Monday, October 26, 2009

Shlenker School Project Assessment: Good Progress

I’ve finished the second month of using technology to assist me in assessing students’ language proficiency overall in a happy mood. I’ve expanded the use of the technology to 3rd grade, and now all three grades (3rd-5th) who are supposed to work with the technology are doing so. The students are getting more comfortable with the technical part of operating the devices, and it improves enormously the efficiency and speed of our work. They record their answers to assessments questions without delays, no longer experimenting with the MP3 recorders controls or making mistakes in the recording process. After class it takes me little time now to retrieve their recorded answers in order to grade them. The reading comprehension assessment process which used to take up to two class periods because it took the students so much time to laboriously write down their answers now take only one. I do give the students a choice, and some choose to write down their answers, but the writers are the students who are comfortable writing, usually because they are distinctly visual learners or because they can do it fast or both. The majority of the students choose to use the MP3 recorders.
My trusted lightweight laptop tablet computer is carried around the room during class time as I listen to my students apply new vocabulary in conversational setting and grade their efforts. As I was hoping it would be - it is very easy to do. Students’ use of language in class is being more objectively graded in real time than it would be if graded several hours later. To my surprise it seems to me that this method of grading in class also works as an incentive of sort for increased participation: students who previously participated sporadically now contribute more often, though no explicit or implicit connection was made by me between improved participation and better grades. I speculate that perhaps the knowledge that their linguistic effort is being recorded and assessed, i.e. – “appreciated,” is a motivator for some. On the flip side: it is even harder to coax a certain student to participate now. It seems he is reacting the opposite way and is intimidated by the knowledge that his performance is being assessed.
Unfortunately, we found that the MP3 recorders/players are not without some technical problems. We are working with the vendor to try and work things out, but at this point the students are unable to listen to recordings through headphones. I’m looking forward to resolving the problems so I can go ahead with more creative uses in the assessment process of the MP3 devices as players, not just recorders.

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