, the more I like it. Creating the units of work (called quests) is incredibly easy, and provides an inbuilt range of activity options, including videos, multiple choice, open text response, class discussion and others, and once the quest has been built in your library, it is there ready to go for next year, and is only two clicks away from being added to a new class.

Marking is straightforward, and provides the opportunity to give as much or as little feedback as you want, as each activity/question in the quest can be given feedback. You can also set the quest up so that students are required to self-assess against a sample answer, allowing you to give an indication of what you are looking for (particularly useful for reminding students they need to use full sentences), and they can self mark against whichever marking scale you select (numbers, words descriptors etc).

I can also add other teachers to a class. This could be particularly useful for those in a job-share arrangement, or for those teachers in the position I am in, where they are providing relief time for the regular classroom teacher as it allows the regular classroom teacher an opportunity to see what the students are achieving and keep up to date with what you are teaching.

The support has been first class thus far. I spoke with Yohan and Daniel at their stand during my time at the FutureSchools Expo in March this year. I caught the tail-end of a walk through of the system that Yohan was giving to another teacher. I spent time after that presentation talking to Yohan about the aspects that I missed in the presentation, and then had another chat with Daniel later that afternoon for another bite at the cherry and the chance to reabsorb the information. The webapp bypasses the YouTube block that the NSW DEC has in place, allowing you to use your teacher judgement and insert appropriate and meaningful videos for your students to watch about any skill or concept (N.b. – this is the prime opportunity to insert the videos that YOU have created for your flipped class). I was excited by this, as there is a large range of quality content on YouTube that is genuinely useful in the classroom for students. Contacting the team for support is a one click option (once you are logged in). There is a message icon at the bottom of the screen, which then opens up a sidebar chat screen where you type in your message, hit enter and the message is sent. Every question that I have sent through has been answered within a few hours (barring a few messages sent through on a weekend), and the team has been incredibly helpful, offering to input my class lists for me when I was having issues having those input correctly. Issues that I have raised have been taken on board, and work-arounds provided, with permanent solutions being in the works.

Students have found it to be highly engaging as well. I spent time at the end of the two lessons in which I used the site asking the students for feedback on the site, and they all felt that it was easy to navigate, that it was easy to use and that the structure made it easy to follow through what they needed to do. The only thing that I got caught out on, partly because I missed that it was there, was the chat feature. I ended up having students turn it off as it was becoming a distraction and there was some silliness going on. If it is going to be on, as I can see some value in its use as a back channel discussion tool. Overall however, myEd has been, for me, as someone who is attempting to flip all of my classes, an invaluable tool.

I have also just created the first video in what will become a series on fundamental computer skills. My initial thoughts was that I would have two or three skills in each video, but keeping in mind the guidelines for creating flipped videos that Jon Bergmann gave us during the masterclass at the FutureSchools Expo (which you can read in this article), I am trying to keep them nice and short. This first video focuses solely on the difference between shutting down, logging out and restarting the computer, and and is just under five minutes long, which I am quite happy with.

As always, thank you for reading, and if anyone would be interested in attending a TeachMeet on the Central Coast of NSW about the flipped class and BYOD, I would love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Trial and Error

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