MindMup: new favourite tool

I was preparing for today’s English class and was planning to make a mind map on the smartboard. The problem is that it is difficult to write small enough with the fat pencils… I looked for mind map tools online, and there were many to choose from. I wanted one without registration, and came across MindMup. Genious! Once you’ve finished your mind map, you can either save it on Google drive, publish it publicly, or make a pdf. The pdf-link lasts 24 hours, but hey, that’s plenty of time to download it and save it for later 🙂

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Lingro website dictionary

It’s sometimes difficult to understand all words in an English text. Both for students and for teachers 🙂 By opening the website through the webtool Lingro, all words in the text become clickable for translation.

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This image is a snip from a text about George Washington, found at the National Archives in USA. You can choose from a number of dictionaries at Lingro, but not Norwegian. Swedish might work for some, but I actually think that looking up an English word in an English-English dictionary is better than an English-Norwegian one. By reading English definitions, the students practise their understanding of the English language.

Well, Lingro definitely has something to it, but it’s still not perfect:

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To Lingro’s defence, adjutantship wasn’t in the dictionaries Merriam-Webster, Oxford or Cambridge either. Curious? The word means the state of being an adjutant, but I guess you knew that 🙂

Mandatory blog entries

An inspiring semester is coming to an end. The final post on my part is a survey of the blog entries connected to the mandatory topics:

Since this blog is also my digital archive, there might pop up some digital inspirations occasionally in the future. To my peers: good luck putting this course’s reflections and tools into practise in your profession 🙂

Assessment and digital texts

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I enjoy a good cup of tea. This is no commercial, but the Yogi tea bags have words of wisdom attached. This is what I read the other day: Only he who knows the destination, knows the way.

I once asked my upper secondary students at the beginning of a new school year who they thought provided the guidelines for the various subjects. They suggested their parents, the local authorities, the school administration and the teachers. I was surprised to hear that they didn’t know about the subject curricula given by the The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training.

The destination of education is knowledge. The teacher knows both the destination and the way to get there. It’s his/her job to interpret the curriculum and guide the students along the way. The Knowledge Promotion Reform presented in 2006 incorporated the ability to use digital tools as a basic skill. Even though this skill is interdisciplinary, it’s embedded in the competence aims of all subjects. In the English Subject Curriculum, it says that the students should know how to:

  • use digital tools to find information and create text (after year 4)
  • use digital tools to find information and to prepare texts (after year 7)
  • communicate via digital media (after year 10)
  • produce composite texts using digital media (after vg1 – programmes for general studies)

Well, back to the destination, knowledge. A.k.a competence. How do we ensure that the students reach it? Through formative assessment.  Dylan William (What is assessment for learning?) cites the Assessment Reform Group (Broadfoot et al, 1999) and points out characteristics of learning-promoting assessment:

  • it involves sharing learning goals with pupils
  • it aims to help pupils to know and to recognise the standards that they are aiming for
  • it involves both teacher and pupils reviewing and reflecting on assessment data

A well arranged assessment form divided in competence aims and further subdivisions is a useful tool when assessing. Most L2 teachers are trained in assessing a written text. I presume they’re on shaky ground when it comes to composite texts using digital media (cf competence aim after vg1). Many educators have made attempts of creating forms for this purpose. I have seen several, but not really found the perfect one. Actually, I’m not sure that the perfect one exists, or ever will. The reason is simple: each assignment should be assessed based on its expected destination. And since assignments differ, assessment should also differ.

However, here are some questions to consider when preparing the students for the assessment:

  • What will be assessed? The digital skills or the digital product? Or both?
  • What kind of assessment? Self-assessment? Peer-assessment? Teacher-assessment?
  • Will contents and communication be equally emphasized?

It’s important for me (and for the students, presumably!) that an assessment form is lucid. Details and explanations should mostly consist of key words and not sentences. My main categories might be:

  • Structure (plot, setting, continuity)
  • Communication (oral, audio, rhythm)
  • Layout (images, video, colors, fonts)

I prefer three coloumns for grading, and I find it important that all column names promote learning. Names like above average, average and below average do not… The names should also not be words describing personal qualities, because getting a bad grade, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a bad student. Everyone is entitled to bad days. I want encouraging words for the good and for the bad. The encouragements are not set yet, but they will be:-)