Header text

EssayTagger is a web-based tool to help teachers grade essays faster.
But it is not an auto-grader.

This blog will cover EssayTagger's latest feature updates as well as musings on
education, policy, innovation, and preserving teachers' sanity.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Summer Project: DIY Gymnastics Mushroom

In addition to running EssayTagger I'm also a high school gymnastics coach. This is totally off-topic for EssayTagger, but I didn't have anywhere else to post it!

My flares aren't perfect but they are fun!
A mushroom is an indispensable tool for developing pommel horse circles. It takes a ton of time just to get a basic circle but once you're there you can start working spindles, russians, flares, moores, back moores, spindle flares, swiss hops. Add some obstacles and you can also work loops and back loops.

The best part is that you can train all this on your own, in the offseason. You can easily get circles in 9 months. It's a lot harder to do it during our 10-week season.

Unfortunately mushrooms are expensive. The type in the picture on the left with a steel base costs about $950. Even the cheapo-looking plastic mushrooms are over $300. Ouch!

$300+ for this?!

So I wanted to engineer my own mushroom that would be strong enough to support my 157lbs, it had to be simple enough for my more handy high school gymnasts to build at home, and the raw materials had to be reasonably affordable.

I'm pretty happy with the results:

Tools needed
7/16" drill bit
1" flat bit
Mitre saw (or do the cuts at a hardware store)
Light duty staple gun
Box cutter
Measuring tape

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How to configure an assignment for "Evaluation-only" mode

With today's release of "Evaluation-only" mode support, instructors can now evaluate end-of-unit and final essays without providing feedback comments. Here's how to get started.

We're super-excited that we were able to launch our new "Evaluation-only" mode in time for most schools' final exams. Finals are the strongest case for when to use "Evaluation-only" mode; it's too late to provide helpful feedback and the kids won't get much out of it anyway with their minds already on summer.

Enabling "Evaluation-only" mode
Create or edit an assignment as you normally would. You'll notice a new option: "assessment mode":

Click the droplist and select "Evaluation-only" mode:

Latest update: "Evaluation-only" mode - just in time for finals!

EssayTagger is all about helping teachers provide targeted feedback that will promote student growth. But mid-stream fast formative assessments or end-of-unit summative assessments don't always require extensive feedback. Now EssayTagger supports both "Evaluation + Feedback" and "Evaluation-only" assessment modes to support those situations.

First, the lingo
It's taken me a while to wrap my brain around the following two terms, so let's review them just to be sure we're all on the same page:

Formative Assessment is a kind of check in with your students in the middle of a unit to see where they're at, see where they're struggling. The goal is to then use this information to make on-the-fly adjustments to your plans and instruction to help the students reach the goals you've set out for them. Formative assessments should be fast, simple, and low-stakes or zero-stakes (i.e. not for points). And they have to come early enough so that there's still time left to adjust course as needed. If you just want to quickly "take the pulse" of the room, there's no need for extensive feedback comments.

Summative Assessment is the end measurement point. Did they reach the goal? How many of the target skills can they actually demonstrate now that the unit is complete? Because summative assessments come at the end of the learning process, providing feedback or further coaching at this point is somewhat pointless. When students hand in a final essay at the end of the school year are they really going to absorb your extensive comments as they start their summer vacation? Shyeah, right!

EssayTagger's default mode: "Evaluation + Feedback"
Our primary emphasis on feedback comments places us outside of the world of fast formative assessment and summative assessment. In this mode instructors select a feedback comment from the appropriate quality column or add new reusable comments as needed:

Extensive feedback makes sense when a further draft is expected and students have a chance to incorporate or address your comments. Ideally all writing assignments would have a write-review-rewrite cycle built into the schedule.

The new "Evaluation-only" mode
With today's new release, instructors can opt to configure an assignment to focus solely on evaluation.

Drag-and-drop the rubric element like you normally would. In this example, we are dragging the "Thesis" button to identify the essay's thesis:

But now when the "Thesis" evaluation options pop up, we see that there is only a single choice for each quality level: