Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FLE4 Assessment--How is it possible?

It is immediately improbable, thinking about using a classroom discussion as a tool for significant assessment (read: grading) for individuals.  What would a teacher look at to assess 'the standards'?
  1. Number of posts?  Artificial, though productivity is important, but not at the expense of significance of participation.  I'd hate for students to try to up their post-count at the expense of quality/significance/authenticity of posts.
  2. Types (that is, knowledge types) of posts?  This is interesting, it attests to how a student can participate in a knowledge building discussion.
  3. Concepts correctly used in posts?  Well, on the surface this seems like a good metric.  However, what really counts is how someone's idea, whether correct or not, initiates or advances a scientifically significant dialog.  And, scientifically incorrect posts often start important knowledge-improvement dialogs.  I don't want to discourage students sincere participation by not recognizing or downgrading these posts.  Just as there truly are no, 'stupid questions'  nor is there a 'stupid comment' as long as they are sincerely made.  Not to say that there are no anti-productive comments that shut down sincere participation.
  4. Range of correctly used concepts? While this is nice metric to know, and a student who knows a broad range of science concepts is an asset to a knowledge building community, is this our only or even highest goal for students in a community of scientists?  Also, since assessments guide student participation, one must be careful about creating simple criteria like this--it would most likely restrict the range of participation as people look for opportunities to produce grade-increasing comments, not authentic knowledge building.
  5. Bringing in personal question to the dialog?  This is an important metric, but it is obviously hard to measure, and certainly isn't the most important factor.
Is it impossible to use this tool to 'grade' student knowledge? I don't think so but more must be considered...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Excerpt from actual FLE4 student discussion.

 I copied the last 13 (of 100 total) comments that students posted to the question: How do ‘children’ end up looking similar to, but still different from, their ‘parents’? mentioned in the previous post.  I removed all student names and links to the discussion.  This site doesn't get indexed by search engines, as well.  Of the 12 some kids mentioned in class, there was only 1 girl (my program has an automotive/construction concentration).

There is nothing special about this selection, although it is from a section that was entirely produced during the 30 minute 'exam'.  The only editing changes I made to this discussion were the ones mentioned above designed to remove identifying information.  On the actual blog page, each of the 5 knowledge types: Problem (including questions), My Explanation, Scientific Explanation, Process Comment, Summary, has it's own representative color to visually distinguish it's role in the discussion.

Note that neither grammar nor spelling were mentioned as assessment criteria :)  On a future post here I'll provide some thoughts on FLE4 discussions.  Feel free to add your thoughts below.


  1.  Problem
    FemaleA  says:
    I am interested in studying does the first words you say depend on what gene was passed down to you like did you say the same thing your mom say first or the same thing your dad said


    • My Explanation
      MaleA  says:
      ithink that the your first words are influanced by what you hear around you and you get used to hearing that so you eventaly match the sound


      • My Explanation
        MaleB  says:
        i think the first words a baby will say is the one that you say the most the baby will remember then repeat it


  2. Problem
    FemaleA  says:
    I would like to find out is there a certain kind of habit you can get from your parents like smoking,biting your nails etc…


  3. Problem
    MaleB  says:
    if a dwarf is born is it because there parents are short or is it a genetic mutation?


  4. Problem
    MaleC  says:
    If a mother had twins does that mean that they would both get the same traits or diffrent?


    • My Explanation
      MaleD  says:
      I Think That They Wouldn’t Get The Same Traits But Carry The Same Genes…


    • My Explanation
      FemaleA  says:
      I think that…even tho they look alike that one of them my favor the tributes of their father and the other might favor their mother..


    • My Explanation
      MaleB  says:
      if the twins were born identical they will have the exact same genes. faternal twins have diffrent genes


  5. Scientific Explanation
    MaleE  says:
    Each person in this world is unique. When parents give their traits to the child, two alleles are given, a Dominant and a recessive trait. There’s many combinations of all kinds of traits. For example, noses, height, bone structures, faces and other defining characteristics, and thats why each person is unique.


  6. Problem
    FemaleA  says:
    I would like to find out when a child is born and say if their parent they look up to is drug dealing does it most likely mean that their going to be doing it too..


    • My Explanation
      MaleA  says:
      it could..but it has nothing to do with traits it’s what you row up around that will determan that not your traits


  7. Problem
    MaleF  says:
    how does a baby get a disease from their parents before being born?

Saturday, March 27, 2010

FLE4 and assessment--initial thoughts

My classes don't change up from one quarter to the next--it's a full year 9th Grade Biology course.  So, I chose not to artificially interrupt the curricular pace to fit the end of this term.  We were just getting a good start on our unit in Heredity and Genetics when the end of the quarter came.  Since the administration requires an end of quarter exam I felt obliged to give one, the students were expecting one as well.  So I gave a different kind of 'test', I had them continue their FLE4 discussion.

Briefly, FLE4 is a knowledge building tool coming from the Media Lab Helsinki University.  With the computers built into the student tables students find easy access to the computer when necessary, like this assignment.

I told students that they will be continuing their knowledge building discussion started a few days ago seeking to answer the question: How do ‘children’ end up looking similar to, but still different from, their ‘parents’?  The class I'm about to mention had I think 15-20 comments to this question previous made.  For various reason there was only 14 students in this class period and I gave them 35 minutes for this 'test'.  I told them I will be looking in the dialog for them to show:
  • how you use science knowledge to ask questions and to answer questions;
  • how you bring into the discussion knowledge not directly presented in class;
  • at a more 'advanced' level, how you can effectively summarize a thread/sub-thread and provide a full answer "when the time is right";
  • evidence that the the words are your own.
Each student had their own computer.  By the end of the class, the students were tired and there was exactly 100 comments.  I printed out the 'page' on 11 x 17 paper, taping these pages together to form one long page.  Here's a picture of this long page held up by my neighboring science teachers, Ben and Ed:

Below is a detail of the looooong page... 
More thoughts to follow...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

iPod Touch as Personal Teachers

The teacher next to me, Eddie Turner, is another GCoS teacher.  He got the idea of getting a grant to buy a set of iPod Touch for his students to use in their classes.  He's been working a lot these last couple of years in making short, 2 minute explanations of 'how to use Ohm's law' or 'How to use an electrophorous'.  Yea, he's a physics teacher.  So he puts these vodcasts into iTunes, synch's it with the iPods and then he's ready!

When it's time to introduce the activity he will show the video on the data projector.  After that, if a student needs help help with how to do something they, out of habit ask him how to do it.  We'll, he'll answer by handing them an iPod Touch with the day's video.

He has been doing this for a couple of weeks now.  For the first few days he would ask students, 'How many times did you watch the video?'  There was a range of 2 - 6 times!  The mode was 3 times.  These have been especially helpful in his ELL classes.

Yesterday a student was a bit put out with his answer to their request for help, 'Here, grab an iPod'.  They asked why don't you just tell me?  His answer is that it frees him up to address the kinds of needs that only a teacher can answer and the video will be sufficient.  He didn't mention the other goal but we teachers are often aiming for our students to become more independent, more self-reliant.

Reluctantly, the student takes the iPod and starts on the activity.  Eddie, knowing his stuff and liking to play a bit, went over to the student a few times in the period and asked the student, 'are you done yet'?  I can take this back if you don't need it any more."  The student apparently needed it throughout most of the class!

Today, he was in the middle of explaining about the activity for the day and a student raised his hand.  "Mr. Turner, don't you have a video about how to do this so we can just get started?"

Kids.  They get it.