Sunday, 7 August 2016

Using a Rubric in the classroom

I recently started investigating the use of rubrics in my classroom and trying to figure out how best to start implementing one into my teaching and learning. I came across lots of useful websites such as Quickrubric which makes the design of these much quicker and easier.

I decided to create a Rubric for my 3th year Technical Graphics class and my learning intention was to give my student a better understanding of the process when they are answering a question for their examination. Before I began, I researched the marking scheme for the questions from This gave me a breakdown of the marking process and marks allocated to each section. This informed my development of the below Rubric for the 2015 Technical Graphics Higher Level Question 6B. The below is an update version which I updated since.

I developed n introduction sheet with the question, solution and the learning intentions within the question which I wanted to focus o

The second sheet was the rubric for the question which student completed.

The exercise
Students completed the 2015 Higher Question 6B for homework and brought in their work. I decided to use peer assessment for this exercise. Each student swapped their homework exercise with the person behind them. As a class we discussed the rubric and how the exercise was going to work. Unfortunately our first attempt was not very successful, as it turned into a barrage of questions from student who were not fully sure about the marking process and how to use the rubric. This can often happen at the introduction of a new teaching strategy into the classroom.

I stepped back to the beginning again, stepped the students back through the process and procedures of the rubric but this time I felt it better to use the teaching strategy groupwork to aid the students. they worked in pairs to complete the rubric. In their groups they stepped there way through the rubric analysing the solutions and comparing to the rubric.

This worked very well. Students gained a very value understanding of how questions are scaffolded to allow student demonstrate their understanding of the principles involved in the question. One student pointed out that "If I make an attempt at all the parts of the question, finish it, heavy in the drawing neatly. I could have over half the marks". I found that the exercise actually broke down the question very well for student. Instead of them seeing it as one big question, they gained an appreciation of the question in its smaller parts. The rubric also refocused them on the use of correct constructions and application of correct principles in question - they could now see there value in marks. The final positive element of the rubric for student was the understanding of the importance of neatness and accuracy in the presentation of their final drawing for examination. Previously, it was me telling them of it. But in the rubric they could appreciate it much more.

Overall I feel that there is much more I could do with this rubric but the value of rubrics was very evident to me.  The one change I would make to the above rubric, I would remove the marks sections and just allow student to circle the relevant section. I feel that a rubric should not be seen a marking tool but a development tool for students understanding. There is a good bit of time required in the development of a rubric for an exercise but very worthwhile time I feel.

View my rubric here:–-parabola--question-marking-rubric

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Programming with Scratch

I introduced the concept of programming to my second year Digital Media through Scratch. Having researched the different possible mediums that I could have used to introduce programming, Scratch is the preferred software for most at present. I felt that Scratch has a very easy to use interface, is very easy to access in school and at home with the online version, work can be easily stored on the scratch servers, it introduces a little graphic design and it give a nice visual introduction to logic when programming.

See project

To introduce Scratch to the class group I developed some simple class exercises which we work through. The first of those exercises was a simple joking telling game in which two sprites would have a conversation. This exercise gave a good introduction to the concept of logic and timing in programming.

The second exercise was a game called "Stop the Butterflys" (see example over) which introduced some of the different possible movement methods of sprites where a space shuttle had to be controlled with keyboard keys and the butterflys moved randomly down the screen. The aim of the game was to shoot the butterflys before they hit the space ship. This exercise took up a lot more time than I could have anticipated as there were numerous issues. The largest issues was the incorrect programming of the game. Therefore I had to revaluate my approach to the learning. The design and developments of games requires one other major element - testing and debugging. The analysis of the code and being able to identify what the function of element is requires much deeper learning. Therefore a large quantity of time had to be invested into this.

At the end of this exercise students were tasked with the development of their own game "To design an interactive game which shall have a minimum of moving 3 sprites, a background of choice and a score for the game." Each student designed, developed and tested their game before submitting through google classroom. Below are some example of games submitted.

Student in general enjoyed and participated very well when using Scratch. Some student displayed a great interest and aptitude at programming and worked to a much higher level than asked. This was encouraged and direction given to those who wished to do this. All student submitted a scratch game within the allocated time which was very encouraging. Most student had difficultly debugging their games and this caused the largest frustration for the class as a whole.

Overall I found the lessons a real learning experience for me because there were times I was being taught by some students. The real value I feel from using scratch is not the games themselves but the logic around them. The testing and debugging, being able to analyse the code and locate issues. This was at times, the most frustrating too.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

XMind in the classroom

Having discovered how user friendly the mind mapping tool XMind is, I examined the possible using of it in my classroom teaching and learning. Mindmapping would be teaching and learning strategy I use regularly in my class for projectwork analysis and design development but never successfully found a piece of software the fulfilled all of my requirements. The discovery of XMind allows first time users to install easily and use it.This allowed students to complete assignments easily with minimal software issues for the students.

As this was a new piece of software for students in my class, I decided to introduce a new teaching and learning strategy for its use. I introduced XMind to my second year Materials Technology Wood class with a class demonstration. The students were then tasked to download and install the software on their home computers. Students were then tasked in groups of 3 to develop a mindmap on the topics completed thus far this year in the Materials Technology wood class. The groups got to discuss each topic in class and examine what content should be included in their mindmap. Student then proceed to complete their revision topic individually at home or in school. Student present their complete revision topic mindmaps and shared them with the rest of the class group.

Below are some samples of the student work on the revision topics for Materials Technology Wood.

Seasoning of Wood revision mindmap:

Conversion of Wood revision mindmap:

Challenges encountered:
I expected there to be some challenges along the way with this teaching and learning strategy and method but I was pleasant surprised at the student application to the strategy. Student in my school would generally have strong ICT skills therefore I had high hopes that XMind would not pose an issue. The use of XMind did not cause most student any problems. Some students exploited the software to greater and lesser degrees when presenting their mindmap but all presented their revision topic. The most common issue encountered by students in this exercise was the installation of the software on their home computers. I would have assumed that all student would have a computer and Internet access but this was not the case. These students completed their work in school in these cases.

Student Feedback:
Student feedback on this strategy was generally very positive. I took feedback using two methods: general classroom verbal feedback and student completed a simple survey. Student enjoyed the exercise because it was something different to our usual classroom activity. They felt that the initial groupwork really helped them analyse and dissect a topic. Which helped tem to form the content for their XMind mindmap. As a mindmapping tool the student enjoyed using its user friendly interface and found that their mindmaps could be easily shared with each other. This was the largest piece of learning for me. The realisation that they could develop, create and share work which in the long term would benefit everyone in the class was a real light bulb moment for the group.

The simple survey reviled the following information:

All student found the software ok to use once they has access to it. This was very pleasing for first time users.

90% of student recognised that this could be a potential method of revision for them in the preparation for their examinations. The visual learner derives greater benefits from this method of revision / learning.

In conclusion I found that XMind mindmapping software is a very useful and powerful piece of software that can be used in many ways in the classroom everyday. XMind allows users to very quickly create a mindmap as part of a class activity or exercise. The barriers of learning how to use a piece of software is minimal and mindmaps can be easily shared. It will definitely be a strategy that I will continue to use in my classroom into the future but now XMind offers a much easier option.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Scratch for the classroom

Getting started with Scratch in the classroom

XMind for mindmapping

As a teaching and learning strategy, mindmapping can be very  a very powerful tool for the classroom. I have used mindmapping over the years in Materials Technology Wood and Design & Communication Graphics for analysing information, analysing projectwork constraints, examining the development of design ideas and topic revision. Over the years I have tried numerous mindmapping software and apps to varying success. But a simple and free to use in class piece of software / app has eluded me up until now.

XMind has ticked all the boxes for me over the last few weeks since I discovered it. The software is easily downloaded and installed onto your pc. From there, XMind offers a number of mindmap templates which can be worked from depending on the exercise being carried out in class. The real plus for me, was the usability of the software. So simple and user friendly. When creating a mindmap, you can simply click the TAB key to add branches to a  topic when creating a mindmap in XMind. This is very useful in the classroom, as mindmaps can be created quickly and easily on the fly with a class.

Once the mindmap is complete in XMind software allows you to easily create an image, PDF, Word file, Excel file and a few other options. Which allows the mindmap to be used in numerous ways.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A beginners guide to Marquetry

Marquetry is one of those topics on the Junior certificate Material Technology Wood course I have always enjoyed teaching, as kids at all abilities can get something out of it. Over the years various types of clocks, pictures, coasters and trays have been produced during class on different themes. This why I was delighted to discover a very useful website on the topic. It was produced by a final year student in UL. The website can be found at:

The aim of the website is to act as an aid to someone who has little or no experience with marquetry and it was designed as a resource for students and teachers of second level education. The site contains video tutorials taking a beginner marquetarian from choosing a design right through to the best method of cutting and finishing. All of which gives a very comprehensive teaching/learning tool. Well done to the author.

Paper by FiftyThree

Paper by Fifty Three is a great iPad app for generating and creating ideas. The app is very easy to use and is free. This app is a digital sketchbook or notebook where you can capture ideas, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings. These can be easily shared from within the app by teachers or students. The app can be downloaded from the App Store:

There are are a number of sketching tools within the app, with 2 of the tool coming free with the app. I found the pencil tool tool to be a very realistic representation of a pencil and gave very good quality sketches.

The extra tools can be purchased in the app which are paid for through the Apple app store.