Currently browsing Posts Tagged “assessment”

Effective and motivating learning with video tasks

Recording your own classroom videos can be an excellent way to assess your students at end of an unit if used in conjunction with a blog or VLE.

In this case, the video was recorded by Year 10 pupils (14 year olds) at the beginning of this Autumn Term with two aims in mind:

  1. These Year 10 pupils only started learning Spanish last year, so recording something like this straight after the Summer holidays was a good way to recall previously learned language
  2. I wanted to use this video in the assessing of Year 9 and Year 7 pupils ( 13 and 11 year olds respectively) who are starting Spanish ab initio

The Older Pupils Perspective

My Year 10 pupils were therefore tasked with the production of a video for the Department’s blog showcasing the series of questions and answers that beginner groups in Years 7 and 9 are required to learn by the end of our first unit of work.

The majority of my Year 10 pupils seized this opportunity to recap previous learning in a different, more creative and engaging way. Some pupils, however, were embarrassed by the prospect of appearing in a video. They opted not to be filmed but participated actively in both the scripting and filming of the piece.

The video was filmed with our little Flip Mino HD, which I thoroughly recommend for classroom use due to its quality and simplicity, and I then edited it using iMovie. A similar result can be achieved in Windows Movie Maker if you use a PC.

The whole process of devising and filming the video took around 20 minutes of a 40 minute lesson. The editing was done later on and took another 20 minutes or so.

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Supporting assessment for learning

Box of Tricks generally focuses on free-to-use web applications and software, however, on this occasion, and for the second guest post in the series Technology in Modern Foreign Languages, Isabelle Jones reviews some commercial desktop applications and their potential to support assessment for learning.

Pixetell is an “on-demand software that enables you to quickly add voice, screen recordings and video to email and other electronic documents”. The twist is that Pixetell supports visual communication but also allows collaboration through sharing multimedia messages -called pixetells- and allowing discussions to take place around them.

My vision of how it could be used relies on the need for teachers to develop a more structured approach to verbal feedback to students and links directly with assessment for learning. So, I decided to test it out giving feedback to a first year student-11 years old-on a PowerPoint she had produced to learn basic animal words in Spanish. After trying out different microphones, it seems that a headset produced the best result.

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Why do I use Web 2.0? Now that is a good question…

Leon filming student

I was delighted to welcome yesterday Theo Kuechel and Leon Cych who came over to my school to interview me and some of my pupils as they worked on a Web 2.0 project in our ICT room. Theo and Leon are filming a number of practitioners across the country in order to put together a number of case studies for an online CPD course on behalf of Naace for the Training and Development Agency for Schools.

Their questions made me reflect about why I use technology and Web 2.0 (nope, I don’t like that term either, but, hey, it’s all we’ve got) in my classes. Using web based applications has become so natural for me now, you could even say normal, that I always forget that those of us opting to enrich our pupil’s learning experience in this way are very much in the minority, for one reason or another.


My interest in using web based applications to enhance teaching and learning started early. Having used computers a lot in a previous incarnation working for a large transport and logistics company, I already felt comfortable with the idea of using computers to help me manage teaching administration, such as assessment data or lesson planning, by the time I started my teacher training,

But it was once I was placed in schools as part of my teacher training, teaching real students, that I realised that ICT could make my life easier as a teacher in terms of administration, and also that pupils were actually engaged and enthused by the prospect of using computers in learning languages.

The use of web applications also allowed my pupils to use software which they didn’t have to install and which could be accessed from any computer as long as it was connected to the internet. This meant that they could work on the same piece of work, the same project, both from school and from home, allowing me to bridge the gap in between the two.

Examples of Web 2.0 tools applied to school work

Looking back to only five years ago or so, it is obvious that I have incorporated Web 2.0 into my schemes of work more and more without really noticing or even without having made a conscious decision to do so. It just happened, because it worked for me and my students. Nowadays, my classes do a project every two or three weeks which involves the use of Web 2.0 applications in one way or another.

These are some of the projects on which we have worked in the past year:

What makes these applications so special and why should you care?

The visual qualities of web 2.0 are very important. When I was a student, I went home after school and relaxed watching tv or reading a magazine. In comparison, the first thing my pupils do, however, is switch on their computers, not the tv. In their computers, they are faced with a world which is bright and visual, rich in images, video and sound.

Using web 2.0 at school taps into this world of theirs and allows pupils to express their creativity in a way which they find familiar, because these websites operate on the same principles of social networking and content creation and sharing to which they are already so used to. So, if we teach them in a way that reflects how they live their lives when they’re not in school, and if we help to ensure that the gap between their school life and real life is minimised, we then become better able to guarantee the commitment and engagement of the vast majority of our students.

Perhaps Prensky had a point after all…

In my experience, pupils come into secondary schools nowadays having already become very familiar with computers and able to easily navigate websites and communicate using the internet. If they are faced with new tools, they have a go and generally learn impressively quickly how to use them.

Yes, of course, this doesn’t apply to every pupil and, of course, they still struggle with spreadsheets and, of course, they don’t really understand what internal computing processes make the animations in Go!Animate come about. And does it really matter? If you think about it, they don’t have to know: you manage to drive a car perfectly well with only a basic understanding of how a gear-box operates or how the fuel is fed to the engine; you are probably perfectly fluent in English but, unless you’re a linguist, you might struggle to tell the difference between the indicative and subjunctive mood or the passive and active voice.

This doesn’t mean you can’t really drive or that you can’t really speak English, just that you don’t need to know the internal workings of how it is achieved, just in the same way a Formula 1 driver does not need to know the width of a piston or a writer does not need to know how many phonemes the English language has. Let’s face it, not everyone is going to be a Flash developer.

My inkling is that my younger students come to us already having developed something akin to web sytax, an internet universal grammar if you like, which they have often already mastered by the time they make the transition from primary. We, teachers, therefore ought to be able to make the most of what abilities these students already posses so as to transform the way we teach them.

Many thanks again to Leon and Theo for coming to see us and for making me think about why I do what I do. As ever, do feel free to let me know, by way of comment, what your thoughts are.

Photos by Theo Kuechel

Glogster – create online posters

I’ve been meaning to take a closer look at Glogster for a couple of weeks now, ever since I was having a chat with a colleague from school who was as fed up trying to get his students to make a brochure using Microsoft Word as part of the ICT provision. It turns out that his students were fed up too trying to make Word do things it wasn’t designed to do. I thought there should be a better option out there, and I think I’ve found it in Glogster.

Glogster is a Web 2.0 tool that allows students to create online posters or glogs, as they call them, which can then be shared on the internet and, crucially, they can be embedded on school wikis.

Many subjects, not least Languages, make brochures using computers every now and then. They are great for acquiring ICT skills, motivating students to do some research on a topic and write in the target language and, if planned properly, they are also fantastic peer assessment tools.

But why limit yourself to only writing? We live in an age of rich media and instant communication. Our pupils go home, get online and watch videos on Youtube, listen to music on MySpace or and comment on each other’s videos or profiles. That’s what they do. They most certainly do not open Word for fun.

That’s Glogster’s advantage in my opinion. It offers students an environment which they are used to, it allows them to be intuitively creative (dragging and dropping, resizing etc), have fun and, most importantly, it allows them to include sound and video. Click here or on the picture above to go to a glog I made earlier today, notice the sound and video players.

If you are a language teacher, you’ll immediately realise how useful the ability to add sound files is. Students can record themselves in the privacy of their own headsets or at home, removing any reticence to speak in the target language in front of peers or teachers. If they get something wrong, they just delete it and try again, as many times as it takes to get it right. It’s brilliant.

So, next time you’re thinking of getting your students to do a brochure in the ICT rooms or as homework, get them to do a glog instead. I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised with the outcome (it’s often the quiet ones who really shine, in my experience) and that you will have students wanting to speak write and research about your subject. What more do you want?

A very nice touch from Glogster is that they offer support for education by creating private school accounts. So no worries about safety then. Visit the Glogster Education page for more information.

After half term, I’ll be using Glogster with my Year 8 German group (12-13 year olds) to make posters about where they live. I’ll be back in touch with the results.

What do you think about Glogster? Can you think of any other alternatives to the good, old word-processed brochure?

Half term review – October 2008

The text below is more or less a transcript of the video above, but it does contain links to all the resources which it mentions. As I am now officially on my half-term holiday and I thought I’d review some the technology I have used in the past six weeks to improve my teaching and, hopefully, the learning too.

One of my main objectives this half term has been to improve communication with my pupils, and to do that I have used two tools mainly: Ning and Edmodo.

As I have my own website with interactive exercises for my students I decided to integrate my own private social network, using Ning, and open to my students only, into the main website Así It has proven to be quite popular and my students use it mainly to ask me questions about the subject, such as vocabulary, grammar or homework queries. Sometimes I even receive the homework directly via our network, which is fantastic.

My only concern with using the free version of Ning is that you cannot control the ads that appear on the website, and these, although never offensive, can be a bit random and poorly targeted: pimp your blog or lose weight, for example… perhaps the guys at Google reckon I have to do both things!

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Do you know of a teaching and learning resource you would like to share? Please do not hesitate to get in touch.