north carolina computer instructors association

Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students

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On 3/7/19 at 9:00am, I attended the North Carolina Computer Instructors Association Conference Session Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students at the SCITECH Building at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC presented by Amy Savino, product manager: IT/Networking/Cybersecurity at Cengage.

 

Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students

Cengage is on a recent path to a deep dive to a more authentic, personal, intentional, inclusive content. They want to make students more employable, building the lifelong performance-based work.

This workshop was intended to be used for a roundtable conversion. This was primarily about certifications and whether students take them, why or why not, and what are the concerns of the students for sitting in the exams, particularly CompTIA exams.

This was quickly apparent that it was not about building these items into our classes with examples. This was not about how to create these kinds of questions, or how to expand existing content to fit into a mold where these would be helpful. Instead, this was an infomercial in which Cengage wanted to talk about their existing service. No one in the class used the service, or gave certifications with Microsoft or CompTIA. So, that was a bit of a bust. Many people were too polite to leave.

I took this time to bring up my concerns over examinations in general, especially Adobe ACA exams. I related my concerns in ways that hopefully they would consider.

The experience of taking a certification exam can be daunting for students, so having a campus center which is convenient is helpful. Students could conceivably study together, work together, and then travel over in a group to the location in relative safety and mental security. A large part of this is also the social aspect- having a social safety net if you fail, or a group with which to celebrate if they achieved a passing grade. Going alone to a testing center where they are not familiar, paying additional proctoring fees on top of testing fees can be awkward and slightly scary. Being alone in that area is also a bit of a downer. Working together before, celebrating or licking wounds together can be helpful. I talked how many more adopters they might have if the testing centers could be more easily located on campuses.

When asked whether we were using Cengage Unlimited products, no one had used this or heard about it. When they asked whether we used any of the practice exam materials provided by Cengage, most of us admitted to having used them in the past. None of us used them any longer.

When asked why, a general consensus noted that practice exams didn’t quite focus on the topics which the final exam covers. Faculty who had used it found large sections went uncovered, and some sections covered did not show up on exams. Still others found that testing in sections had questions which did not relate to materials covered. It can be difficult to find the best product to help students feel that they are prepared while they are approachable and cover an accurate range of questions and materials.

PBT (performance based testing) are seemingly better for critical thinking. They showed several slides with numbers and statistics showing that students using performance-based questions were more knowledgeable on PBT Tests.

Cengage wants people to grow the confidence in the critical thinking skills, and expose them to questions with a PBT feel that they’d experience on the exam.

By 9:15am Cengage dropped a few people, myself included.

At this point they talked about MINDTAP products, specifically about A+ products. I am unfamiliar with this material, and was not the only one. They decided to do a deeper dive. This isn’t really helpful, because it moved into an explanation of the materials and how they worked. Because only 1 person in the group used this, several people immediately disengaged. It was partly explanation, but mostly a sales pitch.

The problem with this should have been clear: If no one is using this software, telling us more about it and requesting feedback is difficult. Hearing about it, and (knowing, using it, answering questions from students about it, etc.) are clearly different things.

They discussed the need for covering Bloom’s Taxonomy in classroom materials with the classes, and most of us were well-versed. Each class included a pre-assessment and post-assessment to show how students have adjusted over time.

Behind the scenes they explained how their materials worked: Mainly each built from scenario-based questions, including quality distractors (items such as: has a USB Mouse), include JIT (Just in Time) Feedback, and remediation maps to chapter Learning Objectives and exam objectives. On top of these questions, they are hoping to add simulations to give the look and feel to the practice exams.

Next, they want to know: Would it be better to have active simulations in the class, VM (virtual machines), or items which will be closest to the exams? Will adding critical thinking and learning skills be helpful so that it is closer to the real world or will it be better to be closer to the exam?

Should Cengage materials be based more on virtual scenarios, or something which is testing based?

Tyler Dockery’s opinion on this matter:

What is the goal you’re hoping to achieve? Make your work based for that. If the goal of the material is to be ready for the real world, have more simulations as assignments. If the point is that full completion of the certification exam is the end goal, the certification exam should have a closer connection to the testing and quiz components. Different teachers will have different goals, so opening options on that will be helpful. Giving faculty the option to have access to real-life materials OR test prep OR both would be your best answer.

Also, some areas of this state have different levels of monetary values, and this adjusts the goal of the class materials.. In some parts of the state, students may not have the money to include the testing as part of their experience.  For low-income areas, teachers may focus more on real-world skills as opposed to testing and the costs involved with that. This offers some the path to certification and others the path to job skills, still others might enjoy both.

 

Witold Sieradzan’s opinion on the matter

Almost every 2-year degree is outshined by a BA degree. If you have connections with companies, find out how many of them are actually looking for this certification. Can you contact recent recipients of the testing and connect them with companies who value this certification? We are maintaining mostly Community College students, and if the bonus of the certification could be made more clear would be helpful.

 

9:45 Cengage Unlimited start.

At this point, the Cengage representative began talking about the new Cengage Unlimited product and wanted some feedback. Not much talk about that, since no one used it or heard about it. We looked up CompTIA certification and saw that in NC there are 179 jobs using those as preferred specifications for jobs and requirements.

The Cengage representative decided to talk about a new product they would be creating called Cengage Cloud+. Witold Sieradzan also asked if we had some material for one of our newest classes: CTI-141 Cloud and storage concept. I was unfamiliar with class, so we looked it up online. We introduced the material to the Cengage representative, and she wrote it down. Cloud+ Cengage-They agreed that the material could be a good connection.

All-in-all, I don’t think they got all the information they wanted, but perhaps it was a good test case. Computer Instructor’s Association might be a nice connection for CompTIA, but all the MS Office products were a pretty big stretch. I wish these were more clearly marked as sponsor sessions.

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Taking Your Seated Classes Online: An easier transition than you think

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On 3/6/19 at 9:00am, and then again at 10:30am on 3/8/19 I presented at the North Carolina Computer Instructor Association Conference Session Taking Your Seated Classes Online at East Carolina University’s SCITech Building in Greenville, NC. This was co-presented by Tyler Dockery and Carla Osborne of Wake Technical Community College.

Taking Your Seated Classes Online:

An easier transition than you think

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Q&A

How can you handle Attendance in the online environment?

Since students in an online environment might login and logout without contributing and demand that they are counted as attending, we suggest working differently. Base your attendance on turning in all work for the week. Since students have 7 days to complete assignments and materials, failing to present all or part of the course materials is a conscious choice on the part of the student.

If a student turns in all assignments and participated in discussions (regardless of grade), mark them as attending. Failing to complete one or more item in the week deserves a tardy.

What if you do not have ZOOM

Zoom is a free technology, and it allows you to record up to 40 minutes in the free version. Some people use Microsoft Teams, which also has video content. I have access to MS Teams, but honestly I don’t have as much experience with teams to know how it works.

What if you have good content, but its not Closed Captioned?

Some people find they can reach out directly to the video owner and ask for them. On youtube, you can ask the owner to open Community Contributions, and allow you to add in the captions that you’d like, but you can also use https://amara.org to create a closed caption overlay of the original video without breaking copyright. You will have to caption it yourself, but its a small price to pay for good content.

How do you determine the first dates in your classes?

At Wake Technical Community College, we have a course entry quiz which must be taken. The quiz is set for adaptive release, and once the quiz is taken, the plagiarism agreement is shown. Once the plagiarism agreement is submitted, then students can enter the class. This is not used everywhere though.

Some school use the first  assignment submitted as the entry date, but this causes a great deal of work on the part of the teacher, hunting down student by student in several areas just to get an answer. One instructor noted that she got tired of hunting and created her own entry material. Several other teachers followed her path once she displayed how easily it could be used.

 

 

Teaching Professionalism

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On 3/7/19 at 1:45pm, I attended the North Carolina Computer Instructors Association Conference Session Teaching Professionalism at the SCITECH Building at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC presented by Joy Dark.

Teaching Professionalism

 

Is there a need? By that, I mean does professionalism really have to be taught in the classroom?

Mark butler, commissioner for the Georgia department of labor stated “in the workforce shortage we’re facing right now. Soft skills are very much on of the biggest concerns”

Let’s take a look at these numbers from the impressions of employers in 2018 and the same impressions from the graduating class of 2017. See how the expectations and the realities don’t match up?

85% were deeply concerned about work ethic and soft skills: Attention, punctuality, character specifically

87% creative thinking and problem solving.

Job outlook 2018 employing organizations and the class of 2017 student survey report from national association of college and employers. Look at the disparity.

This is not new, this is a 19th century problem. Employers still looking for that work ethic, and they’ll be employing them longer.

What employers expect

Work Ethics

Attendance, character, teamwork, appearance, attitude, productivity, organizational skills, communication, cooperation, respect are graded. Those who enter with it, leave with it. Those who enter without it, don’t get it

DRIVE by Daniel H pink.

Four greatest motivators.

Exterinsic reward/punishment. Intrinsic: autonomy, contribution and masters. Extrinsic motivation takes you to about the $60,000/yr mark. Intrinsically motivated engineer usually becomes an entrepreneur. Many of us are on the left, extrinsically motivated. We want to get to the right side.

Open discussion: How do we create a professional culture in the classroom?

Set your expectations. These are the expectations, these are the goals. You’re expected to get the job done and get the job done well. Classes are no longer classes, but a meeting with the employees.

Set the individual and team goals. What are the team strengths and weaknesses? Give them room to have space and make mistakes. Have the goal, give the resources, and give them the room to get there. Boss expects you to find the goals and reach the point of success.

How will you be accessed?

Lead by example.

Do as I do, not just as I say. Show on time, dressed appropriately. Lead. Respect, curiosity, appropriate behavior. Show examples or leave it open for interpretation.

Give respect even if you haven’t received it yet

Even if students are late, you are not. Even if students yell, you act respectively. Unconditional respect is important. You honor them and their efforts, even if they have not met the minimum. This does not mean that you accept the unacceptable, it means you treat them respectfully as you are working with them. This is especially good if you frame the change in terms of “I recommend that you…”

 

Call them out

Have that uncomfortable conversation. Be honest. Call them out on behaviors which are negative issues for the class. Make comments in general first, and then specific after the fact. Sometimes it is effective to note that specific issues need to be pulled out. Some confrontational conversations can occur without the confrontation. If you let one get away with problems , they all get away. Some say “This is just a classroom”. Seeing this is the kind of item whereit is not a reflection of the real world is a fallacy.

My job is to get you a job. Make good grades, learn the skills, and get that job. If you take the expectation from “I don’t care if you come to class in your PJs, just come to class”… to “You need to dress professionally if you want a job”.  Many people will note that the disparity between the rating differences above are related to the fact that students are not being called out for being unprofessional.

VLC professionality course coming in Fall 2019/2020. Basic skills, coned, curriculum. There are 8 competency items.

Students may not know how to behave in a given environment. This is now your job. Arrive here by XXxx.  Do not plan to leave before XXxx. Set aside XX hours of time for homework. Decide how to include time management issues on how to solve the problems.

Provide choices

Provide choices with natural consequences. Your job as the teacher is to enforce those consequences. These are the expectations. There are room rules. Make sure they are clear. Hold people accountable. Grades are a real world application. This is a guage of how the real world makes this available.

 

Encourage responsibility

Encourage responsiblility through contribution. One good example is the responsibility of teamwork. Have your team members call them out as well. Peer pressure is a good thing.

Don’t give up

Especially when they give up on themselves. Students can start to have more confidence in themselves and do better in class when they find out that someone is behind them. A pep talk and cheerleader moment can help them to get back on their feet and decide what their correct path might be. Compassion can be a hard truth and sometimes the truth hurts.

IF you screw up, say you’re sorry. Don’t worry about the person, worry about the problem. Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the solution.

 

High standards

High standards for everyone. Without it, everyone suffers. Without proper training, what are we doing? Really. High standards for us as well as them

Grade your listening skills.

Address it and look to general attitude in the classroom and a completely subjective grade. Responding to questions can be a matter of responsibility. If it doesn’t contribute to the overall discussion, those items don’t count

Challenge Reactions

Challenge reactions to challenging situations. Get the ball rolling and then see if they can work toward larger solutions. There are many ways to solve problems, and this will teach resilience, bringing them back and forcing them to face challenges.

Use Delayed Gratification

Use delayed gratification to build grit and gratitude.  Use projects which build upon one another.

Group participation

Speak, listen, organize, lead

Mock interview and orientation

Overwhelming first experiences. How do you expect them to dress? Is on-time early or late

Framework for lifelong learning

VISION

In the real world, there will be no boss dragging you through the project. You’re either going to get it, and its going to work properly or you’re not. You’ll get fired. You need to take, this, own this, and make the decisions.

You might have to spell this out for people. Traditionally, we celebrate individual accomplishments. When we celebrate what the class has done, this increases what motivates us to do well. Carrot and stick doesn’t really motivate, but when they take control and own it, we’re setting you up for success. IF yo use the test as something to endure, then you’re seeing it as a problem. If you see the test as a tool for knowing where  they stand and what they know, it so much more than a completion item.

 

 

Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js

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At 10:30am on 3/6/2019, I attended Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js presented by Michael Schore, at the 2019 North Carolina Computer Instruction Association Conference in the SciTech Building At East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js

What its used for

Installation process and requirements

Basic usage

What its used for

GULP is a task runner, and its used to automate the processes you have. There are all kinds of helpers out there that help us streamline. Mainly NODE and NODE JS and NPM, Node Package Manager.

Bootstrap connection

Bootstrap is the material components that begin when a computer opens. Babel, browserfly, grunt, bauer, yeoman, all helpful. Most of these sprouted up as open source products, and still are. Starting in the web, everything was proprietary, but now many things are open.

PURPOSE OF GULP

It is often used to do front end tasks such as spinning up a web server, reloading the browser automatically whenever a file is saved. Using preprocessors like SASS or LESS (style systems to overcome CSS problems or inabilities), but also allow you to use global variables. Also it allows for optimizing assets like CSS, JS, and Images.

Installation process and requirements

Node.js requires node, npx, npm. Sass requires Ruby.

GIT from git-scm.com. Get Node.js from nodejs.org. Ruby from Rubyinstaller.org

Installation

Installers are pretty straightforward. With NPM installed, we can simply execute a global installation command. Command line can be overwhelming and difficult to understand for GUI-minded individuals. Powershell and CMD or BASH are great to work with.

Installing and verifying GULP

Install GULP into your dev dependencies. Check the versions of the install, and now we’re ready to start GULPing!

Basic usage

To create our first file, it should be in the root directory of your project.

Which yields…

Basic Useful Plugins

Found on the github website: http://github.com.gulpjs

Gulp-util https://github.com/gulpjs/gulptili

Running out of the box

Bash will note that an error occurs out of the box. We didn’t give it anything to do, and we didn’t make it local

Be cautious of the node_modules directory. This will grow as time goes on.

WALKTHROUGH

Lets add the gulp-less module. This adds the ability to conver LESS to CSS. Less is a backwards-compatible language extension for CSS. This is the official documentation file for LESS. This will be another hands-on bit, so I may only show slides here…

BASICS

Used to actually automate your tasks. Simple ones like the example just run a goup of tasks when called

Var gulp = require(‘gulp’)

Var uglify = require(‘gulp-uglify’)

 

Gulp.task(‘uglify’,   … Hands-on…

Going to devhint.io you can get to a treasure trove of examples using GULP. Items like EMCAscript6 (newest version of javascript at this time) can be found, used and massaged, it can be found. IF your legal department requires you to update the header for the document automatically every time you work with the file, GULP and set that up.

The biggest thing GULP is used for is to watch yourself and run functions when changes are made. It automatically generates javascript or copyscript or typescript files when files are adjusted if needed. It can compile different script files into backward compatible javascript files. Think of the time this would save!

When we as humans find a mind-numbing, repetitive task to do, we find a machine to do it. If there isn’t one, we (historically at least) find a peon, subject, or slave to do the task.

Gulp.js files are used to cover several items- Pipe is a movement command, and its heavily used in an example we cover during class time. This is a different way of setting up tasks and subroutines (or functions) to cover different tasks.

When running the script on your computer, the WATCH function comes into play. When anything happens which affects the files/functions being WATCHED, it updates the materials in the folder. Because items are updated and fixed when changes are made to WATCHED files, this is a major upgrade to workflow on items.

 

What are some good files to WATCH?

Well, if you’re working with HTML, CSS files, HTML files, IMG files, JS files, etc. As new files are added to a folder, they can be added to the server, PHP plugins are also good. At the corporate level, teams get together  to talk about code and workflow to find out how much they can write, use, and test. This is especially good for items with our students, and to add productivity for workers making high 5 or 6 figure salaries.

Is everything safe?

Dig into it. On the surface it may sound good, but read what people are saying, and you might find that its not what its cracked up to be. It depends on the workflow, variables, and items you’re using. Be vigilant and don’t just take part because everyone else is.

How is SAS acting with all the opensource products?

Who owns github? Microsoft. Corporations use enterprise solutions with them, having their entire software library in their storage. The entire .NET framework is now available as open source code. They are hoping to gain a better product and enhanced usability with the open products. SAS is in a weird position as they are very proprietary in nature. IBM in true IBM fashion, will give things, but try to take things with their other hand.

There is more movement to OS involvement. You cannot add so many proprietary things. Its good to have other eyes looking at your work with and eye to improvement. Our students need to know what is happening in the working world, but they must also take that on themselves.

If we push students all the time, they don’t learn to push themselves. Michael teaches them that this is not the end of the line, this is the beginning of the line. We are giving our students tools that they can use. This is not the end all be all. The tools may be inadequate later, but the skills will take you far. We focus on solving problems, not following steps 1,2,3.