Friday, February 15, 2008

Surveymonkey's technology enhanced support

We have been using Zoho Creator and Surveymonkey to collect data for formative assessment and other uses. This morning I wanted to know whether we could share the responsibility for creating assessments and surveys with other users. This is an important feature because we can build on one another's work and improve our efficiency of our efforts to improve learning and assessment. So I posed this question to the support contact form at Surveymonkey:

Export surveys to use in another account?

2/15/2008 10:55:59 AM
Your site explains clearly how to export data from surveys. It also explains how to use one survey to create a copy of it that can subsequently modified. It also explains how to use system-wide templates to start and then modify.

Is is possible to export a survey and then import into a second account? Can professional accounts mimic characteristics of your template functions so that surveys can be developed for similar user communities? For example, if our school district develops a survey that helps us improve instruction, can we share it with other districts who may want to build on our work? I. e. you have an open data capacity, do you also have an open content capacity?

Thanks for your assistance.
Immediately after submitting the form containing my request, the site responded with the following page:
One more step! You are not quite finished.

Based on your initial question, please review the following topics we have found for you. One may provide an immediate answer to your question.

If this does not fully answer your question: [Submit]

Apparently, the support system "scanned" my query and compared it with its database of questions they have already answered and published on their support site. They wanted to make sure that I had found an answer to my question if one already existed. I had already used their search function to look for "export" but all I could find were references to exporting data rather than the surveys themselves. So, I submitted the form and returned to working on related projects while the humans took over trying to interpret my request. Mychal, a support provider, responded several minutes later:
Mychal Hoffman (Support) 2/15/2008 11:02:19 AM
You can transfer surveys designs to another account.
Here is how:

You will want to select Copy (not Move to do this). If you copy the survey into another account, this will not copy the data or responses. ...
His response continues with more details on characteristics of the copying process. So, it turns out that they had answered my question already. But, they use the term "Transfer" to refer to reusing surveys and reserve the term "Export" for references to data. That distinction eluded the help systems' inference engine. I anticipate that the next generation will get it right.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A global essential question and our responses

Bob Herbert, an editorial writer for the NY Times, asked an essential question for the nation in his recent editorial "Where's the Big Idea?":
The essential question the candidates should be trying to answer — but that is not even being asked very often — is how to create good jobs in the 21st century. Thirty-seven million Americans are poor, and roughly 60 million others are near-poor. (These are people struggling to make it on incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 a year for a family of four.)
I like this way framing the issue because it reflects good principles of design. We use a similar approach in our efforts to improve learning and assessment based in part on the work of Wiggins and McTigue: Understanding by Design. The idea is simple- start with the goal in mind and plan backward to identify what is required to achieve that goal. Implementing that simple idea can be challenging but usually worth the effort.

Personally, I search for answers to this essential question through our efforts to find ways to use technology to support improving teaching and learning. Suzie Boss, an author of the recently published book Reinventing Problem-based Learning, asks, "What's missing?":
American teens are plenty confident that they can solve the world's most vexing problems with the help of technology, according to the latest Lemelson-MIT Invention Index. There's just one not-so-small catch: more than half of today's high school students feel unprepared for careers in technology and engineering.
What can we do to help teacher candidates help their future students and colleagues to answer these global essential questions? Suzie's answer includes more support for project-based learning. MSAD75's (Maine School Administrative District) district-wide commitment to expanding service-learning opportunities show how schools can engage in this work.

Note: I tried to find a brief introduction to the ideas behind the term "essential questions" at Wikipedia but did not find an entry for it. I'd like to see a group of pre-service candidates create an article as an authentic performance of their developing understanding of this important idea.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Cellphones for learning field testing

In class on Monday, we discussed use of cellphones by young children and their potential to support students' learning and assessment. I returned to the office and found this description of students, teacher, administrator and support staff working collaboratively to explore the opportunities.

I had the great privilege of being invited to spend some time in a learning experiment in one of the local schools that I work with. The principal, let’s call him Gord (that’s actually his real name) emailed me about some interesting idea he and his grade 8/9 teacher had. The class was studying the novel The Wave. The book is about an experiment itself so it seemed perfect to their teacher, Carla to try out an experiment of their own.

So I popped in for a visit and here’s what I found:

  • Engagement. As Carla and Gord pointed out, the cellphone novelty will soon pass, the engagement was with the ideas and sharing. Students were not really dazzled by their phones, they simply used them to share ideas, pictures, sounds and videos. The real engagement was with each other and the story. The cellphones were almost seamless.

The post continues with more description of the process. Sounds like a community committed to the idea of "Every one a teacher and every one a learner!"