The Differentiator

Free Giant Macro Pencil and Pink Eraser Creative Commons

The Differentiator sounds like a professional wrestler’s stage name. It’s a cool tool, though. When I took Instructional Design as part of my Instructional Technology master’s, one point that the instructor and my text both emphasized was that objectives needed to be clear and measurable. One of my favorite methods for constructing objectives was the ABCD method advocated by Smaldino, Lowther, and Russell in Instructional Technology and Media for Learning, which was my textbook for Instructional Media (my favorite text). The ABCD model for writing objectives considers 1) audience—the learners; 2) behavior—what you want your audience to know or be able to do; 3) conditions—under what conditions (environment and materials) the objective will be assessed; and 4) degree—what will constitute an acceptable performance or demonstration of learning. The key with the “behavior” or verb in the objective is that it must be measurable.

Mager criticizes use of verbs that are not measurable in Preparing Instructional Objectives, a suggested text for Instructional Design. For instance, how would you measure whether students “appreciate” something or even whether they “learn” it? Smaldino, Lowther, and Russell say “[v]ague terms such as know, understand, and appreciate do not communicate your aim clearly. Better words include define, categorize, and demonstrate, which denote observable performance” (p. 93). A table on p. 93 of Instructional Technology and Media for Learning entitled “The Helpful Hundred” includes a great list of verbs for writing objectives. Of course, these types of charts are available everywhere, and maybe you even have a good one that you use. What I liked about the Differentiator is that you can use verbs organized via Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy to build objectives. The list is somewhat limited, but it’s a good start. Most of the verbs are measurable, too (I’m not sure how you would measure whether students “value” something, but that’s the only verb that struck me as difficult to measure and unclear to students). Using this model, you might write an objective like “Using a computer with word processing software, ninth grade students will write an essay with a score of 4 on a 5-point rubric where 5 = exceeds expectations.” (A similar example can be found on p. 94 of Smaldino, Lowther, and Russell.)

Mager’s model for writing objectives includes three major parts: 1) performance—what you want students to be able to do; 2) conditions—tools students can use and circumstances under which the performance will take place; and 3) criterion—the description for criteria for an acceptable performance. Using this model, you might, for instance, write an objective that reads “Given a computer with word processing software, students will write an essay with a score of 4 on a 5-point rubric where 5 = exceeds expectations.” The conditions are the computer and word processing software. The performance is writing the essay. The criterion is that the essay is at least meets expectations, earning an overall score of four.

A poor example of an objective with a similar goal might be “Students will know how to write an essay.” Using either model I’ve described will help you determine whether or not students know how to write an essay; they will also allow you to determine the degree of success and under what conditions you expect that performance to take place.

The Differentiator can help you write objectives similar to both of these models. I do think the content part of process is somewhat confusing and maybe unnecessary. For instance, I used the Differentiator to write “Students will construct a model of the solar system.” The missing piece is the criteria for an acceptable performance, but you get the idea. At any rate, it’s fun to play with and see what happens. I think it has potential to help teachers write higher order objectives more easily and perhaps help teachers remember to ask deeper questions.

It might seem somewhat cold or clinical to think about teaching this way, but it has made me think about what I what students to know or be able to do with much more clarity, and it has also made me think about how I will know students have learned something.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography

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QR Codes

qrcodeWhat is a QR Code?

It’s a kind of bar code that encodes information in a square like the one you see to the left, which is a QR Code for this website. “QR” stands for “Quick Response.” You can learn more about these codes at Wikipedia.

How can I read them?

These codes can be read by cell phones, so you will need an application. I found a list of QR Readers here, and if you have an iPhone or an Android, you can search their app stores for QR Code Readers. I use an app called Red Laser (iTunes link) to read QR Codes.

What can you do with QR Codes?

I’ve been learning about them for a couple of months, and while I can’t claim I have an exhaustive list of ideas for how to use them, I have a few.

  1. Put them on handouts or make stickers for textbooks. Students can scan the codes to learn more information about any topic. You can embed links to any website. Yes, you can also include the URL, but the QR Code will allow students to scan the code and go directly to the site.
  2. Put them on displays and signs around the school so students can learn more. Example: A scholarship contest sign could have contact information or a link to the website embedded. Students can quickly scan the code, and take the information with them more easily and quickly.
  3. Put them next to student work in the hallways and link them to text that tells viewers more about the artist and the work. Sure, you can display a block of text, too, but you have more options with QR Codes (links to other media, etc.). For example, you could include a link to a video in which the student is interviewed about their work, which is harder to do with a bit of text on the wall.
  4. Add them to large maps. Students can scan them and be directed to Wikipedia articles or other websites where they can learn more about the area. For example, putting a QR Code on a map of Georgia next to Milledgeville could bring up a list of writers from that town. You could also link to GoogleMaps so students could zoom around and explore the area in more detail or to images of people or events in the area. Videos, too.
  5. Encode answers to the assignment so students can check their work when they’re done. Perhaps the extra step of decoding the QR Code will be enough for students to try it out first before checking.
  6. Use them in scavenger hunts. Students can be directed to different websites and complete different tasks.
  7. Have students use them to turn in work. It would be great for multimedia projects incorporating video, audio, blogs, and images.

Jeff Utecht also has some great ideas for using QR Codes. I love the idea he shares about putting QR Codes on books. Students can be directed to reviews. QR stickers on books might be a fun way of sharing an assignment, such as a literature circle role.

Check out this great LiveBinder on QR Codes.

I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to take images of QR Codes and see what will pop up. Which also means they can be used by students for more nefarious purposes, so you should be aware of them for that reason, too.

How can you make them?

Kaywa has a great QR Code generator. Give it a try.

What if you don’t have mobile devices, or what if they’re banned in your school?

qrcode

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