First Take (at) Home Test for my English Classes

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I have a meeting on Tuesday that will keep me off campus for two of my four classes, and in the first three of those four classes I’m testing. I didn’t necessarily want to inconvenience anyone by asking them to proctor (though they would have happily had I asked) but with the break coming up I didn’t want to reschedule the tests. So I figured it was high time to let the students test on their own.

The test is on ItsLearning and is all open response anyway, so why not? Well, here a few reasons why not, and then I’ll discuss my thinking on them.

  1. Cheating.
  2. Cheating.
  3. Cheating.

I get it. Of course I get it. But I suspect (or at least I’m hoping) that the ones that would cheat, would cheat as readily in the classroom. And I like to think that I’m vigilant and savvy but, let’s be honest, if they wanted to, especially on the computer, I’m betting they could pull it off (in or out of the classroom). A more positive take on the issue is that, at least at Wayland, it seems that the more you trust students, the more willing they are to honor that trust. That’s not to say of course that they are completely trustworthy at all times but, in general, I have few incidents that involve serious violations of trust.

An interesting variable is that my English 4 class is taking the test tomorrow and Tuesday, depending on the section. The tomorrow class was (appropriately) griping that the Tuesday class could take the test wherever they want. So I made the decision, without much hesitation, that tomorrow’s class could also take the test out of the classroom, even though I would be there. They have the option of coming to class first block to take the test, or taking it elsewhere / at home. I know one student has two frees after my class, so she will wake up, take the test (in her pajamas, according to her), and go right back to bed.

The Tuesday class, with whom I discussed this first, agreed that the test should be taken during the class time. They confidently and consistently suggested that, if the test were scheduled out of class time (I had suggested that evening) that they would either forget or neglect. The tomorrow class didn’t love the test during class time but didn’t protest too vociferously.

So there it is. We’ll see how it goes. I did include an honor code statement on page one of the test (they download the test as a Word .doc, complete it, and upload that same document to ItsLearning), and I reproduce that below.

Any suggestions or comments are welcome (especially as regards experience with this with high schoolers?).

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 10.10.15 PM


Collecting and Grading via Dropbox

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I have used Dropbox in the past to collect assignments and more so to make available for students class notes. But this year, especially in my English 4 class, I have committed to using Dropbox more and more to collect assignments. And I am loving it.

We use ItsLearning as our LMS but, as with many things with ItsLearning (and other LMSs I assume) Dropbox takes what is a multi-step process in ItsLearning and reduces it to a single (or at least significantly reduced) step process (and that is for both student and teacher).

The real advantage to Dropbox is the ease of grading. I should also say here that I use Dropbox only for quick / small assignments that require few to no comments; papers are still submitted through ITL (for a number of reasons). On my Mac I navigate the Finder in column view because I can navigate folders using the keyboard / arrow keys rather than the trackpad. Each assignment has a folder into which students save or drag their file. Once in the assignment folder, each document can be quickly and easily reviewed by me by using the arrows to get to each file and by using the quick preview function to see them. (The quick preview function uses the space bar to open up a preview of the document in the Finder without the rime it takes to open in an application.) Any short comments I need to make go in Engrade with the grade for the assignment.

I’m also experimenting this quarter with a new approach that hopefully will streamline make-up / late work (because without (more permanent, i.e. ones that don’t disappear after five seconds) notifications there is no way to know when a student has submitted something and so inevitably you’re checking repeatedly without any assurance that something new will be there): I’m now coloring my active assignment folders green; that signals to students that they can still submit there. Once I grade the submitted files, I will change the color of the folder to red. That signals to students that they should no longer submit there and email the assignment to me. I’ve not used they system yet but I’ll see how it goes.

So give Dropbox a try for collecting assignments (especially using column view). It’s a good tip for streamlining the process.