Author: @TeacherTabitha

Tech Teacher, Food Lover, Out of the Box Thinker Looking to become a #connectededucator to learn from the best in my field and hopefully inspire others too.

Alternative Formative Assessment Strategies (#AFAS)

When people talk about Formative Assessment Strategies several things immediately come to mind: whiteboards, class discussions, exit tickets, and etc.

We all know that Formative Assessmentcis important, in fact, according to one Edutopia article, 250 empirical studies have shown that “formative assessment is an essential component of classroom work and can raise student achievement” (Phi Delta Kappan September 2010 92: 8190).

I am in agreement that formative assessment needs to be used, but the problem that I personally run into is the engagement factor. At our school, I am the technology teacher and tech integration coach. With this in mind, I tend to be a bit biased towards tech tools and love that I can easily get kids engaged by using them. I am not saying that whiteboards can’t be fun, but I am saying that I don’t think that they are truly preparing our students to be active learners in their future. Even now, when I attend conferences, I am actively participating in the conference via twitter, Today’s Meet, and many other tools. By doing so I am collaborating with my peers, talking through ideas, and evaluating my own understanding of a topic.

One way to help with the engagement factor, and to help our students become active learners is to use Alternative Formative Assessment Strategies. These are things that are outside of the traditional teaching methods that actively engage learners while still demonstrating that they are learning/understanding the concepts being taught.  These are things like games, polls, collaborative note taking, quick answer scans, Twitter, blogs, Instagram and more.

Below are several of my favorite #AFAS: is seriously one of my all time favorite educational games. It puts kids in a scenario where the decisions they make can change and determine the outcome of the game. After playing a round of Mission-US, we had students running around on the playground yelling about being a Patriot/Loyalist and reliving and acting out the scenarios from the game/history. If that’s not engagement I’m not sure what it.

Another tool that I love to use is called Plickers. Plickers allows me to create questions and polls to ask the class. I then put the question up on the screen via their “Live Feed” tool and then scan a set of free cards (similar to QR codes) with an app on my phone. The app tabulates the results and the results appear on the screen in real time. I can then see which students got the answers right and wrong directly on my phone and can choose to either show/not show correct/incorrect answers of individual students or of the class graphed answers.

Another tool that I love to use that quickly gets the kids attention is called Kahoot. Similar to trivia games that are often found in restaurants, teachers create multiple-choice or T/F questions that are displayed on the screen. Students are given a moment to look at the question and then a timed portion to answer the question via their computers/phones/tablets.  Once all students have answered or the time is up, the correct answer will flash on the screen and the students will be given points for correct answers. The quicker they answer, the more points they could get. It is addicting and the leader board flashes across the screen after each question. I have a small stash of prizes that I sometimes hand out to the winners.

What are some tools that you use for #AFAS?

What are some tools that you wish were developed?

How do you get students involved with finding/creating/using #AFAS?



@TeacherTabitha is a Tech Teacher and Tech Coach at a Private School in Houston, TX. She enjoys playing games with her students, sitting on patios with her husband and puppy, cooking, and connecting with other educators. You can follow her on Twitter @TeacherTabitha


Who’s Sammer? [Using the SAMR Model]

Three years ago I was asked to start a technology class at our school. Teachers were “using” technology in their classes by having students type up papers, open up web browsers to read/research content, and present (read off the screen) power points. It was truly some exciting stuff (please hear lots of sarcasm). Knowing that we needed a change, our head of school stepped in and asked me to start the class so that the students could get more out of the (then new-ish) technology the school had available.

It was a blast. I got to totally design my dream course (more on that in a future blog post) and things were awesome.

Then something (not so) strange (and all to familiar to many educators) happened, I was slowly given more responsibilities. I was tasked to redesigned the school’s website, I started the school’s social media use, and I was asked to become the librarian-which included running the two book fairs (because I could understand and operate the database). I felt over-worked, overwhelmed, and exhausted from it all, while simultaneously having major family changes happen (my boyfriends mother passed away, we got engaged and married all within 7 months)  and the exhaustion was obvious.

A major change needed to happen and our (truly wonderful) administration team knew it and got to work. They knew that I have some great ideas (borrowed from my PLN and numerous sources, very few are actually my own) about how to integrate technology and that I truly think that it should be integrated in the classroom rather than a stand alone class, so my job description got redesigned. I still teach K-8 technology in a stand alone class, but I am now also the technology coach for the rest of the school primarily focusing on Middle School this year.

I am very excited about this opportunity. I eagerly jumped in ready to go at the beginning of the year (once we clarified what the administrations expectations were). When I asked my teachers how I could help them move up (or utilize) SAMR, one memorable reply was, “Who’s Sammer? Do you mean Sam from last year?” That should explain to you exactly where my starting point was.

We are on the right track. Teachers are open to using technology and are willing to give it a try with some guidance, but don’t know where to start. The obstacles that I am hitting is that the schedule was not thought through to coincide with the goals of the year. I have tons of planning time-it’s fantastic and I never want to give it up, but I have very little time to meet with teachers about what they are actually doing and how we can Augment, Modify, and Redesign the Projects that they have. Another obstacle is our technology that we started out with that was new-ish 3 years ago, is out of date today and takes anywhere from 5-25 minutes to even boot up.

In many ways I feel like I am pushing through with my ambitions and my hopeful goals only to be held captive by these obstacles. In some future posts I would like to document the process that our school goes through to move up the SAMR ladder. Hopeful that you will join us on our journey.

Introduction to the SAMR Model by Creative Commons

Open Ended/Educational Resources (#OER)

First, I have to admit that I had no idea what #OER meant a week ago. After participating in #EdTEchBridge‘s discussion last week, the discussion leader, Katya Hott (@katyamuses) proposed talking about #OERs or #ECE next week. I’ve been in the education world enough to know that #ECE stood for Early Childhood Education, but I am so glad I asked what it meant because I got several responses back from not only Katya, but also Karen Fasimpaur (@kfasimpaur), K12 Open Ed (@k12opened), and Alex Kluge (@AlexVKluge) as well as encouragement from Steven Isaacs (@mr_isaacs) to return again. After their explanations and a little Googling (I found this article) I felt like I was truly apart of a community where we could discuss ideas and I could contribute. Thank you guys for pulling me in, I hope this gives encouragement to other lurkers to join in on chats they are following.

I have a Love/Hate Relationship with #OERs. I use them all the time, in fact when I was asked to start a technology class at our school, that is where I gathered and curated the vast majority of my curriculum from. In fact, my class (or my sanity…or my job) would probably not exist without them. I agree completely with the concept that knowledge should be given freely and that learning should not cost you a thing. The problem that I have is that peoples time, your time, is finite and should cost a premium. Finding the balance in this equation, knowledge gathering/giving vs. time it takes to create resources to learn from, is my (although maybe selfish) problem.

I know that if it were not for other educators and developers that created resources that were free to me, I would be out of a job or have a very poorly designed course for a lack of materials and resources. People that develop games and tools that actively engage my kids are truly some of my favorite people. I strive to be like them for others by learning new skills (currently working on learning HTML/CSS/Javascript) to help develop resources for myself that I can then share, but then I become selfish.

Why should all of the time that I spent developing this, be free for others to consume without some form of compensation for my time? I will gladly give you the resource, but the time I spend is valuable and that is what needs to be compensated.

As a specialist teacher at a private school I make well below (about 15k-20k less than) what the average (public school) teacher makes in our area. I say that not to throw myself a pity party, but to say that if I could use the skills I acquire to help supplement my income so I’m not living paycheck to paycheck and better myself and my families financial standing, shouldn’t I?

Most developers of the content that I use are paid in some form or another. Maybe the content they provide is free because they have advertisers ( comes to mind), they are a developer and are paid through grants ( comes to mind), they charge a fee to use their content ( comes to mind), or they might work for a company (Google) whose purpose it to create and spread knowledge freely to the masses, but they (the individual developers who contribute) are all compensated for the time they spent to develop the materials.

As a private individual, is the only way to develop something while still being compensated to have advertising on the product, work for someone else, or to simply give it away?

Then other questions arise. How to I get the product out to the masses? How to I help and serve those using the product while still maintaining the full time teaching job that I love?

What are your thoughts on #OER?
Have you developed something, if so what was your experience like?
Have you used #OER from others? If so, do you know if they were compensated? Was the #OER that you used something that you could change and develop further or was it simply a free tool?

I would love to hear your thoughts!


@TeacherTabitha is a private school technology teacher and school technology coach in Texas. She lurked on Twitter for almost a year before deciding to actually participate in a chat, got pulled in and loved the experience. She is passionate about becoming a #ConnectedEducator and trying to pull in other newbies as she begins. Follow her on Twitter @TeacherTabitha.


Customary First Post

Last year, I went to @SBSTechFest 13′ and my mind was blown by Todd Nesloney (@TechNinjaTodd). I spent the year opening Twitter and reading through content for a while and then slowly the content in my feed started to change to weirdness. After months of being confused as to how to tame my Twitter feed, I kind of gave up. Then at some point in time (a lot longer than I would like to admit), I realized that my account was hacked and I was now following over 2000+ people that spoke languages I don’t speak and were twitting about topics I really didn’t care about. I got smart and took matters back into my hands, changed my password and then unfollowed and in many cases blocked 99% of the people that I (who ever hacked my account) decided to follow. It probably would have been easier to delete and start a new, but I really liked my Twitter Handle, it was simplistic, fit me, and I’m stubborn and wanted to keep it.

Once I reclaimed my Twitter feed, I began to lurk on several different #edchats and even put in my two sense a couple of times. It was fun and intimidating all at the same time. I was (and am) so impressed by the thoughts being thrown out there and the people that are talking (educator giants I’m telling you!) that I kept thinking, how am I going to possibly contribute to this conversation. So, I lurked.

@SBSTechFest 14′ came around and I was excited to attend. This conference excited me last year and I was amped to get to go again. I enjoyed many session, but for me, the take away was not as much of an impact as it was last year, but I still came away with a lot. In particular, I was encouraged by Nancy Wahl (@WahlWords) and Justin Smith (@TXJustinSmith) to get back on Twitter.

So I did. That night.

I actually got on and participated. And you know what? It was fun. I don’t know when or why I got over the intimidation factor. I participated in two chats simultaneously (#DigCit and #EdTechBridge) thanks to Nancy and Justin showing me the wonders of TweetDeck and I really look forward to participating next week.

My hope is to use this blog space to prepare for the next weeks #Edchats so that I can share my thoughts in more than 144 characters and to actually be someone who creates and shares content from now on, not just lurks.

To all of you (us) lurkers, continue to lurk and learn, but don’t be afraid to speak up at some point. Your voice deserves to be heard too.