• Notes from TechEd 2008: 'Gaming' Disaster Published 2008-04-17 under


    Are you kidding me? Today's TechEd 2008 Spotlight Session is titled "Why 'Gaming' for Executive Education and Management Training?". Gaming is associated with exciting, dynamic, and hip culture. This presentation was just the opposite: boring, static, and traditional with all the negative facets associated with a "death by Powerpoint" presentation. And this was a spotlight session?

    To make things worse, it turnes out that this was nothing more than a plug for the presenters' university and a specific product. On this front it had the opposite effect for me. Before I could sit down, one of the presenters brought me a branded pen, the same type that was next to the handouts and that I chose not to take. He then distributed his brochure for a strategic planning consulting service. I have no problem with promotion, but this push model was offensive especially as it had nothing to do with the advertised session topic.

    I don't usually post such negative comments and am usually understanding of traditional (read: bad Powerpoint) presentations, but in this case I feel cheated. I should have pulled the plug on their computers and dumped all their handouts and notes in the trash. The result, I bet, would have been a much more interesting presentation. When the presenters did go off script and down a tangent, they became more dynamic, engaging, and successful at communicating their ideas.

    The sad part is that this game (simulation) sounds somewhat interesting.

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  • Notes from TechEd 2008: iRubric Published 2008-04-16 under , ,

    "iRubric - Click, Click, Done!" presented by Ramesh Sabetiashraf of Santa Ana College (and rCampus)

    iRubric is a free online tool for creating grading rubrics. This powerful tool is very flexible and has a fairly easy to learn interface. It also has an tool for creating a class and roster. Then you can assess and record student work. Students can login and see the results of the assessment. You can even allow them to resubmit their work based on your comments and then you can re-grade the assignment. Currently, each re-grading overwrites the previous grade, but in the future, the application will keep track of all past versions (grades) of an assignment.

    Other features include the ability to export grades and produce aggregate reports. But the feature that makes us rethink what we do is collaborative assessment. In this scenario, you can create a rubric and then have your students grade work that you have either created or acquired. This work could be a poem written by Poe, a lab writeup done by a past student (name removed of course), or a web-app that teaches a specific US History topic. By having students assess (using a rubric), they really get to know the concepts.

    This really is a great application and it is FREE!

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  • Notes from TechEd 2008: ePortfolios Published 4/16/2008 09:34:00 AM under ,

    Live Blogging from "Web 2.0 Tools for Classroom-Based Assessment and Interactive Student ePortfolios" presented by Dr. Helen Barrett

    The goal is to provide a richer picture of students' learning. ePortfolios offer an solution.

    Two levels of ePortfolio:

    1. Working Portfolio (portfolio as process) - evolving over time
    2. Presentation Portfolio (portfolio as product) - snapshot of work at a specific time

    Multiple purposes of ePortfolios: these are not mutually exclusive

    1. Learning/Process/Planning
    2. Marketing/Showcase
    3. Assessment/Accountability

    Looking at ePortfolio for ASSESSMENT

    What we know...
    Summative (assessment OF learning)
    Formative (assessment FOR learning)
    Assessment for Learning diagram

    So the question: How can we make ePortfolio development (use) a natural process integrate into everyday life? Lifelong and Life Wide learning

    It needs to easy to use but sophisticated enough to allow individual customization so students can see their ePortfolios as an extension of themselves (see mySpace, Facebook). The best ePortfolio toolset is a "mashup" where students store artifacts in a variety of places (e.g. blogs, wiki, bookmarks, images, podcast) and link to each from a central location (URL). The trick is to create a wrapping application that will facilitate grouping, searching, and assessing ePortfolios.

    What happens when a learner leaves or graduates? Their ePortfolio should go with them. If the tools are open, the learner has control of their artifacts and they take their artifacts (ePortfolio) with them.

    Summary: ePortfolios are powerful concept and can be used to address a variety of goals and implemented using a variety of tools. Higher education is leading the path in use of ePortfolios which may affect what ePortfolios will look like in the K12 space. There are issues specific to each education level and even to individual schools. The key is to stay with flexible solutions.

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  • Where's the Value in Hands-On Workshops? Published 4/16/2008 05:53:00 AM under

    Is there anything worse than sitting in front of a computer totally lost, not sure which button to push, frustrated? I guess it would be sitting in front of a computer in a lab waiting for that totally lost, not sure which button to push, frustrated colleague to catch up so you can progress.

    I am attending the TechEd 2008 conference in Ontario, CA and have been excited at the session offerings. But in the hands-on one-hour sessions, I really question where's the value? In the short time allotted, too much time is wasted explaining the technical details and assuring that all attendees time to catch up.

    I am in the process of constructing (or really re-constructing) a full-day workshop for administrators. The main question is how do I assure that quality time is spent going over concepts, demonstrating technology used to implement concepts, and giving participants time to reflect and discuss these concepts? For me, the important issues are the concepts but I realize that for many, it is important to spend time on the HOW not just the WHAT/WHY.

    The idea that I am playing with is to construct video demos and walk-throughs that focus on the HOW, on how the technology works. These videos will allow participants to work on the HOW in their own time freeing the workshop hours for reflection and discussion. Will this work? What do you expect from a workshop?

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    I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful hands-on lab today on Adobe Illustrator CS3. What made this session so fun? First, the goal of the class was simply to gain some confidence with Illustrator. There was no discussion of how Illustrator can be used in the curriculum. The word pedagogy was never event used.

    Second, the instructor exuded confidence which was contagious. She was reassuring and gave us all the confidence to produce our first Illustrator piece of art work. She began by showing us an example of what the final piece might look like. Even with my (albeit small) experience with graphic design tools, I was intimidated. But she then explained that everything was done using the shape tools. And so she began... breaking the project into its parts, identifying the next component, and introducing only one or two new tools at a time.

    Finally, the activity was both structured and open-ended. The instructor gave us detailed instructions as she showed us a demo. But we were asked to be creative with how we used the tool being demo'ed. She opened the door for the creativity, knowing just how appealing it would be for us all.

    This hands-on session has given me hope. While it has been the only hands-on component of a session that I have really enjoyed (both here at TechEd 2008 and at numerous other conferences), it has renewed a belief that it is possible to have a successful workshop that blends time for group discussion, brainstorming, and reflection with time for participant to gain some hands-on experience using the technology.

  • What Your Profile Says About You Published 2008-04-01 under ,

    What do you include in your online profiles? In a recent study, teens are happier with the way they look online than their real looks. Is this because they fabricate their online identities? Suggested in the recent Digital Natives post, "Profile of an Avatar: Teens and Online Identities", online profiles are not necessarily false but rather "constructed". We put in the things with which we want to be associated.

    I list my occupation as "Trainer and Learning Modules Developer" in my Blogger profile. This is how I want to be identified. It is not false. I do train and I do create learning modules. But that is not all that I do; it does not give the full picture. I am not trying to be disingenuous, only that these activities are more relevant to my writings than my activities as website producer and administrative software designer.

    Because your online profile is self-constructed snapshot of you, should we discount it as a true reflection of you? I would argue no. Who you want to be is as important as who you actually are. Shame on me if I rely solely on your online identity to hire you. But if I read that you are also a "Learning Modules Developer", I know we have an interest in common - regardless of how good or experienced a developer you really are.

    Similarly, getting to know your students' online identities will offer insight into how they want to be seen. At a minimum, it will give you something to talk about with your students. "Hey Monica, I would have never thought of you as a dragon. Why did you select that as your avatar?"

    In some cases, it will be the things missing from the profile that are more interesting than what is actually there. If you have a student who does really well in your writing class but there is no clue that this student is a writer from the online profile, I would want to know why. For many students, they don't see their success in the classroom as part of their identity other than perhaps in generalities like "I am good at science" or "I suck at math". Perhaps it will never make it to their online identities, but helping a student realize that he is a writer may help shape his future (on and offline) identity.

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