We are proud to introduce our ninth Sunday Spotlight, featuring Steven Humble who teaches in Laveen, AZ. Steven is an enthusiastic middle school science and algebra teacher who has an fun story about his journey to teaching. He is an avid coffee drinker, science geek, and had some great tips for both new and seasoned digital assessment users. We had a great time getting to know Steven better and we are certain that you will too- enjoy the interview!
Middle School Science and Algebra
Desert Meadows School
6 years teaching
I am a huge science nerd and I wanted to make little science nerds- and that’s why I teach science! I wanted to share my love of all things “sciencey” with the next generation.
Get to know Steven Humble
What do you love about teaching?
I am a huge science nerd and I wanted to make little science nerds- and that’s why I teach science! I wanted to share my love of all things “sciencey” with the next generation. I became a science teacher so I could be a science geek for a living.
When did you realize you wanted to teach?
I was about three or four years old when I decided wanted to be a teacher. It’s actually an interesting story. When I went to daycare as a child when I lived in Pennsylvania and they had this yardstick from CVS or wherever.
You know how teachers write their name as “Mr. whatever” ? I wrote like that on the yardstick as a little kid because I was three years old and wanted to be a teacher.
When I started teaching, many years later, my parents found the yardstick when they were moving and they framed it. I actually have it up in the classroom as a reminder of my passion. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do!
What is your “Edulastic story”?
I ran into Edulastic about three and a half years ago at the ISTE Conference in Philadelphia. I just happened to be walking past the booth and it caught my eye because I had been looking for ways to ask tech-enhanced question for a while because we had started giving online tests.
So I was walking past the booth and saw a poster and didn’t think anything of it. Then I saw a demo happening at the booth and I did one of those things where my head stopped but my body kept moving and I thought “Hold on, what was that?” Then I probably spent about two hours there playing with it. I came back to my group at school and told them Edulastic was what I was using now and got started with my students.
I have been giving professional development to teachers around the district. I teach at our new teacher induction for science teachers and have presented Edulastic as a new tool for them. I’ve been trying to tell teachers about it and the main reason I tell them is because you can ask better questions, you get at what students actually know, and you don’t have to spend all your time grading.
Describe your Edulastic “aha” moment.
I think it really clicked when I sat down and worked with it for a little bit. It’s one thing to look at a poster that says “tech-enhanced questions.” A lot of times it’s hard to really understand what that means. You can’t’ take the state test because it’s confidential and even the practice tests only give you so much.
So it was only when I sat down, and looked at it for an hour or two and really tried some of the sample questions and started to brainstorm “ Oh, I could ask this, this way” It was really when I played with it that I knew “This is the tool I need to use.”
What are your teaching/learning goals this school year?
Well I’m finishing up my National Board Certification this year so that’s my teaching goal.
I’m moving towards standards-based grading, so that’s a big goal as a teacher. That means moving away from traditional “you failed the test you’re done”, and moving towards allowing kids to grow and demonstrate knowledge multiple times and multiple ways. It’s a big shift from what I’ve done my whole career so it definitely takes time.
I like the Mastery Gradebook Report for that- it’s been really helpful for getting to this point.
Tips for new Edulastic users:
Don’t try to do everything at once. Stick with a format that you know to start. For example if you are used to giving multiple choice tests, there is nothing wrong with starting with multiple choice test. If you try to do everything at once it can be overwhelming.
Other then that I would say it’s okay if you don’t use every question type. For example I don’t need to use the line plot because it doesn’t apply to me. There are probably only 8 to 12 question types that I use exclusively and that’s okay because that’s all I need.
Try to make sure that you are asking the question you want to ask not just because you want to use the tool.
Stick with what you know to start with because you’ll get comfortable as you move on.
Favorite Edulastic question type?
Classify and Drag and Drop. Because I use drag and drop on an image for Punnett Squares and Classify because it’s great for science. I also like multiple selection a lot because I can ask higher-order questions. I know you asked me for one and I gave you three!!
Favorite snack while using Edulastic
Coffee or tea?
Lord of the Flies
Best tactic to get the class quiet?
I use the give me five technique by Harry Wong. It’s a classic and works really well.
Basically you raise your hand and say “give me five’ Every student in the class is supposed to raise their hand and signal others to be quiet in the room. They look at the speaker. They put down their pencil. Basically they stop everything they are doing and give you their full intention. The idea being that you signal to them. The hand in the air signals to be quiet. With most classes students are quiet within about 3 to 4 seconds. It probably works about 90% of the time. I teach it at the beginning of the year and it’s ingrained into them- every teacher in the school uses it so by the time students get to him in 8th grade they should know it.
Must-have classroom decor:
I keep it very basic in my room. The one thing I do have in my room is a timeline that I use kinda like a word wall. So as the year goes on we post the stuff we are learning and how we achieve on our assessments on our timeline. It wraps around my bulletin board so we can look back on how far we’ve come since the beginning of the school year. Oh- and I also have a really comfy chair from Costco.
It[the timeline] mixes up that idea of a data wall (for assessment results.) What I do is put aggregated data from how we do on benchmark tests and things like that- bar charts but without student names. It keeps student data private and celebrates student success and if functions like a word wall but it’s linear so students can see what we are learning as the year goes on. Students can see why we learned this so we can learn that.
Favorite time of the school year?
First day of school. I love the beginning of the school year. I like getting to meet my kids for the first time. I like getting to know them and introducing them to my content. I really enjoy it. For many kids it’s a fresh start so I’m able to build a relationship with them. It’s so much fun.
Funniest student moment?
We do a lab every year- it’s a cheek swap, and it’s a very common biology lab. The students scrape the insides of their cheeks, stain them and put them under a microscope, and they get to see their cells. I use it as an intro to teaching about cells.
One year I had a student who did that- he put it under the microscope and looked at it and said, “Is that me?”
And I asked, “ What do you mean?”
“Is that what I’m made up of?”
And I said, “Yes, you’re made up of cells, those of some of your cells!”
And he said, “Oh! -man! We’re gross!”
Kindest compliment you have received from a student?
I got one recently from a former student of mine who said that she was going into a nursing program. She said that I really helped her understand how to study. And because I taught her how to study for anything it helped her through High School which in turn helped her get into nursing school.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to spend time with my wife, playing video games, watching TV, reading.
What is the most powerful part of online assessment?
There’s a lot of power to assessments: pre and post assessment and formative assessment to guide your instruction. I think by using an online assessment tool that does it automatically I can actually do that. If I give a paper assessment and I have a meeting at work or I’m busy at night and want to spend time with my family, that test might not get graded for two to three days. By the time I get to it it’s really of no use to me anymore. So that power of being able to give that feedback to kids really helps. So those are some of the most powerful aspects of online assessment to me.