EC&I 834

“Testing, One Two Three…”

For our post this week, we were asked to read about/explore an aspect of online/blended learning of interest, and then blog about it, being sure to touch on our thoughts/reactions.  We could respond to a particularly interesting article, or an exploration of a mode/format/strategy for online/blended learning that we haven’t touched on, or further research into a course topic of interest.  The broadness of this was offputting at first – where do I begin?  Then, I realized it was a huge relief because I could focus my time on something that would be of value while designing my blended course for my AP students.

Of particular interest to me at this point in the design process is what I could use to incorporate testing into my course.  There are certain assessments that I use consistently with my AP students – for example, these kiddos need to practice AP style multiple choice questions.  We currently do these as a pen and paper exam, which takes a full class period to administer.  Then, we take some more time and correct them together.  After compiling the data on which questions they do well on and which they seem to struggle with, I go back and reteach concepts, vocabulary, or whatever else they seem to need.  The whole process is time consuming.  To be honest, I dread the time it takes to gather the data.  Of course there is a better way – use technology to make my job easier.  Work smarter, not harder!

When I developed my course profile I decided I would include some online AP multiple choice quizzes/exams that my students could take on their own time (or in class, if we decide to go that route), which could be “marked” automatically.  This will provide me with data to guide my teaching and what our next steps should be.  It could also provide instant feedback to the students on their exam success (or lack of success), and will allow students to practice their multiple choice strategies.   So, as my exploration for this week, I investigated the use of Classmarker as a tool for developing the online tests.

I found out about Classmarker because I’ve taken tests on the site.  The sport governing body for which I’m an executive board member (Saskatchewan Cheerleading Association) uses Classmarker as a component of the coaching certification process.  Coaches are given an access code and must complete the exam within a specific time frame (30 minutes) and with a certain percentage (80%) to be considered a “pass.”  Coaches get three attempts – if they exceed their attempts without a passing grade they must pay for another access code.    The prospect of having online testing such as this for classroom use really intrigued me because it has the potential to make my life so much easier!  For a quick video describing how Classmarker works, click here!  For a more detailed demonstration of how Classmarker can save you time, click here!

Watching a video that tells me how easy something is versus the actual experience of using the tool is always an interesting comparison.  So here is my take on using Classmarker…

Signing up is simple and the site usability is very good!  The format of the “back office” part of the website where you create quizzes is pretty standard, I’d say.  It is fairly easy to navigate, mostly intuitive, and the parts that had me confused were easily explained by clicking on the “help” buttons.  The hardest part of the whole process was entering my questions – since my questions were all on paper and not yet digitized (and since I haven’t yet upgraded my account), I couldn’t use the handy importing tool.

The differences between the free account and the upgraded account can be found here.   For an “Educational Professional 1” account, the cost is $19.95 usd per month – or if you pay for a whole year you would get two months free ($198 usd for the year).  That’s fairly pricey for a single teacher to use, but if our whole ELA department wanted to share an account, for example, that would make it much more affordable!  That would allow 400 tests to be taken – probably way more than we would need in a month.   The two months free is a bit funny… so the two months I have of “summer vacation” could be considered free?  There are also Credit packs that users can purchase to allow them more tests.  This would likely be what I would utilize if it were just me and I found I needed the upgraded features.  More information on the Education pricing options can be found here. Business options are also available at about double the rate of the Education pricing.

The upgraded version of Classmarker allows for tests to be embedded directly onto a website for an online course.  By using Webhooks/API, the instructor does not have to divulge usernames or passwords in order for third parties to collect data.  This seems like a really good thing if you think about, say, a huge MOOC with hundreds of students.  You can check out the information about how Webhooks/API works here.

Using the iFrame code on the Classmarker website, I am easily able to insert a sample test into my blog for you to see:
https://www.classmarker.com/online-test/start/?quiz=yba59c342adc8815

In my AP classes, the students sometimes use pre-developed units from Prestwick House.  These are great time-savers for teachers, especially those new to AP!  There are Practice Multiple Choice tests in the units, designed to help students become more comfortable at answering the MC portions of the AP exam.  These are some of the exams I am hoping to input and have students access via Classmarker.

Overall, I am pretty happy with the benefits of using Classmarker, but I also think that the testing options on my chosen LMS (Canvas) could prove useful as well.  I’m still exploring this!   In my explorations, I found a great collection of online exam software here as well as this list geared specifically to teachers with some paid and some free options.  Another article I stumbled across gave a breakdown of great options for WordPress online exam plugins (some paid and some free).

If you are wanting to develop online testing, there are many options to choose from.  The key will be to know what features are important to you and then you can find the product (and price!) that will work best.

Online Examination
Online Examination

 

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EC&I 834

Oh, the Irony!

If you had told me two years ago that I would be happily enrolled in grad classes with technology as their focus, I would have laughed at the absolute hilarity of ME – a technologically challenged 40 something year old – willingly working with technology.  But here we are.  I truly enjoy delving into what ed tech can offer to my students and to me by extension.

Imagine trying to teach high school students about irony.  Now imagine doing so for every class you teach every semester every year of your career.  That’s a lot of talking about irony!  We know students tune us out sometimes… just like we tuned out our teachers!  So maybe there is something we can use to grab their attention and have their learning be a bit more fun.

For the blog assignment this week, I chose to look further into a tool I could use in my classroom.  I originally started by searching Khan Academy … but found the topics did not fit what I was looking for.  I did find a useful grammar component on Khan but it wasn’t something I could utilize with the course I’m planning for my project (which I talked about in last week’s blog post).  Khan Academy is pretty interesting, though, and you should check out Melinda’s blog post about her findings!

After dismissing Khan Academy as an option, I decided to take a look at  TED-Ed and TED-Ed Animations for teaching.  For those of you wondering…

What is TED-Ed?

TED-Ed is TED’s youth and education initiative. TED-Ed’s mission is to spark and celebrate the ideas of teachers and students around the world. Everything we do supports learning — from producing a growing library of original animated videos , to providing an international platform for teachers to create their own interactive lessons, to helping curious students around the globe bring TED to their schools and gain presentation literacy skills, to celebrating innovative leadership within TED-Ed’s global network of over 250,000 teachers. TED-Ed has grown from an idea worth spreading into an award-winning education platform that serves millions of teachers and students around the world every week.    source

What are TED-Ed Animations?

TED-Ed Animations are our signature content: short, award-winning animated videos about ideas that spark the curiosity of learners everywhere. Every TED-Ed Animation represents a creative collaboration between experts. Such experts may include TED Speakers and TED Fellows, as well as educators, designers, animators, screenwriters, directors, science writers, historians, journalists and editors. These original animated videos, paired with questions and resources, make up what we refer to as TED-Ed Lessons.  source

 

I signed up for a TED-Ed educator account and dove right in to the fabulous world of TED-Ed videos.

One of the videos that caught my attention was Situational Irony:  the opposite of what you think.  After watching this video I was sold on the idea of using TED-Ed in my classroom (like why have I never done this before?).  I’ve used TED talks with my students in the past, mostly as listening activities, but I didn’t realize that I could customize or enhance the content of the videos (indeed, ANY video online) for use in my classroom with my students.

Just to give you an idea of what can be done with TED-Ed and how quickly you can start using it:

  1. Sign up for an Educator account.  They will ask you to check your email and verify your account.  Easy peasy!  TED-Ed even sent me some how-to emails for creating a TED-Ed lesson and how to review your students’ work on your lesson.  Whoa.  So helpful!
  2. Begin browsing videos.  Knowing I wanted to discuss irony with my students in the next week, I searched for videos about irony.  There were a few that popped up.  Here’s a quick screen capture of this process!
  3. Watch the video…. and then Customize the Lesson!  That’s right!  There is a red button to push (we know we like to push buttons) that will allow you as a teacher to develop a lesson for your students to use.
  4. Once you have customized the lesson to your liking, Publish your lesson!  I liked the questions and material that was already linked to the video so I published it to my account as it was.  I’m sure once I begin using the lesson, I will tweak the questions and add some more links to help enhance my students’ learning, but for now I will go with what is done!
  5. After you publish, you are given options of how you’d like to share with your students.  You can require them to have an account, or you can email them the lesson, or share through other avenues such as a special link or on social media.  For me, the TED-Ed account or email is preferable, but I used the link creator so I could share it with you!
  6. Students can work through the lesson online – watching the video, responding to the set questions, and digging deeper to find out more information about the topic.  Their work is saved for me to go in and review/assess.  Awesome!

 

 

What students will see when they click on the link to the lesson.

 

I did all of these steps above within a 30 minute time span, and that included watching the video and looking through all of the content!  So the ease of use is definitely one of the biggest strengths of this tool.  Another strength of using TED-Ed as a tool is that there are already a variety of videos ready to use.  Reinventing a lesson each time is totally at my discretion.  I can use the videos as they are, or I can add my own content to the video lesson.  This is so valuable to me as an educator who is often strapped for time.  Plus, it’s free.  Huge bonus.  It is incredibly easy to use and there is help available should one need access to it.  There is an ever-expanding library of videos that are ready to use which is fantastic!  The content is designed for students and teachers so there is some comfort there in knowing that the content is appropriate and relevant to our classrooms – though I will ALWAYS preview everything I show to my classes, it is nice to have content that is supported and made available by a reputable and reliable organization.  A strength for my students is that they can replay the video however many times they need in order to learn the material – unlike in the classroom where I say things a few times and then we are moving on.

One of the weaknesses is that if a video for a topic I want to cover doesn’t already exist, I would have to create something myself.  I could search for relevant content online or create my own video content.  Again, this would take time … but the flip side of that is that creating content is not as difficult as I once thought.  Like my classmate Nataly talks about in her blog post, using a screen capture tool like Screencastify can help me create my own content.  I think, overall, the value of using this tool far outweighs the weaknesses.  Eventually I feel that I could create my own content, using some of the tools and apps that I’ve learned about in the last few years such as Bitmoji, screen capturing tools, and voice recording.  TED-Ed can provide me with content for use right now and I can search for other content to adapt using TED-Ed.