Thinking creatively about outcomes…ideas for essays and readings…

June 21, 2008

I had the good fortune to be invited to attend Dr. Ken Bain’s Best Teachers Summer Institute this week.

The conference, now in its twelth (or so) year, brings teachers from around the world together to share best practices based on Dr. Bain’s work. He published an award winning book in 2004, called What the Best College Teachers Do that draws universal lessons from the work of master teachers.

Since first meeting Dr. Bain at a conference last February, I have adjusted my own teaching with impressive results. Much of what you will find in his book feels like common sense, but you feel like you are saving ten or twenty years of trial and error on your own part, and standing on the shoulders of the great teachers working around you (who may not be readily available as mentors in your own institution!).

A brief example I took from this week’s conference: assign readings based on questions that come up in class, rather than assigning readings to generate class discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

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Annotating Student Work with Microsoft Word

June 13, 2008

UPDATE: Annotate for Word is now a commercial product (as of September 2008). You can learn more about the free and PRO versions of Annotate for Word by visiting www.11trees.com.

We’ve made considerable progress designing Annotate – an add-in for Microsoft Word. Here are some recent screenshots.

Annotate Ribbon for Word 2007: Citation Drop Down Showing
(click image for a larger version)

The above screenshot shows the different categories of comments available in Annotate: Commenting, Argument, Style, Organization, Citations, and Mechanics. Because citation issues can be so detailed, there is a drop down list with multiple choices. To insert a pre-written comment, the instructor simply highlights text, then clicks on a button in the Annotate Ribbon (or selects a more specific item from a drop down).

Highlight Text

After clicking or choosing, a comment like the one below appears:


(click image for a larger image)

In the above example, the “Place Citations” button was clicked, and a simple Post-It note appeared in the text. Notice that the student’s work (the selected text above) has been pulled out, turned purple (a nice neutral color), and the note is automatically inserted. This note takes advantage of a including some additional Advice and a Reference to Purdue’s fantastic OWL site.


Teaching Efficiency…

March 16, 2008

As teachers, we tend to focus on pedagogy as the great hope for improvement.

We spend our professional development and meeting time talking improved syllabi, new theories of learning, better designed assignments, or improved feedback.

word_full_screen_long1.gif

(Click on image for a larger view)

And these are clearly, and massively, important.

But long ago (1980s), engineers, lawyers, accountants and other professionals looked to technology to save time. Spreadsheet softeware, CAD (Computer Aided Design) software, and other tools are now integral to these professions.

Educators are famously reluctant to look to technology for help. Sure, every school has its 10 to 15% (my estimate) of technology early adopters. But there hasn’t been a compelling reason for educators to embrace technology. In 1982 you either learned CAD as an engineer, or looked for another job (okay, or got promoted to management).

Thankfully educators are not usually under such autocratic rule, but perhaps it is no accident that the two industries with the least productivity over the last 20 years, and the largest year-on-year cost increases, are medicine and education. Both are people intensive. If you want to teach more students and cure more patients, you have to hire more people. Technology companies and accounting companies do not have their productivity tied to people-power in the same way, and so many medium-sized companies that had full-time accounting departments 20 years ago can now look to a single person or two, or simply outsource the work.

Read the rest of this entry »


Welcome to Authentic Assessment…

April 7, 2007

 

Welcome to our blog dedicated to helping teachers create exceptional feedback for their students. We are the developers of Waypoint (www.gowaypoint.com) and iPowerFeedback (www.ipowerfeedback.com), software for authoring, sharing, and using interactive rubrics to improve response and develop authentic data on student achievement.

There are a lot of exciting things going on right now: early beta versions of WpOutcomes, our groundbreaking analysis software that fulfills the promise of our approach and delivers authentic data on student data in a package that doesn’t require any database or spreadsheet skills, our continued launch of iPowerFeedback with Grant Wiggins, the co-author of Understanding by Design, and the good folks at Authentic Education. We’re planning our most active conference spring and summer yet, with presence at ASCD in Anaheim CA, Blackboard World in Boston, and NECC in Atlanta. We’re organizing our first one-day assessment workshops (in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles) over the summer and have signed new clients in Los Angeles, North Dakota, and elsewhere.

Stay tuned for more introductory comments and an active discussion of response, outcomes assessment, data crunching, writing strategies, and how to best leverage assessment techniques to improve education.