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Applying Technology to Learning
among adult learners served by the
Unlimited Learning Center (ULC)

Volume 4, Issue 2 
February 2013 
Unlimited Learning, Inc. 
640 East Second Street 
PO Box1273 
Cortez, CO 81321 

Can We Do It Differently and Get Away with It?


You probably expect me to go on another spree that advocates creative uses of new technologies for learning. I won't disappoint you in the long run. However, there are other practices that lead to better learning that need not use technology. It's time to revisit our old list of study skills!

An article at http://tinyurl.com/ae52f2b recently sent my way by Doug Glynn (Thanks, Doug!) inspired me to feature the practices suggested by "Neurobonkers" in this month's review of a paper published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest. The longer paper is really worth reading if you have the time.

Among other effective practices, I have always been an advocate of using assessments as teaching tools rather than as knowledge or information-testing devices. One approach that I often apply when quizzes or tests are required is to allow students to take them as many times as they want, within a set period of time, until they get the score they want. Assessments that require critical thinking with clues to solutions make great learning tools, as well. Ignore the grammar :) and hear the message from the blog, below.

"Traditionally, testing consists of rare but massively important ‘high stakes’ assessments. There is however, an extensive literature demonstrating the benefits of testing for learning – but importantly, it does not seem necessary that testing is in the format of ‘high stakes’ assessments. All testing including ‘low stakes’ practice testing seems to result in benefits. Unlike many of the other techniques mentioned, the benefits of practice testing are not modest – studies have found that a practice test can double free recall!" ("The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn! by Neurobonkers, February 2013).

The article and its reference are worth a read and, hopefully, will inspire us to disregard old study skills as sacred!

And speaking of assessment for learning, why not consider rubrics? I use rubrics to assess all student performance these days. Here's why:

1. Rubrics provide students with specific, and, hopefully, objective, quality criteria to help them perform at the level of their choice. There is no ambivalence in rubrics. No longer can students say, "I don't know what you want me to do," or "I didn't deserve that grade. It's unfair." Grade by rubrics, and you'll be whistling as you watch performance improve.

2. Rubrics are for students, with criteria described in student language and in student terms. Well stated criteria provide students with everything they need to excel in their performance. No interpreters needed. Some years back, I read a set of rubric criteria for beginning ESL students. Under the category of Correctness, the statement read, "My speech and writing were relevant to the topic and contained few or no errors in syntax, organization, and coherence." Huh? How about, "I made 0-3 mistakes in speaking or writing!"

3. Rubrics remove the instructor from center stage. The grading power is turned over to students. If criteria are stated well, the student's score and the instructor's score should match exactly. No argument.

4. Rubrics assess performance that applies the knowledge and skills we want students to acquire. If students can apply what they are learning, we can stop worrying about their passing tests. Teach them how to take those standard tests, yes, but assess their performance in new ways to help them learn the content. Rubrics can help students perform in any area of instruction. Essay-writing rubrics can significantly help students apply the rules to pass the exam. Problem solving that is assessed by rubrics can teach math faster than memorizing the three ways to work with percentages.

Do rubrics require more time to create with every assessment? You bet. Is it worth it? Is it worth providing students with learning activities that award them with self-confidence and independence? Hmmm.. Try them. You'll love them once you become skilled at writing them!

Rubric Resources

The original Chocolate Chip Cookies Rubric provides a simple and effective sample of how rubrics work. Following are a few sites with examples of how to assess someone's performance in producing tasty chocolate chip cookies. Keep in mind that you may not agree with the criteria, but it is the criteria that those chefs established, defined, and shared to help their students to meet their standards! To get an "A," students must know what each category means, of course, based on practice with the chef. (Always go over your rubrics with students, defining anything that they might not understand.)


Web Resources for Independent Practice




How can we get them to collaborate? Let me count the ways. I collaborate with thee to the depth and breadth and height that Cacoo allows.

Cacoo is a collaborative tool that allows the public or specific invitees to develop diagrams and other images together. It's free. Just sign up and start playing.

I started a very simple diagram on the site. I invite you to follow the link below and add your own images and text. Add your name as a contributor if you like. It's all for fun.

When you are comfortable with this very easy tool. Create images of your own and invite students to contribute to the project. Better yet, have students start an image and then add your contribution along with those of other students!

Go to https://cacoo.com/diagrams/fXa8pImbJMpwxEWX. I've opened it to the public, so you can just start playing.

Cacoo diagram

Money Handling and Other Math Activities


In last July's issue of TechTips, I covered resources to encourage students to practice money-handling skills. A K-12 teacher in another part of the nation sent me a note about how her kids have enjoyed learning through those resources. A couple of her kids asked her to send me a link to another resource that they really have used, and I'm posting it here for your enjoyment. The site has many great links to very simple money activities. Go to http://www.wisestockbuyer.com/math-and-money/. I also like the name of the site, "Wise Stockbyer.com!" :) (There you go, Karen. The kids can now enjoy their pizza party, knowing that they are published!)

There are numerous general math skills acquisition sites bubbling around the Web. Following are a few that are recommended by teachers in a Life Skills math class that I am presently teaching on PBS TeacherLine. I am posting a few that would appeal more to adults and will continue to post recommendations in future issues.

  • http://home.comcast.net/~djrosen/litlist/math.html - This site provides a long list of links to math activities on a variety to ABE and GED topics. I checked the links, and they all work, which is unusual for a resources page.
  • http://ca.ixl.com/ - Very comprehensive site that goes through Grade Ten, with interactive products to reinforce skills. Ignore the kid pictures, and let students get to the math practice.
  • http://www.thegateway.org/ - This is a very useful site, a gateway to other resources. I typed in "algebra" and was taken to a site that would appeal a lot to our GED students. You'll have to do some exploring, or better yet, ask one of your students to explore and let you know what's there that they like!
  • http://www.learner.org/interactives/dailymath/ - I might have shared this one before: real life math for older students.
  • http://www.nutshellmath.com/

    - This site has many valuable resources with very clean and helpful video tutorials. You can get a free teacher's license. I entered info on ULC, Montezuma R-1 district, and I was in. With a free license, teachers can set up a class and try it for one month. After that, the student fee applies, but it is as low as $5 per students, which most programs can afford for an independent tutor. Might be worth a try. On the home page, click on "Student," then on the Demo to see how the tutorials are developed.
  • http://school.discoveryeducation.com - This site has links to a large number of resources in all areas, including math. Click on Student and go from there. You don't need to log in to explore.

Computer Tips and Tricks

A. Create a quick table in Word. Type a plus (+) sign where you want to start the table. Then use the Tab key to move to the next placement for a column/cell, and enter + again. Do that again until you have the placement for as many cells you want in your table. When you get to the end, press Enter. There's your table! Now you can modify as you wish. See the table that was created with the + signs below.

Tabbed Table

B. If you type in or paste a URL in Office and place a space after the whole address, it will automatically create a hyperlink in the document. If you want to link an image or other text to a source, you don't have to look for the little icon in the menu to do so. Quickly create hyperlinks in your Microsoft Word or Excel document by highlighting text and pressing "CTRL + K".

C. I started using Dropbox for a few months. It's a nifty little application that always shows in my Finder Window on my Mac. Dropbox allows you easily drop files into the application. Those files will be available to you anywhere. You can also share your files with others. For example, I contracted with someone to do some research for me, and the person dropped the requested files right into my Dropbox. No email attachments needed! To get a tour of Dropbox, go to https://www.dropbox.com/tour. To download it, go to https://www.dropbox.com/.



(You might want to post these on a wall for students to interpret! Encourage them to develop their critical-thinking skills. Post riddles and other puzzles on walls, too.)

What phrases do the images represent?

1. Xuseme

2. EZiii

3. Multiply with little or no carrying: 38 x 7

Multiply Tip

4. Divide even numbers: 126 ÷ 14

When both numbers in the division are even, simplify the division process. Cut each number by half. If the answer is even, do it again until you have an uneven number. Then divide.

Step 1. Cut 126 in half: 126 ÷2= 63
Step 2. Cut 14 in half: 12 ÷ 2 = 7
Step 3. Divide 63 by 7: 63 ÷ 7 = 9 (answer)


Roll for Answers



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