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Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Two- Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation

This is Part Two of Assessment in the Modern Classroom. Read Part One here.

Assessing students’ writing, thinking level , understanding, learning connections via a Twitter stream, did not end the assessment upgrade for this particular learning opportunity.

During the same Skype call, we paid special attention to how students interacted with their conversation partner (Mike in this case) . We were watching their body language, paying attention to their vocabulary, ability to articulate an idea, their conversation etiquette and ability to follow a conversation and interaction.

If working (and communicating beyond face to face interaction) on a global team is/will be a crucial skill for our students to posses, how can we assess the skills, support, coach and guide students?

I am looking for ways to UPGRADE & REPLACE traditional assessment forms. Heidi Hayes Jacobs suggests in her book Curriculum21 to use an upgrade model which

begins with consideration of assessment types, moves to content reviews and replacement, and then links both of these to upgraded skills and proficiencies (Jacobs, 2010, p.20)

I started by taking a look at Andrew Churches Skype Rubric (pdf), but wanted to focus more on the actual communication skills during the Skype call and developed the following Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation  as a guide.


Download the Taxonomy of a Skype Conversation as a pdf file.

I believe we are on our way. We took the Twitter feed (Part One) , looked at skills students exhibited during the Skype conversation (Part Two) and now are moving on to looking at “blog post writing” as assessment (Part Three).



Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part One

In a previous post, Learning in the Modern Classroom, I started highlighting our school’s attention to not only providing amplified learning opportunities, but also the creation of new forms of assessment to go along with these learning opportunities. I see a growing AND urgent need to develop new forms of assessment to support our pioneering teachers, as well our students.

Learning in the 21st century modern classroom is changing. Many teachers are frustrated as the required or available assessments have not caught up yet with their efforts of upgrading to new forms of learning. How can we assess new forms of teaching with old traditional forms of evaluations?  Teachers feel trapped between wanting to upgrade and prepare students with skills for their life outside of school, but are dumbfounded how to assess the learning in terms that parents, colleagues (other subject areas), teachers (as their students rise to the next grade) administrators (& school policy makers), feeder schools, other stakeholders or universities understand, value and accept.

Ex. A school is pioneering blogfolios in the K-8 classrooms and using student created content as formative assessment. The primary  feeder school is not interested in even looking at these assessments for admissions purposes (possibly for placement purposes once accepted into their school).


We are in dire need of wrapping our minds around new forms of assessment, conceptualizing and developing these assessment tools, using them, advocating for them, sharing them and making them acceptable EVIDENCE OF LEARNING!


As a school, MJGDS is working on a Learning Target. Andrea Hernandez and Jon Mitzmacher have already written about it on their respective blogs. We used the Evidence of Learning in the 21st Century Classroom  by Galileo Educational Network as a basis to specifically  look at the assessment part of the Learning Target


So, I am taking a closer look at the part of  “Criteria are established for Assessment”. Teachers can’t/won’t be able to find a balance when blogging, tweeting, skyping, digital storytelling, building a learning network with and for their students, IF they continue to ASSESS in ADDITION to traditional forms.

I want to share how we are starting to look at ways to UPGRADE & REPLACE traditional assessment forms.

The classroom learning scenario (4th & 5th Grade) was a Skype call with Mike Fisher, I described in a previous post. Students were in charge of different jobs (true to the Digital Learning Farm concept from Alan November’s latest book “Who Owns the Learning?”)

I want to share our upgrade of assessment using tools such as Twitter, Skype and the Classroom Blog.

One of the jobs was to be in charge of the classroom Twitter account during the Skype call. Students were to document the Skype call through 140 characters or less, using Twitter Grammar, Lingo & Twitter Shorthand, which we had made them familiar with over the last months by paper tweeting, class tweeting, etc.  I had developed the following guideline (as part of a Twitter Routine in the Classroom) of Lower Order to Higher Order Thinking Skills to classify different types of tweets.


Using the above criteria, we were able to assess our classroom Twitter feed/ Twitter job holder.




Our 9/10 year old students:

  • are doing well in listening to conversation taking place via video conference
  • are summarizing/taking notes in 140 characters or less.
  • have a pretty good understanding of the Twitter lingo and grammar
  • are starting to get a feel for a what a learning network means
  • are reading and responding to others joining the conversation via Twitter
  • are starting to apply notions of digital citizenship by citing and adding links
  • are starting to add their own contribution

I can see that we need to work on:

  • moving beyond documentation to adding learning connections
  • asking questions
  • distinguishing between open and closed ended questions.
  • add hashtags when apporpriate

Our school’s Learning Target goes further into detail in regards to assessment:

Assessment is integral to the learning and woven into authentic tasks, projects, and/or investigations. Assessment is ongoing and used by students to obtain feedback from a variety of people both inside and outside the classroom to improve their learning.

Teachers have been including peer review for a while now as a valuable assessment for individual students. New forms of assessment though  call for “obtaining feedback from a variety of people both inside and OUTSIDE OF THE CLASSROOM”.

It is an active decision and action from the teacher’s part to reach beyond (amplify) their assessment of student work/learning and give feedback to students beyond themselves or their peers.

To solicit outside feedback from experts (in addition to a few live comments and responses), I  published several screenshots of the 4th and 5th graders’ tweets on my blog Learning in the Modern Classroom. For me, there is no better way to solicit this kind of “outside help” than to ask the people on my Twitter network .



Steve Anderson, aka web20classroom, an educator with over 57,000 Twitter followers and over 68,000 tweets to his credit ( giving him a certain degree of credibility in the social networking arena), left a comment on the blog addressing the students directly :

Taking a look at your Twitter feeds, it is clear you have a grasp of communicating and collaborating using social media as a tool. You were able to summarize your call with Mike in a way that worked for 140 characters each time. And believe me, that is sometimes a tough task! You captured the essence of each part of your conversation with Mike and helped those not able to be there feel like they were.

Cheers to you all on a job well done!

Please feel free to continue leaving feedback for our students on the blog post.

Learning About Communities…Not From Textbooks

I recently wrote about Thinking About Learning Differently- Talking to Strangers, where I mentioned our third graders journey of skyping around the world to learn about different communities.

They have spoken via Skype with classes from a suburb of Los Angeles, CA , an rural community in Missouri and a city, Weatherford, TX. The latest connection was with Anna Faridaku, a teacher and children’s book author from Indonesia.  Students took turns speaking with Anna, who was just amazing in connecting (via the screen) to the kids, answering and asking questions. She engaged them  and pushed them to deeper thinking about similarities and differences about our communities.

They have now also spoken to a class from Prague, Czech Republic and we are working on our next connections with Argentina and New Zealand. Please contact me via Twitter (@langwitches), if you are interested in being part of the 3rd grade learning journey.

The goal is not to only collect cold data, but to:

  • make connections between the different locations and communities
  • learn about geography
  • talk “to strangers”, practicing speaking skills and conversation skills, be aware of body language…
  • reflect on how and what we are learning
  • invite a global audience (including parents and grandparents) to continue a conversation via the classroom blog
  • continuously  becoming better at asking questions and learning that questions don’t stop at the end of a lesson, day, Skype call

Overcoming geographic boundaries

Conversations about Alligators in Florida and Prague :)

Two native Hebrew speakers meet across the Ocean

Documenting through various lenses


Using tools for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration

Formulating questions and collecting data

The comments on the classroom blog below came from family and friends of our students who continued to contribute to students learning after the call ended.

Family continues a conversation after the call ended

Skyping with Indonesia


It is time to THINK DIFFERENTLY about learning!

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