Monday, May 11, 2009

How are teachers assessing with technology?

So it's been 3 weeks since I blogged last. Thanks for sticking with me. Last time I blogged I talked about the Shakespeare podcasts that my students were working on. Overall they were good, and after talking with some colleagues who have been allowing students in their classes to make videos with my class cameras I have learned a valuable lesson. Sometimes technology becomes the driving force and the curricular connection is lost. 

The Shakespeare podcast project was meant to have students learn about Shakespeare's Life and Times, and it did that very well. Students had to use to maintain logs of the websites they gathered information from, and then had to write a script from that research. Students added complimentary pictures and Shakespearean era music to add to the presentation of their enhanced podcasts. I did not however evaluation them based on these items. How the podcast sounds, the fading of the music and the quality of the pictures are not in the curriculum. How the product "engages the audience" is. 

This is were focus on the curriculum outcomes is critical with teachers who incorporate technology into their teaching. Here are the outcomes that I assessed when marking this project (Alberta LA 9 curriculum):

2.3- summarize the content of media texts, and suggest alternative treatments

3.1- select types and sources of information to achieve an effective balance between researched information and own ideas

3.3- use own words to summarize and record information in a variety of forms

3.4- integrate appropriate visual, print and/or media to reinforce overall impression or point of view and engage the audience. 

No where does the curriculum say, "students will using ducking, fading, images timed to the voiceovers, and audio editing through enhanced podcasting to learn about Shakespeare". 

While many teachers get excited and want to incorporate technology because it can create "cool looking products" that look great, its the learning through curricular outcomes that must be a priority. I can only hope that I can help other teachers focus on the outcomes sooner than later, so they don't have to learn the hard way, like I did. The first time I did this project, I was not focused on the outcomes. 

My advice is to ask yourself some questions before embarking on that technology infused assignment:

1. What are the students REALLY learning? Specify the outcomes, and if you can't get your program of studies out! 

2. How is technology INFUSED into the project, and not just a stand alone gimmick. Going to the lab to type out an essay, or do research is not seamlessly infusing technology. 

3. What have others done like this before? Don't reinvent the wheel. Use all of your 2.0 resources to get ideas. Tweet your idea and watch people return great advice! 

Hopefully next time you embark on your next technology infused project you'll have your program of studies out! How do you plan your assignments? 


  1. Awesome guidance for others!!! As people begin integrating technology they need to remember that it is curriculum that drives technology.

  2. Jared, I agree with what you say, but until teachers themselves have become more comfortable with integrating tech into their classes, there is bound to be some stumbling along the way.

    I think people are also overwhelmed by the number of apps out there that can be used in the class.

    I am still learning about how to best assess the projects my students have created using tech.

    It doesn't hurt to be reminded though that whatever way we use technology in our classes, it has to be linked to the outcomes. I think you have pointed out how are curriculum has not kept up to the changes in tech and its application in the classroom. Maybe everything is too vague? I'm not sure. What do you think?

  3. @ Lee W. Point well taken. I too have bumbled through trying technology and apps out. All I was hoping to do is to make sure the program of studies is handy when starting their journey with technology to avoid the floundering I myself endured. Thanks for your comment! Language arts is such a hard area to assess anyways because of the vague nature of the curriculum.

  4. One thing we should also keep in mind is the student engagement. Were the studetns engaged? I'm assuming so, but I'm trying a similar assignment in my History 30 class, and due to the nature of the students, they are not that engaged! Just something to keep in mind.