Friday, May 16, 2008

Of classroom software and assessment

Although it is the May mini-mester and there are relatively few students we are keeping busy with various projects. Next week will be a bit more busy with several workshops for faculty and also for IL librarians as well. I will be conducting a short training (something of a refresher course) on our classroom equipment. We have a SMARTBoard, along with Synchroneyes classroom control software and Senteo clickers. We are all at different levels of comfort with these tools.

I would very much like to hear from anyone who uses any or all of these tools, and any interesting tidbits about using them in the classroom. One of the things we noticed about the SMARTBoard is that because our classroom is good-sized, it can be difficult for visibility with large classes. I myself love to use it with smaller classes, in particular with ESL classes. I have done a desultory search on google for more (Synchoneyes and assessment in particular) but haven't found much in the literature as of yet.

We will be testing the Synchroneyes quiz function this summer hopefully to see if it is better or easier to use for our Freshmen English assessment. We have gotten through two semesters with Surveymonkey, which works pretty well, but is a bit awkward in terms of delivery (the teacher has to send the quiz link to the students). The other consideration though, is the ease of availability of the raw scores/results. Surveymonkey has a download feature that lets you get the raw scores and results along with other information in an excel file. It has also been helpful to be able to print out the surveys in case of technical malfunction, and then enter in the paper responses manually, which is another feature of Surveymonkey.

At any rate, I foresee a future blog post once I know more, comparing one and the other.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

An idea for Google notebook, and catching up

I was noodling around and rediscovered Google Notebook again. I had noticed it last year (judging from the date of the little snippet I had saved) and most probably forgot about it. It seems to have been around for a while, and probably people are already using it. It just occured to me as I looked at it again that maybe it might be a good tool to use for an assignment for evaluating websites. Students could be assigned several websites, and they could evaluate each assigned site and make notes in their notebook, and then share them with the class. The only hitch is that the students would need a Google account. I did a quick search to see if anybody else is doing something like this--I found this blog post written by Laura Pressley of Wake Forest University referencing a presentation by Jennie Hunt. I am curious how that class/assignment worked out. I am sure to find more if I look deeper, but in the meantime I am thinking it might be an interesting activity to develop, possibly.

I am considering to test it as an activity with an ESL undergraduate class, that is normally a two part class, and only about 10 students.

Interim/Summer is always a very busy time, because although there are less students, we are preparing projects for upcoming semesters and finishing up old projects. Our team has gone through two semesters of assessing freshman year English composition classes, and so currently we are revising the survey and looking to investigate using either our class management software TRACS or Synchroneyes as possible alternatives to using Survey Monkey. I know there have been gallons of ink spilled on assessment already, and really all I venture to add to this vast knowledge is the observation that reading about how other people do assessment is helpful but there is no better learning experience than putting a project into practice. I think i will save a detailed description for a separate post.

We are also setting up several workshops/trainings for staff which should be interesting. One will be on using our our SMARTBoard, Synchroneyes (classroom control software), and Senteo (clickers). Another will be a Web 2.0 presentation for staff. So, looking up to be a busy May.