Moving Assessment Online

As with so many other aspects of education, assessment is moving more and more online.

Assessment movements usually start in K-12 by mandates and sometimes trickle up to higher education later. In the 2014-15 academic year, more than forty states will implement their online testing programs. Thirty states already do their summative assessments online, but the new assessments will require more of the schools including changes in instruction, and possibly different tech devices and high-speed bandwidth.

These new assessments are being created by two major consortia of states, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC). They are based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and will try to assess address higher-order thinking skills and problem solving.

As online assessments they will include the traditional multiple-choice questions but also simulations, computer-based items, short answers, and a lot of writing.

The objective is to cover all the standards, some of which are harder to measure, especially online. Part of the appeal of online testing is being able to obtain results quickly with the hope that teachers can use the results to affect instruction for classes and even specific students.

Flipping Video Lectures for the Classroom

As a follow up to yesterday's post about the flipped classroom, here are "Lessons Worth Sharing" which is TED-Ed’s idea of sharing presentations (lectures? sort of) on great ideas.

Probably some of you already use a TED talk with your students. The example mentioned in the video promo below is "Just How Small is an Atom?" By Jon Bergmann. More videos that were flipped by teachers are being posted all the time.

I have used videos online as flipped (and short) lectures. One I like to use is from a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson about "Changing Education Paradigms." Though I had education majors in my class this semester, the class was on critical thinking. Students watched, enjoyed and remembered the video throughout the semester and the discussion was lively.

One thing I liked about this particular version of his talk is that the video of Robinson actually speaking is replaced by an animated version of someone drawing (very well) on a white board to illustrate Robinson's points. I ask them to answer some questions based on their viewing at home the 12 minute video.

  • Robinson assumes you know this - What is a paradigm?

  • Why does he believe that we need to change public education today?

  • What is his opinion about ADHD?

  • How would he group students in classes?

  • How would he compare divergent thinking versus creativity?

  • Explain his example of geniuses in kindergarten.

  • How would Robinson compare/contrast cheating versus collaboration?

  • Summarize what you feel are his 3 main arguments.

  • How does having the visualization of his talk change the way we hear/see his talk?  Is this visual thinking?

  • cross-posted from

    Will College Classrooms Flip?

    If you haven't heard, the "flipped classroom" is a big concept in education this year, especially in the upper grades of K-12. It's the idea of using technology like online video instruction, laptops, DVDs of lessons etc. to flip/reverse what students have traditionally done in class and at home to learn. For example, listening to lectures becomes the homework assignment and teachers use the class time for more one-on-one attention in class and students can work at their own pace or with other students.

    Though an article I read traced the flipped classroom to a 2008 experiment by two Colorado chemistry teachers, Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, it's not so different from other concepts we have seen in educating with tech. Their idea that students need their teachers there to answer questions or to provide help if they get stuck on an assignment, but they might not need teachers present to listen to a lecture or review content. Wikipedia gives a higher ed origin for flipped teaching, but it is a bit
    different model using computer-based instruction. The origin isn't as important to me as the re-emergence of the idea now. Today, it seems that video & bandwidth is the key (as it is in most

    When I was at NJIT and we launched our podcasting initiative and became one of the first schools on Apple's iTunes U, we were trying some of the same things. Have students watch and listen to a lecture before class and use the time in class to follow up with discussion and questions.

    Of course, professors have been doing that for a long time with readings. And the two forms of content have the same problem. What if students don't do the reading or watch the lecture? I hear many professors complain that students 1) don't buy the book(s)   2) even if they do, they don't read them  3) if they do read them, they don't seem to retain or understand any of what they read.

    You might assume that students are more likely to watch a lecture than read a chapter, but I don't think the evidence for that is clear.

    Those two teachers have a book, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day and there is a Flipped Learning Network, a nonprofit organization launched this spring to train teachers from schools across the socio-economic spectrum in the strategy.

    A article I read this week about an attempt to flip a classroom in a Portland, Oregon elementary school, points out one major obstacle. "Flipped Classroom' Model's Promise Eludes Poorer School Districts" shows that the teacher discovered that none of her students had computers at home. She had just one in the classroom.

    Sometimes we make the assumption that there is ubiquitous computing and (high-speed) Internet access amongst our students. That is particularly true with college students who we imagine all being plugged in via their smartphones 24/7. The article points out that anecdotal evidence suggests that flipping classrooms is a more popular practice in wealthier suburban communities where nearly all students have Internet access at home and schools are more likely to have computers in classrooms.

    Another criticism of the flipped classroom is that it still relies on lectures by teachers. Remember that over-used mantra of "guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage?" What happened?

    In higher ed, blended learning (AKA hybrid learning) is probably the closest thing in place now to the flipped classroom. It too attempts to move some of the learning online, or at least out of the classroom space, and using the face-to-face time for what works best in that setting.

    When I was designing hybrid courses, I always told faculty right off that they should do in the classroom whatever worked best in the classroom. If that meant having their truly dynamic lectures live and moving the discussion online, then do that.

    cross-posted from

    Gartner's Trends List for 2012

    Now that we are midway through 2012, the Gartner Symposium gives us the IT research firm's tech trends for the year. As usual, it's a mix of emerging and existing technologies.

    According to, the top ten includes:

        The use of media tablets and other small-form-factor computing devices;

        The continuing explosion of mobile-centric applications and interfaces;

        The growth of app stores and marketplaces;

        Contextual and social user experience;

        The "internet of things";

        Next-generation analytics;

        The proliferation of big data;

        The smarter use of in-memory computing;

        The recognition of the value of extreme low-energy servers; and

        The continued acceptance of cloud computing.

    iTunes U Gets Social With Piazza

    Apple's iTunes U has never been social. Apple doesn't really do social. (Well, there was Ping, but that was dead on arrival.) But there is a new feature that is meant to allow users to learn with others, ask questions, and work more collaboratively in the iTunes U environment.

    This social layer is already used in various ways on sites like Coursera, Edmodo, Knewton, Rafter, Codecademy and Udacity.

    For this new social effort, Apple is partnering with Piazza. An article on the Forbes site, describes Piazza, not very flatteringly, as "a free student question and answer service" that adds the social layer to an otherwise one way "course" experience.

    Piazza, as with most ogf the previously mentioned sites, is a newer startup that launched in January 2011. It allows students to
    discuss topics in a course and has been free. Professors
    or students can set up a page for a class. The only difference in the Piazza with iTunes
    connection is that those courses will be public rather than closed to the students in a traditional class.

    The first iTunes U course that is being used for this added layer is not a surprise. It is the "Coding Together: Apps for iPhone and iPad" class offered by Stanford. It is already one of the most popular classes on iTunes U, with over 10 million downloads. (The registration is open through July 6, if you want to try it out, but the class runs from June 25 to August 27.)  Of course, the new social tools are available for any course in iTunes U.