For those looking for an easy answer on how to do controlled assessments… I’m afriad I haven’t got it yet. In the UK the exam boards have come up with the concept of Controlled Assessment – this is a replacement for coursework, much of which was done at home which was seen to be too open for interference by parents or other cheating and discriminatory to some especially those who do not have facilities or people to help them at home. There are of course  other reasons for this change.

This seems to have caused a  problem that has suddenly jumped out of nowhere at many schools and certainly at our school with History, Geography, Drama, Citizenship, ICT and probably others all faced with the dilemma of how to get students to produce coursework in lessons without them having access to it outside lessons.

Each subject and each exam board seems to have a different set of rules which seem to include

  • No access to work outside of lessons
  • No access to sites on the internet to help them with work
  • No access to internet
  • No access to school network
  • No access to certain programs
  • No ability to save work in pupil area or e-mail home

I’m not a school network expert – for some schools who are well resourced and have the expertise this probably isn’t a problem. But for many who are stretched it is no doubt causing many headaches. It potentially means every student doing these assessments needs a separate login and account just to do this work – for my average sized school you are talking potentially 300-400 accounts – possibly setup differently for different subjects. For A-level Computing we’ve already had to deal with a similar dilemma – the new online AS exam is all done with access to a small subset of programs and no network or internet access – for the last 2 exams out technicians have reinstalled a whole suite of computers just for the exam students have logged in to do the exam (sometimes in 2 sittings) and then the machines were reinstalled back to normal! For our network manager and technicians this was the simplest way.

Here are a few solutions that we have used or thought up or heard from with for controlled assessments (not all tried and tested)

1. Memory Sticks – students use a generic login which restricts their access – students then save their work on the memory stick at the end of the lesson and the teacher takes the stick in. – advantages: simple! very simple. disadvantages: memory sticks can go wrong or get lost, work is not backed up with the school systems, lots of memory sticks need to be bought – again possibly for every subject.

2. VLE handin – similar to the above students login to an account only allowing access to certain features. They upload their work to the VLE and the teacher locks the work: Advantages: No USB sticks! Disadvantages: Requires internet (if VLE hosted offsite), fiddly for students and teachers, requires ways to open and close work every lesson.

3. Networking knowhow – The experts at Edugeek have a few solutions including this one – http://www.edugeek.net/forums/how-do-you-do/58143-controlled-assessment-how-we-did.html – for some of these solutions it requires an assessment role to be created (like students and teacher roles) and this is turned on and off at the start and end of every lesson.  I imagine this would be done manually. Advantages: It should work and hopefully less fiddly for the less techy teacher – Disadvantages: Network administrator workload heavy

4. Yacapaca – this is similar to the VLE approach. We love Yacapaca in our ICT department for lots of types of quizzes, homeworks and assessment – it’s very easy to use, easy to setup and completely free (though you can pay a reasonable price for support should you wish) In their last e-mail they sent instructions on how to use their system for controlled assessment as explained in this blog post http://selbictnews.blogspot.com/2010/06/using-yacapaca-for-controlled.html Advantages: Simple, fast Disadvantages: Still need to restrict certain features on school network (though not as complicated) Need to setup Yacapaca accounts (though this is easy to do) Restricted file formats, needs internet access.

2 post publishing additions:

  • do it on paper by hand – this is seriously being considered by some people – Advantages: It doesn’t get any simpler technology wise, no worrying that an exam board will tell you that you are a cheat. Disadvantages: No spellcheck, redrafting means rewriting, hard to read, moderator may not like hand drawn submissions as much.
  • Just do things as normal with your regular system but keep a close eye on students (suggested by Mr Thomson in the comments below) – I like this one! Advantages: Easy, you treat your students as responsible people rather than potential cheats. Disadvantages: Some qualifications may not allow this, need to monitor students to ensure they do not save copies of work elsewhere, possible sleepless nights if you are paranoid about exam boards deciding this isn’t correct.

So what do I recommend – I recommend whatever is easiest for you!

Please do add your suggestions to the comments and if I have made any mistakes do correct me.

Thanks to all the organisers of Teachmeet Moodle. It was a well spent 5 hours or so! I have a few reflections, some on the great Moodling I saw, and some on the Teachmeet format.

Moodle Reflections:

There were some superb presentations on the day – many of which are linked to on the Teachmeet Moodle wiki http://teachmeetmoodle.pbworks.com/TeachMeetMoodle – James Michie has also summarised and linked to some of the presentations on his Blog http://jamesmichie.blogspot.com/2010/07/teachmeet-moodle.html

My top highlights were:

James Michie‘s  comprehensive but fast paced 72 slide presentation on Moodle in his school. It gave so many great example.

Gideon Williams fantastic presentation on Moodle plugins at his school

Helen Morgan’s presentation on how visuals can improve learning and participation – blindingly obvious,  so simple to implement and proven good practice.

Dai Barnes presentation on quizzes in Music (with embedded music)

and Miles Berry on how he now uses Moodle in teacher training

But of the above I have to again mention Gideon Williams – it was the second time I have met him and both his style of presentation (lighthearted!) and amazing moodling were fantastic. If you want to see a great school Moodle I don’t think there is a better example than that of Perins School

Teachmeet Reflections:

I’ve lost count of how many Teachmeet’s I’ve now attended – probably around 10 now including one I organised at the Computing at School Hubs Conference. There is always discussion about how they should be structured and this one again was very different and I think very good.  Here’s a few points of note about the structure on the day.

We started with a speednetworking session – everyone was given a table to fill in names, e-mail and expertise of other people and we went round to a whistle meeting person after person for a few minutes until we were told to move on. It was a great and simple way to network and get a good atmosphere in the room (especially as we has started at 10.30 am and there was little of the beer in the room that facilitates the networking in many teachmeets!)

We had one commercial presentation at the start – from the sponsors SchoolsICT – I think this was received well by the audience partly because they didn’t think to protest. But also because of the ethos of many Moodlers that if you are developing something to enhance Moodle then you are a good person. Personally, I thought it was a shame to start with this presentation, but I have no problem with a presentation from a sponsor – though there is an obvious red line when it becomes a sales pitch (this one wasn’t).

Time Limits were not kept to – I think some flexibility with time limits is good, some great presentation take a little more than the 7 minute teachmeet limit. But some timekeeping is necessary and Nano presentations become pointless if other presentations are allowed to go on and on. Short presentations also keep the audience attentive!

Video presentations – One pre-recorded screencast was shown – I don’t really think this is necessary as we schlepped all the way in we could have just watched the presentation in our own time. Live video presentations are another thing.

Overall, it was a very good teachmeet, it had a great friendly, informal and collaborative atmosphere. I think that’s what happens when you bring two great communities, teachmeet and moodle together.

There’s a great run of Teachmeets on at the moment – where I am just North of London there have been about 4 or 5 within an hour’s drive of here in the last month.

If you’ve not been to a Teachmeet try one out, they are great opportunities for learning, entertainment and networking and the best ones have an equal mix of each. To read about my Teachmeet Experiences you can take a look at all of my posts tagged Teachmeet.

I won’t explain the format here as it does so on the Teachmeet website – but I wanted to share my excitement for Teachmeet Moodle tomorrow and reflect a little on Teachmeet Fishbowl.

Teachmeet Moodle is the first Moodle Centric Teachmeet and is bringing together a great looking list of Moodle users – http://teachmeetmoodle.pbworks.com/TeachMeetMoodle – I have become a big fan of Moodle over the last few years, it’s one of the many tools we use in our school (A VLE on its own doesn’t do everything!) And many of my Teachmeet presentations have covered work we have done in Moodle. The sad part with Moodle and VLEs is that Teachers’ work is often locked behind passworded areas of the site – this is usually quite right as I don’t want strangers joining my class of Year 7 pupils – but it is a shame that we don’t find the time to make open copies of our course for other teachers to peruse. It’s not even that I want to download and use courses from other teachers (though sometimes I do!) but it’s getting that inspiration and seeing how other people use the same bit of software but for a very different purpose.

I shall try and report back tomorrow or over the weekend on what I learned from the Teachmeet.

A fortnight ago I attended my first Teachmeet Fishbowl in Oxfordshire. It was an interesting evening and an interesting format – it is important that the Teachmeet model doesn’t remain static though I would call the Fishbowl more of a brainstorming session – there were no presenters but a group of people sitting round a table working out a solution to a problem along with interjections from the audience and a few brave people switching in and out of the table. By the time the third session/fishbowl had started boundaries had dropped and there was no longer a real inner table and outer circle but just one big melding of minds with everyone in the circle chipping in. For me the Fishbowl was not a revolutionary format – but it is a structured way of getting people to collaborate informally (is that an Oxymoron?). It was fun, it was reasonably effective and it was fast paced and fun. We certainly came up with a large variety of ideas. As a technique I could see it working if you had a specific problem to solve and I guess the biggest problem we had is that the issues we were discussing were not issues that we had brought up ourself. The evening was also rather Primary focused with only three Secondary teachers present, but this in itself was a learning experience – there should be much more collaboration between Primary and Secondary teachers both in terms of pedagogy, school transition and subjects knowledge – we all have something to gain. 

Thanks to all those who organised and are organising or sponsoring these Teachmeets and I look forward to many more.