Thursday, March 28, 2013

PFL V ...Peer Critique for an eMagazine

After publishing online newspapers, the PFL V class has now made available to the wider audience an online magazine with fictional news articles. The magazine is called "A Tela" which means "screen" in English, as a way to represent the different news you may see on TV or computer screens. The magazine has three separate sections:  Recent Events, Science & Technology, Culture & Travel. Anyone can read the articles and make comments by accessing the publication at the Issuu site shown below.

The class worked collaboratively to develop the design style of the magazine and some students created the cover. A Google Presentation file was used to house all the articles under the same design, so each student was responsible for copying a master slide and adding his o her own content. A PDF version of this Google Presentation was then uploaded into Issuu, making the online magazine very easy to do.

You can access the magazine below. A snapshot of students'comments is also shown at the end of this post.

eMagazine: A TELA

Commenting on each other's articles was an important part of the project, as the goal is to use peer critique as a means of constant improvement.  In order to provide constructive feedback, students learned in class about  peer critique. They also debated about how to provide feedback after watching the video Critique and Feedback - The story of Austin's butterfly


Kind but Honest:
  • Depersonalize comments, rephrasing as "it should have ..."
  • Phrase advice in the form of a question.
  • Explain why the the advice is helpful using "so that..."
  • Zoom in on details and offer specific advice for improvement
(Source: Improving Peer Feedback with Critique. The Learning Soy. Feb 2013)

A sample of peer feedback is seen on the image below. Keep in mind that these are Portuguese as Foreign Language students.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ceramics ... Reflection Journal with Blogger

In Ceramics, a reflection journal practice that has been done on paper is now transferred to the online world. Ms Ariani asked her students to create individual blogs to host their journal reflections. The advantage of an online reflection journal is first of all to the students, as they will collect an easily accessible and shareable portfolio of their progress as artists. There is also the advantage of being able to easily illustrate their reflections with pictures of their final work and work in progress. Students can also add links to resources and research they may have done for the work, making such background information easily available not only for the reader but also for the student. The power of seeing one's own work nicely displayed and easily accessible cannot be underestimated. Apart from that, the fact that students can start to see each other's journals can be a powerful way to encourage more reflection and also positive critique. So we will be looking forward to student reactions at the end of this process.

You can see an example of student reflection blog posts for the coil pot project at the images below: Creative Clay Pot; Failure, Improvisation and Success; Finishing Touches. In this reflection journal it is possible to follow the student's difficulties with fitting different parts of the pot and the creative solution to the problem, which resulted in a funny face jar. Such problem solving and creative process would not have been easily available or even so well illustrated on paper.

Productive discussions regarding the use of blogging as a tool for journal reflection happened between the teacher, Ms Ariani, and the Technology Coordinator, Ms Meneghini, leading to the following decisions:

Teacher feedback and student revision: The teacher can provide feedback that will imply minor corrections on the student blog post or a major addition of a requirement not covered for example. The idea is that the teacher will check the blogs often. The students will edit the post for minor changes but he or she will create a new blog post for major additions as a published blog post is somewhat of a final product. The comments themselves represent the story of student progress so it makes sense that the student blogger responds with a new post indicating stages of work.

Retrieving different blog posts for the same project: The use of labels was reinforced with the students to help retrieve blog posts for the same project. This is necessary not only to help the teacher but also for the student and anyone else who may be interested in following progress. Usually, posts for the same project will be sequential in time, but it may be that a research post for a new project starts while at the same time a teacher feedback requires adding more details to a previous project. Nevertheless, labels will help easy retrieval of project posts after they are long gone from the list of top posts.

Teacher follow up of all student posts: The teacher who follows many student blogs needs a way to easily check work and see who has posted recently. On Blogger, it is possible to use Google Reader, Reading List or Follow By Email to follow up new blog posts. But corrections to an already published post do not appear on those environments. So the decision for the time being is that students will send an email to the teacher to inform of new posts or corrections, facilitating the teacher's management.

Finishing Touches Post

Teacher Comments

Failure, Improvisation and Success Post

Ceramics Clay Post

The ICT Standards that support learning in this project are:

2. Communication and Collaboration:
Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
    b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media formats.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Biology 9 .... Gamification of DNA Genetics Unit

Gamification means applying certain gaming elements to the teaching and learning process. It appears at the Horizon Report 2013 as one of the technologies that will have a strong impact in higher education in the near future. Graded's Innovate 2013 Conference hosted some gamification sessions and our Biology 9 teacher, Ms. Beck, was excited with the concept therefore deciding to apply it in her DNA Genetics Unit.

Two elements of gaming that are very important and actually mix together involve "storytelling" and "challenge".  In a game, a fantasy aspect is key to transport the player to another world where a challenge will take place. Below, you will see the storytelling and the challenge for the DNA Genetics Unit. It involves groups of students trying to unlock the secrets of DNA, which takes us to other elements of gaming which are "cooperation" and "competition". The competition element in the DNA unit involves cooperation within groups to come up with the first DNA model. This process actually mimicked the real life challenge among different scientific groups around the world when the DNA structure was actually unveiled by Watson and Crick, who won the Nobel Prize. The students watched a movie about the real world DNA scientific competition at the end of the Unit.

At the video in the end of this post you can hear Ms Beck describing the whole gamification process in the DNA Unit. While at the beginning the teacher reports a concern about the competition element, as the unit progressed, the students were described as being on task and engaged. Students who were not so much into science before became more interested. The idea was to use gamification to encourage students to move along the material and activities in a more independent way.  In order to encourage such independence, the challenge was combined with another important element of gaming which is a "reward system". That involved the use of bagdes and a leaderboard. The badges were created by the teacher and assigned to students as they achieved levels, built vocabulary, found facts, created concept maps, etc. So they were associated with achievement in terms of covering the material/activities. Below you can see the badges that were assigned through Edmodo.

A similar principle was applied to the use of a "coin leaderboard", which indicated the top 20 students with more "coins" collected. The coins were actually physical "bingo"coins that students would get as they completed tasks and levels. The leaderboad is therefore not based on who is smarter, but based on an incentive to cover the material and activities (collect coins). Students could then exchange some coins for "prizes" such as taking a 5 minute break, going to the snack bar, etc. The teacher reports how students became engaged with the whole "coin"gathering. She described the class as being more focused on providing individualized attention than on being teacher directed. So students worked at their own pace and there was more differentiation. The overall feedback from Ms beck is very positive, and while she will not use gamification for all her Units, the DNA Unit seemed very appropriate for this approach. Enjoy Ms. Beck's full description and feedback at the video below!

The ideas about gamification in this post came from the following sources, which you can check for more information:

Kapp, K.M. The Gamification of Learning and Instruction. 2012. John Wiley & Sons. Pfeiffer.

"The Rules of Gamification". Razorfish Outlook Report. <>