Why Yacapaca?

I’ve given a talk a few times on the why of Yacapaca, but it seems a bit daft with all this technology at our disposal to go running round the country just to give a didactic presentation. So, today I finally got around to converting the ePortfolio I was using as a slideshow to a multimedia presentation. I used Flektor, a really nice online multimedia composer. Flektor is fairly new and the movie embed is still a little unreliable, but just follow this link and you’ll get to the presentation. About 7 minutes long, and maybe worth using as a starter for an INSET presentation?

Breaking down classroom walls

Getting your students to write blogs is becoming increasingly popular, and the most eloquent exponent of the form is undoubtedly Konrad Glogowski. I recently challenged Konrad to lay out his ‘utopian vision’ student blogging. Here’s part of his reply:

I know that blogging is about conversations and building networks. So far, my students have been building networks within our class community and with some amazing results. It’s time to extend those network-building efforts to include the world outside of their immediate environment.

What benefit would my students get from the comments? I look at it as breaking down the classroom walls. That’s what I want to do next. I want the students to build knowledge by building networks, and I also want them to be able to take those networks with them once they leave my classroom.

I want my student to keep blogging about child soldiers and communicating with experts in this field even after she leaves my class in June so that next time one of my students says “I’m interested in child soldiers,” I can say: “Take a look at this blog. She was in my class a couple of years ago. Send her an e-mail. Subscribe to her blog. You’ll learn a lot.”

Note “communicating with experts in this field”. In classroom blogging, usually only other students from the class are permitted to comment. Konrad wants to extend that, but most schools would see it as inappropriate to allow open commenting on a student blog.

It occurs to me, though, that the ‘share my class with another teacher’ feature in Yacapaca would be perfect for this. It’s a very simple way to permit another adult whom you trust to communicate with your students.

At the moment, Yacapaca doesn’t offer blogs. But it does offer eportfolios, and the two are kissing cousins. The only differences really are that blogs are organised by date, and they traditionally permit permit peer-commenting. In fact, that’s coming for Yacapaca eportfolios anyway.

It’s quite an exciting thought that, with a little interface tweaking, Yacapaca could become the blogging platform of choice for Utopian educators.

The return of "I am Clever"



Update 2013: the I Am Clever materials have now been permanently retired. Thanks for your interest. I am Clever

Back in 1999 we thought it would be a pretty cool experiment to add an online component to Chalkface packs. Students could do homeworks or extension activities online, and have them emailed back to the teacher. So we created a website called iamclever.org that encapsulated these ideas in a set of nice little web forms, and linked it to the lesson plans of a couple of dozen Chalkface packs.

Nobody used it. As far as I could tell, it got absolute zero usage for two years. Discouraged, we let the system fall into abeyance and concentrated on other projects. And then, about two years ago, we started getting a trickle of complaints from teachers who still had those packs and were now ready to try out the web homeworks.

It wasn’t really practical to resuscitate the old iamclever.org site, so instead, my colleague Victoria has spent the last couple of weeks moving the assignments across to Yacapaca. If you are a Yacapaca member, you will find them here.

Some assignments had to be abandoned, generally because they contained too many dead links.

Technically, they work really nicely now. They are easy to set and easy to mark. The activities themselves are a bit variable. The staff who were writing them in 1999 were themselves inexperienced in using the web, and sometimes it shows. If they prove popular this time around, we will put some energy into improving them.

Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Subjective Assessment

Last week’s list of question types went down so well that I got motivated to do you another list, this time of ‘task’ types. ‘Task’ is Yacapaca-speak for what is also known as Subjective Asessment, or free-text. I have covered the principles of these already; this is a handy list of the actual settings for each type.

The Yacapaca subjective-assessment task types

Create tasks in any of these formats, by starting from the homepage of any author group of which you are a member.

  • Short Text
    Students enter plain text only, file uploads are disallowed and students may not add their own cards. Students answer one question per card, and the expectation is that the answer will be fairly short. As teacher, you can view all answers on a single page and mark each against a pre-written mark scheme.
  • ePortfolio
    Entry is HTML via the WYSIWYG editor, students can upload files and both add and delete cards from the original task you design. Marking is for the whole task. Teacher comments are enabled on each card, and the expectation is that you will use these to minute your conversation with the student as the ePortfolio develops.
  • Free-text survey
    Similar to the short-text test, except that marking and commenting are all switched off. You can download the responses to an Excel file so student can analyse the results.
  • Website
    Similar settings to the ePortfolio, except that the only file types that may be uploaded are those that can be embedded in a web page. You should require students to ensure that any uploaded file is actually visible on the page.

Finally, a note for advanced users. You can manually change the task parameters to create the exact assessment type that you want. I have yet to document exactly how it all works, but don’t be afraid to experiment in the sandpit.