Renewable Assessments: Like solar power for your classroom

David Wiley; article “Toward Renewable Assessments” was a great read, and spoke many truths that I have thought myself.  The idea of students working on papers (assessments) that they will only toss in the trash or will “bit rot” on an abandoned hard drive makes me cringe.  It makes me cringe, because it’s not just an idea, it sums up most of my Jr High through High School experience and a good amount of my early college experience. Wiley gives this example of a disposable assessment:

  • Faculty member assigns student to write a two page compare and contrast essay
  • Student writes the paper and submits it to faculty
  • Faculty grades the paper and returns it to student
  • Student checks what grade they received, briefly peruses any written comments, and then throws the paper away

I would be surprised if many students even perused the written comments at all before tossing it in the trash!

While I didn’t have the correct language or well thought out construct of renewable assessments, I have attempted to create as many renewable assessments in my courses as possible.  Helping my students, (21st century learners) create something that they or others will use, watch, view, or learn from, drives my students to want to learn more.  In my media production course I have 4 major projects that could be qualified as renewable assessments; a photo montage, an audio story, a short video, and a website.  By the end of the course all of these projects come together as a web portfolio and personal website that they can each use to acquire jobs outside of college.  I also have them submit all their work to the local Community Media Access Collaborative to air on local television, and (if they want) into various competitions.  As Wiley says, “Replacing disposable assessments with renewable assessments goes a long way toward re-humanizing education, giving students a reason to care about and truly invest in their work,” and I could not agree more.  21st century learners have more resources than ever before, and it would be such a shame to continue to continue the path of disposable assessments while students are striving to do more, learn more, and share more than ever before.


As a teacher in the realm of multimedia, it can be easy to assume that technology should be used for all matters.  In my earlier teaching years I would make the mistake of wanting all my students to do storyboarding, shot sheets, camera pick lists etc via some sort of digital medium.  While this was good in theory, students who had never had experience with these ideas before were more comfortable starting with analog methods ie. Pencil and paper.  For me at least, I haven’t struggled with realizing the right time to utilize technology and media, I have struggled with realizing when it’s not the right time.   I tend to use baby steps, first starting analog so my students have a tangible element to the thought process, then bring in technology to show how it makes a process easier.

I understand that rubrics are important for assessment consistency, and as David Wiley stated, they can also help establish a degree of comparability which might persuade others into adopting renewable assessments, yet I am not great at creating rubrics!  Many of the media projects that I assign in my classes are assessed via rubrics and “learning outcomes”.  For instance, for a short video I would want: A clear story (Beginning, middle, end), clear audio, at least 15 shots, at least 6 shot types, and a script turned in.  While many of those are easy to put on a rubric, “a clear story” is hard to grade via a rubric.  Much of that relies on the class presentation and how I and class perceive the story.  If the class and I can easily find the beginning, middle, end, that’s great, and if not, the student is able to present his or her reasoning behind it.  If a compelling argument is made, that is also taken into consideration.

“Toward Renewable Assessments” brought up many good points that I will dwell on for some time to come.

Wiley, D. ( July 7, 2016 ). Toward Renewable Assessments. iterating toward openness. Retrieved from

A pixelated, quickly rendered obsolete, double edged sword.

Technology in the classroom.  A pixelated, quickly rendered obsolete, double edged sword.   While using technology in the classroom can augment lessons, further understanding, and give students and teachers new and more in depth ways to learn/teach away from the classroom, it can also be a burden that leads to less education.  In the article,  Through The Looking Glass: Examining Technology Integration in School Librarianship, by Lucy Santos Green, she mentions how the education system stresses the importance of using technology in the classroom and its benefits while there is a “neglect to develop and emphasize pedagogical principles that should be guiding the technological choices of our teachers, as well as our own.”

There is a fine line between using technology because it is new and exciting, and using it because it has advantages in education.  Sometimes moving towards a new technology is the correct path, while other times it acts a hindrance.  An example of this in my education:  While I was attending CSU Fresno, there was a big push to upgrade our video editing programs.  We had a speaker come from Adobe and preach to the department how upgrading to a new version of the Adobe suite instead of continuing with Final Cut Pro would be beneficial.  It would be faster, it had more features, it was more user friendly, etc etc.  The department jumped on it and switched everyone over.  Big mistake.  The new, exciting, cool features all sounded great, however it caused more trouble than anyone thought.  Our computers could not handle it, teachers didn’t know how to use it and thus couldn’t help students, all of the students current projects had to be restarted because of the new software.

I also look at the flood of all the presentation software available online.  There are reasons for a change, sometimes Prezi makes sense, sometimes PowerPoint makes sense, however if those work fine, get the job done and are the industry standard, why do schools and teachers waste time introducing students to  the myriad of other presentation programs?  That is a waste of valuable teaching time that could be better used to teach the curriculum.

Teachers, especially those like myself with a geeky side, need to remember that we should be teachers who like technology, not tech geeks who happen to teach.

Technology as a Teaching Tool Technology to Support Student Learning
Assigning YouTube Videos to Watch Assigning a project that involves creating a YouTube playlist in which the students show a common theme and lesson
Making students play Oregon Trail Having students play Oregon Trail and keeping a character “journal” via a blog that talks about what happened each week on the trail.


Green, L. (2014, September/October). Through the Looking Glass Examining Technology Integration. Knowledge Quest, 43(1), 36-43.

Maxwell Smart Vlog #8: Final Thoughts

Maxwell Smart Vlog #7: Story Telling

In Class Gaming Tools

Game Maker

“Making games development accessible to everyone means taking away the barriers to getting started. Using our intuitive ‘Drag and Drop’ development environment you can have your game up and running in a matter of minutes without ever having to write any code! GameMaker’s built-in language (GML) helps you learn to program as you go and not jump in at the deep end of coding.”


  1. Usability: How easy is the application to use for teachers? Students?
    • Game Maker is much more complicated than a program such as Scratch.  While Scratch is easy to understand and easy to use for any beginner, Game Maker is for more advanced users.  Game Maker is easy if you have the time to sit down for a few hours and learn it. For students in upper levels of High School and students in College, Gamemaker is perfect for creating any type of game, educational or not.
  2. Motivation: What motivate teachers to use the app for teaching? Students for learning?
    • If a teacher is looking for something more in depth than what is found on Gamestar Mechanic or Scratch, and not quite as complicated as Unity, than Gamemaker is the program to use.  Being able to create a game that works on Mobile, Desktop, gaming systems such as Xbox and Playstation, all with a drag and drop interface is something that was unimaginable just a few years ago.
  3. Pros
  • Can be used as learning tool, or professional game development
  • Very large game logic, can create a simple maze game to a networked first person shooter.
  • Comes with own object oriented programming language.
  • Games can be played on multi platform (Android, Linux, Windows, Mac, etc.)


4. Cons:

  • Mainly used for creating non0-edtech  games
  • Free version that’s limited, full features of Game Maker have a higher cost.
  • Compared to Scratch and Gamestar Mechanic, Game Maker is not exactly “kid-friendly”






“Scratch is designed especially for ages 8 to 16, but is used by people of all ages. Millions of people are creating Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers.”

  1. Usability: How easy is the application to use for teachers? Students?
    • Scratch was designed to be as easy as possible, and it shows.  While Scratch cannot produce games for various platforms, nor can it build complicatd console type games, you can easily create stories, games, and inimations to share with anyone.  Students of any age could jump into Scratch relatively easily and play or produce new content.
  2. Motivation: What motivate teachers to use the app for teaching? Students for learning.
    • Scratch was designed and is still maintained with studetns and teachers in mind. It not onl is a vehicle to help tell stories or provide content, the use of Scratch also teaches basic programming.  Programming skills enhacne problem solving skills, project skills, and communication skill.s

4. Pros:

  • Free
  • User friendly layout
  • Can easily create anything pretty much
  • Great at teaching object oriented concepts!
  • Good community
  • Can be for anyone (kids, adults, real game developers, programmers etc)
  • Can create games, videos, music, art, and a wide range of projects.

5. Cons



  • Projects only come in Scratch format. (No executable, just Scratch format for now.)
  • Very free
  • Third party software can export to executable, but not that good

Maxwell Smart: VR/AR/FX/All that Jazz

Maxwell Smart Vlog #6: The Segmenting Principle

Sometimes (most of the time) videos are too long! Use the segmenting principle to help students absorb as much info as they can.  Short video below:

VR/Augmented Reality Apps for the Class…or for fun!

Google Expeditions:

Website           App

Google has put together a project called Expeditions Pioneer that helps teachers create full field trip experiences, including roles such as a guide and student.

Another amazing thing about Google Cardboard: as long as you already have a smart phone, the rest of the device is as cheap as 15 bucks!  These can go up to $120, but the $15 work just as well.  I personally have the device by Viewmaster (roughly $30) and I like it a lot.

  1. Usability: How easy is the application to use for teachers? Students?
    • Google Cardboard itself is the easier VR solution I have used so far.  Google has specifically geared it towards the EdTech movement, with simple controls, easy setup, and as many eye pieces as you can imagine.  The idea of actually building the VR kit in class out of cardboard and a few lenses is a great learning experience for the students as well.
  2. Motivation: What motivate teachers to use the app for teaching? Students for learning?
    • By being able to build the kit yourself, teachers can use Expeditions as a multi-learning unit.  Once the kit is built, there are many expeditions for teachers and students to “visit”.  Being able to tie an expedition into history, science, and math, gives teachers a plethora of uses.
    • Students will love the idea of immersion into a subject.  Instead of reading a book about the pyramids of Egypt, they can go on a virtual tour and “experience” the pyramids for themselves.  They would also be able to continue the learning process at home (as long as they or a parent have a phone and a $15 dollar Cardboard kit.
  3. Pros: What are the benefits of using this app? (for teachers? for students?)
    • Cheap: as long as you already have a smart phone, the rest of the device is as cheap as 15 bucks!  These can go up to $120, but the $15 work just as well.  I personally have the device by Viewmaster (roughly $30) and I like it a lot.
    • Easy to purchase in bulk.  Google and Best Buy sell Expedition kits for classes. These come with WIFI enabled phones, headsets, and learning kits
  4. Cons: What are the downsides or limitations of using this app?
    • No IOS version yet
    • Technology moves fast.  Google has already released a new VR solution.



New York Times VR:

Website              App

Using the Google Cardboard setup, students are able to interact with journalism stories and learn about subjects in an interactive and immersive environment.

  1. Usability: How easy is the application to use for teachers? Students?
    • Like Google Expeditions, the New York Times VR app uses Google Cardboard as a gateway into the experience.  It is incredibly easy to setup and start a story.  By simply putting on the Google Cardboard, selecting the app, then selecting a story, you can jump right in.  Interacting within the app is intuitive for all ages.  Without an remotes, you simply move your head around and focus on an area to select various options.
  2. Motivation: What motivate teachers to use the app for teaching? Students for learning?
    • For a Journalism or Mass Communication class, this would help students understand the idea of crafting a story, focusing on individuals to personalize a story, and how to film in a captivating manner.  As Mass Comm and Journalism teacher, I would use this as an example of a well-crafted story and production.
    • Students can view these on their own time and always refer to them as examples.  It also gives in depth coverage of stories that you may not pay attention to if they were standard video and copy.
  3. Pros: What are the benefits of using this app? (for teachers? for students?)
    • As with the Expedition app, this is cheap: as long as you already have a smart phone, the rest of the device is as cheap as 15 bucks!  These can go up to $120, but the $15 work just as well.  I personally have the device by Viewmaster (roughly $30) and I like it a lot.
    • New York Times actually included a free Google Cardboard kit with issues of the New York Times as well.
    • Great starter into the world of VR journalism.
  4. Cons: What are the downsides or limitations of using this app?
    • NY Times has not produced enough content for continuous use.





Maxwell Smart Vlog #5: The Contiguity Principle

Continuing my readings through Mayer’s book, “Multimedia Learning,” and this week I was struck by the Contiguity Principle.

Short video explaining the Contiguity Principle and my thoughts on the subject below:

Camera Techniques for Better Film-making: A video quiz. Brought to you by Film Riot, EdPuzzle, & Maxwell Smart

I recently discovered EdPuzzle in my Multimedia EdTech course, and I am thoroughly impressed.  This is an assessment tool that I will be using throughout my future courses.

For my first Quiz, I used a video that I use in my Intro to Multimedia course.  It is a video by Film Riot (a group that was a big part of my college self learning process).  They cram a great deal of info into a short amount of time.  By tying this into EdPuzzle and adding a quiz element, I can easily find out if my students are comprehending the info, and what I need to further cover in class.


My EdPuzzle can be found HERE




Special Thanks to the guys at Film Riot for their awesome content.