Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Argument-Driven Inquiry

I spent a terrific day today learning about Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI). This topic has been on my to-learn list for a while, so I was anxious to participate. It was a great hands-on day and while I don't feel like an expert, I am looking for a time when I can implement this technique in my classroom. Here's my rundown.

Argument-driven inquiry is an instructional model for science teachers to use with labs. Through an 8-stage process, students develop an argument and then read, write, speak, and listen their way to supporting it. In the workshop today we tried each of the stages. They include:

Stage 1: Identification of the Task & Guiding Question

Introduce the idea or concept and the guiding question for the task. At the workshop today, we were asked to consider how we could use a lever maximize the jump height of a figure.

Stage 2: Design a Method & Collect Data

Using a planning form, students develop a testable hypothesis and experiments. Then the experiments are conducted. My group investigated the effect of mass of a dropped object, distance of the figure from the fulcrum, and mass of the figure.

Stage 3: Analyze Data & Develop a Tentative Argument

Use a whiteboard to record the guiding question, the claim, the evidence (including a graph of data), and a justification. 

Stage 4: Argumentation Session

Using a round robin style, some members of the group stay with the board and present the ideas while others visit other groups and hear their ideas. There are "back pocket cards" that can be used to help students ask good questions as they listen to their peers.

Stage 5: Explicit & Reflective Discussion

A full class discussion gives students the opportunity to reflect on what they saw at all the whiteboard stations and link ideas from the experiment to what they are learning or have learned in class. Content could be explored in depth here.

Stage 6: Write an Investigation Report

The investigation report focuses on 3 questions: 

  • What question were you trying to answer and why?
  • What did you do to answer your question and why?
  • What is your argument?

The report is 1-3 paragraphs long and could be written in about 25 minutes.

Stage 7: Double-Blind Group Peer Review

Students use a feedback form to work as group to provide feedback to anonymous papers. The feedback form has very targeted questions to focus students on helping peers to successfully defend and explain their ideas.

Stage 8: Revise & Submit Report

Students use the feedback from stage 7 to make changes and submit a final copy to the teacher for evaluation.

ADI is a research-based instructional model that gives opportunity to practice science content standards, nature of science standards, and literacy standards. Lab manuals are available to help teachers get started. The website includes resources for using this model in your classroom - materials for instruction, to scaffold, and assess. There is also an online course that takes about 6 hours to complete and is a good introduction. 

This is definitely a model I want to explore more and try to implement in my classroom during second semester. Stay tuned for more posts about my attempts.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Quizizz: Fast, Fun, Free, Fresh

It's no secret that I am a big fan of Quizizz. In fact, I have blogged about this awesome formative assessment tool seven times, the last time almost exactly a year ago. My most popular post is a comparison of Quizizz, Kahoot, and Socrative. In October and November each year I ask my students to memorize some chemistry content. I begin each class with Quizizz to try to encourage them to work on chunks of this content little by little. 

My students always seem to enjoy playing this quiz game. They quickly become accustomed to going wight to join.quizizz.com at the beginning of each period. Our results weren't terrific as we neared the test this year, so I used Quizizz to create one last game as an optional homework assignment. I didn't even say too much about it in class. I told the students it would be there if they wanted to use it to prepare. I provided the link and PIN on our LMS. It's worth mentioning that I also provided a link to a Quizlet deck and a couple of other web tools.

I checked the data from this optional homework assignment recently and was quite surprised by what I found. Despite the fact that it was optional, and that I said very little about it class, the game was played 42 times! Several students played it multiple times. One student did it nine times! When students are willing to use an optional tool, especially multiple times, that is a testament to its engagement.

Quizizz is almost ready to debut a new look to their tool. Currently users can opt in to the new interface but the old one will go away soon. The new one boasts many advantages, including better navigation, easier searches, and improved reports. Google Classroom integration has been around for a while, but now when you create a Quizizz and assign through Google Classroom, the data will show up in Quizizz AND in Classroom. Nice!

Quizizz is also having a #NameYourAvatar contest right now on Twitter. Name one of the recently redesigned avis and you could win a gift card! 

New interface, Twitter contest, high engagement - whatever your reason, this terrific tool is worth a look today!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Hooray! Free Premium EquatIO for Teachers!

Earlier this fall, I wrote this post about EquatIO, a Chrome extension that makes it easy to put mathematical symbols or equations into Google (and other) apps. EquatIO was built to take the place of the Google add-on g(Math) that has recently retired. 

There are free and premium versions of EquatIO. Today, texthelp announced free premium subscriptions of EquatIO for teachers! In short, with the premium version, teacher get free access to integration in Google drawings, forms, sheets, and slides; math and chemistry formula prediction, unlimited handwriting recognition. Plus, as new features, like the recent addition of the interactive MathSpace, become available, teachers will have free access to those, too.

In order to take advantage of this tremendous offer, install EquatIO. Then fill out this form to request free teacher premium subscription. Be sure to use the same email address to install the extension and to request free access.

Thanks, texthelp, for your commitment to giving all teachers access to great tools!

Monday, November 6, 2017

What's It Worth To You?

I was sitting in my study hall duty with a friend and we were both grading papers. He was muttering as he worked about how it would be impossible for him to make the class any easier. Intrigued by this, I asked him to elaborate. He explained that his tests were worth 40% of the students' grades and that if they just paid close attention to the study guide when preparing, they were sure to pass the test. I knew his comments were about the study guide and the test, but I was curious about the other 60% of the grade, so I asked. The other 60% was a notebook check. Upon further probing, I learned that this meant that students needed to have all the papers from the class in a notebook, maybe in a particular order. I remember asking him, "if you keep all the completed papers in the correct order in the notebook, you could just opt out of the tests and still pass the class?" His response: I have never really thought about it like that.

At the school where I teach, we have just wrapped up first quarter and parent-teacher conferences. In an effort to help students improve their performance in my class, I ask them to do a bit of reflective thinking: How did I perform in each area of the class? In which area could I improve? How will I accomplish that improvement? Likewise, I am doing some reflective thinking about my practice, especially in the area of grades.

I classify my assignments in chemistry as tests (40% of the total grade), labs (25% of the grade), quizzes (25% of the grade) and a miscellaneous category (10%). During first quarter, I evaluated 25 assignments for 620 points - 2 tests, 17 labs and quizzes, and 6 miscellaneous assignments. A pie chart of assignments in my class might look like this:

I have deliberately structured these assignments and categories so that tests are a big deal, but they aren't everything. Labs and quizzes together are worth more than tests and there are many more of them. Students encounter and practice a concept about five times before they are tested on it; they receive formal and informal feedback several times leading up to the test so that they can have a keen idea about their progress.

Lately I have become aware that my system isn't the norm. In both of these examples with computer-weighted categories, 80% of the grade in the class is based on two assignments; 20% of the grade is based on several smaller assignments that often appear to be graded on completion. In both of these systems, if the computer-weighted categories were removed and a grade was recalculated using only the points each assignment was worth, the grade could change a great deal.

I have a lot of questions about these grading structures:

  • Why is so much of grade dependent on so few assignments?
  • How do students know how well they understand a concept if they are not formally evaluated between the birth and test of a concept?
  • Is it realistic to think that most students will accurately self-evaluate their progress during a unit of study based on completion assignments?
  • Does this type of structure generate concerns about homework that isn't helpful or test corrections and retakes?
  • Are there other types of assignments that could be used to measure progress? Is the continuum only high stakes tests for 80% of a grade or completion activities?
It seems a commonplace perception that education has become too focused on standardized tests. Why, then, would teachers choose to emphasize [non-standardized!] tests so much over other types of assignments within their classrooms?

Much has been written about the ways schools assign grades and whether or not grades accurately represent what students know and are able to do. In my building we overhauled our grading policy about about ten years ago, partly in response to the book "A Repair Kit for Grading: 15 Fixes for Broken Grades." Taking many of the author's suggestions into account doesn't answer my questions about grading schemes that magnify one or two assignments.

In my teacher preparation, no time was spent discussing how many points assignments should be worth, how many assignments make a valid measure of student progress, or how to appropriately weight measures to reflect student progress. That's definitely a discussion that I hope will be ongoing. 

How do you organize and weight your assignments? Is it working? Please comment and join in the discussion.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Atomic Models? I Can Storyboard That!

Sometimes people ask me what do I do to entice reluctant adopters to try something with technology in their classrooms. My answer is based on my own experience: start by remaking the worst lesson. Some technology integration is likely to make the worst lesson less awful. A little success will breed enthusiasm and a willingness to try again.

For a long time, my own worst lesson was a lesson about the atomic models. I had a video I showed with excellent content, but the trouble with the video was that it was a video of a filmstrip. Literally, it was a moving picture where the pictures did not move. I used it for years, justifying this by saying that the great content outweighed the disengaging still images. When I first started using iPads in my classroom, this was the first lesson I remade. I asked my students to read about the models for homework. The next day they made comic strips to illustrate atomic history.

I have used the iPads for this for years, but now that my school is a 1:1 school, I decided to try a new tool. I have always really liked Storyboard That, so I decided to try it out this year. Storyboard That has a free and premium version of the tool. The free version allows users to create a three-cell or six-cell comic with an incredible array of customizable scenes and characters. The premium gives more options for cells. The best part of the premium plan is that you can pay for a month at a time (instead of paying for a year at a time), so you can buy it just for the month you need it. They offer a 14-day free trial, too, so you can try before you buy. I used that for this lesson.

My students found the tool easy to use. They worked most of one class period on their storyboards but they could finish for homework if needed. This was a definite advantage over using a set of iPads on a cart. They did a great job with the comics, so I printed them in color. One student said "I'm going to frame this" when I returned them! Based on that comment and these samples, you can see that students thought the assignment was fun and they were proud of their creations.

It's very easy to create and manage an assignment on Storyboard That. The interface is quite intuitive. I created generic logins for each lab group and asked them to work collaboratively in one account per group. This worked pretty well; I'll do it this way again in the future.

Storyboard That also has teacher guides and resources galore. If you need ideas for how you would use this tool, you don't have to go any further than this page. In fact, if you want to try the lesson I described above, you can find a teacher guide I created here. There aren't nearly as many guides for STEM subjects, but there are a zillion ELA resources for all ages and many history guides as well.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

EDpuzzle or PlayPosit: Which Should I Use?

Some of my post popular posts have been those in which I compare two or three similar tools to help others decide which one to use. My conclusion is almost always the same: all tools offer a great variety of features and which one someone chooses ultimately is probably determined by which feature is most important.

I have been using both EDpuzzle and PlayPosit (fka EduCanon) for several years. My school purchased a school license for PlayPosit this year and I have been developing some professional development materials for our staff. This renewed work in PlayPosit has catalyzed one of these comparison posts.

If you have never used either tool, EDpuzzle and PlayPosit are both tools that allow users to embed interactive components into videos. In both tools, students will be faced with questions that they must answer in order to continue with the video. Videos can be watched individually or as a class. Teachers can create classes and assign videos. Then they can monitor student progress as students respond to questions.

Below is a chart where I compare the two tools:

If you are interested in specific features I did not showcase here, check out the EDpuzzle FAQs here or the PlayPosit FAQs here

Ordinarily, my conclusion is that the compared tools are both great and should be chosen based on what features are desired. With EDpuzzle and PlayPosit, I am going to take a slightly different position. If you are looking for a free tool, EDpuzzle is the way to go. It has a slight advantage in that you can send students to a weblink from inside a video as part of their standard free package. They also offer apps for iOS, Android, and Chrome. If you have a little extra to spend, though, PlayPosit offers so many bells and whistles to the $144/year Master Teacher package that you will easily get your money's worth if you use a lot of videos.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Keep your eye on EquatIO

I've had a post on the Chrome extension EquatIO in my drafts queue all summer long. I saw something exciting about EquatIO last week, so I moved the post up to the top of the list. EquatIO began its life as a Google docs add-on called g(math). TextHelp, maker of the popular Read & Write for Google, have given g(math), created by John McGowan, new life and possibilities as a Chrome extension.

The EquatIO Chrome extension creates an easy way for users to insert math problems, symbols, and more into Google docs, slides, sheets, forms, and drawings. Users can input math via text, handwriting, LaTex coding, or spoken word, making it a versatile solution for everyone. There is a free version (integrates with Docs only) and a premium version (integrates with all the others too). There are some extra-special awesome features like predictive generation of symbols and formulas for chemistry, but only in the premium version.

In order to use the Chrome extension, you must be signed in to Chrome, even if you are just using the free version. Once you have it installed, click the icon in your toolbar and a pop-up window at the bottom of your browser window lets you start creating math. All of this is nifty, but not as exciting as what I tried last week.

It seems that TextHelp has big plans for EquatIO. Last week I tried a digital interactive use of this cool tool called MathSpace. I started at equatio.texthelp.com and built a math problem like this:

Then I clicked the blue share button in the upper righthand corner and got this:

Teachers (or students, parents, etc) can select to share with individual copies or individual copies and expected responses. Then click Continue to get a shareable link to email or post on social media or Google Classroom.

Students click on the link to see a copy of the math that was shared. They can create an answer and send it back to the teacher. EquatIO is a Chrome extension that is also a student response system! Below is one of the answers I received back when I tried it [N.B. Sometimes the people you can count on to play math in the afternoon do not actually want to do math.].

I was impressed at how easy this was to share (2 steps!) and retrieve. I was also impressed at all the tools you can use to create math. My science teaching colleagues will appreciate the list of items you can add to the canvas - cars, pulleys, people, levers, gears, shapes, and more. It's a great list of unique items that you don't find on many other tools.

As if I wasn't already excited enough about EquatIO, I saw this tweet after I tried the interactive features:
Very excited to see TextHelp partnering with Desmos so that their calculator tool will end up in the EquatIO MathSpace. As I said above, keep your eye on this tool as TextHelp quickly adds more functionality to make EquatIO indispensable.