Tech Rav
Discussions of Jewish EdTech

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Creating Online Quizzes

With the recent research reported by the New York Times that Test Taking Cements Knowledge Better than other alternative forms of assessment, I have been experimenting with different methods to create online tests and quizzes to upload to my blog, wiki, or course management web page. These types of quizzes provide a valuable formative assessment for students while learning a unit although obviously the online mode usually cannot prevent students from "sharing" answers so it should not replace summative in-class assessments.

The most obvious and popular source for creating online quizzes is Google Docs Forms application which I have blogged about extensively earlier. Below is a simple video tutorial for how to create an online quiz using Google Docs:

Google Docs Forms have some obvious advantages:
  • They are easy to use and free, requiring only a Google Login.
  • Many question types can be used including multiple choice, short answer, long answer, or checklist responses.
  • Quizzes can be in both Hebrew and English.
  • The form can navigate to different questions based on the responses to a previous multiple choice question. 
  • Online Quizzes can be embedded on any blog, wiki, or website and can require students to include identifiable information.
  • All answers are automatically submitted to a spreadsheet on the "backend" for teachers to grade the quiz.
Google Docs Forms does have some disadvantages as well:
  • Quiz questions and the order of multiple choice responses cannot be randomly changed for each test taker.
  • Students taking the test cannot receive feedback on right or wrong answers or explanations for why a question in right or wrong. 
  • Teachers cannot easily mark correct answers for grading.
For these reasons, I have been researching other free online quiz solutions. I created a sample quiz on מלכים ב פרק ט which I have embedded below using 3 different quiz sites to compare features. I would recommend that, in addition to reading my comments, you take this quiz using all 3 quiz sites below so you can compare the different user experiences for each.
  2. Advantages:
    • This site allows for very attractive quizzes that can include multi-media such as pictures, audio, and video. 
    • It is also very attractive in its general interface and how it handles Hebrew.
    • Finally, students can log in so their quiz scores can appear on a scoreboard at the end.
    • Scores are not submitted to the teacher for easy grading.
    • Feedback is given immediately by each question instead of giving correct and incorrect answers at the end of the quiz.
    • Only multiple choice questions are allowed.
    2. Advantages:
      • Quizzes can be in multiple formats including multiple choice, fill-in, and free response.
      • Feedback is given at the end of the quiz.
      • Grades for each student are posted for the teacher to access upon login.
      • Unattractive interface.
      • Teachers are not emailed when new quiz responses are posted.
    3. Zoho Challenge
    4. This site is my favorite for a number of reasons:
      • Like ProProfs, quizzes can be in many question formats such as multiple choice and free response but Zoho Challenge also adds a question bank so one can reuse questions from one quiz on a new quiz.
      • The order of the quiz questions can be randomized as well as the order of responses in a multiple choice question.
      • Point totals for each question can be set in advance as well as a timer for how long the quiz should last.
      • The duration for when the quiz is accepting responses can be set in advance as well.
      • Results are given for students at the end of the quiz and teachers can even evaluate the free response questions which are posted for students.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Torah Tech

    This past semester, I gave a senior elective called Torah Tech. The idea of this class was to function as a "beta" class for various technologies that can be used to further Torah study. The class switched off between frontal and project based learning as I interspersed lessons on Sefer Yonah, Gemara Berachot, and Amos with lessons on the using PowerPoint effectively, breaking down a Talmudic text with Gemara Berura, researching sources with Bar Ilan's web-based Responsa Project, using Smart Notebook for interactive learning activities, and creating Prezis for dynamic presentations. Students also used Poll Everywhere to answer questions in real-time with 100% class participation using their cell phones, Etherpad and Wikis to collaborate on group projects, and Google Earth and NASA to simulate the total eclipse of the sun predicted by Amos. In general, I think this class was a success with students creating very impressive learning products and giving very positive feedback.

    One weakness of this class was its lack of organization since I was giving this class for the first time and designing the instructional activities throughout the semester. There were also some key technologies that I did not use. For example, I did not use Voicethread for audio based discussions or textual reading exercises or use wikis or blogs for asynchronous online discussions. Since, I am giving this class to a new group for the spring semester, I will be able to better plan my lessons and utilize these various technologies.

    Here is a proposed outline for my spring semester:

    Project I: How to Navigate a Page of Talmud
    • This project will feature a webquest on how to navigate a page of Talmud based on Eliezer Segal's Page of Talmud hypertext map
    • Students will then create a PowerPoint presentation after receiving a mini-lesson on creating effective PowerPoint presentations.
    • This PowerPoint will be uploaded to Voicethread where they will create audio narrations of their PowerPoint slides in lieu of in-class presentations.
    Project II: Learning, researching, and presenting a Sugya in Berachot Perek Tefillat Hashachar
    • Students will learn the first amud of Tefillat Hashachar with Gemara Berura. They will discover how to use keywords and other textual clues to divide, classify, and connect the text based on its function in the sugya. This will include frontal learning with the text from Gemara Berura projected on the Smart Board and chavrusa learning with the students reviewing the text using the program.
    • Students will research topics from this page of Gemara using both Bar llan's Responsa Project and like Mordechai Torczyner's Webshas and Aaron Ross' Chaburas. They will create sourcesheets based on the topics they researched.
    • Students will create presentations using either Smart Notebook or Prezi.
    Project III: Learning from Amos.
    • Students will learn the first two chapters of the book of Amos through interactive Smart Notebook lessons. Poll Everywhere will be used for classroom feedback and participation.
    • Students will then use Google Docs Forms to choose which of chapters 3-9 they would like to present on. They will research these topics using both web-based sources like the Amos Hypermedia Bible and seforim from the library.
    • Students will write a two-page paper about there topic using Etherpad for collaboration which will then be submitted to TurnItIn
    • They can then create any presentation they wish either with Prezi, Smart Notebook, or using low-tech medi like art. The only medium not allowed is PowerPoint. The presentation will then be loaded on a wiki page together with their paper and other supported materials.
    This is my plan for the Torah Tech class Spring Semester. I welcome your constructive feedback.

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    Using Google Forms in the Classroom

    Google Docs offers a free suite of online tools to create and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings. These features closely mimic many of the products offered by Microsoft Office's Word, Excel, and PowerPoint except that, since they are web based, they offer the additional feature of real-time collaboration amongst multiple users. Google Forms is probably the most unique aspect of the Google Docs productivity suite because it provides a free service that is not found in Microsoft Office or easily be found anywhere else; the ability to create online surveys and forms that automatically populate a spreadsheet for storing and organizing the collected data. This can be a very powerful tool in many educational settings.

    Tom Barrett, a visionary educational technologist from Nottingham, England, has even set up a Google Presentation that is being created collaboratively by dozens of users world-wide of 60 Different Ways and Tips to Use Google Forms in the Classroom. Since this document itself is a Google Presentation that anyone can edit, you can even add your own uses for Google Forms in your classroom. (I added #59.)

    Some examples of ways that I have used Google Forms in my classroom is for project based learning, t create a Designer Baby Form as a part of an integrated 9th Grade Biology and English unit on Fate and Free Will, and for Junior and Senior School-Wide Elective Request Forms. Here are some details about my various forms.
    • I use a Google Form for all of my project based learning activities. Students choose from a list of topics for their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices. They also choose if they wish to have a partner and, if they answer yes, who that partner should be. I embed this form on the class wiki and then embed a 2nd Google Form with the Project Groups and Topics based on the student feedback as well as a URL for an IEtherpad page for each group to show their work. This way, I solve the sticky problem with all projects of assigning topics and partners since I give the students a voice in each of these decisions.
    • I also created a Designer Baby Form for our integrated Genetics unit. The goal of this unit was for students to realize that any genetic choice can have unintended consequences and therefore requires serious thought. In the hypothetical form, students were asked to choose whether they wanted their child to be a boy or girl, tall or short, brown hair or blond, and what profession, and other skills and/or hobbies they wanted for their baby. Each choice also carried with it other consequences. For example, if they chose that their child should be a tennis pro, she would also be color blind, while a marathon runner carried with her a risk of colon cancer. This form "forced" students to make these tough choices and also allowed us to collect the data from 142 student submissions and present them to the class as a valuable follow-up activity.
      • One of the great features of Google Forms that helped facilitate this activity is the ability in a multiple choice question to jump to different pages in the form depending on different responses. For example, if students chose a baby with brown eyes and brown hair, it would jump to one set of possibilities, while a decision for blond hair, blue eyes led to a different set of choices.
    • I also used a Google Form to create our Junior and Senior School-Wide Elective Request Forms. Once again, this form involved students making certain choices of electives that necessarily limited their future choices. For example, a student choosing to take a foreign language is limited in her choice of a second elective. The Google Form allowed us to easily create these different possibilities through multiple choice questions that jumped to different pages based on different responses. 

    For a complete step by step tutorial on creating Google Forms, I highly recommend Tom Barrett's entry on Using Google Forms in the Classroom. Tom Barrett also has an excellent entry on Using Google Forms with Twitter complete with a sample Google Form.

    I have included a Google Survey about this TechRav blog below. The purpose of this form is two-fold.

    1. Firstly, I have tried to use as many question types as possible in this form so you can see a real-world example of the Google Forms' various features. I have included Text Questions, Paragraph Text, Multiple Choice, Checkboxes, Choose from a List, a Scale, and a Grid. One of my Multiple Choice questions navigates you to a different page according to your response. I also included a personalized confirmation message for anyone who fills out this survey. It is my hope that this survey can serve as a model for designing your own classroom surveys.
    2. I must admit that I also have a selfish motive for including this survey; I want your feedback. Besides the occasional comment on a posting or encouraging tweet or email, I work as most bloggers do, mostly in the dark. I have no idea how you, the reader, think or feel about my postings. This survey is my first formal attempt to elicit feedback. I also invite you to join in on the conversation. My survey asks for ideas for future postings and even offers you the chance to volunteer to be a guest blogger. Please fill in this survey, being as brutally honest as you can. I welcome any and all feedback. Thank you for being a part of the conversation.

    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    Welcome to the WebQuest!

    Educational technology holds great promise to transform the role of the teacher from the "Sage on the Sage" to the "Guide on the Side". The big challenge for teachers is in creating structured activities that keep the students engaged in meaningful learning using the medium of technology. One of the oldest methods to accomplish this is through the WebQuest.

    The WebQuest is an inquiry based learning activity where students use the Internet to find much of the material to complete a task. One can find information about WebQuests here. Typically, WebQuests introduce a problem, state a task students have to accomplish, describe a detailed process students should follow to accomplish this task, include resources with suggested weblinks and other online documents that students can use in the course of their research, and end with a rubric for evaluation and a conclusion.

    Students following a WebQuest obviously require a computer with an Internet connection. This can be done in class with a mobile laptop cart or by moving the class to the school library or computer room.  I also recommend the teacher include a small library of books for students to use to supplement their Internet research when completing the task. Because all of the resources to complete the task are available to the students through the list of websites in the quest supplemented by a small library of books chosen for this activity, students are actively engaged in constructing meaning and often can create products in the form of painting, dioramas, PowerPoint presentations, or brochures that indicate a deep understanding of the material.

    WebQuest Design Patterns is a site that I have found to be invaluable in creating my own WebQuests. It includes over two dozen pre-made templates for various types of WebQuests. For help in creating rubrics both for WebQuests and for student projects and performance based assessments in general, I highly recommend Rubistar. In Rubistar, the teacher chooses the type of project such as oral project, multimedia, art etc. and which areas she would like to focus on in grading and the site automatically generates an editable template containing detailed descriptions and ratings for each area.

    If you are still unsure about where to begin in creating your own WebQuest, first start with a worthwhile WebQuest that has been created by others. The first WebQuest I ever did with a class was created by Shalom Berger of the Lookstein Center on Kaf Tet November. You can view many examples of WebQuests for Judaic subjects created by Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, a visionary in this area, at

    Here is a list of number of WebQuests that I have performed with my students over the years based on the WebQuest Design Patterns templates and Rubistar rubrics:

    One final issue to consider when designing one's own WebQuests is where to host it.

    • A WebQuest can be simply a Word document based on the templates above that is emailed to students or posted on the school homework site. 
    • A bit more sophisticated solution would be to create a Google document and publish the link online to share with students. 
    • In the past, I used free online websites like the now defunct Geocities. Today, one could use Google sites for a similar purpose. 
    • My favorite venue for WebQuests is to use a wiki which is more powerful and a bit more sophisticated but still very easy to use. As I have described in previous blog postings, Wikispaces offers free, password protected wikis for K-12 schools.    

    Enjoy the quest!!!