Online Testing – Generating Unique Tests per Student

Most online learning management systems have quiz creation tools with unique settings on them to insure unique test generations per student; consequently, online teachers can deliver unique instances of their tests or quizzes to their students so that cheating possibilities are limited.  These capabilities are allowing instructors to rethink the test taking time in more traditional settings also and many teachers in hybrid and on campus courses are beginning to set up quizzes and tests for remote test taking too.  If you are planning upon implementing this strategy in your course, make sure that you implement some of the most common settings of your quiz tool in your course management system.

One important feature setting is simply time.  Setting the timer for a student who takes your test is important.  By limiting the time a student may be involved with your test, you are forcing the student to be well prepared with the knowledge prior to taking your test.  Do not be lenient with this time as you can make exceptions for individual needs by allowing special access for an individual or letting another individual retake the test if needed.

Additionally most learning management systems allow you to randomize quiz question answers and quiz question order.  Because these systems just need you to specify a correct answer, you can manipulate the test engine to produce a random order of questions and a random order of question answers per question of an individualized student test.  For example, student A could have question 1 with answer B as correct, but student B would have that same question appear as question 9 with answer C as correct.  The power of computing gets harnessed when these settings are applied, and students will have to concentrate upon their own test and own test answers instead of their friend’s test.

Furthermore most course management system quiz tools are allowing you to take a set of questions from a pool of questions.  Which means that you are able to create unique sets of questions based upon many questions of the same value.  Many teachers are combining textbook questions with their own personalized questions and they are finding that they have too many questions for a test.  Consequently, if valued properly a teacher could have the computer select a set of questions from that pool of questions.  For example, two students could receive different questions or some partially different questions on a test instance that selects ten questions from a pool of twenty questions.

With all of the above solutions applied, you can begin to see how a test could be unique per student.  A student could have a unique set of questions in a unique order with unique answer orders that have to be completed in a limited amount of time.  Thus eliminating reasons for students to even try to collaborate on your exam because there are too many factors that would create false or antiproductive cheating scenarios.  For further information or more detailed examples please feel free to email me directly upon this topic.  I like the way computer science can be applied to test questions, tests, and test settings to create a unique environment that gets graded automatically.

Next time, I will discuss creating unique projects for your students to lower the chances of cheating.  It is all in the language that you use, the expectations that you created, and the objectives of the assignment.

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EDTEC Thoughts for Dedicated Readers and EDTEC Enthusiasts

 

English: Costco in Moncton, New BrunswickThese past two months have been complicated with job interviews, conferences, clients, and iOS7 application development, and I missed the mark in regards to writing on a weekly basis.  In efforts to sincerely apologize, I want to give you an easy list of top ten current thoughts for the past two months this Spring of 2014.  This is for my dedicated readers of this blog and other educational technology enthusiasts.  As always this list is full of my professional observations and opinions.

1.  Windows 8.1 computers that are purchased at Costco are a great choice to recommend as they have been well-tested.  I have set up two of these computers recently for clients.  One was an HP All in One, and the other was an HP Laptop.  Clients were satisfied with price, functionality, and touch screen.

2.  Based upon years of experience, I believe that Apple Computer products in schools will run more efficiently with less need for maintenance than a PC Environment.  While I believe in great computers whether PC or MAC, I believe there will be less cost on maintenance and repair in an Apple campus, and I believe those savings will outweigh the initial startup costs of Apple products.  Students, Faculty, Parents, and Support Staff are usually happier too as they can spend more time on the creative learning and application to subject matter.

3.  I had the pleasure of testing Lenovo laptops at a recent conference, and they are well worth considering for PC users and PC organizations. Look at the Lenovo Yoga and the Lenovo Thinkpad series.  I don’t believe they are sold at Costco, but they have great deals for educators at their site.  If you have never heard of Lenovo then just remember that it is the old IBM brand.

4.  3D printing has great applications to the modern classroom for science, mathematics, architecture, and sculpting.  I would suggest that schools invest in a 3D printer and that they find ways to use it in their curriculum.

5.  Blogging is here to stay, and it is a great record for student portfolios.  They can be made private, public, or in combinations to be shared with educators, scholarship advisers, donors, admissions representatives, and select users if privacy is a concern.

6.  I hope you have heard of Google Apps for education, and I hope you have explored Outlook.com and One Drive from Microsoft.  Both of these organizations are offering a great way to create, store, access anywhere, and share documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  There are free versions for individuals and better free versions for educational communities.  Most people who are familiar with MS Office will be happy with One Drive.

7.  Robotics is a great program to support, teach, and advise, and students can participate in competitions with big rewards.  Get Started Today!

8.  Computer programming jobs will continue to be available in the future as hardware technologies improve and as consumers demand the ease of product usage.  Why we don’t teach more computer programming in our schools is beyond my comprehension.  The students with computer programming backgrounds will be able to develop their ideas into prototypes in the future that will bring about new business for the US and the world.

9.  I am still going to have a shameless plug for Zoombla, a math app for ages 8 and above.  It is definitely not Zombie Math, but it will definitely force students to use and practice math skills.  It also encourages face to face competition so that students are still communicating and using real time social skills in the classroom.  Zoombla – Matt Moore

10.  An entire generation uses facetime, skype, and gaming devices such as the Xbox and Wii to video conference daily, yet I still see a lot of schools not using video conferencing for educational purposes.  Teachers should reach out to real time meetings with subject matter experts, authors, universities, and or other schools in distant locations.  Why not?  Isn’t collaboration a 21st century skill?

Have a great Spring!  Perhaps I will find time to elaborate in the future.  As always I appreciate your comments, suggestions, and advice.

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Next computer? What to buy?

I am frequently asked by students, teachers, parents, and friends where to buy the next computer and what model should be purchased.  In the past this was a daunting question for me because I felt that a good model for me was not necessarily the best model for the average user and I was concerned that if I chose the wrong model for the user that I was somehow responsible for their success or failure with a new computer device.  Today, however, I ask a few questions to help them determine their needs;  I teach them about current models and options; and I expect them to help make the final decision.  I expect the user to reach an educated conclusion.

The first question that I ask is how portable do you need to be.   Tablets today are a great option for the average user because the portability can’t be beat.  However, tablets are not currently great devices for heavy processing and high end development such as video production or intense graphic development.  Tablets usually require additional newer technologies to connect to externals such as printers, projectors, and more storage.  Today, the laptop option is usually suitable for the more complex processing needs such as computer programming, animation development, graphics, and video.  If portability is not important then I refer users to all in one type computers such as those from HP and MAC.

The second question I like to ask is the PC or MAC question.  I remind potential PC users that while the device is more common, more compatible, and usually more inexpensive on the front end there are some costs associated with PC’s such as support, viruses, frequent updates, and software expenses.  The downtime alone on a PC can be costly and should be clearly discussed.  The MAC environment has a better track record for support issues and while the software can be expensive there are some very enticing free programs that come with the operating system.  I have used great models on both platforms, but I am trending personally toward a MAC environment at home due to the countless hours of time saved via no support issues.  However, I do like to remind people that I favor good computers, and I am not brand name loyal.

The third question that I ask is about the research that they have completed.  Frequently little to no research has been started by a user, and they are looking for a quick fix.  Consequently, I point them in the direction of Consumer Reports and Costco.  Consumer Reports has a great process for evaluating the best computers and then compares them side by side in nice charts to help you see how much you want to spend and how effective and efficient they are.  I have found Consumer Reports very reliable.  I have also found that the Costco computer department follows standards similar to Consumer Reports, and I usually recommend the computers that are on both reports to make it easy for the user.  Costco tests their devices too before purchasing in bulk so there are few models.  Those models are usually quite reliable and current.  If you are buying a MAC then I simply recommend buying it online from the Apple store in order to save some money.  Mac prices do not fluctuate in price due to that fact that they have a stronger control over where the new MACs are sold.

Finally I remind users that this is a major purchase like purchasing a car, and you should expect to use it for at least three years without problems and that the user should be actively involved in the process.  It is going to be your device that you will take to family events, the work place, and cafes.  Don’t leave everything up to the sales person.  I have been in many stores where sales persons have told me things that were completely wrong, perhaps fabricated, poorly researched, or simply hid the fact that they did not know the answer to a tech question.  I won’t reveal those store names, but I will caution you that there are many models of computers that are still in testing phases and should have never been released to the public.  Computer Science is a practice of trial and error, but business has a responsibility to the consumer.  So I recommend that you do your research and take the advice from Consumer Reports and Costco as a starting point if not a purchasing point.  More reviews are better than one, and I am not going to tell you what to buy.   Please do contact me with unique purchases that you make along your journey, and let me know if there are better reports that what I am recommending.

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Parents and Teachers, do you understand your wireless router configurations?

I recently posted a comment on Facebook about the fact that I am currently limiting the router Internet access so that my son is not using the Internet after hours via his plethora of computer wireless devices.  I posted something to the fact that my son was upset with the fact that I turn off his access from 9:30 pm until 8:00 am the next day and that he was calling me unfair and unreasonable.  My friends who are parents and teachers obviously commented positively, and because that Facebook post generated significant response I decided to elaborate upon this blog post.

So I am asking you, Parent or Teacher, do you know how to edit your router settings?

Most people have told me that they have a password for security, and understand the formats of login security.  However, there are other levels of access that you can restrict on your router too.  For example,  my Belkin router has a setting for scheduling when access is available and that is an easy way for parents and teachers to set a time that occurs every day for all participants on your network, but what if you want to simply disable your children’s or students’ access?  There is a way for you to continue to use your network while the children are forced offline.

To do this you need to better understand MAC addresses which are unique identifiers for each device that connects to your router.  These are predetermined numbers like a serial number, and they can be entered into a MAC address filtering service that only allows those devices to connect to your network.  Then you can simply restrict or allow specific devices at certain times of the day.  While this is not usually automatic (depends on your router) it does allow you to manually configure usage so you can continue your work after hours or limit the child student access when bandwidth is being absorbed by their games, videos, face time and music.

I thoroughly enjoy the fact that my son has access on so many devices for studies, research, communication, and even gaming.  However, we all know that too much time on these devices can detract from overall academic performance, social skills, and sleep time.  Today, I don’t worry anymore about my son contacting others after bed time.  I have even noticed that he gets better sleep now.  Yes, they will not like it at times, but it is fun when you can count down the seconds before your child will lose access.  It also eliminates those times when children say they are not on the Internet but they really are.

If you would like any more information on how to configure your router or if you need an expert to do that service for you, please contact me at matt@mattmoore.net for further information.  Local SOCAL homes can be serviced, and it might be possible to work remotely upon some routers.

 

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will.i.am wants you to learn how to program

Code.org has been running a campaign to increase the amount students who take computer programming courses in the United States.  Their logic is simple.  “Computer Science is a top paying degree, and computer programming jobs are growing at twice the national average.”  No matter what field a student plans to negotiate in his or her career a substantial knowledge of computer programming can enhance the solving of future needs, create new opportunities, and spawn new business growth.

will.i.am who is famous for using computer programming techniques and methods in his music states that “Here we are, 2013, we ALL depend on technology to communicate, to bank, and none of us know how to read and write code. It’s important for these kids, right now, starting at 8 years old, to read and write code.“ He will credit his knowledge of computer science as a vital tool for creating new music as will others such as Kaskade, a world-famous DJ.

But we do not have to travel far into complex art to see great potential in America.  Jobs, Gates, and Zuckerberg are all known for being dissatisfied with the traditional route of education and yet they made huge successes by departing the college track and getting projects done.  There must be something we can learn from how they learn, design, develop, test, and publish.  There must be a success formula in there than can help students achieve life long goals and increase potential.

Yet, we still don’t teach or require computer programming in most of our schools.  Let me ask you, did your school participate in the “Hour of Coding”, a nation wide recognition of computer science learning?  I saw a lot about it on the news, but I did not hear or read anything from my teacher friends.  In fact, I heard many answers such as “no, we did not” or “What is that?”.

I am also curious if you are listening to our politicians’ concerns about our future.  Here is Senator Marco Rubio‘s quote.  “Computer programmers are in great demand by American businesses, across the tech sector, banking, entertainment, you name it. These are some of the highest-paying jobs, but there are not enough graduates to fill these opportunities.“  The current potential of American opportunity and stability depends upon sufficient and competent in-house programmers.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help your school teach computer science please go to code.org, watch their promotional video, use their materials, and point students to tutorials they could explore tomorrow.  You might find that some of them can get good paying jobs while they are in college.  That is what Chris Bosh, a famous basketball player from Georgia Tech, explains to others when he is interviewed about computer programming.  Computer programming teaches students how to design, develop, analyze, learn from failure, and overcome complex issues that will create job opportunities tomorrow.

 

 

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Expertise in the Business of Educational Technology

Ok, so when I said “contemporary” I was stretching the truth a little bit; however, when I was discussing educational technology, I was not. I am a teacher with over fifteen years of experience in the field, I have a sincere passion for things technical, and I have a deep understanding of computer programming and hardware design. I have taught diverse subjects such as Spanish, Computer Science, and Music, and I am finishing my master’s degree in educational technology this spring. Although you may not consider me an expert, I still am going to claim that what you will learn from my blog of educational technology thoughts, plans, ideas, and ponderings, and I believe that San Diego State’s Master’s Program in Educational Technology has prepared me to deliver these thoughts to you in a thoughtful and academically engaging way mixed with motivation.