In a previous post, I wrote about creating a simple e-learning module with Google Forms. Then I discussed sending students an immediate response when they completed that module, which is very helpful for record-keeping and for worried students who believe their responses are floating somewhere in cyberspace. To continue this line of thinking, what happens if students are required to demonstrate a certain level of competency in order to get credit for the learning module? Is there a way to automatically grade student responses and give them different feedback depending on whether or not they pass? Well of course there is! Keep reading …
If you have been a college instructor for any length of time, you have most certainly gotten this question from students: “Why did you take points off for _____?” This question is based on their assumption that they start at 100 rather than zero, which is where I believe they start before an assignment has been graded. If they fail to turn in an assignment, they are given the current point value, which is zero. I do not, in fact, take away all of their points as a fiery demonstration of my absolute authority in the classroom.
For the past two weeks, the students in my graduate class have been exploring various ways to provide scaffolding to learners using digital tools. These explorations have been grounded in an article we read by Mayer & Moreno (2003), which describes 9 practical ways to reduce cognitive load using instructional design principles and digital tools. The students have done everything from creating QuickStart guides with screenshots and Word to screencasts with Screencast-o-Matic to “flipped” lessons with Educreations.
In the past several years, I have come to rely on Web-based website builders quite extensively in my teaching. I typically use Google Sites for the bulk of my Web content with my classes, and it has always been very reliable. I have noticed lately that the editor doesn’t always load in the newest versions of Firefox. This isn’t a big deal because I can jump over to Safari and finish whatever edits I need to do.
When I was in college, I took a semester away from classes to live in Ecuador with a friend of mine and completely immerse myself in an unfamiliar country and culture. Most of my adventures were unplanned, such as getting on the wrong bus, ending up in some unfamiliar place and trying to get back home alive. Those days were fun and made the trip seem less like real life and more like a movie. Some of my adventures were planned, such as going to the jungle or climbing on of Ecuador’s many volcanoes. The most beautiful volcano, El Cotopaxi, particularly held my fascination because of its massive beauty. One day I remember telling my host family that I was going to climb El Cotopaxi, which was only a few miles from their family’s dairy farm. They tried to discourage me from doing this because of the stories they’d read over the years of inexperienced climbers (mainly from Europe) trying to climb without an experienced guide and getting caught in a crevasse. Their fear was not the climbing, the cold or the altitude, although these were all things to be prepared for. They were most fearful of the crevasses, and if you wanted to climb the volcano successfully you had to know where they were.
I hadn’t ever heard the term “scaffolding” until I started grad school, then it seemed like I heard the term used all the time in very different ways. It was similar to the way rhetoric was used when I started my master’s program in Communication. Every professor had his or her own definition of “rhetoric,” and I quickly learned that if I synthesized all of the definitions then everything was rhetoric. And if a concept is everything, maybe it’s really nothing. Well, I don’t think that is true of rhetoric or scaffolding. However, after having completed my doctoral program, I will admit that I still don’t think I have a good defintion for scaffolding … the kind of defintion that would make sense to an insurance agent or sales rep whom I happened to meet at a dinner party.