Creating Unique Project Assignments, Written Prompts, and Long Answer Test Questions

Although I wrote my last thought about creating unique tests per student and discussed how to harness the computer for automatic grading purposes, I firmly believe that those types of assessments are only valuable as formative learning moments when students need to understand basic facts prior to creating higher level thinking assignments or prior to moving to the next level of understanding.  The real observation of a student’s growth is in the project, written response, presentation, and long answer question, and this is why it is so vital to make unique prompts to promote individual responses and not easily copied responses.

Students are going to use the Internet, your textbook, its resources and links, friends, and the library’s resources to search for ideas when they are writing responses so your prompts need to be unique, clear, and scaffold.  For example, I know of a history teacher that writes prompts that put the learner in a time period and place, and he requires the learner to write from the perspective of a normal person during that time period.  I also know of a communications instructor who actually makes students go out into the public with their project and communicate to live audiences.  Both of these projects include clear rubrics to help the learner reach the desired goals of the instructor.

As for math and sciences, I have seen teachers ask students to teach a math problem, and I have watched very interesting descriptions of “my life as a cell”.  Once again projects are written that force unique perspectives from the student with clearly written rubric guidelines for the desired outcomes.  These projects, hence, are difficult to copy.

Many instructors who are new to this type of project creation are concerned about grading.  This is why you must create a rubric for the desired outcome and tailor the project clearly with scaffolding.  Once you create the first one, you will see how easy it is to change the rubric slightly and the project scaffolding slightly from term to term to continue to get unique project submissions.  In conclusion, these projects not only force unique responses, they require a generation to think, to express, to present, to support with fact, and to discern the material.  Isn’t that what we need in today’s world?

 

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.

LGTV 32LD550

This past week my LG TV just froze at the startup screen.  After doing a little research with LG, youtube, and other frustrated customers, I found that the motherboard/circuit board needed repair.  There were various repair shops that wanted my business, but the cost of fixing, the fear of being taken advantage of, and the doubt of extended life were high in my mind.  Consequently, I tried a few things on my own.

The first which seemed logical was to open up the TV and investigate the circuitry.  Now if you have never worked with hardware before then I would not recommend opening up a TV, but because I had some basic experience building a computer and teaching students how to build computers I figured I could at least open it up and look at it.  To my surprise and delight I found that the TV circuit board was in great shape with no signs of burnout.  Consequently, I decided to disconnect all the wires, push a little button that looked like a reset button, and then reconnect the TV.  Upon turning it on again, I realized that did not work.  Sad, angry, and confused, I pushed on.

I kept searching on the web for an answer.  Finally I found what I was looking for at zedic.com ( http://zedic.com/lg-42dl550-fix-repair/ ).  Zedic recommended that baking a board would resolder bad connections.  I thought it was crazy until I read all the responses and researched how other computer hardware gurus had done the same thing with their older motherboards.  It began to make sense as the connections could have cracked or had air pockets.  So as a last resort I reopened the TV, carefully removed the circuit board, wrapped it in tin foil (as not to destroy our oven), baked it following the directions at Zedic, let it cool, inserted it, and then to my surprise everything worked.  I mean it really worked.  I danced, created a rap song, and was able to use my tv again.

Now I don’t know how long it will last, but at least I did not pay an absurd fee to get it repaired and I am extending the value of my original TV which should last longer than four years.  So why am I writing about this on this website called Absolutely Learning?  Well this is exactly the type of learning that needs to happen in our schools.  We need to create problem solving opportunities.  While I am not a fan of LG TV right now for its product, I do think there is something that can be learned in this.  No this is not a good business model, but yes this is a good learning scenario for life.  Absolutely Learning lives on once again.

FAIL SPACE

Wow, as I reflect over the past year, I find that I have missed many goals.  One is obviously that I did not update Zoombla over the winter break, and another is that I have somehow left this blog absent of good thought, advice, and personal experiences.  So why or why not should you continue reading . . . .

Because FAIL SPACE is important.  How we educate today is so dependent upon personalized learning environments where students can create, test, fail, and make better.  There is so much brain research that supports that when we struggle and rebuild we are building skills that are life long learning needs that will help is in any endeavor.  Consequently, we need classrooms that support project based learning, flexible design, group collaboration, making, designing, and presenting.  We need to place process over content, and we will find that students thrive, are more engaged, and take the redesign and editing phase as a game level to do better.  Students actually do like to break something and then figure out how to make it better or design, test it, and fix it.

So yes, I have failed you, my readers, in many ways this past year in the sense of content predictability, and while I have been engaged in large projects such as faculty development, the online educational initiative, student orientations, two learning systems management, and course review, I have failed this blog.  (or have I?)  However, you must also know that in my desire to fix, rebuild, create, and maintain this blog that I have simply written this post with gusto, in a quick manner, and with total belief in the success of FAIL SPACEs for the modern learner and, of course, me.

Designing Apps for Education

When I went into the field of educational technology full time, I knew I wanted to create, design, develop, troubleshoot, and release great learning modules for students and modern learners.  This past year I have had the great opportunity to hone my skills in iOS development for the iPad and the Iphone, and with the success of FIND CALCULATE COLOR, I see more apps on the horizon.  ( There is a free version that can be sampled should you want to try it out. )

Creating an App from design to production is a very rewarding experience, and with each new creation I am learning more about the design and development process and how the iOS apps can be harnessed for speed and the ultimate intuitive user experience.  Apple truly has a platform that allows a small business to thrive in a very competitive world or is it?

My apps are truly educationally focused first.  I don’t add Zombie’s for flair, and I try to meet a clear learning objective without trying to teach the entire curriculum.  I think there is much room for great educational apps that can be placed on the iPad growth within our educational systems.  I want to thank you for supporting Absolutely Learning this year.  It has made a world of difference to me and my personal attempt to put a positive stamp on this digital world.

An Instructional Design Specialist

Find Calculate Color, a math memory game for your iPad

Find Calculate ColorFIND CALCULATE COLOR is a math memory game that is designed to run on the iPad. In a grid of 48 tiles a user finds a number, calculates an equation, or chooses a color that will eliminate as many tiles on the board as possible. FIND CALCULATE COLOR is what it is. It is a math memory game.

There are four levels to explore and all levels produce random FINDS, CALCULATES, and COLORS. There is a easy level which can be demoed in the free version of Find Calculate Color. The Easy, Medium, Hard, and Equations levels are available in the purchased version, and by their names those levels are a bit more challenging. There are various versions of basic math and color choices, and the game generates random finds, equations, and color nodes. The game is very intuitive and simply requires the user to select by double tapping an answer or menu item. To play FIND CALCULATE COLOR a user needs to know his/her math facts and to have a good memory.

FIND CALCULATE COLOR is designed by Absolutely Learning and implements Objective C, Cocoa Touch and Sprite Kit animations to make the user interface more interactive and enjoyable. It is optimized for the iPad (iOS 7.1 versions and above).

FIND CALCULATE COLOR meets many math standards and learning strategies, but these Common Core State Standards are definitely implemented for grades 1 – 5.

CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.6
Add and subtract within 20, demonstrating fluency for addition and subtraction within 10.

CCSS.Math.Content.2.OA.B.2
Fluently add and subtract within 20 using mental strategies.
CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.B.5
Apply properties of operations as strategies to multiply and divide.

CCSS.Math.Content.3.OA.C.7
Fluently multiply and divide within 100.

CCSS.Math.Content.4.OA.A.1
Use the four operations with whole numbers to solve problems.

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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