Category Archives: EdTech

Exploring the convergence of curriculum, assessment, and technology

Guided Deep Learning and the Future of Assessment

Victory’s spinoff metacog has been busy adding new features and functionalities. When companies look to incorporate metacog into their digital products, they want to know two things:

  1. How does metacog work?
  2. What can metacog help me do now that I couldn’t do before?

The answers to both questions lie in our unique approach to guided deep learning: machine learning steered by an understanding of real student outcomes.

Deep Learning

In education, deep learning is different from deeper learning, which is a pedagogical approach to instruction. In the world of Big Data, deep learning is an artificial intelligence (AI) approach that creates neural networks in which each “neuron” is a computer processor. This structure mimics how the human brain works in parallel processing.

Deep learning can be very effective, but it has a drawback: neural networks are so complex that we can’t know how they arrive at certain decisions.

Guided Deep Learning

At metacog, our guided deep learning process begins with a clear definition of what constitutes a good result. The computer program then goes on to do the heavy lifting. We can trust the reasoning behind the program’s decisions because we supply the reasons!

Without proper guidance, deep learning on its own can be problematic. Take self-driving cars, for example. They can use neural networks to observe and mimic human drivers, but unless the software can also effectively evaluate proper behavior, the resulting decisions can be erratic, and even dangerous. We don’t want self-driving cars that emulate a driver who is distracted by a text message!

metacog’s guided deep learning approach, on the other hand, specifies how to measure the appropriate outcomes. Like a self-driving car that models only the best driving behavior, our system understands the goals users want to achieve, and knows when those goals have been met successfully. How is that achieved?

Rubrics to the Rescue

The measurable goals are defined by rubrics. Just as rubrics are used to guide a teacher in scoring an open-ended performance task, rubrics are used to guide metacog. We set up a simple system in which humans create a rubric that defines what behavior constitutes a good score and what constitutes a bad one.

Once the rubric is defined, the deep learning program is then guided in how to apply the rubric. This is done with training sessions. In one training session, an educator scores the performance task while watching a playback of a student’s performance. Given enough training sessions, the deep learning program can then emulate the scoring with good accuracy and impeccable consistency—just like a self-driving car would emulate a perfect driver.

The benefits of machine scoring are enormous. A student can get immediate feedback while doing the performance task, instead of waiting for the teacher to grade the performance task after they have finished. And a teacher can be alerted immediately when a student is struggling, and then take appropriate steps for remediation. So metacog does not replace the teacher. Instead, it puts a highly intelligent teacher’s aide at the side of every student.

If this topic piqued your interest, here are a few links for a deeper dive.

Further Reading

https://blogs.nvidia.com/blog/2016/07/29/whats-difference-artificial-intelligence-machine-learning-deep-learning-ai/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/604087/the-dark-secret-at-the-heart-of-ai/

https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-10-06-why-education-needs-augmented-not-artificial-intelligence

The Past & the Future: Museums & Historical Societies

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For tourists in London, it’s hard to miss the city’s deep connection to history: it’s everywhere you look, indoors and out. But the Churchill War Rooms museum brings the city’s wartime history to life with a unique blend of the past and the future. The museum is a cavernous collection of preserved bunkers, allowing visitors to experience the same cold, cramped conditions military personnel did. Standing in the space, you can truly feel the looming threat of an attack overhead. And yet the War Rooms also features a glimpse into the future of museum design and education: a giant interactive timeline that uses digital technology to animate correspondences across Churchill’s life.

Victory sees museums and historical societies all over the world as untapped resources for classroom instruction, and even cutting-edge Ed Tech. These resources can help bring history into the future and make it relevant to new generations of students. And you don’t need to take students to Europe to achieve this. Just see what local institutions offer in your own area. Continue reading

5 Keys to Visual Literacy

When we develop digital solutions at Victory, we want the end user to experience visuals as intuitively as possible. Because space is always at a premium, visuals and text are equally important. The visuals need to immediately convey information and tell an extended story. When used well, they not only save space on the page (a picture is worth a thousand words), they also inspire confidence in the reader (or should we say “viewer”) by subtly conveying that the overall message will also be easy to understand.

Visual literacy is experiencing resurgence. It is defined many ways in different disciplines, but a good general definition is:

visual literacy: a set of skills used when a person either sees or produces images in order to interpret them, discover a fuller meaning, and make emotional connections.

From our research, there are five important things to consider about visual literacy:

5 Keys to Visual Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Observing elements in complex images and determining how they relate
key-flipped-small 2 Developing questions to ask about the images
key-flipped-small 3 Understanding how different visual approaches convey different meanings
key-flipped-small 4 Identifying the emotional impact of different techniques on the viewer
key-flipped-small 5 Interpreting an author’s intent based on the choices made to deliver the message

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5 Keys to Assessment Literacy

At Victory, we have been developing many kinds of assessments. Whether the assessment is high-stakes summative testing, a performance-based task, or formative student self-assessment, assessment has a huge impact on classroom instruction. This means assessment literacy is a critical tool for teachers as they develop curriculum and apply classroom strategies.

What Is Assessment Literacy?

What does assessment literacy mean? It may help to consider other types of literacy. Science literacy, for example, means being prepared to understand and discuss science issues, especially as they impact social and political decisions. Visual literacy involves understanding how people use visual information, and choosing a visual approach that supports your goals. Digital literacy is the ability to use technology tools, and choose which tool is most appropriate for a given purpose. In the same way, assessment literacy is the ability to understand the purpose of each type of assessment and then use this knowledge to make better assessment decisions.

From our experience, these are 5 keys to assessment literacy:

5 Keys to Assessment Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Understanding different kinds of assessments and their purposes
key-flipped-small 2 Recognizing the best assessment to use for a given situation
key-flipped-small 3 Knowing how to prepare students for each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 4 Knowing how to implement each kind of assessment
key-flipped-small 5 Getting comfortable with interpreting assessment data

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5 Keys to Digital Literacy

Recently, we premiered our digital lesson on the Boston Massacre at the ISTE and ILA conferences. The lesson was a big hit. It inspired many discussions with technology coordinators and educators on what makes a lesson good for digital literacy. The table below summarizes what we learned, and the video that follows gives concrete examples of how the 5 keys to digital literacy are executed in the Boston Massacre lesson.

5 Keys to Digital Literacy
key-flipped-small 1 Make sure the lesson has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
key-flipped-small 2 Each interactive should build on the previous one so that students gain practice and automaticity in skills and strategies.
key-flipped-small 3 Processes for working through a digital lesson need to be consistent.
key-flipped-small 4 Cross-curricular activities encourage students to employ skills and strategies from other disciplines in new ways.
key-flipped-small 5 Make sure students are using data, analyzing it, and using 21st-century skills.

Are We There Yet?

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A Revolutionary Interactive Lesson

In our last blog on performance tasks, we revealed our instructional design approach to creating a social studies performance task, The Boston Massacre.

In this blog, we’ll explain why we expanded the performance task to become an interactive lesson, with embedded performance tasks. So, this is really an evolution, not a revolution.

Here is a sneak preview of the lesson:


What Was Missing in the Original Task?

Our original Boston Massacre performance task was unique in several regards:

  • It developed critical thinking through the analysis and comparison of key characters.
  • Students evaluated multiple causes and effects to rank the importance of earlier events that led up to the key event.
  • Students needed to do a close reading to find evidence to support their arguments.
But, a performance task is rarely used in isolation. It is either part of a summative assessment or used formatively in a lesson. For a lesson, providing a stand-alone performance task requires the teacher to do a lot of work before it can be effective. The teacher has to decide:
  • whether it supports the lesson objectives,
  • when to use it in a lesson,
  • how to provide support if students struggle, and
  • how to use the scores.

Even the world’s best performance task won’t help students if teachers won’t use it!

Collaborating on a Solution

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Victory’s Vendor and Partnership Processes

In our recent blog post, Instructional Design 101, we provided an overview of several popular instructional design models. One of these, the original ADDIE model, was a linear approach with some iterative features. It evolved to be more cyclical, and spawned many other models. In similar fashion, our linear workflows at Victory have evolved to keep up with rapid changes in our industry.

Watch this video for a quick look at Victory’s vendor and partnership processes. Many projects do not require a partnership process; we originally used it to develop digital products, but it has many benefits for complex print products as well.


The video also references backward design, which we first blogged about in Talking to the Test: The Learning Continuum. In backward design, the initial development focuses on assessments because they determine what evidence we will accept as proof of mastery of the associated learning objectives. Again, not every project warrants a backward-design approach. It makes the most sense for subjects with open-ended user experiences that are hard to assess and hard to teach. We have found that if most of the assessment is traditional, then a traditional development process generally will also be sufficient.

Instructional Design 101

Before we plunge into instructional design, let’s step back. What does it mean to design? Here’s the definition, according to Merriam-Webster:

Design

1. to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan: devise, contrive

2. a:  to conceive and plan out in the mind

b:  to have as a purpose: intend

c:  to devise for a specific function or end

Design is applied in many fields. Engineers design, construct, test, and refine solutions to problems. Fashion designers bring art to life in clothing, jewelry, and accessories. And then there’s user interface design, video and film design, marketing, and even publishing. In educational publishing, design often refers to graphic design—envisioning and creating the visual look and feel of a book or product. However, graphic design is just one small part of another field of design essential to creating educational materials—instructional design.

Instructional Design Models

Over the years, numerous instructional design models have been developed that serve as frameworks for modules or lessons, by:

  • increasing and/or enhancing the possibility of learning, and
  • encouraging the engagement of learners so that they learn faster and gain deeper levels of understanding.

Instructional design is the systemic process by which instructional materials are designed, developed, and delivered. Instructional design creates a learning environment that is focused on the learner, with an organized structure for content and activities designed to achieve specific learning objectives. This involves applying educational research and teaching practice to craft curriculum and instructional materials aligned to those objectives, thereby improving learning outcomes.

You often hear about instructional design in the context of technology—specifically, digital learning experiences. But the primary goal of instructional design is not the use of technology—it’s good instruction. Technology is just one tool that can be employed to achieve the larger goal: to improve learning outcomes.

The ADDIE Model

One of the earliest instructional design models, ADDIE, includes these five phases:
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Design: The Secret Behind Effective Digital Learning Experiences–Part 2

In our first blog on this topic, we began to reveal the secret behind the magnetic allure of games, simulations, and other online performance-based digital learning experiences. We showed you a well-aligned, well-designed simulation-based science performance task.

In this blog, we’ll show you how the design of a digital performance task directly influences the richness of the data we can gather on student learning. This time, we’ll use a social studies task we developed:


Behind the Scenes: Designing the Boston Massacre Performance Task

We designed this performance task to give students opportunities to visually, graphically, and dynamically analyze text, make inferences based on evidence, and synthesize their understanding.

Why? Let’s examine the standards. The C3 framework, CCSS standards, and other state and national efforts to align learning expectations to 21st-century workforce demands are emphasizing critical analysis and evidence from text.

Boston-Massacre-Perf-Task-standards

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