Archive for the 'Assessment' Category

Every Day is a School Day

I like learning new stuff.  Over the last couple of months I have learned loads.  Easily the best fun was a mountain bike skills weekend which, if you read my previous post on failure, was clearly long overdue.  The leader was great. Started the day by finding out what we wanted out of the session and then we went for a quick cycle over mixed terrain until he got a broad view of our skills base.  After some theory and demonstrations of particular skills we got going with drop offs and technical climbs, manuals and rock chutes.  Pretty quickly had a group of us peer assessing in pairs and providing group feedback; using technology to capture technique and asking for our individual assessment of skills and then providing focussed feedback for us going forward.

He was quite clear that no matter how many things we identified as being wrong   we should be focussing on one small aspect of improvement at a time.  He used lots of praise targetted specifically at individuals and challenged us appropriately to advance our skills with more tricky examples. He also decided late in the day not to allow us to attempt an even bigger obstacle as he recognised we were tired and losing focus.  He then insisted we all finish the day with a coffee, some cake and a chat about what we had taken from the day.

We have a number of development teams working this session and I am leading on assessment.  To get started we created a mind map of our current practice.  This should give us a clearer overview of what has built up over the previous years and look to see what can and should be streamlined and whether there are any gaps in our assessment procedures.  If you have a spare minute or two to have a look and offer any feedback I would be really grateful. I have linked a prezi version of the image below .

Exciting Times.

“All 33 pupils in Class P7 at Clackmannan Primary School have been given an Intel netbook to use in class and at home to enhance their learning in different areas of the curriculum.The year long pilot project, investigating the impact of one-to-one learning, is a joint venture between Clackmannanshire Council, Intel and education software company, Promethean.”

Clackmannanshire Council Press Release excerpt; 15th November 2011

If the impact of a pilot can be measured by excitement alone then this would be the most successful one ever! This pilot has been in preparation for a long time and now that the machines are in the hands of the pupils they have begun to use them in earnest.  After a parents information meeting where Helen Munro, our ICT Education Support Officer, gave a background to the pilot children were allowed to take the netbookshome.  The class had been using them regularly in class for the previous few weeks so were quite at home with how the machines worked and we were keen to see how they would support learning outside of the classroom.

We’ve already seen a couple of children beavering away with ongoing class projects in breakfast club and they have very quickly become an integral tool in teaching and learning in the class.  There are a number of great resources that the class are using to enhance, extend, reflect and report on their work.  If you nip over to their blog you will get a really good flavour of the kinds of things they are doing.

We know that the pupils are highly motivated to use the netbooks but what is interesting is they are becoming more skilled at identifying when it is appropriate to use an online tool or programme and when it is more appropriate to use more traditional methods.  Part of the process during the week was to install ActivInspire on all the classmates and children were beavering away installing from a shared network resource and completing a handwriting exercise between the necessary clicks of the installation process!

I am also aware that the teacher, while being impressed at the digital skills of the children, is not allowing them to waver from  core skills and is continually reinforcing with them the need for accuracy and consistency. Also now that I have worked out how to make the National Assessment Resource do what I want it to do we will be using our Promethean ActivEngage software to run some self paced assessments on some maths concepts the class have been covering recently.  It should be really interesting to look at the information we get back from that..

I know we are all really looking forward to watching the pilot unfold and to see what impact 1-2-1 access has on learning and teaching.

(I should also say that p7 were giving me a hard time on Friday for not keeping my blog as regularly updated as I might, I must practice what I preach!)

Using Zooburst with Primary 1

I have been keen on Zooburst since I first saw it last year.  It is an engaging way to use technology to enhance writing and to showcase creativity, particularly( although not exclusively) in the early years.  One of our p1 classes have been using Zooburst as their big assessment for this term.  A Big Assessment is where children can show application of what they have learned over the last term and watching some of our youngest pupils tackle this task was a real revelation for me and made me think about how much do we really expect from our pupils?  How easy it is for us to think, “I don’t think they will be ever manage this….”  and how much of that thought really says “I don’t know how to teach them this?”

Watch this wee clip of these 2 Primary 1 children tackling the job at hand

  • logging into the network
  • browsing to the shortcut in a shared folder
  • signing into the website
  • finding the book they were working on and opening it for editing
  • adding more pages, pictures and text including uploading previous creations from a shared folder

and all this with no adult intervention; they were clear in their intent, knew exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it and what their success criteria were.  They had the skills and confidence to tackle this task – amazing to watch.  There wasn’t just this pair though, there was a whole class doing this, working in pairs as part of a carefully planned, well taught series of lessons within a thematic approach.

Why don’t you have a read of their story below?

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PS their teacher was very proud!

Learning (B)logs

For  a number of years now we have been using learning logs in class.  These logs allow children to set targets for their learning, in consultation with their teacher and, over the years, we have advanced their use so that the children self assess their progress towards their target and offer some ideas as to where we might find examples of their success that might be used as evidence.  I have felt since I first saw glowblogs that their blog would work very well as a kind of personal reflective space that they could look back upon over the years and see their progress in their own words.

Since my first set of posts we have been running two systems; the paper based learning log and the blog and after a period of evaluation the SMT felt that neither was being done as effectively as they might be, as the time spent on one was to the detriment of the other. So we made the leap.  Last week we decided, with the backing of our forward thinking HT, that the way forward for our senior pupils was to move the lot, wholesale onto the glow blog and only focus on that.

We decided to move forward with our 3 most senior classes; a primary 6, a primary6/7 and a primary 7.  The teachers and myself had a conversation and looked at all the things that our paper based log had that our blog didn’t and what then needed added.  First and most obvious was the 4 capacities records where our children note times throughout the session that they felt they met one or more of the capacities.  This was easily covered by the children simply adding pages to their blog for each of Successful Learner, Confident Individual, Effective Contributor and Responsible Citizen and dragging the pages widget onto the sidebar.

We were keen that the blog did not just become a list of targets so we wanted some way of differentiating them from other blog posts and make it easy for teachers to see when targets were being set and evaluated.  We went belt and braces on this by insisting all targets are set in purple and when they are evaluated it is done in orange and the date of the evaluation is added.  In an ideal world children will also be able to attach a piece of work they think meets the success criteria. As part of trying to make this happen we have managed to get the photocopier working as a scanner which deposits scans into a shared area on our network.  Of course I now need to find a time to show all the office staff how to do this ….

We are also insisting that children log their targets in  curriculum categories so we spent a bit of time adding the appropriate curricular areas and dragging the categories widget onto the sidebar as well.  This way teachers and children can check the dropdown for categories and see the post count against each one.  We are also encouraging (for encouraging read insisting!) the children to link their target to what they see as the appropriate experience and outcome from A Curriculum for Excellence planning tool from LTscotland website.   I think it is really important that children be able to browse around their experiences and outcomes and start to  realise that what they do on a daily basis has broader meaning and is part of a larger whole, we need to keep encouraging our children to see the links between their learning and their real life.

So, we will watch them all with interest and see what they make of it.

Nailbiting stuff

Here we go, another nail biting instalment in the life of a depute head!  It’s often not until I sit down to write these posts that I realise the diversity of my job.  What other job in the world would allow you to mummify a chicken, work on a Standard and Quality report, create music online with 25 children, introduce software to enhance descriptive writing with a different 30 then watch 5 year olds teach 11 year olds how to use their newest piece of software.  This is before we go diving with primary 2/3 and explore the Endless Ocean, help another school get their website working, assist in the  picking and coaching of a p7 quiz team and go along to support them (– just how many feet are there in a mile??)  teach some stop frame animation to support thematic work, meet all teaching staff to discuss the progress of their children, complete a staffing census for next session and work out our potential budget,  put together and submit a proposal to speak at the Scottish Learning Festival,  cover classes for absent colleagues and, as the schools newest registered 1staider, dispense sympathy, icepacks and bandages (not necessarily in that order and not necessarily in equal quantities!)

We have an audit visit coming tomorrow where our council Quality Improvement team visit to look at a range of things based on how well A Curriculum for Excellence is embedded in school.  ACfE is something we have been working toward for a good few years in preparation for this session; planning and assessment procedures have been adapted, thematic learning is much more in evidence and classrooms are bustling with creativity and co-operation.  As always, it’s great to get some objective feedback on the work of the school and the progress being made and to get some pointers for where our practice might continue to  develop.   While on a tour of the school this morning I took some snaps of the learning walls as I went.  See what you think.

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I am particularly looking forward to our hardware refresh which is now imminent.  The school is awash with wireless doodads in the ceiling and pretty soon 50 new netbooks will be winging their way to us and all our old PCs will be removed.  Having the flexibility of the netbooks will allow us to more effectively integrate ICT into our curriculum rather than having a  couple of 45 minute sessions in the ICT suite.  After I sent out a twitter query the other week for text adventure resources @nartharnlad suggested Quandary 2

I think this is a brilliant resource for writing and I have requested it be installed on all our new machines.  Currently we have  a machine with it installed and some children in p7 are using it to enhance their descriptive writing.  It really makes you focus on the planning of your story as well and allows you to engage your reader in making decisions as to how the story should proceed just like those old adventure books I used to love when I was a lad. Just as a trila I made one on Saturday and uploaded it.  Have a play and see what you think. Further down the school we have got ourselves an account with Zooburst. I’ve written and tweeted about it before and now one of our p1 classes is already logged in and the pupils are thoroughly enjoying flexing their creative muscles.  Hopefully the p1 blog will have a couple of Zooburst stories for your enjoyment soon.  This class is planning to use this site as part of their Big Assessment task which, as I’ve said before,  is a task which classes plan to show how well they can apply knowledge skills and understanding of what they have learned over the last term. 

As part of this term’s thematic work all classes will be working towards and open evening where all parents carers and other friends of the school will be invited.  when in p6/7 the other day we were thinking about how great it would be to provide some background music for our visitors.  I really like the Aviary suite of tools and their audio editor Myna is brilliant but for some reason it won’t work in school so we scuttled off to Soundation.  This is another useful free resource that lets you downlaod your created wav file without creating an account so we may be creating a CD of appropriate background music for our Open evening yet.

Another small step

We have been having a go at using Glow Blogs to track learning in the class and to encourage more pupil self assessment and self evaluation.  This is just the end of the first week so we have a ways to go but I am heartened by the first attempts.  The children seem to be thriving on the opportunity to  take responsibility for collecting  evidence and to offer their own opinions on  how well they have done.  Here are a couple of screenshots from their blogs with them showing photographs of work that they feel meets the target that was previously set.  Clearly there’s a great love of the exclamation mark but if nothing else I think it is genuinely conveying a sense of excitement about what they are doing.

Also this week we have hosted Parents’ Night.  Always a great time to exchange views and share information.  Attainment within CfE was a recurring theme of the nights and I got the feeling that we, as a profession have a great deal of work to do to allay these fears and be proud of the work we and our pupils are doing.  I genuinely think the key to this may be the pupils themselves  extolling a more positive agenda and speaking out more about how well they are doing ; convincing their parents and carers of how they are challenged and the success they are achieving.

Involving pupils more in Assessment

It was a dress up day!As I’ve mentioned before our pupils keep learning logs already so it seemed a pretty natural progression for them to take their blogging skillset and start to blog weekly about their learning targets .We had a go at this yesterday and everyone seemed keen on the idea and thought it was a good way of sharing what they were learning and how successful they were.  The children mentioned it in the class blog yesterday.

We are planning on blogging weekly about only one or two of our targets and collecting, during the week, evidence in the form of photos, video, files etc to back up our assessment of how successful we were.  Children will then use their blogs to desribe how they had got on and to insert their evidence at the appropriate point.

I was delighted with how this got everyone thinking and talking about their learning but I was even happier when this question came up.

Mr McLaren – where do you get these targets from? Do you and Mr Patterson just make them up ?

I took this opportunity to lead the class to LTScotland website and the “My Experiences and Outcomes” tool and showed them where all the Es and Os were and explained that every child in Scotland would be working with the same ones.  One particularly sharp group then proudly showed me how they had written their blog post including the target from their learning log and had then linked it to what they thought was the specific outcome from CfE.  I think that this is a very interesting development and one that got most of the class raking around the Experiences and Outcomes to find where their target was covered. 

Clearly not everyone was accurate but that in itself led to some interesting discussion.   I think that this is a process that we will continue and see how it develops.  I am wondering as the term progresses if then, through the use of comments, the teacher can be providing regular feedback and linking their own class assessment blog to specific posts in the children’s blog as evidence as well?   I’m taking one of the November Inservice days to do some training with the staff on blogging so I dare say we’ll see after that.Explaining the process to our HT.

PS As all our pupil blogs are private I am finding it really time consuming to visit them all as none of the aggregators will pick them up behind the password protection.  I’ve stuck in a Glow change request to see if something like google reader can be built inside Glow so I can see any updates within a couple of clicks.  I think something like this will be really important for teachers as they introduce thier classes to Glow Blogs and start using them in earnest.  Unless anyone knows of any other way I can do it? (I know they are all there in My Blogs but I still have to visit each one to see updates)

I’ll report back when I see how it pans out……..

If anyone has any thoughts, ideas or criticisms please let me know as we are refining and evaluating our thinking all the time and like everyone else we are just starting out trying to find ways that suit our school and our pupils

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