Monday, May 10, 2010

Creating With Computers (Part III)

Revolution is like a software Erector set. With a little bit of familiarity with the language, it is very easy to quickly create custom applications. I began the process of developing this tool by thinking about the ultimate goal, a software tool that students would use to hopefully improve their reading. I started with the ultimate goal in mind, and then worked back to components that would make that goal successful. The following is a list of features that I determined the student component should incorporate:

  • Simple student log-in a first grader could master.
  • The ability for a student to easily record themselves reading a passage of text.
  • The ability for a student to easily play back their recorded audio file.
  • A strategy to allow students to concentrate on what they read by providing them with a tool to count the number of words they read within the time limit.
  • A simple scale that allows students to rate how well they feel they read the passage.
  • The ability to identify at least one word that they felt was the most difficult to read.
  • A number presented at the end of the activity that represents their ranking/total score.

My hunch is that these described activities would help to improve a student's reading ability by steering them to think more acutely about their reading. Research has shown that special needs students actually do quite well working in a student-computer environment. The computer is often less threatening and students are less likely to be nervous or suffer from performance anxiety when in front of a computer as opposed to in front of their teacher. This I thought would hold true for all students. I envision this student tool being used in a center or independent group activity where students have 15-20 minutes at each activity.

After defining the components of the student software, it was time to decide on how it would be designed. I knew that I would want to be able to retrieve student work so that the students' teachers would be able to evaluate their students' work post activity. In order to do this, all student input would have to be stored in a database. Fortunately for me, Revolution provides this ability quite easily and I will be describing this process in a later section.

As I continued to work backward from the student activity component, my planning resulted in three supporting components. The first is the main administrator tool for creating teacher accounts. The second component is the teacher tool. The teacher tool should allow for the creation of individual student reports based on the students' activities. In addition, teachers should be able to create, edit, and delete students accounts. Finally, teachers should be able to create and edit new assessments/activities and assign assessments/activities to students in their class.

All these components require the storing of their data in a database. The creation of the database and the resulting tables in the database will be described in a later blog post.
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