Diagnostic Questions for Computer Science #DQ #CompSci

With my classes on exam leave or preparing for their end of year assessments I have been teaching a variety of revision sessions and lessons recently. While I feel it is valuable to prepare students with exam style or past paper questions, time management strategies, peer review of answers I realised we hadn’t reexamined student thought processes with particular focus on programming and problem solving questions.

The weekly #CASchat on Twitter reminded me of www.diagnosticquestions.com. I had investigated it before prior to mock exams  in January but hadn’t used it with my classes. The reminder was perfectly timed as I had just interviewed students about the areas of the course covered so far that they felt less confident about. I had my focus areas and a purpose for use of diagnostic questioning.

I curated a mixture of pre-created questions from the Computing topic into quizzes and allocated them to classes. It was very easy to build the quizzes and set up the classes. Students joined the class using a code which I shared via email.

DQ shows the selected questions and accepts a single multiple choice answer from each student, however it then asks the students to explain the reasoning behind their chosen answer. This can allow the teacher to uncover and address misconceptions or gaps in learning. I wasn’t sure what the students would make of this but, after a few sample questions to get used to the system and my expectations they, in the main, worked their socks off to explain to me why they chose one answer over another. The results sorted the questions into order of most commonly answered incorrectly so I could highlight the correct answer with a small group or as a whole class discussion.

At the end of each class today I asked the students how the site compared to for example Kahoot!, and I fully expected to be told that the other multiple choice revision tools were more exciting or interesting. However almost every student loved DQ and requested more sets of questions do they could continue to review and improve their own learning! The fact that you could see peer explanations (even from other students around the world) gave my classes another viewpoint with which to deepen their understanding of a topic.

The site has its glitches of course: the convoluted way to de-select quiz questions is a particular highlight. As is the lack of ability to create your own scheme of work for your subject area.

However it is so easy for teachers to create their own content (I made two PowerPoint templates for my IGCSE and IB question sets in around 10 mins and import the individual slides as images into DQ) I now fully intend to use it regularly throughout the year and track student understanding not only across topics but also across year groups and courses. It has definitely become another useful tool in my Flipped Classroom box.

My first job #teacher5aday #memorymarch

A photo taken this morning enroute to my current job

This post is part of a series linked to the #memorymarch initiative created by Ritesh Patel for #teacher5aday. Please visit his blog post for more details and join in if you can!

“Childhood and memories in general are priceless. Yes there will be some bad memories but also some memorable ones! That’s life & we have to keep going and stay positive! This month, lets reminisce and share together.”

My first job was, like many others my age, a paper round at age 14. The pay was terrible for the work (if I remember correctly £4.25 a week PLUS a free video from the limited selection in the village shop) however I really enjoyed it. The round itself was easy enough – about 70 houses – which took about 90 minutes by foot and a bit quicker by bike. I remember the weather being generally nice which is strange for North East Scotland so I’ve probably blocked out the months of rain and howling wind.

What I really enjoyed about the job was the thinking time. The process of delivering the papers to the houses quickly became second nature and I just daydreamed my way around it. Much like today I came up with ways to link my learning together (although I probably didn’t actually realise I was doing this), whatever it was at the time. I now know that reflection of my students is one of the most important parts of the learning process. There has to be gaps to reflect both inside and outside of school.

I think that this kind of job is now pretty much obsolete with the increase in digital news consumption and the loss of local village shops to larger supermarkets however I do think that thinking time and reflection remains as important as ever. Italians have the right idea here, with aperitivo time every day where they sit, chat, read and think. It helps that there is often sunshine of course but, speaking as an 18 month resident of Milan, there is a lot more rain, fog and chill than most people realise!

That said, it is beautiful today…