One of the most common questions that teachers ask me about using Web 2.0 tools in teaching is “How do you assess the work that your students produce in the different digital projects that they are involved in?”
My first response is always, “Why do we have to assess everything?! Can’t there ever just be opportunities to create, collaborate and communicate for creation, collaboration or communication’s sake?”
Then, I return to the real world—where assessment is the first step towards credibility—and work up grading opportunities that are student-centered, meaningful, and tailored for the unique skills emphasized by each tool that I use in my classroom.
My first stab at assessing digital work started with wikis, where I use this set of criteria to rate the work my students produce. When assessing blog work, I’ve chosen to use the ideas of Konrad Glogowski—who writes over at the Blog for Proximal Development and has developed this method for engaging students in reflective thought about their blogging efforts.
Recently, I’ve tinkered with a system to assess my students’ participation in Voicethread conversations. Essentially mirroring the reflective aspects of Konrad’s blogging handouts, I’ve decided to ask my students the following four questions while we’re working with a new Voicethread:
- Highlight a comment from our Voicethread conversation that closely matches your own thinking. Why does this comment resonate—or make sense to—you?
- Highlight a comment from our Voicethread conversation that you respectfully disagree with. If you were to engage in a conversation with the commenter, what evidence/argument would you use to persuade them to change their point of view?
- Highlight a comment from our Voicethread conversation that challenged your thinking in a good way and/or made you rethink one of your original ideas. What about the new comment was challenging? What are you going to do now that your original belief was challenged? Will you change yoru mind? Will you do more researching/thinking/talking with others?
- Highlight the strand of conversation from our Voicethread conversation that was the most interesting or motivating to you. Which ideas would you like to have more time to talk about? Why? What new topics does this conversation make you want to study next?
The cool part about assessing Voicethread presentations this way is that each question essenitally forces my students to interact with our conversation in a really meaningful way. To craft careful answers, they must truly consider the comments of others—an essential skill for promoting collaborative versus competitive dialogue—and compare those comments against their own beliefs and preconceived notions.
That’s metacognition at its best!
What’s even better is that when students know that these questions form the basis of our Voicethread assessment from the beginning of a conversation, participation level rise remarkably. While students are looking for project reflection comments, they often end up highly motivated to share their thinking with peers.