Monday, 26 November 2012

Assessment for Learning- Using Tech Tools

On Friday, November 23, I participated in a session with Kathleen Gregory, an educational consultant with the B.C. Ministry of Education on assessment for learning.  I was asked by our head of Program Support to attend the session to consider some ways that we can assess student learning using technological applications.  I thoroughly enjoyed the session, as Kathleen had some great practical suggestions for assessing student learning in order to best meet student needs by tweaking our instructional practice.  As I listened to Ms. Gregory, there were several ideas that popped into my head, which I'll share with you here:

Many teachers use portfolios to showcase student work and to have students self-assess their progress.  Kathleen suggested including pictures of students completing projects along with the caption, "There is more to this picture than you can see. We'd like you to know that..."  The students would then self-reflect on their learning during the project and write a reflection based on their thoughts.  Immediately, I thought of an online/iPad app that I just discovered called Foto Babble. Sign up for a free account online at Students can take a picture while they are working on a collaborative or individual project, upload them to their online account, and then record an audio take on the learning that has occurred during the course of their work. Photos can then be shared with parents.

Goal Setting
In her presentation, Kathleen also discussed goal-setting as a way of having students assess their own progress and take ownership for their learning.  She presented the idea of having students take an envelope with a goal, individual to the student, written on the outside.  The students would collect work samples or reflective writings and place them inside the envelope as documentation of their progress toward meeting their own goals.  Every once in a while, teachers call students aside for conferences to review what has been placed inside the envelopes.  I started thinking that the online and iPad application called Evernote would be an excellent electronic tool for having students self-assess.  The students could create a notebook, title it with the goal they have in mind, and as they progress, create individual notes to be placed inside the notebook. Students can take photos of the physical work they've created as they progress through a concept and attach an audio recording of what they have done to work towards that goal. Everything would be securely stored in their notebooks, allowing the student to work on several goals at once and organize their information in the appropriate notebooks.

Increased Student Participation
Teachers easily assess student understanding through oral discussion and participation in class, but for those students who don't readily offer their suggestions and input in class, there may be an app for that! Poll Everywhere and Go SoapBox are two online applications that teachers can use to increase student progress and get immediate feedback on concepts that may be confusing students. These online applications would be great in a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) setting.  Teachers can set up an account, pose questions, create quizzes, and solicit immediate feedback on student understanding.  Students would use their smart phones or iPads to ask questions and respond to teacher-posed inquiries.  Amazing engagement possibilities.  Go SoapBox even offers security features that exclude profanity from responses.

Mind Maps
One of my favourite ideas that Kathleen presented had to do with mind maps.  She suggested using mindmaps as a sort of KWL.  At the start of the unit, the student would create a mindmap of what they know about a particular topic.  As they progress through a unit, they can add subtopics and information onto the mindmap, changing the colour to reflect the new information and ideas that the student has learned in class.  Using an application like Prezi or Popplet would be a create way of webbing student learning.

Another interesting self-assessment suggestion that Kathleen offered was the idea of having students video record themselves while presenting and then afterwards, completing a self-assessment checklist to determine whether or not they have met the criteria outlined at the start of creating the presentation.  Kathleen stressed throughout her presentation that student-generated criteria is definitely a way to involve students in the assessment process, so determining what the criterion are for a good oral book report before the students present would be ideal. She suggested using a Flip Camera to record presentations, but the iPad video camera could also be used.

These are a few ways to help students assess their own learning. I'll add more in another post!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What's next?

I'm putting this out there for all my ISD colleagues.  What kinds of resources would you like me to review in the next few weeks?  I have plenty of topics that I'd like to discuss, but I want to hit the targets that you have in mind.  Let me know what kinds of apps you'd like me to review or describe a need you or a student you are working with has that can be met with a technological application.  You can post a comment by clicking the 'no comment' link (ironic) and typing in a request.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Free Apps

There are a few different ways of building up a great app library on your iOS device at low-to-no cost.  I have an app called Apps Gone Free on my iPad and iPhone which sends me a daily notification usually about mid-day, about a list of apps that have gone free for one day or just a limited amount of time.  It is great for finding interactive pop-up books, normally priced at $4.99, for free, and there are also a great variety of educational or productivity apps that appear for free as well.  Apps Gone Free is a free app available in the app store. 
Visiting websites like will also allow you to search for apps at a reduced, sale price.  Search these places first before making a purchase!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Is this app the one?

When I started this position, I wondered how I could wade through the plethora of apps to find the right one to meet a particular student's need.  I feel pretty confident that I can choose an application that will assist a student complete a particular task in their school day, but it is often helpful to consult a rubric or other evaluative tool to determine if an app is the right choice.  I've found a great blog by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano (who might become my technology guru) that has taken a renowned rubric created by Harry Walker, and adapted it into a visually appealing resource for teachers to use to evaluate the flexibility, usefulness, and overall quality of an app.  This could be a good one for administrators and teachers looking to move from the traditional computer lab toward the mobile iPad lab.

Update:  I have recently found a really great alternative to Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano's checklist which can be found here. Kathy Schrock has an excellent website that has some great suggestions on how to use technology in the classroom.  You can peruse the wonderful content on her website at

Sites for Reviewing Apps

Here are a few sites that I've looked at when assessing whether or not to use an app with a particular student.  You may find some of these useful when looking for an app to meet the need of a student:

Alternatively, here are some apps to search for apps:

AppShopper (free)
Autism Apps (free)
Discovr Apps ($1.99)
Apps Gone Free (free)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


   I just created this ThingLink this evening.  I uploaded one of my favourite pictures from my trip to the Magical Kingdom this year and added links to a video, a poem, and a Walt Disney World planning website.  This online application can be used by students to represent their understanding of a concept in any subject area.  It's great for creating a customized, memorable visual representation of, well, anything~the sky's the limit!

Viewing Vids

There is a great video resource for instructors looking to find short videos on an endless variety of topics for the classroom. is a compilation of videos from multiple sources, including YouTube and TeacherTube.  Videos are easily searched and once you've selected a topic, you will be able to view the videos hosted on the page or be redirected to the source website.  You can customize your search to a particular audience and subject area~ there are 773 videos dealing with life skills alone! Could be a great resource if you haven't had the opportunity to travel to the Instructional Resources Unit and would like a video to help demonstrate a concept or process you are planning to teach.

SOLO 6 Resources

If you are looking for some resources, video tutorials, and tips for the SOLO 6 software and you haven't already had a look at the SET B.C. website, you can find some information here.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Accessibility Options through Google Chrome

At the Closing the Gap conference in Minneapolis, Paul Hamilton from SET B.C. presented a plethora of online resources for little to no cost. The title of the session was "Free and Low Cost Technology" and it was worth the conference costs to participate in the session. One of the main focuses of the presentation was the apps and extensions that are available through Google Chrome.  Some of the online software available on particular websites was only available through the Google Chrome browser.  I'd like to go through and highlight some of the ones that I think our divisional SST can implement effectively and easily with many students. I'll add more as I go. Remember: any of the material I'll discuss in this post is available only through the Google Chrome browser and is PC friendly- MAC, I'm not so sure.  

  • I'd like to start with Talk Typer.  This online software is a dictation software that will display spoken words in text form.  It works similarly to the Dragon Dictation software. I tested the software using my SST assigned laptop and the accuracy of the software was very good.  I envision this software being paired with SOLO.  The user can have questions read aloud in SOLO 6's Write:OutLoud program, dictate their responses into the Talk Typer software and then cut and paste into the Write:OutLoud document to complete a written task.  Students who have strong oral communication skills, but lack the ability to create written work will benefit greatly from this software.
  • Another great app offered through Google Chrome is SpeakIt. This app is available through the Google Chrome store for free. SpeakIt allows the user to highlight the online text they would like to have read to them, hit the speaker icon on the top right hand side of the browser, and hear the text read aloud.  This works very well with the next app I'm going to mention.
  • Google Dictionary.  If you love the ability to define text on the fly with the iPad by clicking on a particular word and selecting 'define', then you'll enjoy the Google Dictionary just as much.  This app is available in the Chrome store and will appear in the upper right hand side of your toolbar should you choose to download it.  Highlight a word you would like defined for you, select the dictionary icon, and a definition of the word will appear in a window.  Highlight the text within the box and use SpeakIt to have the definition spoken.
There are many other apps that could be used to support students' learning in the classroom.  These are a start, I make mention of a few more in posts to come!