Assessing Learning, Tech Style

Working on my homework ma!

So the Google Voice pilot went very well!  I have just enough time left in the school year to do a live assignment and see how well the students do.  My big issue now is, assessing high enough on the taxonomy scale to get a true picture of what they’ve learned.

Bloom’s Taxonomy

As we all know, most homework and other informal assessments, tend to hover around the understanding and/or application level on Bloom’s Taxonomy.  With technology, we can take the assessment a little deeper.  With appropriate rubrics and well written open ended questions, the levels at which we can have our students go is endless. I just wish I had time to create something.. like dioramas, fantasy/sci fi stories, or virtual worlds… (oh my!)

Consider this:  We’ve just completed a lesson on photosynthesis.  In the last unit we completed on Earth Science, the topic of atmospheres on various planets was covered.  We learned that Mars has a carbon dioxide based atmosphere.  We also learned that, if liquid water could be found on Mars, it could be possible to inhabit the planet.

A student, remembering this asked:

If plants need water, carbon dioxide and sunlight to grow, wouldn’t they grow well on Mars?

(Nice application of learning there kid!)

I smiled and waited 5 seconds for everyone to think about that a moment.  Then I said,

What do YOU think?

Hands shot up and someone recalled what we learned in the first unit of the year, about states of matter, temperature and how water can be found in the air as a vapor, in a liquid state on the surface or in the ground, and as a solid.  (nice analysis!) So, the consensus was, sure, they should grow just fine, as long as the water is there and useable. (good evaluation!)

I just smiled and continued the discussion. A few weren’t listening to me, they were lost in thought on the possibilities.  In the back of my mind, so was I.

So, my Google Voice homework question for the last semi-full week of school will be:

If all the ingredients for life for plants can be found on Mars, and we began planting trees, grass and other hardy plants on Mars, how, over time, would that change the ecosystem of the planet? Predict how the planet will change if liquid water is found there and we introduce plants to the current ecosystem.

Now, learning about the weather, cloud cover, etc. wasn’t part of the learning this year, (that’s an 8th grade topic), but we did spend a little time reviewing the water cycle. (a 4th grade topic)  I’m hoping they will use prior knowledge to figure out how  the water cycle will kick in and that will create more cloud cover, which will, in turn, help create more liquid water on the surface on the planet. Through photosynthesis, oxygen levels will increase in the atmosphere, that would create ecosystems where animals, starting with bacteria and insects (which would help with pollination of the plants),  can be added over time. In the meantime, temperature levels should readjust and stabilize, possibly creating an environment where humans can, one day, live.

Damn, how’s THAT for the ultimate final exam! Boo Yah!

I’ll keep you posted.

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Check out Google Voice and let me know how you can use it as an assessment tool in your classroom.