Top Tools and Strategies for Effective Feedback

As part of my personal Learning Network, I receive a lot of information that helps in my growth in tech and other areas. This is a look at feedback That I received from Joan Vandervelde from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. These links will help you explore techniques and resources for providing meaningful and personalized feedback to learners. View examples of timely digital feedback that improves learner motivation and performance.

How I Accidentally Built Relationships with My Students
Terie Engelbrecht explains how she uses screencasting software to provide personalized feedback which is highly motivating to students.

A Possible Solution for the Angst-Ridden English Teacher Who Struggles With Providing Written Feedback
Jodie Morgensen describes how she uses an iPad app called Highlight to provide commentary on each student’s writing. Includes samples of audio feedback.

Helping Kids Manage Digital Feedback
Kristen Swanson offers three instructional strategies for students to maximize the benefits of digital feedback: creating learning goals, setting aside specific times to consider feedback, and reflecting on how feedback has improved their thinking or performance.

Improving Peer Feedback with Public Critique
David Didau proposes a “kind, helpful, and specific” model for students to use when evaluating each other’s work. Included are helpful strategies for dealing with common challenges such as mixed-ability classes and demotivated students.

Feedback in Scenarios: Let Them Think!
Cathy Moore emphasizes the importance of providing feedback which “shows” rather than “tells” the learner why a particular choice is right or wrong.

Alternatives to “Correct” and “Incorrect”
Connie Malamed lists nine types of effective feedback in e-learning including: incentivized, social, and self-directed.

On Feedback: 13 Practical Examples 
Grant Wiggins provides thirteen specific examples of how to incorporate feedback into your daily work with students, based on his article Seven Keys to Effective Feedback.

Helping the ESL teacher

Using the power at your fingertips is something we can all learn to do. A few years ago, I became an ESL teacher’s best friend and advocate. I didn’t realize what I was doing to deserve such an honor until one day she came to thank me. When I asked her what for, she explained how I was able to reach the ESL students … I simple used a power point to convey my major teaching points and homework. I suppose it helped the disorganized students as well.

Recently Lori Qian sent us an email with some great ideas I would like to reiterate here.
1.  When giving oral directions, make sure the directions are visually available as well—perhaps written on the board.

2.  Frequent checks for understanding in whatever form works for you—exit cards have proven to be very helpful here, but even informal checks during class can help us figure out where students are in their understanding.  David Giles found using Etherpad in the classroom to really help bring out the voice of the reluctant speaker. See the video below.

3.  Notes/Outlines/Graphic organizers – make your notes available before lectures and class discussions so that students had that “visual preparation” prior to engaging in a class discussion.

Thanks Lori and Amy for your hard work. You deserve our support.

Let the games begin!

The 2012 London Olympics may have just ended, but not all the events are finished.

The American International School in Guangzhou is hosting the TechAthalon in the Middle School. TEN technology events, featuring the use of the computer in the classroom, are taking place this week around the school. The goals are to bring students up to speed using the software the school endorses and second, help the kids, new and old, to navigate themselves around the campus at the ‘Olympic’ venues (the cafeteria, gym, library, classrooms, etc.) through the use of QR codes.

The opening ceremonies always set the tone. We started with each of the 18 advisories representing a country. We created a flag tunnel. What amazed me was the excitement generated by the kids as they ran through the tunnel and on to the stage and then into the stands. The Olympic torch was brought in by teams of kids, the Olympic oath was taken by the Student Council president on behalf of the student body, and then the special guests arrived. This year James Bond and the Queen visited AISG to open our games. They made a memory filled entrance! Watch the video to gain and idea of the excitement generated. If the link doesn’t load for you below try going to the TechAthalon Olympics.

TiC … The Lion Dance

Every year in China it is tradition to have a Lion Dance during the New Year celebration. To keep with tradition and culture of our host country, China, the school has a group of local dancers come in and ‘bless’ the school and bring good luck.

Sarah Ting has helped me understand what some of the action taking place means. The lion came through the hallways and then into the gym for a final performance. The dance is said to scare away evil and bring good fortune to the place where it is performed. You’ll also notice the Lion ‘spitting’ out lettuce which is said to bring wealth and a lot of money.

All I can say is that I’m glad I’m not the guy at the back of the lion. He has a lot of bending and weight lifting to do. Watch and enjoy!

Initial Steps: Professional Development

Initial Steps: Professional Development

Ever see someone use a screwdriver like a hammer? Or how about using a pair of pliers to get a screw out of a piece of metal? Do you have a smart phone and use it only as a phone? Too often we put computers in the hands of teachers who know how to use it in a very limited manner. Professional development (PD) is all about helping teachers see the potential of the tool and beginning to move in a direction that takes advantage of this valuable tool.

Recent university graduates that have gone into teaching are really good at using the computer for personal enhancement. However, I have observed that so many of them have not received training as to how to use this tool to enhance and bring the curriculum to life. PD will help bridge the gap that exists from personal to professional use. Each school culture and professional demand a program tailored to his or her ability.

When planning PD, it is important to look at the long-term development of the overall program. We started early planning our PD. We made contact with SUNY of Buffalo N.Y. They allowed us to prepare and tailor a program for our school culture and provided university credit for the participants. We focused on our use of Web 2.0 tools and Moodle. More than 32% of our staff participated in the class; we were quite surprised at their eagerness to learn. The sessions were taught by three of our technology facilitators.

The class was very successful for spurring on the use of technology. An example of this was one of our teachers, David Giles, who has used Etherpad in his IB classes. (

We have also looked to other venues for professional development. We sent out grade 5 teachers and technology facilitator to Shanghai to participate in the Learning 2.010 conference. Most recently we sent the middle school core teachers and technology facilitators on schools tours in Hong Kong. They visited Hong Kong International School, Canadian International School, and King George V School. Attending the 21st Century Learning Conference followed the visits. Next year we are planning to send more teachers to these conferences as well as the Un-Plugged conference at the American School of Bombay (India).

Never will the learning stop. Technology continually changes. Keeping current is always important so that the main thing, learning, remains the main thing.

Initial Steps: The Student Help Desk

It has been coming increasingly important to get students involved in the planning and carrying out of the technology plan. One of the aspects of that plan is how to anticipate and problem solve situations that don’t exist. One person and even one department will have a difficult time keeping up with the task.

Our solution: recruit and train students to help as a first line of defense. We saw this in action at the Hong Kong International School. Myron Buck, the high school technology facilitator shared his ideas with us. Rarely is there a unique problem that a student will incur. For the most part it is a repeat performance.

Time to call in the first line of defense. Starting next week we will begin the training of 6th and 7th grade students in the care and trouble shooting of Mac problems. Our plan it to introduce them to our computer system at school, how the Mac will integrate with the system, and what we would anticipate as common problems. These may include creating shortcuts, printing, losing work, etc.

We’ll start with giving them an identity. We will ask them to give themselves a name. It’s their club so we’ll let them decide … within reason ☺ . Once they have a name it’s time to design t-shirts. This will help them be identified in the fall so others will know whom to look for to help them.

Once school starts in the fall, we will roll out the 300 laptops in the middle school. Their task is two-fold. First, they will need to help teachers and students in classes. The second commitment we ask of them is to man the student help desk located outside the technology repair center. They will be the first stop for students with problems. Hopefully we will have trained them in the basics of Mac and they will be able to thwart a lot of minor problems. What they can’t handle is passed on to the tech department.

Initial Steps: Who’s on First?, the Software and the Platform and Adjustments

The American International School of Guangzhou has historically been a PC school. Previously As we began the process of going 1:1, we needed the approval of the school board. This was an easy sell, we had done our homework. We organized a technology committee with representatives from each of the schools; elementary, middle school and high school. The task of the committee was to decide what the needs of the school would be. This included the grades that would begin 1:1, the type of technology software that would best be used, and then to evaluate which platform and vendor to chose.

Who’s on First?
It was determined we would go 1:1 grades 5 – 12. Our research showed that most schools started with either grade 5 or 6 as the place to begin. Much to the chagrin of the MS and HS, the administration chose to start our 1:1 program with the Grade 5 classes. We have four classes of 22 students in each. Their choice was a good one. The school would purchase and own the laptops used in grade 5. It was determined that we wanted to create a controlled experiment when we started. By starting in grade 5, we are able to test our implementation with our already established infrastructure, keep the laptops at school at all times, and have total control over their use with a smaller group.

Initially we determined to add two grade levels per year, one middle school and one high school. This decision changed however, due to other factors mentioned below.

The Software:
The technology committee was asked how teachers would use the computers. The administration wanted to avoid the $1000 pencil at all costs. How would the technology, laptops in particular, be integrated into the curriculum? We didn’t want to have the computers drive the curriculum, rather, how would they enhance the curriculum. The committee, through research, identified best practices for the integration of computers. They didn’t identify the names of software, rather, the type of software that would be needed. Among those identified were multimedia, presentation, and word processing abilities.

The Platform:
The technology committee put out bids to vendors, both PC and Mac. It should be noted the committee had varied backgrounds; about 35% were Mac users. The Director of Technology as well as the elementary and high school technology facilitators were all PC users. The school presently uses Dell and HP laptop and desktop computers.

Among the different types of software identified they also determined they wanted an on-site repair technician as well as on-going professional development for staff. We invited bids from Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Apple. HP decided to drop out of the bidding. They did not want to provide an on-site technician. Dell and Lenovo gave very good presentations but it was also noted that they had no experience with on-site technicians and on-going professional development. They did put this into their bid.

The committee after listening to all four presentations decided unanimously to go with Apple computer. Their presentation showed us a plethora of integrated software that was created by Apple, for Apple. The integration of the software would be seamless. They are working with more than 24 international schools in China and Hong Kong. They would provide four free sessions of professional development for staff, more if we are willing to pay for it. They would also provide an on-site technician once we had 300+ computers on site.

Adjustments to the Plan:
Once it was decided to go with Apple, we wanted to be sure to have the technician on site. It was then decided to change our roll out time line. Grade 5 is presently 1:1 using HP computers. Second semester we would purchase 90 Macbook computers for grade 5 students and 20 MacBook Pro computers for grade 5 teachers, middle school core teachers, and our tech staff. This change was made so we could have a technician on staff as well as getting the Mac’s into the hands of our middle school staff for six months before the students get theirs. Hopefully the grade 5 teachers will be able to grow with their students.

TiC … Terry Fox Run

TiC … Terry Fox Run

A single dream … a world of hope.

The Terry Fox run is a worldwide event endorsed and sponsored by many Canadian embassies and consulates around the world. I participated in my first run in Peru.

This year is the 30th anniversary of Terry’s death from cancer back in 1980. His right leg was amputated in 1977 after he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, though he continued to run using an artificial leg. It was during this time that Terry decided to raise money for cancer research. In 1980, Terry Fox faced considerable challenges while running the equivalent of a marathon a day for 143 days during his 3,339 mile Marathon of Hope. It was all about effort for Terry. He challenged himself every day with one goal in mind: raise the most money he could to end cancer. I remember following his run across Canada raising money for cancer. Little did I know this would be two years before my own mother would die from lung cancer.

In Guangzhou we had over 7,000 participants and 200 volunteers. All the money raised was donated to cancer research right here in Guangzhou. That’s the great thing about the runs … the money is used locally.

Now it’s your turn. Here are the Terry Fox Run dates for the next three years:
2012  September 16 
2013 September 15
2014 September 14 

TiC … the Olympic Torch Relay

Once in a while a life time event happens when you least expect it. That happened to me today. As we were arriving at school today we noticed several hundred … make that thousands … of police in our area. The closer we came to the school, the more we began to wonder what was going on.

Within a half hour of our arrival, people started arriving in our area. Not a few, hundreds which were then followed by thousands. We work in an extremely quiet area of town … a good five kilometers from civilization. And yet, here was a mass migration worthy of challenging the Masai plain. They were live an army of ants making their way towards us, and then stopping right in front of the school. We came to find out the Olympic torch relay was coming directly in front of the school and a handoff was directly in front. A university, with a population of 10,000, required their students to volunteer to cheer on the torch relay … and they were positioned in front of the American International School.

I can only smile and think TiC … this is Ch**a where thousands of students and people can be moved to celebrate something on this magnitude. In the words of gpdoll, “I never cease to be amazed”. 🙂