I wear several hats in my life: blogger, surfer, presenter, and workshop facilitator. However, my primary role is that of a high school teacher. As a high school teacher who has six different preps every year this time of year is quite busy for me as a I prepare six different final exams for my students. However, as I embarked upon my yearly adventure to create my 2013 finals I realized how much the iPad has been a game changer in terms of not only how I assess my students but also in terms of WHAT I want them to know and HOW I want them to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding to me.
THE SAMR Model
When I was organizing my thoughts to write this post I realized that I was moving up the rungs of the SAMR ladder. How so? Well during the 2011-2012 school year it was our first year of a one to one pilot — one of the largest on the Eastern Seaboard thus far. So I created my chemistry and physics finals in Socrative. I remember telling my students that it was a historic day for teaching and learning because it was the first time that students in our school were taking a final that was not done the old fashioned way. In my opinion, this gesture on my part while brave and bold indeed was still hovering in the lower levels of SAMR. Was my putting the finals in Socrative strictly substitution? No, because the scores were better. So technically it was more of an augmentation than a straight up substitution. The fact that I had placed the physics and chemistry finals on the iPads and made the experience more visual and interactive for my students, therefore enhancing the experience with some functional improvement. Also, I co-taught a social skills/career building elective in which we had the students create a final project. In the final project we had the students make a movie in Xtranormal. Once again, the technology improved the task. The students could have made a social skills cartoon with pen and paper but having the technology available at their fingertips made them more engaged in the experience.
Climbing the SAMR ladder
Fast-forward to 2013 and I am in the process of preparing this year’s “exams”.
1) Well first of all the iPad technology has changed the way we interact with knowledge and information. If it is something that can easily be Googled that it is not worth putting on my tests — I am all about the verbs in my classroom — what thinking skill am I requiring of my students when I assign this task? Just as the iPad changes what the physical classroom looks like, the iPad changes the physical construction and layout of what a final looks like.
2) The role of authentic project based learning + social networking- this year I taught a Computers in Business class that had age old curriculum which said things like “Students will be able to word process” so I had some creative freedom. We have been doing a Celebrity Apprentice Style challenge where they have to create various iMovies, work with budgets, and do presentations. When we get down to the final 2 candidates for the final we are attempting to either TWEET or video-chat with THE DONALD himself. Donald Trump visiting a high school final — that is certainly a paradigm shift in terms of what a final exam “looks like”. In my opinion this final climbs right up the SAMR ladder to redefinition. Without tools such as Twitter, iMovie, or QR Code I could not be the curator of these awesome learning experiences for my students.
3) Creative Book Builder – This year my classes piloted an APP called CBB which allowed them to make their own textbooks which synthesized essential questions, enduring understandings, photos, and videos of labs. Since they have their own ebooks that they can use with the finals I will require them to write more sophisticated essays in both the math and the science areas as part of the final. Essays will be done in pages on the iPads and uploaded to the Z drive.
4) Screencasting- I have found that screencasting is a game changer, especially in the math discipline. It allows me more insight into the metacognition of my students. Certain problems on my math finals will be sent to me as a screencast — this way it will be easier for me to award partial credit to my students. Let’s hear a big yee-haw for qualitative summative assessment in Educreations, Explain Everything, or Jot. Once again the finals experience of the learner has been modified significantly.
5) Why is all of this important? What will all students be taking in 2015 that is aligned with CCSS? PARCC — So we need to get our 21st Century Learners used to taking their assessments on something other than paper because 2015 is just around the corner so we need to nurture our digital natives. I am getting a head start during my finals week.