28 Jan 09 Marking Tests

When I wasn’t at a Peace Corps meeting or at the beach I spent all my time during school break marking tests. Along the way I learned a few dis tings. I learned what I didn’t teach the students. What was wrong with my test. And the problems that can arise giving a practical in a computer lab. There were 4 things the majority of the students didn’t learn last term. The first was file management. I would be exaggerating if I said 20 students out of the 225 I have knew how to save a file in a folder other than the default save folder. I know why. I tried to teach this concept and put it into practice in one double period. I tried to teach the idea of file browser and the organization of files on the computer. I also tried to teach creating a file within the file folder tree. Last I tried to teach saving into that file. It was way too much and even in the class I knew it was way too much. But for the test I thought they could at least find their class folder and save. I realize when marking the tests I was wrong. So it’s back to the drawing board or chalk board this term. Sara gave me two great ideas for visuals. She used actual file folders, letters, and pictures to illustrated the difference between folders and files. She also used boxes to show the nesting effect of the file browser. Yea talking to other PCVs helps pa pa paaa! I think I will also have them draw the file folder tree from the file browser. Then we will move on in baby steps. Since I knew I did a miserable job teaching file management I didn’t deduct points if a student couldn’t save in their class folder. Instead I gave those few who could extra credit. The next thing I learned is that even when I teach in baby steps the class moves much slower than I expect. I think I did a good job presenting formatting text. I spent a double class period lecturing about formatting. Then we moved into the lab for the next double class period. I gave the students a poem from their WASSCE (a test all Form 3 high school students take to be placed in university.). The copy i printed was formatted in a certain way. I had a copy on the computer. Each group of students was to format the poem on the computer like the printed one. I thought using one of those poems would also help them become familiar with something they needed in another class. In one class there were six students per computer. Some students hung back. Others didn’t give up the keyboard. And there were so many questions I could not pay attention to who was on what computer. So many students didn’t get hands on time on the computer. I would estimate that about 35% of the students could do all the formatting on the test and another 25% could do some. I hope to fix this problem by breaking students into two groups in each class. Then at most there will be three students on a computer. Each group will get 40 minutes in the computer lab during a double period. I have also chosen some team leaders. They will need some encouragement and coaching but I think they can help me in the lab. I have also decided to spend more time on one topic. I would rather have them learn a few dis tings well then many badly. I didn’t even think to teach them to follow instructions. Silly me. I have worked with the public for how many years? I bet all my librarian friends who are reading this are thinking of photocopiers. No matter how well marked they are. No matter how big the signs people still don’t or can’t or wont’ read. It’s a common human condition not to read instructions. And on top this common human condition I have to add that they may not understand the written English. My English is different from theirs. English is their second or third or even forth language so reading it may be hard. There are many reasons why I should have thought to get them familiar with my instructions. So this term I have created a series of exercises for them to do that emphasis following instructions. I hope the exercises will be fun. I did a word play where they are given a word and through a series of letter changes to that word they end up with a new word. I had them do some math on their age, I made a MadLib etc. I will use these exercises at the beginning of class or to make a break in long lectures. This system of education relies heavily on memorization for teaching and learning. Take the formatting tool bar for example. Many teachers here draw every icon and label then define the function. The students are then supposed to memorize. But there are many flaws in this system. What brand of software do you use? What if the student encounters another brand of software? How will they transfer that specific knowledge to the more general. What happens when the versions change? What happens if the school or work place customizes the tool bar? I decided to teach them how to find out what the icon means. I taught them roll over or hover help. By placing the cursor over the icon the function of the icon will appear. This is almost universal across any type of application regardless of brand or version. And it works on other computer icons as well. It is also a tool they can use to explore on their own. I can’t tell them the function of every icon on every tool bar. There is not enough time in the school year for that alone! I designed one question to see if students could use the hover help. The whole form missed this question. Ok two students did it. One of them teaches ICT at an Internet cafe in Navarongo the other is a computer savant! Why? First I only talked about hover or rollover help and exploring on your own. It was just blah blah blah. People don’t learn by someone talking at them. They learn by doing. Second I have to remember that my students are not expected to discover knowledge on their own. They have been taught since K1 that the teacher has the knowledge and they are supposed to receive it. And last it will take more than one term to encourage them that they can discover knowledge on their own. So now how do you design a teacher made exercise to encourage students to discover knowledge on their own! Whew what an oxymoron. I talked to other PCVs. Lenore suggested that I just tell them to hit 10 keys and write down what the keys do. Ok. Open labs will help so I am offering more this term. I have the first assigned learn on your own for week 3. The students are supposed to find three ways to save a file. If you who are reading have any ideas I would love to read your thoughts. I also learned that the design of the test was flawed. The test was weighted very heavily on formatting. About 25% of the grade came from formatting. Actually logging, opening programs, saving a file, naming a file and following instructions were also equal in importance during the term. So next term I will make sure that all the important dis tings are weighted equally in the term exam. The last thing I learned is Murphy’s Law is alive and well in the computer lab when you give a practical exam. It is better to say what didn’t go wrong. OK so no student threw up on the computers and there were no flames shooting out of anything. The lights went out in the middle of one group’s exam. The lights were out for the rest of the day, three more groups. Five files were lost and those students have to do a retest. Some students didn’t put their name any where on the file, even though they got 5 points for putting their name and class. And I found files in the most unusual places! Will I give a practical again? Yes because I am a crazy masochist! This test was a learning experience for me. I learned what my students did not know. I learned about designing a fair and accurate test. I learned my students need more hands on time in the lab. Last I learned I need to be more creative with my assignments and classwork to help them learn. -vc Check the glossary page for the meaning of purple words.

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