contentgrrl

I am conTENT. My work is CONtent.

Posts Tagged ‘education’

Create Free Online Quizzes for your Blog, Site, Social Network

Posted by contentgrrl on November 12, 2008

OK, so I’m on my business system software company’s year-end task force. Every year for the last five years. The mission: to make year-end easier for both our customers and for our technical support team. That means publishing updated instructions, communicating tips, hosting customer Webinars, and conducting internal training.

This year, we were looking for a way to make it easy to hold other support techs accountable for setting up their test systems, practicing lab procedures, and acquiring knowledge & troubleshooting skills.

Oh, sure. I’d love to have a Learning Management System. But do we have the budget for that? No. Is there an LMS that’s easy to implement? Maybe.

Meanwhile, are there free alternatives? Yes. Bingo!

I found ProProfs.com’s  QuizSchool. Here are 20 reasons I think it’s cool so far.

  1. It’s free. Woo-HOO!*
  2. It’s very user-friendly. YAY!
  3. It’s easy to share/publish via iframe on your site, or via email link, or via widget for your Blog/Forum/social media.
  4. You can create multiple choice questions, including multiple answer and true/false. There’s a standard limit of 5 possible answers.
  5. You can create short-answer or fill-in-the-blank questions, and give the system up to 5 possible versions of the expected answer, typical misspellings, and so on.
  6. You can create essay questions, and set a maximum character count.
  7. Although each question will accept any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want, the answers at the time of this writing are strictly text.
  8. For all questions, you can add explanatory feedback for display post-answer and/or on the detailed score report.
  9. Scoring is instant for multi-choice and short-answer questions, as long as you set the correct answer.
  10. For essays, although you can’t have the system automatically score it, the test author can review score reports with pending answers after a student has completed the test, and select how many points the essay answer has earned. The system automatically calculates how many points each essay can earn based on the number of points assigned to the entire quiz. Interestingly enough, somebody’s apparently using this as part of the process for conducting job interviews.
  11. You can customize the quiz banner with any text, picture, logo, video, or media widget you want. Same thing with the end-of quiz message.
  12. You can randomize the quiz questions to fight cheating.
  13. You can set the time limit up to 180 minutes (divide by 60, that’s three hours).
  14. ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    ProProfs.com QuizSchool Score Options

    You can customize the scoring criteria as shown here.

  15. On the score report, you can enable the display of scores, answers, and certificate of completion. The individual score report also allows students to enter comments and suggestions about the quiz.*
  16. You can set up a quiz as public or protected by password. *
  17. You can require that each student enter a name and/or password.*
  18. Each quiz’ score report shows each user’s attempts at a quiz, including their IP address, city/state, country, time taken, and link to their individual score report, with an option to delete attempts or entries.*
  19. Each individual score report lets the quiz author assign bonus points to add to the total score for any student’s attempt.*
  20. The quiz stats provide numerical and graphical representation of scores and pinpoint the locations of students on a world map.*

* Update May 2010: features marked with an asterisk (*) are available in Educational and Commercial versions that track scores/analytics and hide ads.

The only three things I have trouble with is:

  • There was no online help when I authored my quiz, and I had to experiment with a few things.
  • I worked for several hours on a number of questions without Saving Changes and lost it. Lesson learned: Save often.
  • I couldn’t find a way to limit the students to taking the test only once. (subject to change)

Word of advice: Save Changes after every question.

And although I keep forgetting my password (that’s user error, I kept forgetting whether I capitalized something) the Forgot Password process is super fast.

I’m looking forward to completing the 50-question Year-End Tech Support Knowledge & Troubleshooting quiz in a few hours. For the test data system setup, we’re using a checklist using the forms available on SurveyMonkey, where our company already has an account (SurveyMonkey, by the way, does not offer automated question scoring). For actual procedural lab work, we’re using a worksheet where you can compare before & after; I may eventually find the time to build a tutorial/exam around it.

I’m also looking forward to including a couple of quizzes right here in my blog. Should be fun.

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Posted in community, games, learning, publishing | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

report: new evidence for evolution, lack for intelligent design

Posted by contentgrrl on January 4, 2008

Yesterday, the National Academy of Science and its Institute of Medicine published a report, Science, Evolution, and Creationism, touting new fossil evidence for evolution and emphasizing that non-scientific creationist positions have no place in public school science classrooms.

The report emphasizes the need to teach evolution. That’s just in time for consideration by certain state education boards (including Florida and of course, Texas, which I’ve already mentioned in “teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world”) who are considering adding or adjusting standards for teaching evolution in their curriculum.

The book, which can be read online for free, also takes the stance that creationism and its repackaged intelligent design alternatives are not science, and thus should not be included in public science classrooms:

Despite the lack of scientific evidence for creationist positions, some advocates continue to demand that various forms of creationism be taught together with or in place of evolution in science classes. Many teachers are under considerable pressure … to downplay or eliminate the teaching of evolution. As a result, many U.S. students lack access to information and ideas that are both integral to modern science and essential for making informed, evidence-based decisions about their own lives and our collective future. …

…[T]he science curriculum should not be undermined with nonscientific material. Teaching creationist ideas in science classes confuses what constitutes science and what does not. [page 43]

The conclusion emphasizes that the science of biological evolution forms the basis for biomedical sciences, ecology, and some engineering fields that are profoundly important for the health and welfare of future generations.

Science and religion are different ways of understanding. Needlessly placing them in opposition reduces the potential of both to contribute to a better future. (page 47)

Why can’t we all just get along? Because we — both fundamentalist and atheist, both anti-evolution and anti-creationism — say hurtful and defensive things that turn us away from each other.

In the Dover, Pa., case, duly appointed judge upheld the evidence presented by the plaintiff (Kitzmiller) to declare a certain school-board required statement promoting an Intelligent Design text unconstitutional. Afterward, the 700 Club’s Pat Robertson said “to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God — you just rejected Him from your city.” It seems so unChristian and hateful of him. Just because Robertson didn’t agree with the results doesn’t mean that a loving God would retaliate against the faithful citizens of the town where the case took place.

And yes, I’ve heard my share of “infidels” discounting and insulting creationists. Them’s fightin’ words.
I for one am glad that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” If parents and church thought leaders want somebody to teach intelligent design, something clearly the realm of religion, shouldn’t that be part of their Sunday School curriculum?

I found the story originally on beliefnet news, Importance of Teaching Evolution Noted. There is an interesting set of reader comments there. The Associated Press story also appears in Dallas Morning News.

Posted in citizen, community, culture, heroes, heroines, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

teaching the controversy: first Texas science classes, then the world

Posted by contentgrrl on January 1, 2008

Promoters of Intelligent Design may get their wish in Texas, due to state education board appointments and an impending review this month of state-mandated science textbooks.

This week I was passed a Dallas Morning News editorial warning that the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) in Dallas has been recommended to prepare graduate students online to teach Science in Texas.

DMN is usually a rather conservative paper, but this time they at least at first took a stance supporting the separation of church and state: “It’s hard to see how a school that rejects so many fundamental principles of science can be trusted to produce teachers who faithfully teach the state’s curriculum.

And then there was the closing call to respect faith: “It’s demeaning for the faithful to tout belief as science. But equally so, the advocates of science should be respectful enough to admit that faith is all that remains when science fails to provide the answers we seek.

The ICR’s CEO wrote a letter to the editor defending his curriculum and calling into question whether the theory of evolution has been scientifically proven. But the ICR stands to gain tens of millions of tuition dollars from students around the world who want a Texas-certified master’s degree taught from a fundamentalist perspective.

An earlier story reported a Texas state board of education employee’s forced resignation, highlighting the tensions around “the first review of the science curriculum in a decade. …As one of the largest textbook purchasers, the state could dictate content across the nation.The agency hopes to fill the position in January, the same time review groups are set to begin meeting and examining each aspect of the science curriculum.”

President Bush has said he advocated teaching Intelligent Design in schools. His protégé Texas Gov. Perry appointed a Bryan, TX, dentist (who teaches Sunday School at a very conservative Bible Church) to the position of chairman of the state board of education, and Dr. McLeroy said he could support an addition that requires teaching the strengths and weaknesses specific to evolution.

Skeptics (including Science Avenger, Texas Citizens for Science, and Panda’s Thumb) think such a tactic of “teaching the controversy” is yet another repackaging of creationism and intelligent design.

Let’s take a look back to 2004, when the Dover, Pa., school board added this requirement to their curriculum, which sounds similar to what TX education board members are looking into:

Students will be made aware of the gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design. Note: Origins of life is not taught.

That Dover school board also required a statement promoting a textbook on Intelligent Design be read to 9th grade students; dissenting board members resigned with frustration and teachers refused on the grounds that they did not believe the statement was true, so an administrator was called upon to do the reading.

In Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District, the plaintiffs argued successfully that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism, partly because its proponents did an obviously poor job of replacing the term in a draft of the proposed textbook, and was therefore unconstitutional in accordance with Edwards v. Aguillard. Nova had a documentary on this case recently.

But Teaching the Controversy could leave a big footprint. Once they can establish in the public’s mind that a controversy exists, then it would be much less controversial later to reintroduce intelligent design into public school curricula. Discovery Institute fellows have documented this reasoning and the new Texas state board chairman agrees. And if they establish this controversy in Texas, other states who buy from the same textbook publisher will follow suit.

At church this Sunday, one member asked, “If they add this to the public school’s current 180-day curriculum, then what will they have to take out? Will we have to sacrifice proven science for pseudoscience?”

At home, my husband asks, “Would you trust a doctor, who doesn’t believe in evolution, with the medical treatment of your children?” Well, squarely in the Bible belt, I am certain that many fundamentalists would flock to such doctors were they known.

On a Parenting forum, it brings up the question, “Who is the state board of education to circumvent my rights as a parent in indoctrinating my children on something that is clearly the realm of religion?”

In a more and more cosmopolitan population where more and more people come from different countries, heritages, and belief systems, I am vigilant to examine the sides in question, but I don’t see any scientific evidence on the part of intelligent design, only rhetoric that is either transparently offensive or vociferously defensive. It makes me watchful of steps that could lead a teacher or classmate to belittle, proselytize, harrass, or exclude my sons if they happen to offer an argument for evolution.

On Sept 17, 2007, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a report of American creationist efforts to influence European schools that concluded, “If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe…. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements… some advocates of creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.”

I hope the Texas education board will listen carefully to science educators and parents of all backgrounds during the comment period. I hope they don’t make a decision that will have to go to court when the money for that expense would be better spent elsewhere. Say, on research to cure disease or on organizations who help children get out of abusive families into safe and healthy environments.

Posted in citizen, culture, learning, persuasion | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

best ways to help adults learn difficult concepts through interactive design

Posted by contentgrrl on November 8, 2007

I know this doesn’t sound much like the “adult” way to learn, but…Let them PLAY!

When I worked for Creative Education Institute, a good portion of the target audience for the reading and math software was adult literacy programs. They may not seem like difficult concepts, but tell that to someone who can’t read or figure. The programs are very interactive, designed for specific cognitive goals. In the math program, manipulatives (like learning toys) are used in tandem with animation to teach basic operations including addition and division of fractions.

When I taught DOS way back when, one of my most effective lessons was having the students role-play parts of the computer during startup. It was fun, and they actually remembered the sequence.

w3schools.com has tons of Try It examples, where you can play with different HTML, CSS, and other script source code and see the results.

When I was at the SBC (now at&t) Center for Learning, most of the network tech training consisted of lecture and lab. That’s a good thing, as long as the lab exercises are real-life tasks, and it’s fairly easy to restore the system if a student screws up.

Back in ’97 I was lucky to be involved in the design of a telecom technician training simulation, that turned out like a video game. The tech was first instructed with animation how to use metering equipment and a little bit of theory (with quizlike questions interspersed), and then was given a job assignment in a virtual world. Assuming their truck was well equipped, they had to perform all the troubleshooting techniques and procedures required to solve the problem.

But the simulation program had to run on special Silicon Graphics machines, which SBC (now at&t) had to have an instructor travel around with on a truck. And once the monitoring equipment was upgraded (a frequent occurrence), the simulation became outdated. It was expensive to maintain.

Nowadays the game engines are so advanced that it’s cheaper to develop and much cheaper to distribute and maintain. Granted, the last games I’ve actively played/watched were:

  • Planescape Torment — a great RPG exploration of factions holding philosophies such as anarchy, hedonism, entropy, chaos, order, freethought, cabalism, and so on.
  • San Andreas — a stupendous playhouse of a first-person shooter/driver/dancer/whatever. My husband thinks that game companies should integrate all kinds of play, so you only have to have one world, but be able to play all kinds of games in it, including his favorites: golf, racing, and shooting.
  • Half-Life 2 — a groundbreaking sci-fi first-person shooter that gives the user control over so many unexpected items in the environment.

SecondLife looks interesting as a mechanism for developing such environments and training labs, where a gamer or trainee won’t hurt anything in the real world, and I’ll be watching to see what comes out of it.

Posted in games, learning, performance, project management, reading | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

becoming certifiable in Webmastery

Posted by contentgrrl on November 3, 2007

I have learned so much on the job. But the more you know, the more you discover you don’t know. I am always discovering new gaps. When I need to fill those gaps to meet my long-term goals, and a book won’t cut it, sometimes a little more formal training is in order.

The International Webmasters Association partnered with the HTML Writers Guild to offer a certification program via eClasses.

I completed most of of the classes required for the Web Programming certificate, but the Design curriculum looks good as well.

In my case, each class required about 6-12 hours of work per week. Pretty standard online experience: register for membership, pay for class, buy the text, wait for class to begin, log on to read lectures & assignments, peruse classmates’ questions/answers (VERY USEFUL!) and assignments (EVEN MORE USEFUL!), post your own work, and wait for an acknowledgement from the instructor.

It doesn’t look bad on the wall, and it doesn’t look bad on the resume either.

I have to stress that you can’t plagiarize. You do your own work on the hands-on exercises, and the assignments are structured to encourage projects that will help you on the job, and will therefore be more individualized. And often the instructor’s feedback and comments from fellow students are very eye-opening.

At the time of this writing, course prices range from $80 to $270 or so, depending on whether you’re a member. Session durations range from 4-8 weeks, with a staggered schedule (new classes begin every week) rather than a semester-like schedule.

As of June 8, Rend Lake College (RLC) in Illinois offers the Webmaster certificate program online through a partnership with eClasses, and you can request 2 credit hours per course completed. (see 2nd link below)

RLC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as an accredited institution by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission.

Always search the US DOE database if you’re concerned about accreditation and creditability.

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