At the ICT Conference in Johannesburg I attended a session on Skype in the Classroom, conducted via a skype conference call using Adobe Connect with some teachers in America, who shared what they had done in their classrooms. The session was very interesting, but a lot of the back-channel chat was about suitable web cameras, and that got me thinking.
I had the privilege of attending a talk by Professor Richard Kimbell on his eScapes assessment system, which allows design & technology teachers in particular to assess process and design rather than simply the end product. It is a system which stores digital uploads at regular intervals, eg. pictures of the design, or work in progress, sound files of students explaining what they are thinking at that point. This electronic portfolio is then assessed using a comparative grading system. In my school Dr Sonja Vandeleur is using notebooks with built-in web cams, and getting students to upload discussions of their designs to moodle. This allows her to assess the processes behind their design.
As an English teacher, the value of being able to assess process was not lost on me. I have used archived chat and forum posts on Moodle to the same effect, but there is nothing quite like talk, and it suddenly struck me how useful it would be as an English teacher to be able to use the web cameras which have recently been installed in our computer room for the boarders to skype their parents as tools for students to record their thoughts and reflections on a discussion, and upload it to moodle for me to be able to get a really good chance to assess their thinking.
I find the students respond very well to learning poetry by discussion. I normally get them to sit in a big, or small circle and talk through the poem we are studying. While this works well at getting responses and the class is usually able to negotiate a pretty good understanding of the poem without (much) intervention from me … well maybe a few well-chosen questions, it would be very useful to be able to get students at the end of a discussion to record their own thoughts and upload them to Moodle. This would give me the understanding I need of where each student is in terms of engaging with a particular poem, or poetry generally.
Using a simple web camera a student would be able to record a short video file in a few minutes and upload it easily for assessment, storage and archiving.