UAS Work

My UAS technology course required me to complete several different projects and post them online. I see no reason to remove these projects from my blog, but I have consolidated them into a single tab for reference.

AnthroTech

The "AnthroTech" assessment assigned by my class asked each MAT student to evaluate technology use and policies at their school.

The assignment aimed to have the MAT students work as anthropologists in seeking to understand the nature of their schools' technology cultures, discovering what technology the schools have, who uses it and why, who the technology leaders are, what policies and standards guide technology’s use, what customs and rituals are observed in relation to using technology, and how technology and digital citizenship are viewed in the schools' culture.

My personal experience with this assignment was that it first led me to reflect on my time as a student at Ketchikan High School years ago. In some ways, technology use at Kayhi did not seem much different for students today than it was for me: The nature and frequency of computer lab usage, for example, seemed to be about the same. There were new technologies present, such as Mimio, SMART boards, and document readers, but in some ways their most common uses seemed unnecessary: The technology of the white board would be adequate to accomplish many of the same essential tasks.

That having been said, the assignment also led me to discover a great deal of change afoot in the school district related to technology. The school district's technology plan had quite a vision for the future of Ketchikan students' relationships with technology both in and out of the classroom. Take a look at the questionnaire I answered for more details, and if you happen to know that I stated anything there incorrectly, let me know!

Digital Storytelling

For one project, I was required to create some piece of storytelling media. I decided to tell the story of how American merchant ships traveled to Lingít Aaní (what is now Southeast Alaska) in the 1780s and 1790s, just after the birth of the United States.

I entitled the piece "Who Were the Waashdan Ḵwáan?" ("Waashdan Ḵwáan" is the Tlingit name for "Americans," and the first part of the video gives hints to the students until they guess who the Waashdan Ḵwáan are.)

Here's the YouTube link to the final video I produced.

Please read my reflection on the experience, and take a look at my preliminary script and two-column story table, as well as my story map, all of which I used to plan the project:


My information source for the project was work I did for my thesis, Lingít ḵa Waashdan Ḵwáan, the Tlingit and the Americans: Interactions and Transformations, 1856-1896. My image sources are either noted in the video, or they come from the University of Washington Libraries or Wikimedia Commons.

Tech IEP

Another project required that I pursue an IEP—an individualized education project—related to use of educational technology. I based my IEP on using Sporcle.com in the classroom, which I did in two world history classes in October 2013.

Using Sporcle in the Classroom

Three years ago I began playing quizzes on Sporcle, (http://www.sporcle.com/), a website devoted to the fun of online trivia questions. From the get-go, the educational potential of Sporcle was clear: Students at my college used countless geography quizzes to prepare for their requisite “map of the world” exam. In a high school history class, however, the most effective use of the website is less clear: Where the uses of Sporcle for individual study at home appear obvious, creating a collective educational experience proves more difficult. I set out to apply Sporcle to two periods of world history as a one-day review activity. The experience yielded mixed results that I’ve learned from and intend to improve on in the future.

Teacher X is one of my mentor teachers this year. He teaches world history largely through focusing on key terms that students write note cards on to repeatedly study. Unit exams then consist of open-ended questions where the only answers are key terms. The day I subbed for Teacher X mid-October was a Friday before a unit exam the following Tuesday, so I was charged with leading the students through review activities. The students were already used to a few review games, so I intended to plan for a different sort of activity.

Before Friday, I reserved a computer lab for my classes and laid out a plan: I wrote my own quiz (http://www.sporcle.com/games/Akhoya/unit-1-3-terms) on the course material, which I intended to serve as an introduction to Sporcle for the students and an example for them to model their own quizzes on. I had already learned how to make quizzes myself from years of playing Sporcle, but teaching students to create their own quizzes in a short amount of time would prove a more difficult challenge. I set an objective of having each student create one quiz, using Sporcle’s tools for doing so. Then the student would share their quiz with everyone else in the class, and spend the rest of their time playing all the other students’ quizzes. I expected that this would provide for a nice mix of teacher-directed and student-directed interaction with the course content using these online tools. I imagined that some of the students might continue to use Sporcle to study for the exam even after class was over.

In practice, my plans did not flow as smoothly as I expected. All of the students seemed quite willing to try a computer-based review activity, but by the end of each period, many of the students in each class had not created their own quizzes. The students all worked and played through Sporcle at very different speeds: Some played the quiz I had created many times over, trying to perfect it and complete it in the least amount of time possible. Others did create their own quizzes, but only after spending considerable time figuring out how to use the quiz creator tool. Some students were distracted by Sporcle’s other offerings, and I caught them playing quizzes on sports trivia. A few students did create high-quality quizzes and played several of their peers’ quizzes. Overall, however, results were highly varied compared to the generally uniform experiences of the previously employed note card-based review games.

From one perspective, the ability of different students to utilize Sporcle as they wanted and at their own speed represents a form of differentiated instruction. To some extent, I believe this characterization is true: If students decided to repeatedly play the quiz I had created until they perfected it, that was a legitimate, student-directed choice. At the same time, though, I failed to provide direct instruction on how to create a quiz on Sporcle, which left many students lost when they came to that point or wasted their time while they waited for me to assist them.

One downside to the quiz I created was that it requires correct spelling of the answers. My quiz mimicked Teacher X’s tests insofar as there were no multiple-choice options of answers, but on the actual test students are not penalized for spelling, as long as their intent is understood. On the quiz, all possible correct answers had to be inputted by me, meaning that I would have to type all the possible permutations of every answer in order to accommodate the students’ creative spellings. Clearly, I did not do that. Another downside of this structure was that if a student spelled an answer wrong while creating their own quiz, other students playing the quiz later would find the question virtually impossible to answer—at least at first. Thus, many students took my quiz many times to learn all the correct spellings of the answers, and then took their peers’ quizzes multiple times, in some cases having to learn their peers’ misspellings of the answers.

Fortunately, at least one student discovered an alternative quiz style offered by Sporcle on his own, entirely without my prompting: He found that quizzes can also be created where all the correct answers are displayed in front of the player; the player merely needs to click the correct answer from all the choice provided when looking at each question—like a “word bank” on many paper tests. Once this student shared his new type of quiz with the class, his peers mastered it quickly. Some students seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day’s activities, whether they mastered one quiz playing it a dozen times or spent most of their time making their own quiz as complicated and detailed as possible.

In the future, I believe I need to guide all of the students through creating a quiz at the same time, at least at first, so I can be sure each student will create one and will know how to use that tool. I should also explicitly note the pros and cons of each type of Sporcle quiz—the typing ones that require correct spelling and the clickable ones that show all the correct answers. Neither type of quiz exactly replicates the experience of the world history classes’ tests, but having students practice both types should lead to good practice with the content. I also clearly need to use a tool for instantly sharing links with all the students. Embarrassingly, I had not planned for sharing links beforehand, and I ultimately typed URLs on my computer, projected it at the front of the classroom, and had the students copy them. A live-updated Google document shared with all the students would undoubtedly be a far more efficient way to get everyone to the same site, as all or almost all Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District students today are provided with Google-supported email accounts that come with Google Apps.

Over the next few months, I will likely take over Teacher X’s world history courses through multiple units of content. In that context, I can plan to retry Sporcle as an integrated class review that the students can use consistently through each unit—rather than as an ad hoc activity for one day the main teacher isn’t present. Sporcle shows promise as a tool for students to create their own assessments, share them with each other, and test themselves as they prefer, both in and out of school. My own planning and management of Sporcle use in the classroom will require some refinement, including direct instruction on quiz creation, more efficient link sharing, and preventing students from getting distracted. Sports trivia can be fun, but it has no place in a history class learning about ancient Egypt.

Examples of student-created quizzes:

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