Word and PowerPoint Efficiency: The Benefits of AODA

Having recently had an opportunity to sit in on a session with Valerie East, AODA Adaptive Technologist and all-round Microsoft guru, I have come to realize how little I actually know about the Microsoft Word program. If you are anything like me, you may never have actually taken a course on how to use the software, despite being required to use it on a day-to-day basis. The same can be said for PowerPoint. In watching someone do it well, I am now keenly aware of how many ways I could be improving my understanding of these programs, all of which has come about because of our need to become AODA compliant.

As it turns out, creating documents that are AODA compliant, meaning accessible to all our students, is much easier than anticipated. Furthermore, in creating compliant documents, we actually have the opportunity to use programs like Word and PowerPoint as they were meant to be used. The added bonus is this actually makes our lives easier, not more difficult. For example, Valerie can show you how to automatically generate a Table of Contents or how to use <CTRL> + <Enter> to force a page break.

Valerie will be running Accessibility Workshops in the weeks leading up to the holidays. Should you have a chance, I would highly recommend attending. If you are too busy with end of semester responsibilities, Valerie is also available for one-on-one sessions that you can schedule for the new year. You can reach Valerie at veast@sl.on.ca or at ext.1127.


Writing Multiple Choice Questions

With end of semester finals looming, many of you are likely preparing final tests for your courses. With that in mind, here is a resource that highlights several points to keep in mind when creating multiple-choice questions. I don’t often have an opportunity to use multiple-choice tests in my courses, but on the rare occasion that I have had to sit down to create the questions, I have often found the task more challenging than one might expect.

What is interesting about the article “Seven Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Multiple-Choice Questions” is that it explains mistakes we might be making when writing multiple-choice questions. For example, apparently the most common location for the right answer in a multiple-choice question is option C or D. Also, the author suggests that there is also such a thing as the “too long to be wrong” type of answer, and if you have ever had to write a multiple-choice test for a subject you didn’t know well, you might have employed some of these strategies to determine which answer is the right one.

To find out more, read the entire article here:  http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/educational-assessment/seven-mistakes-avoid-writing-multiple-choice-questions/

And if you’re interested in taking part in a brief tutorial on writing multiple choice questions, try this link through the University of Victoria: https://hotpot.uvic.ca/howto/mcquestion.htm

Providing Feedback to Students

An earlier post on coaching and teaching was based on an article that examined the difference between the two, with a focus on providing students with feedback. In the article “To Improve Student Performance, Start Thinking Like a Coach,” the author references the work of John Hattie and his assertion that feedback has the greatest impact on student learning.

As a follow-up to that discussion, here is another interesting article by Anne Murphy Paul: “Four Ways to Give Good Feedback.” In her article, Paul outlines four key steps that will help you maximize your feedback so that it is most beneficial for students.

You can find the article here: http://ideas.time.com/2013/03/18/four-ways-to-give-good-feedback/

Coach or Teacher

This semester has marked the launch of the New Faculty Development Program. Every Friday, I meet with the new faculty and we discuss issues that we all encounter as teachers: technology in the classroom, student engagement, classroom management, SWFs, and so on. This past week we have been discussing the difference between a coach and a teacher.

Over the years I have heard the suggestion that what we do as teachers is more effective when we actually coach our students, not just teach them. On one hand I find this idea fairly easy to understand, but when it actually comes to implementing coaching strategies in the classroom, I admit to finding this a more challenging notion. In part, I think this is because I’ve never been really clear about what it means to be a coach having never been one.

A recent article in the Faculty Focus has finally made the idea much clearer for me. John Orlando, PhD, in his article “To Improve Student Performance, Start Thinking Like a Coach,” explains the difference in a way I find very easy to understand. Perhaps you will agree. In particular, I really like how Orlando explains the role of a coach as someone who makes past mistakes understandable but focuses instead on how to improve future performance. Now that I spend too much time in a cold ice rink watching my son play hockey, I can see how this is true. If the coach only focused on past mistakes without providing enough feedback on how to improve, the team’s performance would suffer.

After reading Orlando’s article, I’m feeling motivated to enter into this next semester considering how I might more actively coach my students. I’ll let you know how it goes!