CEP 813: My Best Work

This semester I have definitely been forced out of my comfort zone exploring new technologies like Piktochart, Schoology, and Minecraft. Using new technologies in a creative way is challenging for me because it often takes several days for me to find inspiration for how to use the technology to meet my needs as an educator and to meet the requirements of the assignment. While I appreciate each of the pieces I created, my best work in CEP 813 is the Algebra 1 assessment I crafted in Minecraft.

When I initially played around in Minecraft world I was extremely frustrated with my inability to navigate the system. Being that it is a gaming world, I had to use my laptop keyboard to navigate and I consistently ran into walls and fell down ladders. Because I spent so much time mastering the basics of simply walking in Minecraft world, I have to admit, I wondered if I would ever find an educational purpose for using games like this in a high school math class. I was extremely skeptical. When I was asked to actually create an assessment within an open piece of grass within the game world, I started off by throwing around some blocks to make a cool-looking building hoping to be inspired with an educational purpose. I could not figure out how to make a tilted roof, so I Google searched how to do this. I searched how to construct a door. I became a problem solver and learned what I needed to as I went. When I had a purpose to acquire new information, I had the inspiration to learn more and construct new knowledge.

I then remembered how one of my former (now graduated) students came to visit me several weeks ago to tell me how much I helped teach him skills necessary for his current job in construction. I became inspired to create an assessment that had students build, measure, and write equations within Minecraft. I knew that if I struggled to buy into using games for learning math, I would definitely have to create an assessment that would connect to my students and get them to buy in as well. It was at this moment I had a turning point (the “aha” moment if you will) when I truly found the purpose in using games for assessment and learning through assessments. 

I think this piece of work reflects me as an educator and a learner. I believe in putting myself in my students’ places to better appreciate what concepts they will need extra support with. I believe in making my purpose for instruction and assessment clear. I believe in making all learning experiences valuable. I believe in struggling and problem solving to rise to the challenge. My Minecraft creation required me to experience all of this challenges as a learner but appreciate the learning opportunity for students as an educator.

My instructors provided me with feedback both while I was constructing my project in a virtual setting and afterwards so I could reflect on my design. They were open to new ideas given this was a creative project. Going through this experience helped reinforce my beliefs about the usefulness of encouraging, written feedback. My instructor’s input shaped my thinking about and attitudes towards the applications of digital games in school. I would follow their example by having my own students use Minecraft to construct knowledge and explore the system independently. Additionally, I would provide feedback in a similar fashion to provide positive reinforcement and promote engagement.

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CEP 813: Sandbox for Professional Growth

Throughout much of my MAET experience I have shared my work publicly through this WordPress blog. Specifically for CEP 813, I have documented all my creations related to assessment whether they were created in Minecraft, YouTube, Google Docs, or Piktochart. Posting my coursework and explaining the purpose of each assignment in my contextualized blog post has forced me to explore how each of my pieces reflects my understanding of effective approaches to assessment and feedback. Moreover, I can view my growth and development throughout this course at any time since it is digitally documented and organized.

Assessments in digital contexts should provide advantages over traditional pencil-and-paper tasks. Some of these advantages include the aforementioned ability to revisit work as well as the additional opportunities to  reflect and revise. From a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) perspective, assessments should focus on a learner’s progress and be flexible (Meyer et al., 2014). Learning is a process, not a product, and digital portfolios support this idea of learning. My blog has provided an opportunity for both my peers and my instructors to observe my thinking and learning and provide me with feedback to inform my revisions. Through this chain of feedback, I am forced to rethink my original ideas and pair instructor input with new, inspired thoughts. Looking at a 1.0 version of one of my CEP 813 assignments  versus a 3.0 version shows my development in thinking.  My blog is an active document that I can continuously revise to reflect new understandings as I progress throughout my education, making this space a true “sandbox for professional growth” in my educational playground.


References

Meyer, A. Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST.

 

CEP 813: From Theory to Practice

Over the course of CEP 813, I had the opportunity to explore various assessments and the tools that make these assessments beneficial learning experiences for students. One of these many tools is the digital portfolio, which I hope to integrate into my teaching practice.

According to Shepard (2000), assessments should open up a discourse between the teacher and student as a way to learn and include the student in the evaluation process. Often times, assessment is a one-way process of a teacher giving feedback to a student. Without giving students the opportunity to reflect on their own work, students lose the opportunity to self-assess , self-regulate, and discuss their work with their instructor and further develop their skills and understanding of course content.

As a math teacher, I must help students explore a rigorous curriculum that builds upon itself. One of the greatest challenges is helping students who fall behind in a particular section and do not have the skills to move on or cannot remember applicable material months after they last saw it. I would utilize a digital portfolio for students to document key concepts they learned with examples of projects, homework assignments, tests, and essays- both successes and challenges. Students would be  asked to explain theses successes and challenges in this digital medium where I could open a discussion regarding how to use this reflection to increase understanding in the future.

The student-teacher discussion allows for good feedback that focuses on “particular qualities of his or her work, with advice on what he or she can do to improve, and should avoid comparisons to other pupils” (Black & Wiliams, 1998, p. 143). Thus, I would utilize this digital assessment to provide proper feedback via audio annotations or textual annotations via tools like Google Docs. The portfolio would be a place where students are not right or wrong, but still have the opportunity to learn.

Furthermore, students could revisit their successes to help them study during latter units and to show their future math teachers their achievements when entering a new mathematics class. Digital Portfolios offer great opportunities for learning both for self-reflection and greater interaction with and feedback from the instructor.


References

Black, P. & Williams, D. (1998). Inside the black box: Raising standards through classroom assessment. Phi Delta Kappan, 80(2), 139-144.

Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14.

 

CEP 813: CMS Assessment

Content Management Systems (CMS) enable instructors to create additional learning and assessment opportunities for students that utilize technology. This week, I was asked to design an assessment within a CMS of my choice. After I took time comparing different systems in my last blog post, I decided on using Schoology, which allowed me to create a course structure that is organized and to create units with multimedia content within the system itself.

I constructed an Algebra 1 assessment that would be utilized to help students explore the relationship between changing the a, h, and k values in a quadratic function’s vertex form (a(x-h)^2 + k) and the resulting image of the graph. The assessment requires students to use an applet to discover this relationship and then engage with their peers and myself to explain their findings. Hopefully this assessment will give students an opportunity to learn through the assessment process and inform my instruction in the following class periods.

Below are two visions I had for the CMS assessment, the latter being the one I would utilize with students and my final draft. Please view the screencasts of my CMS assessment below:


Original Vision

Here was my original vision to have students utilize a screencast to demonstrate their knowledge. However, this not only limited my ability to engage with students through the CMS, but it also did not utilize the affordances of using a management system since my assessment was depending on outside resources. Please see my revised vision below.

Final CMS Assessment

My new assessment has students use the discussion forum feature of the CMS to get written feedback from myself and to engage with peers.

CEP 813: Content Management Systems

For CEP 813, I was asked to explore several different Content Management Systems (CMS) and Learning Management Systems (LMS) and document their affordances and limitations to support my selection for which one to utilize to assess my students. Please view my spreadsheet to see the comparisons and contrasts among Weebly, CourseSites, and Schoology. All of these systems help instructors interact with students outside of the classroom and help students engage with the material through online capabilities such as applications, discussion forums, videos, chats, and/or progress monitoring.

I decided to use Schoology for my Algebra 1 course and assessment because, when integrated with the course as a whole, the units need a CMS/LMS to support video tutorials, math applications, discussion boards, forums, and a course calendar. This management system allows for all of this to be accessible in an organized fashion and through the system rather than having to use outside applications or digital tools.

Moreover, since I teach high school, I need a management system that is organized, can hold multimedia, and can store lengthy units in an organized manner since there is a lot of content explored in my course. Additionally, given the age of my students, I want to hold them accountable for interacting with peers in a professional setting online. The discussion forums and Facebook-style announcement page in this system will allow students to practice good technology practice skills. I believe this will help with their digital literacy if they are required to explore and share multimedia content in a safe online space.

Additionally, because students can post on the announcement page or in the discussion forum, the instructor can join the conversation and engage with students to help them analyze their thinking process. Both written feedback (as opposed to strictly numerical scores) and this aspect of reflecting on the process used to create a product/arrive at an answer are both important parts of feedback according to Hattie and Timperley (2007).

For many assessments, both formative and summative, my students will need access to graphing calculator technology. I am able to link to Desmos, a free online calculator, via Schoology. Other tools such as GoogleDocs can also be linked to the LMS if I want students to keep a learning portfolio through this medium or share information with peers.


References:

Hattie, J., & Timperley, H. (2007). The power of feedback . Review of Educational Research, 77(1), 81–112.

 

CEP 813: Minecraft Creation for Algebra 1

Recently, gaming has become part of the classroom environment as a way to engage students in hands-on simulations. Not only can video games motivate students, but they can also provide visual representations not traditionally accessible in a brick and mortar school. Moreover, educators can use students’ work within video games to formatively and summatively assess student understanding.

This week, I used Minecraft to create a hands-on assessment for Algebra 1 students. Students use a 3D structure to explore the area and volume of building structures and model both these using quadratic and cubic functions. This is a great way to connect dimensions to the power (exponent) of the x value in functions.  Please view my screencast to see how games can be used to assess math students in the world of Minecraft.

CEP 813: Exploring Minecraft

This week in CEP 813, I was tasked with creating a screencast to explain a particular challenge I encountered in Minecraft in “tutorial world”- a virtual environment developed for us to learn to navigate this program. Minecraft is a video game experience that allows users to build, create, and interact with worlds whether for entertainment or educational purposes.

As a person who merely dabbles in games (and is not an expert by any means), I found it difficult to get comfortable with the controls. To accomplish tasks, i had to go through a process of trial-and-error and some web searches on Minecraft forums. However, by being persistent and acting as a problem solver, I was able to accomplish the tasks set out for me.