Teacher of the Month: Melissa Christensen

We are so excited to present our first Teacher of the Month of the 2016-17 school year: Melissa Christensen! Melissa is a fabulous math teacher who teaches at Lamar Louise Middle School in Miami, Florida.

Read on to learn about Melissa, our August Teacher of the Month, and how she uses Edcite in her school.

I am married with one child who is off to college this fall. When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, watching Marlins baseball, and cheering on the Florida State University Seminoles. I am in my 12th year of teaching Middle School Math (6th through Algebra, Regular, Advanced, IB, and Gifted students in blended classes).

Mel 2What do you teach?

I currently teach with a co-teacher in a technology infused middle grades math class called iPrep Math. Our curriculum is computer based and we follow a project based learning format where students are encouraged to work individually or in small groups. My job is to facilitate learning by addressing the needs of individual students.

WMel 1hy did you become a teacher?

I have a BA in International Relations and a M.P.A. I decided to teach math because I remember how hard it was for me and I felt that I could empathize with students and give them confidence that they could succeed.

How did you hear about Edcite?

I heard about Edcite through an email that I happened to open…the email talked about computer based test questions, and I knew that would fit perfectly into my class and help my students prepare for the new FSA Florida state exam.

Mel 4How do you use Edcite in the classroom? What aspects make you most “Edcited” about Edcite?

I like the variety of Edcite questions. I like the variety of reports that can help me better use the data to help my students. I am impressed with their customer service as they are always available. Also, I am using Edcite to make our district Topic Exams more closely resemble the FSA.

Final Words of Wisdom for other Edcite Users? :)

The software is powerful, but there is a “learning curve.”  Do not give up, and don’t hesitate to contact hello@edcite.com because they are ready and willing to help.

Meet the Edcite Team: Intern Edition

We’re excited to share a new monthly series: Meet the Edcite Team! Each month we will feature a different member of our team by asking them a set of questions.

This month we are featuring our fabulous summer intern Maya Ravichandran. Read on to meet Maya!

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Where do you go to school? What are you studying? 

I go to University of Southern California, or USC, and I’m studying Computer Science.

What brought you to Edcite?

I loved that Edcite gives teachers an opportunity to improve students’ learning experience and gives them a free and easy way to do it. I really connected with the mission, and being a part of this team is definitely rewarding.

Tell us about what you’ve been working on during your internship.

I have been creating new question types for teachers to use in their assignments! Specifically, I created a drawing question type where students can draw their answers. I am also working on a drawing and vocabulary game.

Which teacher in school had the most impact on you and why?

shutterstock_311465798.jpgI would say my newspaper advisor had the most impact on me. My favorite and most memorable experience in high school was working for three years on the newspaper staff. My advisor was always open to talk and gave excellent advice. He was an excellent teacher and perfected the balance between leading and allowing students to run the newspaper independently.

show don't tellDo you have any advice for teachers about how students want to learn today?

Students don’t want to just be presented with information. For me, in order to fully understand something, I have to be completely immersed in it. In other words, show not tell. The more interactive and hands-on a student’s learning experience is, the better he or she remembers it in the future. I still remember all the quiz tournaments and group projects, but all the Powerpoint lectures start to fade quickly.

What is your favorite movie or book? Why?

My favorite books are both by Khaled Hosseini: The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. He writes so beautifully, and his stories are so heartbreaking and haunting.

Do you have a favorite quote?

One of many favorite quotes: “Sometimes remembering will lead to a story, which makes it forever. That’s what stories are for. Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.” – Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

shutterstock_383833837.jpgWhich is the better half: Northern or Southern California? 

This is a hard one! I go to school in Southern California, but I was born and raised in the Bay Area. I’m going have to say Northern California because I’ve got to stay true to my roots.🙂

Name three things you can’t live without.

1) My phone. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can survive without it, literally and figuratively.

2) Music. It’s the best way to relax and focus.

3) Chocolate. No explanation needed.

Thank you, Maya, for all that you’ve done this summer as an Edcite intern! 

Stay tuned for Maya’s drawing question type on Edcite, and be sure to check back next month to meet another member of the Edcite team!

Improving the Quality of the Feed: Electronic Common Assessments

Educational assessment articles and books across this country in the last five years have referenced hogs, chickens, and cows. The question has been if you want a healthier animal, do you weigh it more often or do you improve the quality of the feed?  It has been continually suggested for the last decade that improving our students’ achievement requires breaking the pattern of being data-rich but information-poor.

However, assessments were just being given and were taking up valuable instructional time when we weren’t doing anything with the data. (2)This has been the case in my district over the last few years.  We were using an outside vendor to track student progress and doing a great job at weighing students.  However, assessments were just being given and were taking up valuable instructional time when we weren’t doing anything with the data. Add a number of parents who refused to have their students take these assessments and we had an assessment system that wasn’t working for anyone!

As Director of Educational Services, it was my number one priority this last year to build capacity in my staff to convert data to information that gives teachers tools needed to probe for causes where students are underperforming or exceeding expectations, analyze conditions that contribute to various trends of student achievement, and develop intervention and enrichment strategies to support these analyses.

Interventionand Enrichment

In relationship to the educational shifts required in the academic content standards for our state, I spent considerable time developing assessments created by my teachers that function from an evidence-centered design (see the embedded image for more information on this type of design).  Evidence-centered design begins with inferences that we want to make about student learning connected to standards and follows with a collection of evidence (i.e., an assessment) that shows how we know that students are making progress toward doing what we claim they can do.

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I knew that if I was to get buy-in from staff on utilizing the data to drive instruction, we had to create our own assessments. From my perspective, this meant that we either had to learn how to write good questions quickly or find them from vetted resources.  Utilizing resources from Achieve the Core and Illustrative Mathematics and doing some work with assessment blueprinting, we created assessments on Edcite that my principals and I felt were worthy of kids’ time and that would also provide us with valuable information with which to adjust instruction.

However, assessments were just being given and were taking up valuable instructional time when we weren’t doing anything with the data. (4).jpg

Edcite’s new platform Edcite Schools fit our needs as it was cost-effective, allowed us to generate reports in a number of ways (standards-based, classroom-based, student-based, etc.), and allowed our teachers to provide feedback to students via the electronic platform. The system allowed us to search through question banks that we vetted using an assessment vetting tool on Achieve the Core. It also had the extra advantage of being able to be customized to give students experience in a viewer very similar to our state’s assessment system, AIR.

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After we administered our first assessment, we met in grade level teams to analyze results. Utilizing the reports in Edcite Schools and following a data-protocol, where we set norms, focused on what students can do, what students were struggling with, and trends amongst assessments, we were able to have the professional conversation about how we were going to improve our instruction. The quality of the feed improved and we saw growth amongst students from assessment-to-assessment.

However, assessments were just being given and were taking up valuable instructional time when we weren’t doing anything with the data. (6).jpg

Fast-forward to June, which in my state is every curriculum director’s nightmare: the release of state achievement data. I learned that the work that we did with Edcite Schools actually was predicative.  When I compared our internal Edcite Schools data to our state achievement data, with a 99% predicative accuracy, I was able to determine which students were in danger of not meeting grade-level benchmarks.  We are now data rich.

As we plan for the following year, it is crucial that we start to utilize the information that we are collecting consistently to further plan interventions to help our students who are struggling. I know, as do my teams, that there are going to be mistakes. Will we have it 100% right next year? No. The key is to plan the administration of the assessment knowing that we have to do better for our students with whatever data comes back. They deserve it so that we can consistently focus on the feed rather than than weighing.

Bryan Drost_Edcite Blog

Bryan R. Drost is the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the ESC of Summit County, Ohio. He holds a Master’s of Education in Educational Foundations with an emphasis in Standards-Based instruction as well as a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction and Assessment both from Kent State. Bryan holds a variety of roles at the state and national levels: chairperson for the Ohio Foreign Language Association Technology Integration Committee, an ODE Network Regional Leader, a member of ODE’s Fairness and Test Use Committee, a steering committee member of the Northeast Ohio TALK Network, a RESA master coder, a national supervisor for edTPA, a consultant for the National Board, part of NCME’s Standards and Test Use Committee, one of Ohio’s Core Advocates, and a Batelle for Kids Roster Verification trainer. He has presented throughout the state and country on various topics related to instructional shifts, assessment, and technology integration. 

 

Easy Summer Planning with Edcite’s Social Pages

Easy Summer Planning (3)

You switch off the classroom lights and turn in your key. Then you rev up your car’s engine and hit the road. Summer! Summer is time for decompression, whether that means watching Netflix, reading some good books, or getting out and enjoying the warm weather.

We know how important it is for teachers to have this time to recharge. We also know that teachers spend part of the summer planning ahead for the next school year. Thankfully, we can help make the planning process easy!

Our new Social Pages allow you to easily organize and find the best assignments for your new classes in the fall. Read on for three ways to use the Social Pages.

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My Profile

On this page, you can showcase collections of your favorite Edcite assignments. Organize your collections by month, unit, topic, or however you plan your lessons. After you’ve created a great collection, share it with other teachers!

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Featured Collections

On this page, you’ll find dozens of Edcite-recommended assignment collections. Follow your favorite collections and make copies of assignments to send to students in the fall. When you follow this social page you’ll be notified when a new set of Featured Collections appears!

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Discover Teachers

Search for teachers at your school or in your state. Follow teachers and their collections, and easily make copies of assignments.

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Discover Teachers

See how easy it is to plan ahead for the next school year? Now you’ll have even more time to head to the beach, hang with your friends, binge watch your favorite show, and get in that much-deserved relaxation!

Did you make an awesome collection? Share the link with us, and your collection may be featured!

Find us on  twitter1  fb1  ig1.png  pin1  google1

Women of Edcite

Women of Edcite

Too ofOnly 25 Percent GIFten, women find themselves the minority voice in a crowded office. According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, in 2015 women made up only 25% of the computing workforce in the US, and less than 10% were women of color. There comes a point in the constant conversation about inequity, that you begin to wonder is this narrative changing at all?

It is so important to acknowledge the realities of challenges that women, and in particular women of color, face in the work force, but it is also important to highlight where progress is being made and hear from women and companies working to change the status quo. Edcite has prioritized equity in education technology, from the products we offer to the teams and work culture we are building. In fact, women make up the majority of our team. Take the next few minutes to read about the Women of Edcite, and their thoughts on gender equity and working as a woman in tech!

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View the women’s full responses – Women of Edcite Interviews

Where We Stand  

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Make the First Step

Priya_Indumathi GIFIf you are a woman interested in working in the tech industry, consider taking a free online class or joining an organization that supports women like you! Here are three places to start:

  1. Code Academy
  2. Lean In
  3. Women in Technology International

In the Classroom

Because Edcite is an educational technology company, we understand how important it is to begin these conversations in the classroom. Here are two assignments that teach students about gender equality in the tech industry.

Elementary Assignment – Girlpreneurs

In this ELA assignment, students will read an article about a contest for 5th-9th grade girls called “The 54-Hour Startup Weekend.” At the end, students will be asked to come up with their own technology product.

Middle School Assignment – Bridging the Tech Gender Gap

In this ELA assignment, students will watch a video about Girls Who Code and reflect on the tech gender gap.

Join the Conversation 

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Want to be part of the conversation? Tag #WomenofEdcite on social media!

Find us on  twitter1  fb1  ig1.png  pin1  google1

 

Olympians Who Persevered Playlist

The third playlist in our Olympic Games series focuses on assignments that teach students about perseverance! Students will learn about Olympians who faced great obstacles but never gave up. These are the perfect assignments to give as the school year closes and the Rio Olympics approach. Also, in case you missed our first two Olympics playlists, you can check them out here and here.

Never Give Up (2)

Elementary

  Lower Elementary: “Olympian Never Gives Up

In this assignment, students will watch a heartwarming video and answer interactive math, science, social studies, and ELA questions.

Lower Elementary: Kerri Strug and the Vault

In this assignment,  students will watch a video about an unforgettable moment in Olympic history and answer interactive math, science, social studies, and ELA questions.

Middle School

ELA: “Olympic Hero Jesse Owens

In this assignment, students will analyze an ESPN article about obstacles Olympian Jesse Owens faced in 1936.

Math: “MS Math Olympics Assignment – Perseverance

Students will analyze Jesse Owens’ amazing performances and solve problems related to speed and distance.

High School

ELA: “Understanding the Power of the Paralympic Movement”

After watching a video and reading two articles, students will summarize the Paralympic movement and analyze the way in which the athletic events are impacting society at large.

Math:HS Math Olympics Assignment – Will It Happen Again?

Students will analyze probability questions about how likely it is to win a gold medal at the Olympics.  

shutterstock_371636536Pass the torch! Did one of our Olympics assignments catch your eye? Share one with a fellow teacher by sending them the link!

 

DIS Insight: Digital Assessment & Edcite (Part 2 of 2)

Click here to read Part 1 of this post, where Alexander Clarkson discusses the challenges teachers face when giving regular formative assessments and feedback.

Smal bit of feedbackA solution

I don’t have the answer, but I have an answer: next generation digital assessment. My teaching emphasized writing as assessment because I was suspicious of structured response items like multiple-choice, true/false, or matching. They felt less like authentic thinking tasks and more like artificial hoops that practically beg students to cheat or use test-taking skills to trump thinking skills. But, what if I could reduce the amount of writing grading that I faced by replacing those bulky assessments with next generation digital tasks that required authentic thinking skills, properly challenged students to master those skills, and provided formative feedback necessary for modification of instruction? And what if that approach graded itself?

The idea is simple. We can now develop digital assessment models that automatically grade while providing students with challenging, authentic skills practice. We must move away from multiple-choice question types to those that present thinking challenges that cannot be “gamed,” but will accurately provide data on a student’s ability to perform a skill, with that data indicating how to proceed.

Let me give an example. I wrote an item last year to prepare students for Ohio’s state tests, which were being administered by Pearson’s PARCC platform for the first time. In trying to prepare students for these new tests, I had nearly no practice material, so I collaborated with another teacher to write original material based on PARCC approaches. This particular item was based on an excerpt from Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (wonderful little book; check it out) in which the protagonist, a 14 year-old girl named Tricia, finds herself lost after fainting on the Appalachian Trail. The question gave the students six statements about events that happen in the novel before the excerpt presented in the assessment. Students had never read that part. They had to arrange the statements into the correct order. Students had to use causal and inferential reasoning to accurately arrange the statements. In the excerpt, the girl had just woken up from a faint, so the statement “Tricia faints” was logically the last event before the excerpt. The student would move backward from there.

Ordered List Question
Edcite order list response item for Stephen King’s The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

I’m using this item as an example because it shows the type of assessment item I am now looking to repeat. It requires skills that I actually want students to develop, causal and inferential reasoning, not test-gaming with multiple-choice or matching questions. It is replicable for another passage, which means I can re-write the question with different content and give more opportunities to practice the skills. And, best of all, it will be automatically graded. All I need to do is assign it, let the students complete it, review the data, and modify instruction. The grading burden drops to nearly zero. Sure, the assessment creation takes time, but less time than grading, and assessment creation can be shared collaboratively with teachers throughout buildings or an entire district, thus reducing the time needed even further.

Empower Teacher Quote

This is where I was when Edcite came into my life. I knew what I wanted to do, but I was struggling with the perfect platform to accomplish it. As a Google user, I stuck with Forms graded through Flubaroo, but Forms was never designed for educators. It works just fine for multiple-choice questions, but designing this Stephen King question in Forms led to a student experience that was basically clunky. I suspected that students may not be able to complete the question well because of its awkward presentation. Edcite, however, offers an order list response item type, which allowed me to create the question as a user friendly drag and arrange item. It worked perfectly. After looking at it, I reviewed other items in the same assignment, which were mostly traditional multiple-choice and multiple-select items, and chided myself for not creating more of these rigorous and authentic challenges for my students. Empowered by Edcite, I’m excited to design more.

And what will those items look like? How about having students watch a compilation of movie clips and then sort quotes based on the type of figurative language? How about asking them to graph a quadratic equation or use a math keyboard to answer a word problem? Or maybe asking them to click on sections of a map when asked questions like “Identify the compass rose” or label a blank map of Mesopotamia? No multiple-choice to provide assistance. Just the student’s ability (or lack thereof). How about asking students to highlight statements from the novel The Valley of Fear to answer a question about irony? All of this automatically graded. Just design the assessment, assign it, and modify instruction based on the data. It’s just like setting up that robot pitcher.

That’s why Edcite is such an incredible gift to teachers. Instead of offering a handful of question types and limited ability to customize, Edcite offers (at the time of this writing) 74 question types. I have discussed only five or six here. Most questions allow for customization including the embedding of images, videos, sound files, links, and more. With a little creative thought and focus on effective learning challenges, a teacher could use this platform to completely redesign assessment in a way that would provide repeated opportunities for authentic skills practice. Oh, and without the crushing burden of grading.

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Various Question Types available on Edcite.com

I’m an English teacher. I will always grade essays, and my students will always work hard to improve those vital communication and critical thinking skills, but by embracing next generation assessment approaches, I do not need to only grade essays. I can develop a library of assessments that will sharpen a wide range of skills without the constant crush of grading.

It’ll just be that kid and me, her in the cage, me watching from outside. A pitch and a miss, followed by a few words. Another pitch, another miss. More words. Some demonstration. Another pitch, and CRACK! A slam threatening to punch a hole in the net.

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Clarkson Profile PicAlexander Clarkson is currently the digital instruction specialist for Sylvania Schools, where he helps teachers include innovative instructional strategies in their classrooms as they move to full 1:1 implementation. Just last year, though, Alex finished a sixteen-year tenure of teaching that included English language arts, philosophy, and film studies at the college, high school, and junior high school levels. When he’s not thinking about digital instruction, Alex marvels at his two-year-old’s abilities with a tablet and his fifteen year-old’s abilities with a drum kit.