Sunday, April 29, 2012

The simplest questions present the greatest mysteries

..and it's the mystery that lasts, not the answer.

I need to provide students with prompt feedback, record someplace semi-permanently the numerical results of assessments,  and keep track in a useable format which students need to re-take which parts of which assessments.  Is there a way of doing all of this that DOESN'T mean I spend 6 hours a day managing student data?  I'm not spending that much time on it now, I'm just doing a really bad job of providing prompt, meaningful feedback.  That makes the other tasks easy.  On the subject of time management, where do I find the time to reflect on my instructional technique, let alone adjust my learning activities, once I have all the data I need to make meaningful decisions?

How can a student practice listening and speaking in another language?  For the reading, vocabulary, and grammar sections of a test, I have all sorts of differentiated practice activites that a student can do on her own time.  On the listening and speaking sections, not so much.  Not good practice; those are the two sections I care most about.

On a related note, since those are the sections I care most about, how can I weight my tests to reflect my educational priorities without destroying my students' GPA, given that the parts I want my students to do best at are traditionally the parts they do worst at, at least at first?

Turning our attention to the English class, how do I instruct satire?  More to the point, how do I know when my students understand satire?  I can imagine giving a test with a question like, "Give an example of satire," but I'd be afraid they would mess with me in their answer.   And if they don't mess with me, doesn't that prove that they don't understand satire?

Despite what my opening statement says, I would really appreciate some insight into these solutions.

And now, for something completely different, I steal somebody else's tech discovery: Time Maps!  It connects the geography of the WHOLE WORLD, plus a timeline of 5000 years, with brief but quite thorough outlines of what's going on in each area at pre-determined points in history.  As someone with a decent memory but more interest in big-picture than detail work, I could never connect what was going on different parts of the world at the same time.  Now, I don't have to.  Someone smart has done it for me and put it on a web site.  It makes it much easier to connect related but disparate events through time and space.  I can easily see having my students do a "tour of the history of the Spanish-speaking countries" as a "when you're done" activity during a computer lab trip.   (h/t iLearn Technology)

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