Monday, November 18, 2013

Quizzes vs. Projects: Words of Wisdom from an Edublogger

I was searching through different blogs of edubloggers when I finally came upon Frank Noschese's site. I was intrigued by the following post:

In this post titled "Quizzes vs. Projects (Mass & Weight Edition)", he writes about how he has seen examples of students demonstrating their ability to explain conceptual topics such as the difference between weight and mass in a fair amount of detail, especially when they are presenting work they've completed as a project. One of the things he wonders though, is if these same students would make mistakes similar to the ones his students had made on his summative assessments. The possibility is that they could.

One of the main points of emphasis during my graduate studies has been thinking of ways to engage students in meaningful learning experiences, and one of the methods that we learned to accomplish this is project-based learning. Standardized tests, written exams, and pretty much any type of assessment similar to these have been under much criticism and disapproval from the public as well as students. Therefore, using projects as an alternative form of assessment is appealing. Using projects as a form of assessment could also promote equity in regards to assessments as there are students who may perform better on projects than on tests.

The most important thing to consider though, is tailoring the objectives of the project to meet the purpose of the assessment. As Mr. Noschese mentioned, do we want students to simply recite Wikipedia definitions from a Powerpoint, or something else? I suggested to him that using backwards design could help him to get students to meet the objectives throughout the construction of the project, perhaps through the use of the rubric. One part that he wrote really stood out to me. He said, "What I’m trying to say is that I feel that teacher-generated questions and experiences (quizzes, labs, whiteboard problems, etc.) are important because they challenge students to think and apply in ways they probably wouldn’t if we just left them to their own devices." I like how he gives a valid reason as to why test and written assessments still serve a purpose in the classroom.

I agree with Mr. Noschese when he says he understands that "projects let students be creative and allow them to demonstrate their understanding in ways that quizzes simply can’t" but as he suggests, "Perhaps the answer is just 'all things in moderation.' Projects are great and all, but I feel that there should be a balance of the methods that we assess our students. We really need to keep in mind what we want our students to be able to do. Then we can decide which type of assessment will best serve our purpose.

Webinars and Their Place in my Future Practice

For my technology in education course, I worked with a group of two of my peers to create a webinar. If you don't know what a webinar is, think of it as a online and interactive web conference. You can present real-time presentations online through voice or video with others attending and participating in the presentation. The topic of our presentation was Cmap Tools, which is a program that creates concept maps. It's a pretty simple and useful program and if you're interested, you can check it out at this site: My group and I created a screencast giving a basic tutorial on how to download and use it. You can find that here: That's enough I'll say about that.

I wanted to take the time to post an idea I had about using webinars and incorporating it into my future practice. We conducted our webinars through the website Blackboard Elluminate, but I'm not too familiar on the specifics for registering or using that site on a regular basis. However, I did think about how webinars could be really useful when I start teaching my own classroom. We as educators always complain about how there isn't enough time in a day to teach all of the material we would like to get through. I personally have a sense of guilt every time I see a struggling student and there just isn't enough time to help that student in one class period. We all want our students to succeed (well I hope we all do), so in order to help accomplish that, I feel that we need to provide plenty of opportunities to the students to receive additional support (especially the ones who need it).

The idea I have is to use webinars not as a means of web conferencing or teaching entire lessons, but as a review session which will be held periodically maybe each week or weekend. I could get feedback from the students on which topics they were having the most difficulty with, or have students generate a list of questions they may have whether it was a particular problem or a part of the material. I could then spend this review session addressing these difficulties. I could also use the webinars as a review session for any upcoming exams they may have, or as an after school ACT or SAT preparatory session. Yes, this would make a lot more work for me, but if it will help my students and especially those who are behind or struggling, then I would be more than happy to take on that extra work. Students who frequently miss class could attend these sessions. Students who can't afford tutoring can get free tutoring from me. The possibilities are endless. The major problem I foresee with this is the students' access to technology and the equity issues that may arise from that. Perhaps, some of you have suggestions for me to get around that. I was thinking I could always record the webinar session, and give the student a flash drive or burn it onto a dvd for them. I know I can record the webinar using the mentioned website. I'm not sure if I'm able to download them, but there are always ways around that.

Let me know what you think about my ideas in the comments, or have any input or suggestions. I appreciate any feedback I can get.