Tag Archives: assessment



Image courtesy of Images Money

The other day, I read this post about a photographer named Kris who posted a prize-winning photo of the shadow of Mt. Fuji on Reddit’s subreddit /r/pics only to find his joy for getting a huge amount of upvotes to be taken away by his photo being shared without his permission or attribution on various social media networks. I won’t get into the whole story since you can read about it on his post, but one of the comments on his blog regarding this story really stuck with me. The person wrote, “Your image was not “stolen” yet. Nobody is turning a profit on it.” There are two distinct things that came to mind after reading this:

  1. For most people, the inherent value in something is in what you can get in exchange for it.
  2. For most people, profit refers to monetary gain.

In this situation, the commenter believes that the photographer took the photo to make money. Since other people are not making money from it, there is no problem with those individuals sharing that photo as long as they are not making money from it. My problem with this is that the notion of value and profit are not just about physical items such as cars and computers, but intellectual properties such as writing and ideas. Continue reading Profiting


prairie wetland

Image courtesy of USFWSmidwest

It’s amazing what I can learn on my drive to work. This semester, I am working on two campuses which are about a thirty-minute drive from each other. During my daily commute, I listen to CBC Radio and I am always surprised how interesting some of these topics are. The other day they were interviewing a professor from the University of Saskatchewan regarding the flooding that was occurring in central Canada. He mentioned a study they had undertaken regarding the draining of prairie wetlands for farming and the effect this has had on spring and summer flooding. This study shows that this natural prairie watershed system was instrumental in dramatically reducing the flooding downstream. By allowing farmers to drain these small and seemingly insignificant ponds and marshes to provide more space for growing crops, water had no natural barrier and would eventually accumulate and overflow the natural banks, flooding farmland and municipalities downstream.

This got me thinking about teaching and how we are much like those individual farmers working on our small plots of land. Our actions, no matter how well intentioned, have an affect on our students and can cause problems further ‘downstream’. Continue reading Flooding



Image courtesy of Sean Winters

This is week two of my #444ELT personal challenge. Here is a link to week one.

This week I spent time digging through articles on the use of portfolios in the classroom. This is something I already do and have done for a while, but I wanted to see what others were doing and to see if there was anything I could do better. I learned a great deal this week and I may keep on reading about portfolios as I feel there is some real value to it beyond what I am doing at the moment.

I invite all comments, suggestions, and even criticisms. Share below in the comments section or on Twitter.

Continue reading Collecting



Image courtesy of DRs Kulturarvsprojekt

Over the past few years now, I have been working on and refining my use of e-portfolios in my classroom. For those unfamiliar or only knowing a bit about what they are, e-portfolios are essentially an electronic archive of things the student does in the course of their learning. It can be made up of projects from inside or outside of the classroom and is primarily divided into two parts: the sandbox and the showcase. Continue reading Archiving



Image courtesy of Lorraine Santana

One of the things I love about Twitter is the online chats that occur based on areas of interest. This is a great way for anyone to have a say, regardless of class, position, or status. While I would love to participate more, time restraints and scheduling conflicts make it impossible for me to participate in the chats that I would love to take part in. As a result, I try to follow up by reading the tweets after the fact and the posted summaries as well.

Yesterday, I got to work in the morning and quickly read over the #ELTchat transcript and was pleasantly surprised to see a topic discussed that is close to my heart, that is student-generated content. Even this past weekend, I was discussing this very area of interest with other teachers during my session at the BC TEAL regional conference. While yesterday’s chat discussion predictably centred around the creation of content, I was mystified to find that little was mentioned about why this content is created and for what purpose. On top of that, not much at all was said about the use of student-generated content by other students as listening or reading material. The result of reading over that transcript has prompted me to take a deeper look at what student-generated material is and what is its ultimate purpose. Continue reading Creating



Image courtesy of Sean Benham
On a side note: This is my 50th post on this blog. As most of you know, I don’t get too excited about things like this, but it is nice to look back over the six months I have been working on this blog and see what has transpired since then. No matter how many visitors, retweets, FB shares, and so on that I get, I am in awe that anyone would think I have anything even remotely interesting to share. Thank you for putting up with my rants and incoherent rambling. I appreciate you all. Really.

Today I did elevator pitches with my students and I thought they did a really great job. I decided to do those instead of a traditional presentation for a number of reasons, but mostly because I feel it is more realistic than a lecture style speech. For those who are not aware of what an elevator pitch is, here is the basic situation.

Imagine you have walked into an elevator and standing there is the CEO / President / Manager of the company you would like to work for or with which you would like to do business. As the doors close, you have one minute to pitch yourself or your idea before the doors open again and you lose your opportunity of a lifetime. Continue reading Pitching



Image courtesy of Mark Teasdale

For many of the British Commonwealth countries around the world, Remembrance Day is set aside for honouring those who have died fighting for their countries. One of the traditions around this holiday is the wearing of bright red plastic or cloth poppies, a ritual connected to the poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, a Canadian physician serving in Beligium in the First World War. Today, the Royal Canadian Legion in Canada sells poppies by donation, money that goes towards the veterans and their families.

As a child, I didn’t understand the importance of the poppy and I remember my friend and I bought up as many poppies as we could and put them on our jackets and shirts. To us, this was something that we could afford. We could put in five or ten cents in the bucket each time we saw someone selling them. We thought we were so cool, that was until one veteran saw us doing this and asked us what we were up to. We sheepishly explained that we were collecting them. He smiled and asked us if we knew what the poppy meant. Of course we didn’t, so he took the time to explain it in a gentle and thoughtful way. I remember us feeling pretty stupid afterward and gave him back all of our poppies, minus one each.

My problem was that I treated the poppy as a commodity, something to be bought, traded for, and displayed as a symbol of pride. What I hadn’t realized was how it was something completely different. Instead, the poppy is a symbol of unity and remembrance. A chance for us to show our support for others, whether rich or poor, common or famous, powerful or weak, we are all the same. It is about identity, a sign to others that we belong to this group, not standing up as individuals. The poppy itself is nothing more than plastic and metal, worthless material made valuable through the action of giving to others.

I don’t know why that came to mind today, but it started me thinking about how we treat assessment in the classroom. Continue reading Remembering


Nathan and Mike

Image courtesy of TESL Canada Conference 2012

As I have mentioned before, my first ‘real’ job was working in a camera store. This was in the days  when we had to use film and get it developed at the photo lab. I worked for a long time in that field before I went away to Lithuania for five months to teach English. Upon my return to Canada and my old job, something new had arrived, the digital camera. It was spectacular and horrendously expensive. We had two models: one with zoom and one without. Both took 0.3 megapixel photos and both went through batteries like water. But that didn’t persuade me away from showing them to customers. I KNEW this was the way of the future.

Fast forward a few years where I am now the manager of the smallest shop in the chain. A money losing store with hardly any customers. Being the youngest manager in the company, this was to be my training ground. I knew that there wasn’t a lot I could do to change the business in regards to location, advertising,  and so forth, so I needed to do what I could within the shop. And then it hit me; sell digital cameras. Make it a destination shop for all things digital imaging. I had already become fascinated with them, so with the long hours of no customers, I read and learned all I could about how they worked, the models, and so on. One day, the general manager called and said the head of the digital department was supposed to give a presentation on digital cameras at our annual open house and he came down sick. He asked if I would I be able to do it on short notice. I jumped at the chance and the rest is history. From that moment on, I travelled around giving training sessions on digital imaging and my job changed to training specialist.

I enjoy giving presentation. After giving so many of them, it isn’t so scary anymore. That initial twinge of anxiety I have just before starting quickly disappears once I get going. I know that I am not the norm here. I wasn’t always that comfortable in front of people. I have tried to take some of what I have learned over the years and used it help my business English students with their presentations. Recently, I have started to wonder about how valuable presentations are in the language classroom. We have all used them, but do we really know how helpful they are to the students? I took some time think about the features of oral presentations in the language classroom and this is what I came up with. Continue reading Presenting



Image courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, Texas A&M

I admit it. I am one of those who actually likes writing tests. I hate marking them, but as a student, I actually looked forward to exams. Why? For the most part, I was able to coast through most of my high school classes and then cram at the end of the term for the final. I could remember most of the thing I needed to get a high enough mark to complete the class. Not the best way of working and that eventually changed in university, but it illustrates a few problems with testing as it is primarily implemented in schools.

I teach adults which is different than teaching children or young adults. For the most part, there is a motivational shift, so what I am about to propose probably wouldn’t transfer as well into the K-12 system. Also, I teach English language students which is different than teaching science or math. Lastly, most of my students were raised in cultures where education is approached differently than in Canada where I teach. Those are my caveats.

I was thinking today about the upcoming term and how I use assessment in my classroom. For the most part, I don’t have a lot of control of what happens since I work for a university and there are some things that need to be done to meet the institutional guidelines for the course. There is some flexibility in what I do beyond the two biggest tests (ie. midterm and final exams), but I can make changes in how I assess beyond that. To this point, I have tried and number of approaches with varying success. All of these assessment types have been set by me according to what I have felt is best for assessing how my students are progressing. Then today, I came across this tweet from the Cambridge University Press ELT department: Continue reading Assessing