Monthly Archives: January 2016

Reading the Test 2

In the last post, I shared an experience of teachers using Moodle to provide an audio version of a common assessment. Well, the results are in. The teachers are happy as the process was more efficient for them than reading the test to each student. They remarked that they were able to test several students at once (about 10). More importantly, they were able to assist students that needed help while the other students were listening to the test.

Of course, this led to a discussion of how we could make this even better. This test was a paper/pencil test with the questions in a fixed order. The answers were also in a fixed order. However, our teachers love the ability of Moodle to shuffle test questions and answers within those questions. So, is it possible to record the test question within the test question itself? Would there be a reason to limit audio to certain students? Or, would it be OK for all of the students to have access to the audio version of the test questions? What about shuffling the answers?

Moodle will allow for an audio version of the question to be included within the question itself. Answers work the same way. Thus, if a teacher wants to read the question and answers, Moodle will provide an avenue for this to happen. This means that teachers could shuffle the answers within the presentation of each question.

Thus, the question would work like this for a student. The student would see the question text and an audio player right under the question text. The answers would similarly have an audio player under the response. The screenshot below shows what this looks like.

Preview question: Can Moodle Read a Question? 2016-01-31 12-12-53 The students can click on the “play” button to hear each item. Since the teacher has recorded the question, it is a familiar voice. This is not speech recognition software at work. These are audio files recorded by the teacher.

The end result is fabulous news. Assessments can leverage the power of Moodle and provide accommodations to those students who need them (or all students). Providing an audio version of the assessment can meet the needs of a wide variety of students. The audio version can help students truly identify what they know. Additionally, some of the national tests are now including audio portions.

However, there are some negatives as well. There is not an audio recorded built in to Moodle. This increases the work flow since the audio is recorded in a different application and then linked. Also, some of the national tests don’t allow any accommodations. Thus, there will be the argument for “preparing” students.

Next up will be working on a system to allow students to read and record questions. I always liked to have the students write test questions. I would use some of the student created questions on the exam. Now, I’d like to think of a way to have the students write and record questions in a way that the teacher could accept the questions for use.

At the end of the day, this is a truly powerful opportunity. The ability to provide students with another means of accessing the questions to prove what they know is really cool. It helps students. It keeps the power of Moodle in place in terms of reporting, restrictions, reuse and more.

Reading the Test

Soon, our students will be taking some common assessments. The common assessment will be a paper/pencil test. (They’ll also be taking state-wide tests too, but that’s another story). Some of our students require special accommodations. One of the accommodations that is fairly frequent is to have the test read to the student. Traditionally, this has meant one of two situations:

  1. a parapro has been assigned to read the test to the student individually or
  2. a teacher (usually a special education teacher) has read the test to an individual or a small group of students.

Neither of these situations in particularly positive. The parapros work really hard. Sometimes though, they can be a little too helpful. Taking a highly trained special education teacher and having that specialists read the test, well, there are probably even better ways that their talents can be used. Either of these takes some of the control out of the classroom teachers hands. Either of those solutions come at a high cost as well.

I was approached with this situation. A teacher had planned on using Screencastify (which is a Chrome extension that allows for users to record video and audio) and recording the test. The plan was to put up a black screen and then read the test. The teacher was asking about how to share the recording.

We are also a Google Apps district, so the teacher knew that the recording could be shared via Google Drive. However, this lead to some problems. Once the link was shared, the teacher would lose control over the file. The file could be copied and disrupted. Not good.

However, Moodle allows for restrictions on users and files. The teacher already had a Moodle course set up. We set up a group for the students who need the test read (test listeners). Then we restricted a Topic (Tests Read) to just the group test listeners. This means that only the students who are part of the group test listeners will even see the Tests Read topic in the course. Within that topic, we created a page for this specific test. The teacher broke the test into sets of 10 questions. Using Audacity, a free audio recording program (but really, anything that could record audio and share the file would work), the test questions were read and recorded. Each set of questions was then uploaded onto that page within Moodle. Further restrictions on the time and date of the topic were instituted.

This allows the teacher to have control over the reading of the questions. The teacher only has to do it once. The reading can be used as many students as the teachers wants. The teacher has total control over which students have access to the files (remember, if the student signs into Moodle, that student MUST be a member of the group or they won’t even see the Topic). Once the students sign in, they can scrub through the test questions as they need to. The playing of the audio is handled directly in Moodle. For the students, it is very user friendly. For the teacher, the necessary control over access is present.

Two examples of the Random Glossary Block.

Moodle Glossary

Two examples of the Random Glossary Block.

Two examples of the Random Glossary Block.

Recently, I attended the Michigan Moodle Moot. This is an extremely well run conference. I also had an opportunity to present. My presentation was all about the Moodle Glossary. I find the Glossary to be a powerful tool. It is one of the under utilized activities.

The Glossary allows students to create a resource for the entire class. There are two broadly general types of activities in Moodle, those that are “private” between the student and teacher and those that are available for all the class to see. Assignments are generally private between a student and a teacher. The student completes the assignment and turns it in the teacher. The Glossary is very different in that the work that the students do is viewable by the entire class.

This is one of the great things about the Glossary module. It allows the class to create class resources. The Glossary Module allows the students to create a glossary of terms (pretty obvious). However, it can also be used in many more ways. The students can create a list of “dead words”, complete with synonyms, of words that shouldn’t be used in writing. Many teachers do this with a poster in the classroom. The problem with a poster in the classroom is that students don’t have access to it at home (or in another classroom). By creating a list of dead words as a Glossary, students have access whenever they are connected to the Internet (which is pretty much all the time for many students).

Another potential use of the Glossary module is to have the students pick topics for research, presentations or other in class assignments. Using the Glossary means that the students will be able to see what others have chosen. A teacher could further lock this down by providing the students with a list of potential topics and then having student enter their choice. By not allowing duplicate entries, the first student to type in the topic “wins” that topic. (There are other modules that would allow students to pick from a list as well). With the Glossary module, students could provide feedback to each other about the topic as well.

The Glossary module could also be used for students to write a little bit about themselves to share with the class. This can be a great way for the class to get to know each other. Simply have the student’s enter their name as the concept and then some facts about themselves as the definition. This can also be used in conjunction with two truths and a lie. Comments can be enabled so that other students could guess the lie.

There are a couple of things to know about the Glossary module that make it very powerful.

  • The teacher can set the Random Glossary block to display for the students. This will put a block on the student page that displays, well, a random glossary term.
  • The Glossary module can allow Comments. This makes it very easy for students to provide feedback to each other.
  • The Glossary module can also allow ratings. Students can rate an entry by stars, thus providing more feedback.
  • Glossary entries can either be allowed to be duplicated or not.
  • There are several different types of Glossary entries (including an FAQ styled entry list).
  • The Glossary module can be linked so that new entries automatically are defined throughout the course. This means that when a new entry is created, that word or concept will be identified. Students can then click on the word (phrase, concept) and a pop up will show them the definition.

Here are a few more ideas on using the Glossary:

  • Student List/Introduction
  • Presenter List
  • Teaching Strategies
  • Dictionary
  • Resource Collection
  • About Me
  • Rating Feedback
  • Vocabulary (Random Glossary Block)
  • Recipes
  • Grammar Tips
  • Student Created Definitions/
  • Student Debate Topics (with feedback)
  • Media Elements
  • Math concepts
  • Dead words
  • Restaurant activity (site a restaurant and why someone should go there) Community involvement
  • Ice breakers
    • You might be surprised that…
  • Review for a quiz
  • Students Write quiz questions (export / import into Quiz)- can be private or open
  • Historical Figures
  • Science: Human Anatomy
  • Acronyms
  • Thought of the day
  • Quote of the day
  • Simple Peer Assessment

This is just a quick overview of the Glossary module in Moodle. Hopefully, you will be inspired to check it out and use it in your classroom. If you are interested in more specific instructions on using the Glossary, please let me know.

Gamification and Driving to Virginia

Generally, I’m not really big on gamification. I do try to keep an open mind though. Recently, I experienced something that reinforces my “open mind” policy. Whilst driving back from Virginia, I was reminded why.

Usually, “gamification”, at least in education, involves turning everything into a game. I still don’t believe that any one strategy or method will be the “silver bullet” of education. Rather, using a variety of strategies is what really good teachers do. Edutopia has a nice write up of gamification. Notice that one one teacher “completely gamified his sixth grade classroom”.

My youngest daughter has graduated from the University of Virginia. I’m really proud of her. She’s grown a ton in four years and is a smart, intelligent caring adult. Next up, she will be heading off to Berkeley. In the meantime, I was off to collect her and her things. This meant a road trip.

I fired up Waze. Waze is the “world’s largest community based navigation app”. I usually use this for a couple of reasons:

  1. The app provides alerts to upcoming traffic slow downs.
  2. The app provides alerts to law enforcement professions.
  3. The app gives some positive feedback to participating.

However, when I opened up the app, I was given an error message. “The routing server” couldn’t be contacted. Bummer. I fired up another service, got my route and started off. (Interestingly, I know the way to Virginia by now. The GPS service is mostly a comfort level or habit.) Yet, I kept trying Waze periodically. Eventually, Waze figured out a route and I kept Waze as the front most app.

This same set of circumstances played out again on my return from Virginia. Once again, Waze couldn’t find a route. I opened another GPS app and started off. But, I refreshed Waze every once in a while until it found a route.

For some reason, the positive feedback from the app was enough to get me to return to the app even though it failed in the beginning and another app worked perfectly fine.

This reminds me of being in the classroom. At one point, I taught in a lock up facility. The kids were locked up for a variety of reasons. Most of them were between 14 and 18 years old. These were mostly kids from the streets. Kids that had a hard life. One of the other teachers had a whole passel of stickers. Cheap, cartoonish, elementary style stickers. I kind of laughed. I asked what the stickers were for. The teacher responded “the kids”. Really, cartoonish stickers for kids from the streets? Stickers for kids who were older than 14 and had committed crimes? Yep. A few days later, I bought my first bunch of stickers.

I’ve written about badges in Moodle. How sometimes I found myself doing something extra to get a badge. This is how I think that gamification can actually work. It may not work for everyone, but creating positive feedback can be powerful.

For some students, gamification can truly make a difference. For some, they just won’t care much. It’s not a silver bullet, but it may be an extremely useful strategy.