Upgrading to Moodle 2.5

This week I got tired of getting emails asking me to upgrade to the latest version of Moodle and went through the process. It’s quite easy with the web-hosting package I have. Just a few clicks of the mouse. It even warned me to make a quick backup just in case. After the upgrade however the Aardvark theme was missing. I downloaded the latest version of it but was disappointed as it has also changed. I had to go to my backup and extract the old theme(Aardvark 2.3 Penguin) and upload it. This was better than downloading the version as the backup had all of my custom properties.

One of the new features of Moodle 2.5 is Badges. This allows you to award a badge upon completion of specific activities or sets of activities. I can see using this as a way of encouraging students to complete more activities. Perhaps a badge for each mission which is awarded if they complete all the activities in that mission?

CanFlip Summary

I really enjoyed the conference. My talk was very well attended…standing room only. Lots of interest from the other attendees and lots of positive feedback about what I’ve done so far. People seemed amazed that I’d managed to put together so much information in such a short period of time.

I attended some really good sessions. Karl Lindgren-Streicher gave a great presentation about his flipped experience. I especially liked that he included slides with resources.

I went to Graham Johnsons class about interactive videos. Unfortunately the videos have to be hosted on the TechSmith website so I don’t think I’ll be going down that route but it got me thinking about the Lesson module in Moodle. I could use it to allow students to move through different paths/videos in each lesson.

The last session I went to was Andy Miller’s Apple Apps talk. The two things I took away from his session were 1) the Reflector App which allows you to mirror your iPad display on your Mac which could then be projected in class and 2) MyScript Live which I can see me using in class a lot.

Ramsay Mussallum gave a fantastic keynote talk on Friday morning. The highlight for me was his use of The Karate Kid in emphasizing that we should hope that our students learn to do the things we don’t teach them and not just the things we do.

Hopefully they run this conference again next year.

CanFlip 13

In June I will be giving a presentation about my experience so far at the CanFlip13 conference in Kelowna. Since my class was canceled I only have one semester of experience to relate but hopefully my presentation will be well received. I will focus on the gamification of my class and standards based grading.

The good thing about being a presenter is that I get to attend the conference for free and since I don’t get any pro-d money from continuing education that’s a big plus. It’ll be nice to get away for a few days to the Okanagan.

End of Semester

Well the semester ended last week. In the last month most of the class attempted at least one lab although they did them reluctantly and only to get the grade, not to actually learn anything from the experience. Most of them inquired as to the “easiest” one to do before choosing and one student even submitted a report for a lab that she did not perform.

So was it a success? I’m not sure. I think I’ll assess each of the reasons I had for making these changes to my class:

  1. Make the class more fun
    • Most students showed no interest in playing the game or doing any of the labs/investigations I developed. Most chose to use class time to watch the video lectures and solve practice problems. I think they see this as the easiest way to get a high grade. Or perhaps it is the familiar so that’s what they stuck with.
  2. Get students more involved in doing physics rather than just solving questions
    • As I said above this didn’t really happen. Most ended up doing one lab but only as a last resort to get the grade. Hardly any chose to do any of the investigations. I specifically designed these as lab like activities that the students could do without having to write up a lab report.
  3. Reduce the attrition rate of students
    • In the end only 12 of the original 21 students that enrolled in the course completed it. A few dropped out quite quickly (within 2 weeks). Others fell by the way as the semester wore on. In particular there was one student that complained to the district about the format of the course prior to dropping out.
  4. Get students more interested in learning rather than grade seeking
    • This one might just be a fantasy. I don’t remember being so focused on grades when I was in high school but I guess times have changed. It was a lot easier to get in to post-secondary education back then. I’d hoped that the standards based grading would help stop some of the grade seeking behavior but it did not. Specifically with the labs, students almost refused to turn them in until I’d read it once and told them what to fix. My answer was that I’d give them feedback which they could use to make the next lab report they submitted better. They didn’t want to have to do a second report and instead seem to want me to write their report for them.

There were some positives to take away from the experience. The students that stuck it out did seem to like the fact that they were not punished for attempting standards but failing. However they may have just viewed this as a method of getting a higher grade.

In the future I will need to do a better job of encouraging students to do the labs and investigations. I think I will make the labs worth more of their final grade as this seems to be the only way to get them to attempt labs other than forcing them to do them (which is what I want to get away from).

I think I will also set aside time each class for tutorial sessions each with a fixed topic. This might appease those “just teach me” students.

The worst news is that there were only 4 students registered for next semester so the district has cancelled the class. I don’t know if the changes to the course have played a roll in the decline and I can take some comfort in knowing that four other class also had to be cancelled for the same reason so it seems that enrollment is down overall. So I guess I will have to wait until next September to try again.

I Just Want You to Teach

On Monday night a student approached me and we had the following conversation:

Student: I have a request. Can you just teach us each night?

Me: Which learning objectives are you having problems with? We can sit down together and go over them one-on-one.

Student: No I mean just teach. Like a lecture.

Me: Well all the lectures are on the website. You can watch them anytime. If you don’t understand something we can discuss it right now. 

Student: I know the lectures are there but can’t we just have a regular class?

Me: I want people to be able to go through the material at their own pace. You might be a whiz at projectile motion but another student may not. If I spend tonight teaching projectile motion you would be bored.

Student: But maybe they want you to teach as well.

Me: If they don’t understand something we can sit down one-on-one or in small groups and go over it. 

At this point the student walked away. She is by far the brightest student in the class but it also the student who is most concerned with her grade. How much is this lab worth? Is this question worth more than this one? If I do this how much will my grade change?

I’m starting to feel like this experiment is failing. Why would this student prefer to sit in a lecture rather than discuss one-on-one the topics she is struggling with? No matter how many times I asked her which topics she wanted to discuss she just kept saying “I just want you to teach”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LaTeX

For adding formulas to the various Moodle pages I have been learning and using LaTeX. In this post I’m going to list some of the things I’ve learned so far as a personal reference.

Formulas have to be enclosed in dollar signs $$ F = ma $$

Greek letters $$\alpha \delta \Delta$$

Subscript and Superscript $$ v_x  v^2$$

Fractions $$\frac {a}{b}$$

Roots $$\sqrt {(v_x)^2 +(v_y)^2} $$

 

Scoreboard

I have created a scoreboard for the game. I take the average of the scores for each side (Villains/Agents) and use those two numbers in a google spreadsheet to generate a basic pie chart. The great thing about the chart is that it can be embedded into a webpage and will always display the current version. So all I have to do is update the spreadsheet once per week. This is trivial with the use of the Moodle grade feature.

The theme I’m using for my courses (Aardvark) also has a drop down menu bar. Today I found the php file I needed to edit to embed the scoreboard. The result is awesome!

Focused on Marks

I thought this method of teaching would result in a more interactive classroom with students learning from doing physics rather than listening to me talk about physics. Instead most of them spend each night watching the YouTube videos I’ve made and only a few have done any of the investigations or labs. If they aren’t going to be graded for doing it they won’t do it. :(

For next semester I plan on revamping the investigations. Rather than just posting them on Moodle as a page I will make them an activity. I will make them basic text entry activities or wiki entries so that they have to upload their observations. Each one can then be assigned to a standard and would count towards mastery of the standard.

I also plan to move towards a more refined grading scheme. Instead of each standard being scored out of three I will make it clear that their score for each standard will be based on the evidence they submit that they’ve mastered this objective:

Score Description
0 You have not attempted this objective
1 You submitted only one piece of evidence or your submitted evidence displays lack of basic understanding of the objective
2 Your multiple submissions but many still display major misunderstandings of the objective
3 You’ve submitted some evidence of mastery but still make minor errors
4 You’ve demonstrated on more than one occasion that you have mastered this objective

I will keep the same 29 objectives from this semester. The first objective, write a formal lab report, will be graded using a different rubric and will be scored out of 18. The other 28 objectives will use the rubric above and will have a maximum score of 4 for a total of 112. Add this to the 18 from the lab objective for a total of 130 for the course. This also makes the labs worth more (14%) of the overall percentage and will force students to take them more seriously.

The First Test

Last night my class wrote their first test of this semester. There were questions from all 29 learning objectives (except for the lab report objective) and they could attempt as many or as few as they felt comfortable with. Since we’ve only been in class for three weeks I didn’t expect much but that they would at least be able to attempt the objectives on adding and subtracting vectors, relative motion, projectile motion and perhaps a few would get to forces.

I was very disappointed when the first student to hand in their test attempted NONE of the questions. When I asked her why she hadn’t tried any she told me that she’d only read the first two chapters of the text book. Seriously? Three weeks and that’s all you’ve done? Those chapters don’t even cover any material that she shouldn’t already know from grade 11. Another girl seemed to be trying but got nowhere with the questions.

I’m starting to feel like this experiment is failing. Perhaps I’ve given the class too much freedom. I’ve tried to make sure people were moving along. They all seemed to be working on the practice problems and watching the videos. Some were attempting the missions but not all were. I mention in class where I think they should be and post the same information in the course discussion online.

Maybe I’m just letting a few poor performers cast a shadow over the class as a whole.

There was one bright spot in the class. One girl attempted 11 of the objectives and has already shown mastery of  7 of them.

Through the Looking Glass

I posted previously about taking part in the 12×12 Vancouver Photo Marathon, well the Raw Talent Exhibit took place this past Saturday night. This year the exhibit took place at a different location than previous exhibits, the Salt Building in Vancouver’s Olympic Village. While there was more space and better temperature regulation, the lighting was a little dim making it difficult to see the photos. The other odd thing was that the individual theme winners were already unveiled on one wall. I tried not too look until I saw my set but I couldn’t help but notice that none of my shots had won. I was a little disappointed, I thought at least one or two could have been in the running. My disappointment got worse when I finally worked my way down to my set and saw that one photo (theme 10: Float) was very underexposed and another (theme 11: Background Story) didn’t turn out at all. I wasn’t expecting much from these anyway as I was very rushed for time at the end of the marathon but it was a shock to see one not turn out at all.

I wandered around looking at the other marathoners work and eventually the time came for the unveiling of the overall winners. First was the runner-up and winner for best photo. Then came the runner-up for best series……and it was me! How had I even been considered for best series when two of my photos were so poor? I was stunned but there it was a 24″x36″ print of theme 2: Through the Looking Glass mounted on aluminum.

IThe rest of my set and the other participants can be seen here.