Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Transformation vs. Modernization

As I get farther down the path of integrating ICT with my teaching I am continually reflecting on whether it’s adding value to students learning. Are the students engaged? How can this tool be used to facilitate collaboration? What skills are students learning and using to meet key competencies? Am I using ICT to transform students learning? This question of transformation, I think, is key when reflecting on the way in which we use ICT in the classroom and offer opportunities to students. While today we have more access than ever to ICT in our classrooms in many cases we continue to use it to support the same teaching strategies we have used for the past Century. One of my colleagues refers to the use of the latest gadgets in the classroom as ‘sexy teaching’ – it’s new, it looks good but underneath the delivery and learning process remains largely unchanged. Are notes projected on the white board any better than those written in chalk on the blackboard? Are pictures streamed from the internet better than those found in text books? In both cases, probably not and surely not to the extent that they improve learning outcomes for students or provide them with 21st Century skills. Modernizing processes, such as these, continue to focus on learning from technology while transformative processes are about learning with technology – using it as a tool for collaboration, sharing and personalized learning. At the Learning at Schools conference his past January keynote speaker Frank Green challenged all teachers to consider the modernizing or transformative processes operating in their classrooms. He suggested that you can only get so far with modernization – from the steam train to the bullet train he said – and that at some point transformation is required to truly fly to new lands. Another thinker with transformative ideas about education is Heidi Hayes Jacobs. In her book, Curriculum 21: Essential Education for a Changing World, she asks, “What year are you preparing your student for?” Transformative changes are needed to prepare students not only for the world of today but as global citizens of the future. Transformational questions are the first step to getting there. 

Heidi Hayes Jacobs describes new forms in education

An infographic about how using technology may transform the learning and practice of teachers

Monday, 7 May 2012

Technology to support formative assessment

I've been doing a bit of research about how I may use ICT to support formative assessment. The following is a summary outlining some of the benefits and methods that may support the increasing use of ICT to overcome barriers of traditional formative assessment and support teachers in developing students as more independent, reflective and self-actualised learners.

Valid and high quality formative assessment underpins all successful learning and teaching processes and has the potential to improve learning outcomes for students. While in many ways, technology used for assessment is still in its infancy it is a logical step that our assessment modes become increasingly electronic to match the growing use of ICT in the classroom. Technology has the ability to support robust formative assessment through the use of blogs, picture taking, audio files, e-portfolios, online quizzes, telephone conversations and SMS messages, online simulations and text-mining software supported by appropriate pedagogies.

The use of ICT to support formative assessment overcomes barriers of time and immediacy often faced by traditional assessment methods and is most successful when encouraged in the classroom. Many students have found that online formative assessment assists them in identifying what they don't know, supports new learning and improves the quality of questions and discussions during class time (Whitelock, 2007). Online formative tools may facilitate multiple retest opportunities and assessment that adapts to the learning needs of the student. Text-mining tools can scaffold students to write at more academic levels while increasing the autonomy of the student and quantity of available assessment opportunities (Hsu, Chou & Chang, 2011). The sharing of learning experiences with an audience through blogs, e-portfolios or pictures provide new forms for students to co-construct their learning and further the meaning making process resulting in deeper reflection and documentation of the learning process.  

Learning supported by online formative assessment has the capacity to be authentic, social and reflective of real-world learning. Assessment may be differentiated, based on internal fairness and allow students to utilise assessment modes that best suit their preferred learning style and needs (McGuire, 2005). Such assessment provides valid information for the teaching as inquiry process while highlighting students’ interests and needs. ICT automates some forms of formative assessment while maintaining quality and supporting the learner and teacher in demonstrating learning using tools that match our times. Concerns of validity and reliability may be overcome by offering authentic and interactive assessments and variety in tasks (Gikandi, Morrow & Davis, 2011).

The future of formative assessment using ICT offers improved collaboration across a global community and will become more holistically integrated in the learning process. Formative assessment will increasingly focus on the evaluation and attainment of skills which are transferable to a multitude of disciplines (Bennett, 1998). My readings support the increasing integration of ICT as a formative assessment tool in the classroom to improve learning outcomes though collaboration, reflection and self-directed learning supported by a myriad of paths towards success. 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

The Slight Edge

I’ve titled my blog SlightEdge as a reminder that achievements are the result of many small steps over time, each embedded with their own learning. Years ago, I read a newsletter my financial advisor uncle had prepared for his clients. In it, he talked about the idea that it’s not what we do at any one point in time that matters but the little things we do each day. Whether it’s saving for a financial future, keeping good health or achieving a career goal it’s the collective effort made every day that pays dividends in the end. This idea appeals to me and has stayed with me ever since – in fact I think I still have that old newsletter folded up and tucked in my diary. When I’m feeling overwhelmed and like there is just so much I don’t know, I try to remind myself of the Slight Edge Theory and that taking little steps towards my goals each day means that over time ….. I’ll get there.

Expert who?

Welcome to my first foray into blogging. I have been thinking about this for a while as I have recognized the increasing importance of reflection and collaboration for professional and personal growth. However, I've been putting it off. It’s just a little bit scary putting my thoughts out there. I keep thinking if I wait ‘just a little bit longer’ I’ll know more, have more to share and post reflections with more depth. Luckily a little intervening inspiration from my peers has encouraged me to share my ideas and knowledge and ‘stop waiting until you’re an expert.’ There is so much I don’t know but I’m excited to share what I’m learning. Here goes….