WordPress.com – Damn it

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My last three posts have been screwed up by my blogging platform. WordPress.com published my last three posts (Whiteboard.fi – A review, WordPress + Anchor.fm = Podcast? and A/V in our classrooms) as earlier versions than the final version. Basically it was publishing drafts of my posts which explains why they appear to be unfinished.

Damn it.

Luckily WordPress.com keeps versions of all your posts and I was able to find the finished version and publish those versions in place of the drafts.

Here is what I think happened. WordPress.com has two post editors. One is called the “Classic Editor” and it is rock solid. The other version is the called the “Block Editor” which is a little buggy but clearly the future of what WordPress.com wants its users to use. In all three of those posts I used both editors thinking that the content would have updated regardless of editor but I guess not.

I’ve learned and will keep a more watchful eye on those posts going forward.

Snow days – are they gone?

Growing up in Ohio there were the occasional day when the snow or ice was too much and the school district closed. Those joyous occasions are snow days! It was a free day for students. No homework or tests; everything just paused.

As a student, those days are golden. As a teacher those days are nice. Time is as valuable as diamonds for a teacher and anytime you can get a little more unexpected time injected into your day is a good thing.

As a parent, they can be troublesome because it effects your work. You may have to take some time off to be with your child, or that could be something that you absolutely don’t mind doing from time to time. I guess it is all up to your perspective. Continue reading “Snow days – are they gone?”

Chromebook + Wacom tablet? Interesting

I am quite interested in this. I have seen some Chromebooks with touchscreens and even a few of those may have a stylus, but the quality of those Chromebooks may leave a little something to be desired.

Then I saw this article in Engadget that says Wacom now has a drawing tablet that works with Chromebooks – no drivers or software installation needed! If you’re not familiar with Wacom, they make some of the best drawing tablets in the world. They also have some entry level tablets too which is where the One by Wacom (lousy name) comes into play. Continue reading “Chromebook + Wacom tablet? Interesting”

Mote – Chrome Extension review

OK, it’s a weird name but it has a pretty cool function.

This is an extension you can add to Chrome and use on a variety of Google products to leave audio comments. If you mark up an essay or digital document, all too often students will just take a look at the score at the top of the first page and maybe leaf through the rest of their work and then stuff it in a folder, trashcan, or some other dark region never to give it another thought.

This is obviously a problem as feedback is a pretty crucial part of the teaching-learning process. mote allows you to record audio feedback and add it to Any type of Google document (Docs, Sheets, Slides) and it also allows you to add comments on Google Classroom as well. Continue reading “Mote – Chrome Extension review”

Funny spam comment

We use wordpress.com for IT Babble and have from the start. It’s solid, reliable and they block a bunch of spam comments from finding their way onto our posts. Every now and again I like to go in and just take a look at what these say and usually I can find some funny. ones (like the one above).

I’ve grabbed just the comment and pasted it below for easier reading.

Enjoy and happy Friday everyone.

My new tool (smartphone)

I just got a new phone and like a lot of educators, a smartphone is a great tool to use in one’s professional setting. I wish I was so cool that I could just head over to Amazon, pick a phone in 30 seconds and give no further thought to what I carry around in my pocket.

I, unfortunately, am not that cool.

I did quite a bit of research and landed on the Pixel 4a. I don’t research as much as my good friend Omar, but a few weeks, I feel, is a lot. To understand how I got here I want you to understand how I use my phone. My laptop is my primary go-to device throughout the day, but I still use my smartphone a lot! Continue reading “My new tool (smartphone)”

pisgnage.com – Digital signage on the cheap

Schools are looking for ways to better communicate with their community inside the school as well as outside. One way to do this is with digital signage. This can helpful for a bunch of reasons:

  • Sharing the menu for lunch
  • Birthday greetings
  • Local sports news
  • Reminding students of deadlines
  • Reminding students of school activities
  • General news (weather, local, state, national/international news)
  • The joke of the day
  • And much, much more!

The set up isn’t too crazy. You need a screen to display the information on and you need a player to directly connect to the screen that acts as the brains of the operation, but I only wish it was that easy.

Continue reading “pisgnage.com – Digital signage on the cheap”

Covid 19 – Never going back

Covid-19 has changed a lot.

A number of schools have had to think quick, move just as fast and definitely have had to be pretty creative figuring out how to deliver quality education, how to provide support for families and much more.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic people keep longing for the days when we return to normal. I have a sneaky suspicion that when those days do come, normal will not look like a school pre-Covid. Here are some areas that have been changed by Covid and will probably not go back to the way they were.

Continue reading “Covid 19 – Never going back”

To filter or not to filter?

There is a debate out there and it has been going on for quite some time. The debate is whether schools should filter content on student devices. This is a bit more complicated than saying yes or no. For example is the school using a BYOD approach, should schools filter content at school level but not at home should schools monitor but not filter and it can go on and on and on.

I admit, I have flip-flopped on this issue more than once. Usually experience and reflection cause these changes of thoughts, but before we get into all of that let’s talk about what I mean when I say filter.

Continue reading “To filter or not to filter?”

Distance Learning and Academic Dishonesty

What is a lockdown browser. Some may be very familiar with these types of browsers while others may never have heard of them. I don’t think the term is used widely, I know a company called Respondus has a product called LockDown browser. So what is it?

Basically, it is a specialized web browser (like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc.) that only allows access to a specific test site. No other tabs can be opened, no other windows or programs can be opened, it basically locks the device down until the person managing the test or device allow it function normally.

These are quite common for certain assessments such as College Boards Advanced Placement and other formal assessments and other formalized tests that are usually offered across the country or the world. These tests usually cost money and they often times have their very own app or website that locks down the student’s browser.

There are also companies that offer these to schools for all their assessments.

Distance Learning

So why am I writing about this? Well with Covid and distance (or hybrid) learning there are some talks about how to give assessments to students while they are at home and how to ensure that they don’t cheat.

Well, lockdown browsers are not the answer. While these lockdown browsers are pretty robust and they can be difficult to get around, all a student needs to do is pull out their smartphone, another computer, or tablet to look up the answers. Heck, they can even text their friends with answers. The lockdown browser is just a bump in the road.

Examity

This service has a live person who video conferences into a student taking their exam. They proctor and observe the student taking an exam. For an idea check out this video (you don’t need to watch it all) to get an idea on how it works.

This site is definitely more geared for higher education and I find it a bit creepy too though I cannot doubt its effectiveness. That aside it is pretty pricey. I couldn’t find specific pricing details from their site and I do imagine the cost is baed on how many total students you sign up. From what I could find the pricing models works like this:

  • A flat rate for the first hour (I saw prices from $15 – 17.50 from other schools) per student per assessment
  • A cost for additional hours (I saw prices from $5.50 – $7.00 from other schools) per student per assessment

Again, those costs are per student per assessment. So let’s say you have 100 students and the English teacher uses this service and has 4 assessments that are all finished within that first hour. That will run your school (just for English) $6000 USD for that year.

All in the name of getting rid of academic dishonesty.

What can you do?

Am I suggesting that a teacher just lives with academic dishonesty and shrug? No, I think the answer lies with the assessment itself. Create assessments with less knowledge based questions. For example don’t ask a question like “When and where did the Battle at Gettysburg take place?” That is a questoin a student can Google and have the answer in less than a minute.

Instead, ask more open ended questions such as “Who were the most important Union generals during the Battle of Gettysburg and what specific impact did they have on the battle?” That’s a more complex question and certainly a Google search will give some answers but students would need to digest that info in order to produce an answer. My point being, it couldn’t be answered in less than sixty seconds.

Another layer to add on top of better questions is to add an online assessment service like Edulastic (check out my review here). Here you can create assessments and actually watch students progress through the test in real time. You can also schedule the test for specific students at specific times and add a time limit to the test so students aren’t working on it for hours (or days) while they look up answers on their phone or with their friends.

Project/Essay based assessments

Another option is to do essay or at least short answered questions that ask students to demonstrate their knowledge more than just facts. Have them explain processes, events or allow them to draw their own conclusions and have them support it with evidence. These take longer to grade but you do get more authentic answers this way.

Project based learning is also another option. Having students create something that demonstrate their learning can be a nice departure from standard assessments. This can be tricky though.  Make sure students have access to all the resources they need to complete the tasks and of course troubleshooting via email can also pose challenging as it is much easier to see what they are talking about. Maybe meet with them on Zoom, Teams or Google Meet. But it is very hard for a student to cheat on a project that requires them to produce something authentic.

The takeaway

The bottom line is this: Teachers cannot be in the homes of their students and therefore cannot properly monitor a traditional assessment. If you use a lot of these find some other options. If not you can be sure some (if not most) of your students will cheat on those tests.

Keep in mind, the assessment is a way for students to demonstrate their mastery or knowledge working towards mastery of a subject. It is not meant to be a punishment for them or yourself.