Evaluating evaluating.

Assessing and evaluating students could be the most difficult aspect of teaching.  Luckily, with the following resources and the advent of learning analytics and catalytics that can offer personalized learning and immediate feedback (TEDx Talks, 2013), the process is becoming easier.

Assessing Creativity:

In Wiggins’ 2012 blog post on assessing creativity, he states “If rubrics are sending the message that a formulaic response on an uninteresting task is what performance assessment is all about, then we are subverting our mission as teachers.”  When I first started teaching, I struggled with using rubrics, as I felt I was essentially turning all creative endeavors into fill in the blank tasks in which I was still determining the outcome of the student work – essentially turning it into a search and find for information.  While they were gaining practice in finding and evaluating sources of information, I still felt as though true learning of the content was missing.  In the following year, I did not use a rubric and while the creativity aspect improved, the content then was missing and the quality was variable.  Through these experiences, I realized that the problem was not in using a rubric, but rather in using a poor rubric that did not account for creativity.  With some adjustments to making the rubric more open ended, I sought balance between the two – afterall, as noted by Bransford, Brown, and Cocking (2000) foundational knowledge is necessary for transfer to occur.  Wiggins has an interesting rubric for measuring creativity that can be adapted to fit into current rubrics.

A Sum Greater than the Parts:

Furthermore, in Gee’s 2008 interview Grading with Games, he notes that experiences help to contextualize new information for students and emphasizes that need for learners to work in collaborative settings that are more indicative of how they will solve problems outside of academia.  To this end, he states that groups should be “smarter than the smartest person” in the group.  It is essential that we help students identify their strengths – and weaknesses – in order for them to realize how to contribute and collaborate effectively in teams.  Intellect alone is not enough, as that intellect has to be applied and shared to create an impact.

Ready, Action:

Taking these aspects into account, I have been working to reevaluate my former grading scheme – previously based on tests, labs, and homework – which was neither creative nor telling of skills actually acquired/improved throughout the year.  Rather, I think it may be better to assign a metric based on foundational knowledge, communication, and creativity in application.

Time to hash out some rubrics to see if this scheme works….


Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

Edutopia. (2008) James Paul Gee on Grading with Games. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU3pwCD-ey0

TEDx Talks. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg.

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/


MakerEd. At a glance.

Infographics.  LOVE. THEM.

It seems that infographics are used everywhere now.  What better way to convey an immense amount of meaning in a very short amount of time while transcending language barriers?  And what better way to sum up what we have learned in CEP 811?

My infographic is streamlined to  convey the differences between Maker Education and Traditional Education by focusing on the benefits of Maker Education as rooted in learning theory (Bransford, Brown &Cocking, 2000) and TPACK (Mishra & Koheler, 2008).  Maker Education prepares students for life in an increasingly collaborative, innovative and global society in which they will need to construct and apply meaning each and every day.






Bransford, J.D., Brown, A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school. National Academies Press. Retrieved from http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?isbn=0309070368.

ISTE Standards for Students. (n.d.). Retrieved August 12, 2016, from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/for-students-2016

Mishra, P., & Koheler, M. (2008). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy. Retrieved August 11, 2016, from https://vimeo.com/39539571

TEDx Talks. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. [Video File]. Retrieved August 11, 2016 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0uAuonMXrg.

A good long look.

In order to connect physical learning space with educational experience, this week in CEP 811 we read Barrett, Zhang, Moffat, and Kobbacy’s (2013) A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning, and then used SketchUp** to reimagine our own classroom spaces.  Check out the current space as of this past week,and my SketchUp of its hopeful future for the start of the academic year.  (The wall of windows certainly gives beautiful natural light – although I had to close them to get a good picture! – so I rarely have to use the overhead lights – I think Barrett et. al.  (2013) would approve!)

Sketchup Classroom

My classroom has undergone a substantial shift in the last few years and continues to evolve.  When I first started teaching, the desks were predominantly in rows facing the front board and while students gained valuable content knowledge, I feared that they were not gaining 21st century skills that would allow for transfer of that knowledge.  Ever since, I have continually sought ways in which I could better the space for more meaningful learning.  Here are the transformations that my room has undergone:

  1. Pod it up!
    • My earliest change was to arrange students in ‘pods’ of 4-5 desks so that they could collaborate with each other and ‘talk it out’ when solving problems.  This works great for discussion based classes and allows students to see both the front and back boards of the room.  The downside is that the desks were still very cumbersome and noisy to move (they had the attached seat and were quite heavy!).
  1. Visualize and Share Thoughts
    • To better improve communication and give students a way to lead their podmates through thought processes, I lobbied for department funds to purchase 2 portable double-sided whiteboards to roll in between pods.  (Ideal I usually have 4 pods.)  The size of the boards (2×3) is large enough to accommodate concept mapping and problem solving, but not so large that they become a visual nuisance to navigate through the room.  This idea came from the Node video.
  2. Go Zen
    • Some students experience anxiety when it comes to Math and Science, as they have preconceived notions of its difficulty.  To reduce this worry and make the room more welcoming I made some changes based on the advice of a coworker who researched positive energy in classroom spaces.  First, I moved my desk away from the line of sight when students first walk into the room, as it is linked to power and authority, and instead placed a cozy seating arrangement on the wall opposite the entrance.   The rug and furniture are all repurposed from my home, and the students love the colors of the fabrics – sure enough, they are warm colors that coincide with the research of Barrett et. al. (2013).
  3. Get Rolling
    • The next and very very very exciting change for my room in the 2016-2017 classroom is to get rid of those old clunky desks and instead have the more adaptive Node chairs.  These are quite costly and a number of discussions occurred with my Administration on their utility, but when I visited my classroom this summer, the old desks were gone (note the lack of chairs in the pictures above) so with any luck come August I will have a remarkably modernized learning environment for the students!

Looking ahead…the wall space (though minimal because of the windows, lab storage, and whiteboards) is predominantly white.  Only the ‘front’ wall is colored green.  A creative mural of sorts may be lovely on the half wall that divides the lab space from the classroom…


Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on on pupils’ learning. Building and Environment, 59, 678-689. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2012.09.016

**A note on SketchUp….this program is incredibly sensitive and difficult to use without a mouse!  Also make sure you have accurate room measurements (I did not) to help with furniture positioning.**

A picture is worth a thousand words.

No, really.  With the use of multi-modal sources and infographics on the rise, and the ability of visuals to transcend language barriers, visual literacy is increasingly important. Going back to incorporating Chibilights into the Chemistry curriculum, I have designed this lesson that enhances students’ visual literacy using LED stickers.  This lesson incorporates aspects from physics (we follow a Physics First curriculum) and art theory, allowing for cross-disciplinary conversation and meta-analysis of how and why information is included in a visual.  Essentially, students create a sketchbook of visual aids throughout the year to contextualize topics covered in Chemistry.  Discussion and presentation of these visuals not only help to solidify content understanding, thereby supporting transfer of ideas, but also, it opens the door for a deeper look at how visuals in the text and online sources convey information.

Another great aspect of the lesson…it can be tailored to any subject area!  Enjoy!