Categories
Business

A Better Alternative To Grading Student Writing

This is a quick post that just occurred to me while writing about–well, writing about writing.

I was brainstorming ways to use technology to help students improve their writing and realized that over and over again, I was thinking about the process of writing and how crucial it is to quality of whatever the writer is left with at the end.

Great writing starts at the beginning, whether with an idea or need or purpose of social context or spark of inspiration. Whatever it is that ’causes’ the writing to begin–what’s wrought there at the beginning is kind of like a lump of clay. Without that clay, not much could happen and the quality of that clay matters; its texture and purity and consistency and overall makeup has a lot to say about what it’s able to produce. In large part, what you’re able to create with that clay depends on the quality and quantity of that clay.

The Purpose Of The Writing Process

Put another way, the writing process itself is everything. It doesn’t have to be used the same way every time and that’s another conversation for another day and I only mention it briefly because the worst thing you can do is read this post and then go shove the ‘diligence of the writing process’ down the throats of would-be writers/students who only need to believe they can write and then they opportunity to do so with in the company of nurturing.

All this leads me to the title. Instead of grading the end result of that process (the finished process), grade the quality of that student’s use of the writing process–ideally based on their specific strengths and weaknesses and the purpose and audience of the writing assignment itself.

Using The Writing Process

Using the writing process takes years of practice because producing great writing takes constant vision and refinement. It requires the writer to understand what they’re trying to say and then say it in a way that produces some effect on the world. Research, idea organization, paragraph structure, sentence instruction, diction, punctuation, rule-breaking, tone, literary devices–using these ideas to communicate complex ideas is hard work.

That’s why writing is less of an activity and more of a process not unlike the scientific process. While we might for professionals, it wouldn’t make much sense to grade children doing science by the accuracy of their data. Rather, their ability and tendency to use the scientific process to test theories and collect data would be far more important.

For amateurs in many fields, the process is far more important than the product.

If these goals (or those like them) are at least partly true, then a viable alternative to grading student writing is to grade if the student writes and how the student uses the writing process itself in a way that makes sense to them.

And in a way that shows ownership of that writing process that will endure long after they’ve left your classroom.

Categories
Video & Tips

Exactly How Technology Can Make Reading Better

Reading is just the communication of ideas through alphanumeric symbols. I’m not sure what this represents such hallowed ground for teachers, but it does. Personally I’d be more concerned with reading habits, reasons for reading, the quality of reading materials, etc. Symbols change, forms change, media change. See the gif and memes and language and acronyms that become words and words that become metaphors again. This is your audience, and these are the symbols they gravitate towards.

With more personalization, more access, and more connectivity, we should be creating a generation of close-readers that can’t get enough. So if we’re not, the question is, why isn’t that happening? The pieces are there.

Technology Makes Reading Better. Here’s Exactly How.

1. Social readers are connected readers

Through apps with social components, readers can be connected through texts. Reading groups, reading contests, reasons for reading, book suggestions, building social credibility for the process of reading, and more are possible when reading is, at least on some level, a social act.

No, we don’t always ‘need to be connected.’ This isn’t an either/or circumstance, however. We can be alone with our book and then socialize our reaction to the book. We can get an idea for a book and then be alone to read, then socialize again after. We can ‘socialize’ an idea and gain background knowledge for a certain chapter in a book, then read alone and not ‘socialize’ at all after. The point is, we can choose who we don’t and don’t socialize with, when, and how.

We have the choice.

2. Adaptive learning algorithms can lead to personalization

With adaptive learning algorithms, readers can have the pace, diversity, complexity, and form of their reading materials personalized instantly.

3. Increased access & choice

Through digital storefronts, free eBooks, RSS feeds, social magazines, and more, there has never been a time where students had more content at their fingertips. Like this book using an eReader like Kindle or iBooks? Here are 25 just like it.

Also, here are 10 other authors that those who liked this book also liked.

And here are 750 reviews that you can sift through to get a feel for what other people think. And please, download a free sample of any book you’d like.

And it’s easier than ever to publish, so while that means there’s more garbage out there, there’s also more variety. Fanfiction has exploded. If you can’t find something you like, you’re not trying.

4. Technology can distract, technology can focus

Technology can allow readers to annotate texts and share notes, which is physically interactive and ‘social.’ There are also apps–white noise apps, for example–that can block out class distractions, and more. Before you blame technology for ‘distracting’ students, make sure you’re honest with yourself about how focused they were without the tech.

5. Technology makes learning easier

Let’s breaking reading up into three separate categories: Before Reading, During Reading, and After Reading.

During each of these times, readers have different needs.

Before Reading: A young reader starting a story set in a different culture may benefit from watching a YouTube video about that culture, or reading a quick Wikipedia overview about it.

During Reading: A high school student reading a poem may want to Google the literary allusions in that poem to make better sense of what they’re reading.

After Reading: A PhD student may want to check previous studies by that study’s authors to evaluate some claim being made–or to follow up on some other data point found in the study to learn more.

The point is, technology (used well) improves ‘sensemaking.’ No, it’s not absolutely necessary in the same way that I don’t need to drive a car to drive to Henry County, Kentucky. I could walk if I wanted–and there are benefits to walking. Cars aren’t ‘superior.’ But because of that technology, I have the opportunity.

6. Analytics can personalize the mechanics of reading

Analytics can be, well, analyzed for the practice of reading—time spent reading, how often readers clicked on certain words, etc. I know this is vague. I’m not a reading specialist or an app developer. The point is that data can be used to keep all readers in their ‘literacy sweet spot,’ supporting struggling readers, challenging advanced readers, and offering choice to grade-level readers.

7. Texts can have their levels adjusted instantly

Take the data from #6, and you’ve got a powerful combination. This means less or more complex sentence structure, syntax, vocab, etc. Platforms like Epic reader and news-o-matic make it easier to match a reader to a text level, as do a variety of apps and desktop programs.

And using eReader apps, students can touch a word and get its definition instantly. Not that they necessarily will, mind you–close reading is still a matter of will. But they can.

8. Reading speed is more ‘visible’

With apps that allow the practice of sight words, others created expressly to increase reading speed, and others that measure time spent reading, words read per minute, and more, more than ever reading speed is visible, and higher reading speeds generally translates to increased comprehension.

Categories
HR and L&D

The Definition Of Synchronous Learning

Short version: As a general rule, Synchronous Learning occurs when students learn the same thing at the same time–online or offline.

In The Definition Of Asynchronous Learning, I offered that asynchronous learning was when students learned the same thing at different times. Obviously there’s more to it than that but that’s the gist of it in most digital classrooms and related learning environments. The big idea is ‘together’ (an idea that often implies ‘same’).

What Is Synchronous Learning?

What is synchronous learning? Synchronous learning is when students learn the same thing at the same time–through a lecture (online or in-person), for example. Synchronous learning is a kind of ‘group learning’ that happens in a way that’s unified by time and space–that is, students generally learn the same or similar content at more or less the same time and generally the same place.

As opposed to asynchronous learning, synchronous learning is characterized by the theme of togetherness and all of the pros and cons that a large group of people doing something together brings with it. If you think of these as features or constraints–namely time, place, and pace (that is when learning happens, where it happens, and who controls the pace of that learning) is a matter of how you frame it all–your biases and experiences and so on. But in a nutshell, that’s the definition of synchronous learning.

Synchronous Learning Online Or Off: eLearning vs In-Person

Traditionally, asynchronous and synchronous learning are thought of as types of eLearning, but most physical, brick-and-mortar classrooms that feature lecture, group discussion, and collaborative activities are all technically ‘synchronous.’ This is in contrast to a self-directed learning environment where students learned ‘independently’ of one another–especially the same content, which would technically be asynchronous.

Wikipedia explains that “students watching a live web stream of a class, while simultaneously taking part in a discussion. Synchronous learning can be facilitated by having students and instructors participate in a class via a web conferencing tool. These synchronous experiences can be designed to develop and strengthen instructor-student and student-student relationships, which can be a challenge in distance learning programs.”

While historically, most eLearning was necessarily asynchronous, the growth of computer technology–including bandwidth, video streaming, messaging and chat, social media, and more–has allowed online learning to become more synchronous. This places it more in line with the face-to-face instruction occurring in most schools and districts in K-12 today. Online synchronous learning has disadvantages (which include new dynamics for student engagement, classroom management, and personalization of learning), but also advantages including new definitions for community, new possibilities for backchannel discussion, and the ability to record and replay learning experiences over time.

We will follow up on examples of synchronous learning in a follow-up post but a few include quizzes, most classroom activities, classroom lecture (online or offline), face-to-face group discussion, in-person, collaborative project-based learning, debate, Socratic discussion, timed learning sessions or formal assessment-as-learning (testing), and more.

Categories
Business

How Working from Home Is Transforming Learning

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