Thursday, October 2, 2014

Data Driven Instruction

 
Walter Duncan is a 15-year veteran K-12 teacher. His students were ranked in the top 15% of all Massachusetts Public School students on MCAS ELA in 2012. He has deep experience getting the best out of his kids in inner-city school districts such as Detroit, Washington DC, and Boston. Additionally he is the co-founder of Design By Educators the makers of the Quick Key Mobile app, a social impact company that seeks to empower teachers to more effectively close the achievement gap. The free Open Beta version of the Quick Key is available for download on the Quick Key Homepage
 

                               

 Data Driven Instruction

It was a Thursday, the day was marked for professional development. I was in my first year at a high performing, "no excuses" charter school. The results were in from our first benchmark exam of the year. We sat in the meeting, a little uneasy, all knowing that without saying it out loud we were being judged by the results. We gathered together and went over the benchmark data as a group. We found out how well our students were doing in comparison to other students of the same grade level within the school and within the Charter School network. We needed to improve, the pressure was on. We received a short pep talk from our school leader about how we were going to use the data from benchmark assessments to target the areas of our students' weakness. It was a great pep talk, and I left the meeting fired up!
 
I was sent by myself to my classroom, with a password to access the data from my students. As I opened the portal I was overwhelmed. Each standard was listed. First, I had to determine how my three sections performed on all the standards as a whole. Then, I had to look at what standards more than 30% of each group struggled with. After three hours of doing this with no support, just figuring it out on my own, I had an epiphany. It was bitter sweet. It was sweet because I understood how I was going to get the most out of the data I had just received (even though it was poorly presented to me and tedious to navigate). It was bitter, because it meant I still had hours and hours of work to do, before I could get back to planning my lessons, grading assessments, and creating my materials. I began to break down each question and find the common errors, I would go back to the benchmark exam and see what distractor answers the students chose, and slowly I began to make sense of the data. Gradually, patterns began to emerge. 
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Getting the data from the previous three months was helpful. But it meant I had to restructure future units, to include ways to circle back and reteach what the benchmark data had shown me. This threw my year plan into disarray. But what could I do?  I bore down, reworked my units, and retaught the areas that needed to be addressed. I did it, but it was kind of miserable. I could feel my joy and enthusiasm waning. The kids could feel it too! They could sense that I was feeling tense and under pressure, and they also struggled with going back over things they had already covered. No one was very happy, but we all did it together. And you know what?  Their scores improved that year, and I did not burn out. But I knew there had be a better way. How could I get relevant data without depleting the joy, engagement and enthusiasm that I work so hard to create in my class?
 
I realized I needed to have a better grasp of what the students mastered the same day that I taught it. I needed to get more out of the formative assessments I was already doing. Instead of just looking over my daily exit tickets, I needed to track them more closely. I found that this was the best way to stay up to date in real time with my student performance. Again, I met with a brick wall! I had over ninety students! Grading and doing item analysis on 90 exit tickets a day was unsustainable. I did as much as I humanly could, but there had to be a better way.
 
These were the experiences that led me to create Quick Key Mobile™ in conjunction with my Co-Founder Isaac Van Wesep. I needed a tool to grade and quickly give me the data from daily formative assessments, benchmark exams, or weekly quizzes. Quick Key does just that, and it does it fast! There is no question that using data to drive instruction is one of the keys to improving student performance, and now teachers can use the Quick Key App to help them do it quickly and effortlessly!
 
Please check out my short film on how to use Quick Key for your formative assessments,  and remember we are all connected!


Walter Duncan
Co-Founder Quick Key Mobile

 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Android app Release Schedule

Good morning everybody!

I don't usually post on our blog because I usually don't have anything interesting to say, but Walter told me people were asking about this so I figured I would post a message. Here we go:

I am pleased to announce that we have secured a development partner and the funding we need to build an Android version of Quick Key Mobile.

The Android development project is scheduled to begin on October 6th, and be released to our Android beta testers on or around November 21st. We plan to release the free Android version of Quick Key Mobile to the public 1-2 weeks after we start beta testing.

Our partner in the Android project is Ki Teknology, an app developer company run by my good friend (and incredible all-around awesome person) Martin Lewit. Martin is from Argentina and his company is based in Santiago, Chile. So our Android project is an international affair, which I think is quite apropos given the global reach of the Android platform.

Funding for the project is coming from a small group of dedicated angel investors, who want to see Quick Key Mobile's technology made available to as many people as possible, around the world.

One more thing: we have hired an AMAZING designer to re-design all of our apps, including the Web app, our iOS app, and of course the Android app. For all Quick Key's usefulness, one thing it has always lacked was a user-friendly design. Actually it's more accurate to say Quick Key never had a design. We just built the functionality and added some buttons. Well, no more!!

We have begun the process of taking all of your feedback and putting it into brand-new designs across our entire platform. The Android app will be the first platform designed from the ground-up using our new process, which starts with expertly-crafted UX/UI design. I hope you like it when it's done.

If you want to get early access to the Android app by becoming a beta tester for Android, please ping Walter on Twitter @4_teachers



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Monday, September 22, 2014

How to Write Powerful Multiple-Choice Questions

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Quick Key Mobile™ turns your mobile device into a scanner and eliminates hand-grading of formative assessments, even for teachers working in paper-based classrooms without a computer or an internet connection. Analytics and data exports are fast and easy, so you can focus on your students.

 
From the Quick Key Mobile Team and Family    
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How to Write Powerful Multiple-Choice Questions

 

The Big Idea: Multiple choice questions can deliver powerful data. The Quick Key Blog is proud to bring you tools for writing effective MC questions, that require critical thinking, and yield powerful data.
 

In my research into how to craft the best multiple choice questions I came across this resource. I think the guidelines are well done, and speak to the needs of the students in front of us. I hope that you find this resource useful.

 

Best,

 

Walter Duncan Co-Founder Quick Key Mobile

 

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How to Write Powerful Multiple-Choice Questions

 

General guidelines for writing good multiple-choice questions:

  • Present practical or real-world situations to the students.
  • Present the student with a diagram of equipment and ask for application, analysis or evaluation.
  • Present actual quotations taken from newspapers or other published sources and ask for the interpretation or evaluation of these quotations.
  • Use pictorial materials that require students to apply principles and concepts.
  • Use charts, tables or figures that require interpretation.

 

Procedural rules:

  • Use either the best answer or the correct answer format.
    • Best answer format refers to a list of options that can all be correct in the sense that each has an advantage, but one of them is the best.
    • Correct answer format refers to one and only one right answer.
  • Format the questions vertically, not horizontally (i.e., list the choices vertically)
  • Allow time for editing and other types of question revisions.
  • Use good grammar, punctuation, and spelling consistently.
  • Minimize the time required to read each question.
  • Avoid trick questions.
  • Use the active voice.
  • The ideal question will be answered correctly by 60-65% of the tested population.
  • Have your questions peer-reviewed.
  • Avoid giving unintended cues – such as making the correct answer longer in length than the distractors. GUIDELINES CONTINUED.......

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Spotlight On Outstanding Teachers, Chris Webb

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Quick Key Mobile™ turns your mobile device into a scanner and eliminates hand-grading of formative assessments, even for teachers working in paper-based classrooms without a computer or an internet connection. Analytics and data exports are fast and easy, so you can focus on your students.

 
From the Quick Key Mobile Team and Family    
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Spotlight On Outstanding Teachers: Brian Kennedy 

Meet The Teacher Champions!

 
Meet the Champions shines a spotlight on outstanding teachers, and how they make a difference. Right here on the Quick Key Blog, we will be interviewing real working teachers from around the globe, who make a difference in their classrooms every day.
 

In the Spring of 2013, Chris received a Special Recognition Award for "Outstanding Vision, Dedication, and Commitment to Excellence in Education" from his school. He was also recently accepted to the highly sought after Google Teacher Academy in Chicago, IL.

 

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So, without further ado...let's meet a champion!

 

QKM: Why did you choose to become a teacher?


CW: While many of my peers got into teaching because of a great role-model who inspired them, I got in for the opposite reason; my high school experience was filled with such rigid instruction, flavorless lessons, and little-to-no technology that I decided become a teacher to ensure that no student I came into contact with would have the same experience. I'm proud to say that, 4 years in, I'm living the dream—my students are my life!


QKM: What is the biggest highlight from your classroom this year?


CW: So many, but the biggest was my Senior British Lit students (100% ELL) producing a 60-minute adaptation of "Twelfth Night" in a massive theater, using (and understanding!) Shakespeare's original language. This project took over 4-months of intense classroom time, between auditions, memorization, prop- and set-design, and rehearsals. It's the first time our school put on major play production in front of an audience including family, friends, and the community.


QKM: Tell us about  a teacher who inspired you. How did they do it? What made them great?


CW: Mr. Bralley, my history teacher, was the one teacher in high school who inspired me to invest in my own education and think deeply about the world around me. He was fun, enthusiastic, and smart, but I'll never forget how all of his students knew that he truly loved them. When I'm in the classroom, every now and then, I'll say or do something that reminds me of Mr. Bralley, and I'll laugh at how, years later, his lessons are still with me.


QKM: How can technology help you to be more efficient in the classroom?


CW: As the first all-iPad school in Taiwan, we use technology every day to stay organized, up-to-date, and connected to the world around us. I personally use Google Docs to plan my lessons, Blogger for student portfolios, Dropbox for archiving homework, Twitter to learn about what's "in" in education, and Evernote for everything else. Basically, every day we come home with 10% left on our iPads' batteries!


QKM: What is really hard about teaching, and how do you deal with it?


CW: 1) When I'm in front of the classroom, I talk and talk, hamming it up all day long, but inside, I'm a true introvert. As I've learned this about myself, I've had to find ways to balance giving my kids 100% and taking time to recover from my class-time workout. 2) In Taiwanese culture, students are taught to respect their teachers and blindly treat everything they say as "the answer". One of my key challenges, then, has been to teach students that they can both show respect to elders and have their own opinions on the world around them.

 

QKM: Thanks Chris! 

 
 
                                              
                         

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Anatomy of a Powerful Multiple-Choice Question

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Quick Key Mobile™ turns your mobile device into a scanner and eliminates hand-grading of formative assessments, even for teachers working in paper-based classrooms without a computer or an internet connection. Analytics and data exports are fast and easy, so you can focus on your students.

 
From the Quick Key Mobile Team and Family    
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Anatomy of a MCQ 

QUICK KEY MOBILE

 

The Big Idea: Multiple choice questions can deliver powerful data. The Quick Key Blog is proud to bring you tools for writing effective MC questions, that require critical thinking, and yield powerful data.

 

In my years as a classroom teacher, I was very familiar with multiple choice questions. When I started teaching, to be honest, I did not like them very much. As I developed in my practice, and learned how to craft powerful multiple choice questions, I began to rely on the accurate data they could provide. 

 

We hope you find this article about the basic construction of multiple choice questions informative and useful.

 

-Walter Duncan Co-Founder Quick Key Mobile

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The Anatomy of a Powerful Multiple-Choice Question
 

Multiple-choice questions are a method of assessment that asks students to select one choice from a given list. They typically have three parts: a stem, the correct answer – called the key, and several wrong answers, called distractors. Multiple-choice questions are most widely used for measuring knowledge, comprehension, and application of learning outcomes. Article continued.....
 

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