Monday, November 24, 2008

Applauding Assessment for Learning

Attended an amazing professional development session last week with keynote, Ruth Sutton.  She is an expert in speaking about and supporting assessment for learning.  If you get a chance to hear her, I would highly recommend her as an engaging, informed presenter.  Here is link to a similar presentation that Ruth did earlier this year.

Here was the need-to-know, big 5 principles of assessment: 
  1. “The provision of effective feedback to students
  2. The active involvement of students in their own learning
  3. Adjusting teaching to take account of the results of assessment
  4. Recognition of the profound influence assessment has on the motivation and self-esteem of pupils, both of which are crucial influences on learning
  5. The need for students to be able to assess themselves and understand how to improve”
Personal Connections:
I was able to make a number of connections to the work that I undertake on a daily basis with all the action research learning teams that I facilitate.  Here is how she described the 'changing teaching habits - according to Addiction Theory' (Proshaska).
  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • First step
  • Discomfort and floundering
  • Practice
  • Confidence
  • New habit
  • Coach someone else
As teachers undertake professional inquiry there is definitely a process of changing habits and the middle step commonly called 'implementation dip' which Ruth fits the stage of discomfort and floundering.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Perfect Student Computer

The quest for the perfect student use mobile computer continues.  I'm doing some research for our provincial organization, the Computer Using Educators of British Columbia.  Our goal is to find and then recommend the ideal student computer that performs well in the classroom and it priced at a level that parents (PAC's) or schools can make them a sustainable purchase.

Here is my 'wish list'.
  • A modern operating system that is familiar to students and teachers as well as being supportable in schools.  This has me leaning towards Windows XP or Mac OS X.
  • Good battery life.  An ideal is 5+ hours that matches the school day.
  • Strong performance.  The new Intel processor call the Atom with 1Gb+ of memory is a great combination.
  • Ample storage.  While not a show-stopper as the definition of a netbook is that much of the work will be stored online, a large hard drive allows the computer to become a portable media device for music, video and documents.
  • Webcam.  Capturing video, live Skype calls and podcasting are great ways to enhance student expression.
  • Weight.  I have two children in primary grades.  I don't see them carrying a 5lb computer.  The current 2-3 lb range of the mini series seems suitable.
Here is the table of research








mini 9


Aspire One APA150

Macbook 2.1Gh

mini 1000


Atom 1.6

Atom 1.6

Atom 1.6

Core 2 2.1Ghz



Windows XP

Windows XP

Windows XP







1 Gb



8 Gb


160 Gb

120 Gb



.3 Megapixel

.3 Megapixel





2.28 lb

2.5 lb

2 lb

4.5 lb


battery life

4 hours

5.3 hours

5.5 hr

5 hr









NA in Canada






  • I couldn't find a local distributor for the MSI wind machine although I've seen some good reviews on the machine.
  • Tier 1 manufactures (HP, Dell and Apple) are preferred as they are more accepted by district IT departments.  In this case the HP isn't available yet in Canada, Apple's price and large size excludes it from this list and the Dell is about $100 more than comparable models and has less storage.
  • Seems like the ASUS eeePC has a great value.  It is light, good battery life and lots of memory and storage.  I have used a friends eeePC and found the keyboard cramped and a difficult placement of the right shift key.  Since this device is for children and now my hands this could be a minor irritant for the times when I'm supporting students.
It would be great to hear from others who have researched or used these products.  

Research sites consulted:  PC Magazine review

Monday, November 10, 2008

Teacher Gradebooks

I regularily get asked by teachers and schools for advice on a good, easy to use gradebook for their classes.

In our district there are a number of options in use at various schools.  The most common at the secondary schools is called InteGrade Pro, a product from Pearson.  One of the complains about this product is the very high price for what is essentially a customized spreadsheet.  EasyGrade Pro is another product that is reasonably prices yet is quite limited in functionality.

A third product is rapidly gaining as the preferred option for our teachers.  It is called Engrade. There are a number of advantages of Engrade.  Not only does it work as a good gradebook, it is fully only so there is no saving files and transfering them home and back to school.  In additions, it has the ability to create a student login where they can see only their own marks rather than the spreadsheet for the whole class.  One caution with Engrade is that the website has been down and unavailable on occasion.  There is an option to export your entire gradebook as an excel file, it is always an excellent idea to create a backup of your work!

Feel free to pass the document along to other eductors.  Let me know if there are other products that you use.