Tag Archives: #mbedchatblog

Edusight Notes: Simple, No-Nonsense Assessment Aid

I often know the right thing to do, but my execution is regularly lacking. I know the power of writing conferences and their many benefits, including mentorship, relationship building, deeper learning, and occasionally outright joy. Unfortunately, my memory isn’t what it used to be. After a few weeks into a semester, I can’t recall what Savanna is working on, whether Tyler needs practice with voice or structure, or even what advice I offered Faith that led to a great moment and revision. Once I start second-guessing my memory, my conferencing slows down and becomes much more tentative. In my head I’m thinking, “I should know this. I’m going to damage a relationship that we’ve built if I can’t even remember this. She/he will think I don’t care when I really do care.” 

Now I show how I care by finding ways to remember and keep track. Edusight Notes is one of my go-to ways to remember. It is sometimes billed as a student portfolio app (and it can be), but I use it as a note-taking app for conferences, and anecdotal evidence of learning that too often disappears into the mist at report card time.

Edusight Notes is an iOS app that does one thing simply and well. It takes notes. The simple interface begins with card icons for each class. Tap on a class and the students appear by name (and picture if you’d like. How about a first day of school selfie for everyone?) in rows of icons. Tap a student and you are directed to their timeline/portfolio where you can review past notes or add a note in the form of a picture (from the camera or roll) and/or text. That’s it. It isn’t fancy, but it is exactly what I need. My only minor complaint is that you have to type in the names of your students (though it will remember them for future classes).

Now, my memory of that great conference moment is only a few taps away. I take my iPad to all conferences and record anything I wish to remember, including pictures of perplexing paragraphs and items to review during the next conference. In a day or two when it is time for that next conference, I review the notes and pictures of work in progress and pick up with the student where we left off.

Now I don’t forget…because I do care. Edusight Notes helps me show it.


Filed under Classroom Ideas

Padlet: A Quick and Easy Collaboration Tool

Padlet (formerly Wallwisher) is hardly a new tool, but it is easy to use and very versatile, so it is definitely worth checking out or revisiting. Basically it is a blank wall online, and people add sticky note posts to the wall which will expand as needed. Posts can include text, links, video, and pictures, so there is potential for a rich variety of information and interaction. With a free account at Padlet.com you can create walls with a variety of customization options, including privacy settings that range from completely public to email invitations to collaborators of your choice.

A Padlet wall can be used in the classroom in many ways. Recently a colleague and I combined our different grade level writing classes in order to begin some group writing projects. We are hoping to teach/learn about various government agencies and use writing to inspire positive change through those agencies. We want student choice driving the projects, so we had students brainstorm individually and then post their interests to a padlet wall so that they might benefit from other’s brainstorming and find partners with similar interests with whom they might collaborate. Teachers and students could see all the posts and even rearrange them into groups and categories. It sure is handier than writing all the ideas on a whiteboard only to erase them at the end of the period.

Once again, imagination is the limit to how you could use this tool. A student could use it to curate their knowledge of a topic and submit it like an interactive poster. Students working in a group could organize their research and writing on a wall. Here’s a wall I set up last year as a welcome back to school activity that also measured my students’ comfort with using their iPads in a 1:1 environment.


Padlet offers handy embed codes, but they don’t play nice with my free WordPress account.

Padlet has great features such as embed codes for your class website, social media sharing, QR codes, privacy settings, moderating, and all kinds of customization to fit your classroom application, and it is a web-based tool that works with laptops, tablets, and phones. Show this tool to your students and see what they can do with it.


Filed under Classroom Ideas

Recording and Reporting

Wrapping my head around SBA required figuring out the role of PowerSchool. As I mentioned in the previous post, PS’s standards features do not communicate as I would like them to. Here’s a bit of the process I went through to make PS work for me.

Rick Wormeli is a well-known educator who helped me think about reporting SBA. One of his videos is one of the most direct influences on my attempts to get practical about SBA.

Here is a rough chart based on what Mr. Wormeli described.

Student Name Assignment 1 Assignment 2 Assignment 3 Totals
Prov. Outcome 1 C C C
Prov. Outcome 2 S U U
Prov. Outcome 3 S R R


This model requires one page per student with all the outcomes on the far left column (y-axis) and the assignments on the top row (x-axis). Only a small number of outcomes will be assessed per assignment, but over time a clearer picture of a student’s mastery of the course outcomes will emerge by following the X-axis for a particular outcome. This student has mastered outcome 1 but needs help with outcome 3. Totals should emphasize the most recent, relevant, and significant evidence. Focus on patterns. I’ve used the Provincial Report Card behaviour scale of Consistently, Usually, Sometimes, Rarely, but another number or symbol based scale could be used.

I may use such a chart for my own record-keeping. I don’t know how just yet, but perhaps a digital version (spreadsheet?) that I could share with individual students would be ideal. More to come on that.

Such a chart will not work on PowerSchool, so here’s my plan A for PS:

Categories GLO 1 —-> GLO 2—>
Assignments SLO 1.1 SLO 1.2 SLO 2.1 SLO 2.2 Totals
Student 1 5 5 4 3 %
Student 2 5 4 4 2 %
Student 3 R S U U %


General Learning Outcomes (GLOs) will be my categories and Specific Learning Outcomes (SLOs) will be my assignments. I’ll weigh the GLO categories according to their importance in the course. I’ll have all of this plugged in at the beginning of the semester and add or adjust scores for each SLO as it is assessed. As indicated by the sample chart, a number or letter scale could be used, but a percentage will be calculated as a total. I’ll keep a more detailed record with the first chart I shared.

It isn’t a perfect system, but it does take a significant step toward refocusing attention on outcomes and learning rather than marks. What do you think? How do you attend to outcomes/standards? How do you report them, particularly when your building or division uses a reporting system that doesn’t communicate what you would like it too?

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Filed under Learning Log

Getting Rough

In order to actually use this blog effectively, I’m going to have to get rough. My previous posts have hardly been polished gems, but my thinking/writing needs to be even rougher in order to make my learning visible. I need to throw ideas at the digital wall and see what sticks–for me and perhaps for others.

Recently I’ve been investigating standards-based assessment a little more closely and learning how to use spreadsheets from scratch, keeping a log as I go. I’m going to post and/or write some of those entries here as an exercise in learning, reflection, and loosening up.


…as an example, I will focus on one learning goal to start: using and reporting standards-based assessment (SBA) within the confines of PowerSchool (our school’s reporting system). While PowerSchool is quite capable of using SBA, including doing some impressive math, most of the information is below the surface, requiring students/parents/teachers to dig to find the standards that affect the grade. This is poor communication. I would like the focus to be on the skills and standards rather than the marks for individual assignments. Courses in Manitoba are already standard(outcome)-based, but people tend to focus on assignments and marks. In at least one class, I’d like to shift the focus back to the outcomes and learning instead of the marks on individual assignments.

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Filed under Learning Log

Support and Control

Insert cliché opening about how-time-flies-and-I-should-blog-more here.

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by quinn.anya

(CC BY-SA 2.0) by quinn.anya

Thank you to mbedchatblog challenge 2014 for encouraging me to maintain a blogging pulse.

The last several years I’ve tinkered with creating a more student-centred classroom, and the last few semesters I’ve really gone all in. In various  high school humanities classes I’ve worked with passion projects, workshop models, and Genius Hour. I’ve done some team teaching, solicited student input on working with outcomes, and included self-evaluation as an important element of assessment. Certainly I have made messy, sometimes wonderful, often nerve-wracking mistakes, but I’ve learned from them and managed to increase student voice and choice in the process.

And then, last week, while a student was pushing and pitching alternatives to an assignment that already had many options, I caught myself thinking, “I’ve been working hard on this student-centred thing for a while now; I think I know what you need in order to learn.”


What did I just think?! I think I know what you need in order to learn. How did that get in there?

So, I did what many teachers before me have done–I stalled. I told the student that I’d think about it and get back to them.

Don’t get me wrong; I do believe teachers need to use their expertise in content and craft to maximize learning for everyone in class which requires planning, design, and execution, but if that planning, design, and execution does not embrace and encourage student voice and ownership, then it isn’t realizing its full potential. When I reflected on my hesitance to say, “Yes” to my student, Neil, it was clear that my reluctance was based less on his idea (it was rough, but feasible) and more on my desire for control, that sometimes monster/sometimes friend of teachers everywhere. For that moment I was more interested in a teacher-centred classroom than a student-centred one.

(CC BY 2.0) by .faramarz

(CC BY 2.0) by .faramarz

How can I be attentive to this kind of thinking and evaluate it with greater clarity? Here’s my plan:

  1. Think like a student
  2. Focus on outcomes
  3. Cut myself some slack

By “think like a student” I mean asking the question, “Why not?” If I’m to avoid inadvertently making decisions about student learning based on my own comfort or convenience, then I’m going to have to put the burden of proof on myself by asking, “Why not let, Neil do this?” If I can’t come up with a compelling, educational reason why Neil’s proposal for learning isn’t a good idea, then I should support it.

Outcomes should be the focus as students and teachers learn together. I know this is obvious, but it is so easy to shift focus to discussing an assignment or a mark instead of a demonstrable outcome. The more that student and teacher interactions involve curricular standards and outcomes, the better. Sharing that vocabulary and purpose allows for clearer communication, cooperation, and success. If Neil had made a case using course outcomes, or if outcomes had been more front and centre in my brain at the moment, my resistance to Neil’s proposal would have been easily brushed aside.

The last part of my plan, cutting myself some slack, is a dangerous one. Not enough slack and I’m on a stress leave with a seasonal affective disorder cherry on top by mid semester. Too much slack and I’m right back to where I started, obliviously making classroom decisions that over emphasize my  control rather than supporting student learning. The sweet spot between requires admitting that sometimes a bit of restriction or uniformity in class is okay. Sometimes students need to be challenged by teachers in ways they won’t challenge themselves. Sometimes I’ll have to admit to students that they have a good idea, but that I’m not sure I’m up to the challenge of managing or assessing it with the time and tools available. Perhaps revealing that reality and my humanity will inspire them to help find new tools and new assessments. At very least it will be part of honest relationship and community in the classroom.

That’s my plan, squeezed off from the hip at the end of February. I’m sure to be missing something, so I’d love to hear from other teachers about how they handle sharing the control and ownership of learning with students. Surely the collaboration and support of colleagues is part of the answer, but that’s a topic for another day. Stay warm.


Filed under Uncategorized

Warm in Manitoba


(CC BY-NC 2.0) haglundc

Here in Winnipeg we’ve had days and days of -30 degree temperatures, but this week I found a hot spot in Manitoba–#mbedchat. I’m still fairly low on the social media learning curve, and this was my first Twitter chat, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Doing something new always comes with a degree of nerves or uncertainty. As a teacher I’m learning to embrace those feelings because 1. they are simply part of learning (and I want to be a life-long learner) 2. I expect students to handle these feelings on a daily basis, and I’d like to credibly empathize with and support them in their learning. It was time to take the next step on Twitter and in my personal/professional development and join a Twitter Chat.

Even though I know the group wasn’t huge, the pace of the tweets was quick for me at first. I was working with HootSuite for the first time and trying to follow etiquette as well as I could. After the first 10 or 15 minutes, I settled down, stopped obsessing about perfect tweets, and started enjoying the electricity that always seems to generate when passionate teachers get together. During a lengthy cold spell, it isn’t unusual to hear complaints about Manitoba, but 60 minutes with a dozen Manitoba educators melted any negativity and rekindled my Manitoba pride. These dedicated, generous folks left me with tabs full of great resources, confidence that my children are in excellent hands, and renewed energy for the next teaching day that comes from knowing that you belong to something important and so much bigger than yourself. That is quite a pay off for the small price of overcoming a few nerves and trying something new. Thank you #mbedchat.

So, if you haven’t yet tried a twitter chat, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Jerry Blumengarten (aka Cybraryman) has a great resource page to help you get started. The page includes a link to an extensive list of chats, so you’re sure to find a chat that fits you. I don’t want to oversell, but after weeks of frigid temps, the deepfreeze finally broke–right after #mbedchat. Coincidence? Try your first Twitter chat and then you be the judge.


January 12, 2014 · 9:46 pm