CEP 811: Effective Assessment – Rubrics and Self-Assessment

As an educator charged with the assessment of student learning, I would assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons in multiple ways, including both formative and summative assessments. I currently use formative assessments such as exit slips, a “What stuck with you today” wall and verbal discussion with students or groups. Summative assessments include written tests, published writing pieces, cross-curricular projects, presentations and performance based assessments. All summative assessments utilize rubrics, except for written tests (i.e. end of unit tests). My team has already done a good job using project based learning in first grade. We create many opportunities for students to work individually and in groups to solve real-world problems using a variety of resources. However, since I want all my students to succeed (and to make things move quicker), I often guide their thinking in the direction of one solution to the problem. Obviously, this diminishes their creativity. Realizing this, I need to make a change with how my students can be assessed on both understanding standards and using their creativity.

Since my elementary school uses a 1-4 standards-based grading system (4 being exceeded expectations and 1 being below expectations), rubrics are consistently utilized to guide assessment and instruction.  As a first grade teacher I need to be very concise with expectations for projects. Along with the rubric, I create checklists for my students with “I can” statements (and visuals for ELL/SEN students) that align with the expectations and standards for each rubric. When introducing a project, I share the rubric with my students and then read through their checklist as well. I feel that most, if not all, students are aware of what is required of them. I use these checklists as informal assessments when conferencing with individuals and groups during their project.

In a perfect world, students would be able to understand the project expectations without any preparation. However, we all know that skills needs to be taught in a meaningful way in order for students to use them on their own. Rubrics provide the opportunity for students to understand certain skills (i.e. collaboration) by explaining the expectations and modeling them from the beginning. As Wiggins mentioned in On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should, “The more we focus on impact – did you achieve the goal of such a performance? –…the more students can practice, get feedback, and self-assess and self-adjust on their own” (2012). Another aspect of assessment I would like to include is self-assessment because it’s important for students to reflect on their work. Using the rubric to rate themselves and choosing an area to improve before they turn in their project would give students the opportunity to learn even more.

One aspect that is rarely assessed by our first grade team is creativity. We assess creativity in all of our writing units, but haven’t applied it to many other subjects consistantly. Including creativity in our rubrics and providing exemplary examples could fuel students creativity to produce a high-quiality project because expectations are raised. In addition, including creativity in rubrics would keep me accountable for allowing student exploration in solutions.

I recently accepted the position as grade level leader for the 2015-2016 school year and with all of the above in mind, I could really relate to a post called Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core about project-based learning (PBL). I especially was interested in the challenges they needed to overcome, which included:

  • Throughout any given project, we must be able to informally touch base at any time.
  • Backup resources should be available (when computers fail, for example).
  • We need to plan together in a very detailed, day-to-day way.
  • We have to be able to easily communicate “on the fly.”
  • How we introduce the project to students is much more important than we thought (and we thought it was very important).
  • As a teaching group, we must maintain a flexible, problem-solving attitude to productively work through the inevitable implementation challenges (Isselhardt, 2013).

After reading these articles, I have some things to keep in mind while refining the PBL units with my team this year.


Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/PBL-aligned-to-common-core-eric-isslehardt

Gee, James Paul. “James Paul Gee on Grading with Games”. https://youtu.be/JU3pwCD-ey0

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://grantwiggins.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/on-assessing-for-creativity-yes-you-can-and-yes-you-should/


CEP 811: #Maker Ed Infographic

When week 6 of CEP 811 came around, I finally found out what those beautiful graphic posters were called….infographics. This week I needed to create an infographic about the maker movement. My infographic is meant to be that 2-minute spiel that you have with someone in an elevator or those 60 seconds you have to convince your future boss that they should hire you. For this reason my infographic focuses on why a teacher should implement maker education as part of their curriculum.


Can’t see my image? Click here for the 7 reasons why teachers should embrace education.


Dougherty, D. (2011, February 2). Dale Dougherty: We are makers. Retrieved May 21, 2015, fromhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlrB6npbwVQ

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465. Retrieved from /content/SS15/CEP/811/SS15-CEP-811-733-97EFZZ-EL-14-204/Halverson&Sheridan_MakerMovementinEducation_2014.pdf

Sheridan, K. Halverson, E.R., Litts, B.K., Brahms, L, Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014) Learning in the making: A comparative case-study of three maker spaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-565. Retrieved from /content/SS15/CEP/811/SS15-CEP-811-733-97EFZZ-EL-14-204/Sheridanetal_ComparativeCaseStudyofThreeMakerSpaces_2014.pdf

CEP 811: Classroom Redesign with Sketch Up

This week we were asked to take our classroom and redesign it to be a maker space for the 21st Century learner. We used Sketch Up to make a 3D model of what our ideal classroom would look like. Instead of going crazy and making my dream classroom, I tried to stay realistic with how I could change my current classroom for next year.

I currently teach first grade at an American School in Dubai. I am lucky enough to receive plenty of resources, but unfortunately I don’t get to pick what furniture I would like to have in the classroom. Since it is the end of the year and I can redesign (and hopefully use the design) before next school year! You can see in the picture below that I already have good tables for collaboration but I would like to take it to the next step and create a space that is just for my students.



1. Table placement: I stumbled upon an article called Mixed Reality Environments as Collaborative and Constructive Learning Spaces for Elementary School Children.  Kritzenberger, Winkler, and Herczeg wrote that, “children collaboratively create their own mixed reality environment. During this working process the children get involved as active participants creating something meaningful to themselves and others.” (p. 3). I interpreted this as a collaborative learning environment with the use of technology and other manipulatives as a resource. Since I know I won’t be able to change the tables that I have, round tables in small groups would be the best option for my classroom.

2. Table changes: I often have my students use mini white boards to plan or practice during different lessons. Instead of using the boards, I would like to make white board table tops! I got this idea from another teacher on her blog and it’s a cheap and simple way to create collaborative tables to enable brainstorming, practicing and many other things. While reading another blog, I  gathered the idea to add casters (rollers) on the legs to make them mobile and easy to move. I also enjoyed the idea of the foam on the floor to create a comfortable space no matter where a student is making.

3. Adding Natural Light: After browsing through 79 WAYS YOU CAN USE DESIGN TO TRANSFORM TEACHING + LEARNING I decided to take the idea of using full spectrum bulbs in the classroom. Yes, I have windows…that look out into an atrium. I would love to add natural light to my class and brighten student learning!

4. Remove the teacher’s desk:  Another idea I took away from the 79 ways article was to get rid of my desk. Yes, I would still use the computer area for instructional use but getting rid of a desk actually gives student’s full control of their learning environment. It’s their space, not mine.

From those visions, this is how I imagine my classroom…

Bird’s Eye View:
Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 1.46.49 PM

3D Views:  Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 1.51.11 PMScreen Shot 2015-06-22 at 1.49.59 PM

Resources and Costs (All from Amazon):

Total Cost: $293

The cost is not very much considering the change I think it would make in the classroom.

Stalkholders: Since I work at a private, for profit school in Dubai there aren’t many options of how I can raise the money. I would have to propose an offer to my superintendent, who would then have to get approval from the owner of the company. I think the best option for me would be to buy the materials myself and use it for future years. I would just need permission from the school to put white board paint and casters on the tables.

Implementation: This new environment would be used to begin the year. Students would learn from the very beginning how to use the space properly and it will become a part of their daily routine.

Look for future blogs to see if I can make this dream a reality!


Kritzenberger, H., Winkler, T., & Herczeg, M. (2002). Mixed reality environments as collaborative and constructive learning spaces for elementary school children. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE), P.O. Box 3728, Norfolk, VA 23514. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62158367?accountid=12598

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture, & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching & learning. Retrieved from http://thethirdteacherplus.com/s/79-Ideas-Overall-List.pdf

Pronovost, R. (2014, January 4). Making a Makerspace: The Physical Space is (relatively) Finished! Retrieved June 18, 2015 from http://elementaryedtech.com/2014/01/04/making-a-makerspace-the-physical-space-is-relatively-finished/

Uppman, K. (2014, June 20). Classroom DIY: Whiteboard Tables – Sprout Classrooms. Retrieved June 18, 2015 from http://sproutclassrooms.com/classroom-diy-whiteboard-tables/

CEP 811: Makers Lesson Plan – Makey Makey Kit Gamepad

After 3 weeks of research and exploring in CEP 811, we were finally asked to put what we have learned into practice by writing a lesson plan. Most of my research was about collaborative groups and giving students the opportunity to learn from others and build on their schema.

This lesson gives students the opportunity to collaborate in groups in order to solve a real-world problem. This lesson was designed in using Lee, Chalmers, Vinesh, Yeh and Nason Socio-constructivist conceptual model,” and this model includes, “four thinking and problem solving phases: Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue” (p. 186). This model closely resembles the design process taught with Next Generation Science Standards. Students will use technology, specifically a Makey Makey kit and computer, to design a gamepad for Tetris using only materials that can be found in a first grade class room. Students will follow the design process in their collaborative environment in order to achieve their goal.

My students have previously used the design process and Makey Makey kits. If you are planning on using this lesson, an introductory lesson or two may need to be done prior.

For a full view of this lesson click –> here!

For the first stop motion lesson click –> here!

This lesson could also be used for Super Mario.


D’Agnenica, J. (2007, June 11). Kids Stop Motion Animation. Retrieved May 29, 2015.

Hobbit, S. (2014, October 28). Scratch – Tetris NES version. Retrieved June 11, 2015, from https://scratch.mit.edu/projects/31651654/

HOW TO: Quick Start, Software. (2012). Retrieved June 11, 2015, from

Lover, C. (2014, October 28). Scratch – MaKey MaKey Super Mario Bros (version 8). Retrieved June 11, 2015.

Silver, J. (2012, May 13). MaKey MaKey – An Invention Kit for Everyone. Retrieved May 29, 2015.

CEP 811: Foundations of Learning – Collaborative Learning Environments

Week 3 began by watching a powerful video about closing the digital gap called Reimagining Learning. Richard Culatta’s Ted Talk discussed the ways in which most teachers (myself included) use technology by only digitizing what they had used prior to incorporating technology (i.e. lectures put into a PowerPoint presentation). Instead Culatta explains that teachers should reimagine learning and challenge their students to use technology to create something that could have never been done before.

In my classroom my students often share technology resources that are available, working with a partner and in groups to complete assignments. So when I was asked to research articles about a specific topic, I decided to focus on collaborative problem solving with the use of technology.

The first article I read was Framework design to develop the collaborative problem-solving skills. In this article Gu, Chen, Zhu and Lin developed a study to teach students proper problem solving skills using collaborative groups and ICT.  The authors mentioned that, “grouping students together does not automatically create collaboration…students have not yet developed effective communication, cooperation and problem solving skills” (Gu et al., p. 144). Their study lasted 8 weeks, as two third-grade classes were observed. During these weeks they implemented an intervention in order for students to gain collaboration skills using “scaffolding in the forms of tutoring or expert modelling…[including] preparation activities, structured tables, prompts, mind mapping templates, and Wikispaces” (Gu et al., p. 146,148). The study concluded that with proper interventions students can create a successful collaborative learning environment to solve creative problems and it is important to teach students proper collaboration skills in order for those interactions to be meaningful.

The second article I read, Retooling Chinese primary school teachers to use technology creatively to promote innovation and problem solving skills in science classrooms, focused on a study preparing elementary teachers to implement technology effectively in order to promote collaborative learning environments in their classrooms. Lee, Chalmers, Vinesh, Yeh and Nason created the Socio-constructivist conceptual model,” and this model includes, “four thinking and problem solving phases: Connect, Construct, Contemplate and Continue” (p. 186). 100 primary school teachers in China took part in a Professional Learning Program (PLP) to learn and apply these methods. According to Lee et al., an effective PLP includes:

1. Having a clear image of effective classroom learning and teaching
2. Integrating with the school’s educational system
3. Developing teachers’ conceptual knowledge, practical skills, and pedagogical content knowledge to broaden their teaching approaches
4. Preparing and supporting teachers to serve in leadership roles
5. Building a learning community of teachers
6. Using instructional methods that mirror the methods to be used with students
7. Opportunities for teachers to try out developing concepts by making applications in their classrooms (p.184)

At the end of the study one of the teachers stated, “First we need to learn ourselves just like being a student and then and only then can we be better teachers who teach these students to be active learners (Lee et al., p. 200). The study concluded that the learning community made very significant gains in all areas of teaching and learning.

While reading these articles, including Constructivism written by Angela M. O’Donnell, the main theme was teaching students how to become collaborative problem solvers and not just a group sitting around a table. I feel that once students can become active learners, technology can be incorporated to solve problems. This is where a teacher can close the digital gap. When students become effective collaborators, they begin to use their creativity and technology in a way they have never used it before with the help of their peers. To me this is what the maker movement is all about…creativity, technology, collaboration, repurposing, and problem-solving. I feel that both articles spoke to the maker movement because collaboration is key whether it be face to face or digitally.

Now how can I apply this to my classroom? I feel that many of my students already have many of the collaborating skills that the articles mentioned. I think that I need to modify my pedagogy in order to allow more opportunities for open-ended, collaborative problem-solving. This week I will be designing a lesson plan and I will focus on that! Stay tuned!


Culatta, R. (2013, January 10). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. Retrieved May 30, 2015, from http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/Reimagining-Learning-Richard-Cu

Gu, X., Chen, S., Zhu, W., & Lin, L. (2015). An intervention framework designed to develop the collaborative problem-solving skills of primary school students. Educational Technology Research and Development, 63(1), 143-159. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11423-014-9365-2

Lee, K., Chalmers, C., Vinesh, C., Yeh, A., & Nason, R. (2014). Retooling chinese primary school teachers to use technology creatively to promote innovation and problem solving skills in science classrooms. The Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 33(2), 181-208. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1517959837?accountid=12598

O’Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003

CEP 811: Thrifty Making

For CEP 811 this week I was asked to use my makers kit and repurposed items to create a prototype of a project that could be used in the classroom. I purchased a Makey Makey Kit and instantly browsed through the quick start guide, gallery, and youtube links to get a handle on how the kit worked. Over the next few days I used the kit with bananas, chocolate wrappers, rings, candle holders, and even a metal camel to play Mario, the piano and bongos. I then stumbled upon a programming site called Scratch but decided that a first grader would have trouble using this program without lots of training and time. I spent the rest of the week completely mind boggled about what I was going to create that I could use in my classroom.

After a few days of clearing my brain, I decided to give the kit another try. That’s when I made a cat cam. My cat loves to lay on my computer when I leave the room or accidentally leave it open when I go to work. I decided I wanted to create a touch pad that took a picture of my cat when she fiddled with the computer. This took a little thinking outside the box because I had to create a way for a cat to complete the circuit. (I will explain how to complete a circuit in my video and steps below.) In any case, the touch pad worked. See Layla’s cat selfie below! Photo on 5-31-15 at 5.33 PM #2Realizing that a touch pad was easy enough for a cat to use, I knew a first grader could make and use the same thing. That’s when I came up with the idea for my students to take pictures and then make stop motion videos with the help of a Makey Makey kit.

Step 1: Gather Materials

  • Aluminum foil – leftover from a project my students completed earlier in the year (thrifted!)
  • Magazine – from my friend’s house (thrifted!)
  • Computer with camera and USB port
  • Photo Program – Photo Booth (I am currently looking for a new program that takes instant photos since Photo Booth has a 3 second timer.)
  • Makey Makey Kit – includes Makey Makey board, USB connection, alligator clips, and wires

IMG_4085 Step 2: Wrap the magazine in foil and make a foil bracelet and put on the bracelet. IMG_4086 IMG_4053IMG_4054

Step 3: Connect the Makey Makey Kit to your computer by plugging the cord into the USB drive with the other end attached to the board. If this is done correctly, the red light will be illuminated.

Step 4: Connect one end of an alligator clip to “Earth,” the silver bar at the bottom of the Makey Makey board. Attach the other end of the alligator clip to the aluminum bracelet.

IMG_4090IMG_4093_2Step 5: Connect one end of another alligator clip to the “Click” button on the Makey Makey board. This acts as the mouse that will take the picture. Attach the other end to the aluminum around the magazine and then place the magazine on the ground.

Step 6: Open up your photo program to full screen. Put the arrow on top of the button that takes the picture. Make sure your body is in the frame on the computer screen and touch your foot to the touch pad to complete the circuit. Voila, you just took your first picture!

    IMG_4094                    IMG_4095

How will I use this in the classroom? I plan on having my students create and use this touch pad to help retell a story. Students will work individually or in a group to take their own photos and make them into a stop motion video. This touchpad is a way for students to take a photo and quickly move into the next position for a stop motion video. Check out the quick stop motion video I made today!

Stop Motion Apps      iMovie Stop Motion

Multimodal Content: I feel that providing photos and a video tutorial, along with short step-by-step directions,  readers that have little to no knowledge of how a Makey Makey kit is used will be ale to duplicate this project.


Koehler, M. and Mishra, P. (2008). Teaching Creatively: Teachers as Designers of Technology, Content and Pedagogy [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/39539571

Update! Some of my students trying out my design for the first time!

IMG_4097              IMG_4098

CEP 811: Remixing

During the first week of CEP 811 we explored the topic of the “Maker Movement.”  So what exactly is the maker movement or a maker? In a Ted Talk, Dale Doughty says, “All of us are makers,” and then he goes on to describe makers as, “enthusiasts, they are amateurs, they are people who love doing what they do. They sometimes don’t even know why they are doing it!” Until I heard Doughty describe a maker in this way, I wasn’t even sure that I was a maker. However, in this day and age it is easy to be a maker because of technology that is available. Doughty also says that, “[Makers] want to figure out how things work, they want to get access to it, they want to control it, they want to use it to their own purpose.” So basically, anyone who re-purposes something is maker!

Keeping with the maker movement, my first assignment was to remix a video that depicted my understanding of a maker. Once again I was asked to use a new tool to create this remix. I normally use iMovie to create any type of video and Mozilla Popcorn was a bit of a challenge to get used to. I was constantly deleting pictures and words when I trying to edit other items and I took many, MANY breaks because of frustration. I also used networked learning to figure out some issues I was still having before creating my remix project. Overall, I enjoyed making the remix! Mozilla Popcorn has some really neat features that I wouldn’t be able to use in iMovie. I will continue to play around with the program in order to learn all the ins and outs, but plan on remixing some videos to use in my classroom before summer break.

When I finally got a handle on the program I was able to express my understanding of my own maker-ness, being a teacher.

Teachers are makers of makers!


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Dougherty, D. (2011, February 2). Dale Dougherty: We are makers. Retrieved May 21, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlrB6npbwVQ

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Fryer, W. (2015, February 11) Maker Studio – Green Screen Student Video [Photograph].
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