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Archive for March, 2014

interview with suzi: insider’s view of using technology & formative assessment

Interviewer (I): What is your view on technology and its relationship with formative assessment?

 

Classroom Teacher (C.T): Technology can be a wonderful tool for formative assessment. I use it for small tasks and also use if for two big ‘project’ each year.

 

I: Are you able to provide an example of the ways you use technology for these formative assessments?

 

C.T: I have many examples!! One example I can provide is this; I set up ‘chat-rooms’, forums and wikis in the middle to end of term one, where students are required, or ‘expected’, to make comments on lessons, learning activities and on general class events.

 

I: What do you see as one of the benefits of using technology for formative assessment within the classroom?

 

C.T: The beauty of the E-learning environment is that all students can engage, giving their ideas and opinions, without having to wait their turn to speak as you would in a real-life discussion. Students can engage with each other more comfortably online than in real-life, allowing for all students to engage and give their opinions. Engaging and inclusive education has been, and will continue to be, an essential aspect of education, however, due to the boom in technology, it has been able to be put into practice more readily as all students can now be included, including the quiet, introverted and shy students.

 

I: What has been the most interesting thing you have been apart of, introduced, or seen in regards to technology and formative assessment?

 

C.T: As a matter of fact, I have!! Last year, I was involved in a ‘technology-project’ through MacICT. Within this, my class used trans-media to create a website, which expanded their understanding of the novel we were reading. In small groups (4 students maximum), the students created responses to the ideas in the book. For example, students made a movie, comic, flipbook or a quiz that related to a concept within the novel. These products were amazing, however, the most delightful and surprising aspect of the task was the amount and quality of feedback the students gave each other and received from their audience! The students’ work is available online for them to review as well. 

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I: That sounds incredible! How did the students do this and how did they respond to it?

 

C.T: Students were encouraged to make specific evaluative comments on the elements of others, and/or add their own interpretation of the element question, thus allowing the sharing, ever-living nature of the story to continue. This provided me with a lot of information about the students’ learning!

 

I: Are you able to tell me a little about your class wiki at all?

 

C.T: Of course! I usually set a class wiki at the beginning of Term Two, where students engage in tasks in an online environment. Often times the task is to “add a comment” reflecting on the information from a website, game or activity, or sometimes an idea or concept. The comments they add give me information about what they have learnt about the content, but also their own learning. I also participate in these forums! It allows them to ask me questions and engage in academic conversation, and it is now part of the Australian Curriculum (Objective E in the new Syllabus).

 

I: So these are your formative assessment?

 

C.T: Yes. I use wikis and the work I do with technology in the classroom and homework tasks for formative assessments, however, I use the bigger projects as summative.

 

I: Do you use technology for any other educational purposes in regards to formative assessment?

 

C.T: I use programs such as StudyLadder, Reading Eggs and Mathletics to access data about student performance. It is extremely useful formative assessment, and I would always recommend it!

 

 

 

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part a: my personal learning about formative assessment & technology

Ponder this: Your doctor tells you that they have all new medical technologies available to make you better and heal, but does not believe in using technology. Instead the doctor will use an ancient piece of medical equipment. Would you feel comfortable? Imagine a similar situation with a classroom teacher.

This idea was posed by my lecturer upon beginning a course named “ICT in Primary Education: current issues and applications” at the beginning of 2014. Through this course, I was exposed and enlightened on ICT and how to effectively use it within the classroom to enhance student learning. Through participating in this enriching course, I was able to further investigate current issues that affected education and the use of technologies. One topic that seized my attention was that of how to use formative assessment and technology affectively to better student learning.

This issue resonated with me greatly, as technology should not be used to substitute learning that can be done on pen and paper. It must value-add to a learning task, extending the range of knowledge, skills and cognitive processes that occur within a classroom (CTB, McGraw, 2008). The importance of value-adding, and using technology to improve the educational outcome of students was emphasised when being exposed to the SAMR Model (Puentedura, 2014). The SAMR Model is very interesting (which can be further seen through this YouTube Clip), and has greatly affected my teaching, as I have, and will continue, to consider it when planning lessons and activities. 

My thoughts on formative assessment and technology were advanced when this model was introduced, as its aims are to support teachers in designing, developing and integrating learning technologies to support high levels of learning (QLD Government, 2013). Formative assessment enables student learning to be boosted and to progress, so by using technology appropriately and effectively, student learning can improve further. Using technology for formative assessment will allow teachers to swiftly apply information gained from these assessments to student learning, allowing for activities to be altered, differentiated and to provide further assistance to those who require it. NSW Board of Studies (2014) supports this, highlighting the need for students to engage in learning that indicates their strengths and needs, and allows them to receive immediate, constructive feedback on how to use their strengths and work on their needs.

 

Prior to beginning this course, I was the doctor in the above scenario. I did not agree with using technology constantly within a classroom. I was under the impression that technology was used to replace not add to classroom activities and learning. After this course, I have realised how wrong I was. This pre-conception came from my professional experience placements, as all my cooperating teachers used technology to replace, not add. All except one. I had one cooperating teacher who used technology as another learning avenue. He would have his students use technology, such as the SMARTboard, to engage in learning activities that produced data, enabling him to see their progression, their strengths and needs in regards to these topics and then able to act on these results swiftly (Curtis, 2013). An example of these activities is “Reading Eggs”, a program that makes reading engaging with fun and interactive activities, I now see technology as an extremely advantageous tool for unlocking multiple learning opportunities, some which would never have been possible without technology.

Specific examples of how teachers are able to use technology to better formative assessment include Socrative and Go-Animate, where students can use their creative skills to further develop their understanding and knowledge of a topic. Technologies, such as Google-Docs and Google-Drive, I found that teachers are able to help students improve immediately. This has a greater impact on the student’s learning, as they are able to receive real-time feedback, and understand how to alter their learning to keep in-line with stated outcomes (SETDA, 2008). Using communication technologies, such as Skype and e-Pals connects students with students, educators and specialists from across the globe, giving them further opportunities to gain inside knowledge on topics and further understand cultures and learn more about the world through practical engagement, rather than from a textbook or second-hand knowledge or experiences. 

Using these programs within a classroom will enhance the learning of a student, as they’re able to gain immediate and concurrent feedback on their learning. Students are able to work towards learning outcomes more successfully as they have an understanding of their strengths and needs and can receive assistance for these (Curtis, 2013). These programs, as well as online blogging sites such as Wikis allow for students to interact with each other in a safe environment, where they can express themselves freely (with teacher supervision, of course), especially those who are shy and find it challenging to express their thoughts in verbally in a classroom (Norris, 2014). Using technology for formative assessment allows teachers to gain a deeper understanding of how their students work and where they are at in regards to the curriculum, their peers and with their own progress. From seeing how technology aided my cooperating teacher when using “Reading Eggs”, this idea was proven successful. 

 

Through talking with a practicing teacher, my understanding of the benefits gained from using technology for formative assessment has heightened. This teacher, along with classes for this course, has shown me how to use technology to better ones teaching and the learning of students. She used Wikis and Story-Web to engage in formative assessment, as well as designing ways to further enhance her students’ learning. Technology opens up a brand-new door for student engagement and classroom management, as well as allowing teachers to swiftly access student data to improve instruction and overall learning of students. This teacher also used technology to allow students to become more engaged in their learning. The interview with her is here

 

Through this course, I was exposed to more and more technologies to aid my teaching and my future students learning. I was so pleased with all this exposure; it will improve my teaching immensely. Using technology for formative assessment was, again, highlighted during a class where our lecturer showed us a TED-talks stream. This clip only highlighted the importance of technology. Mr. Ramsey Musallam stated that “technology does not have to be mind blowing, but it has to be purposeful”. It needs to extend students, and this clip reinforced my new beliefs on technology, especially for formative assessment.

 

Through investigating, using a Personal Learning Network, the use of formative assessment and technology, my understanding of its importance has increased significantly. Technology cannot substitute; it must add to a learning task. Students must be able to engage with something that will alter their thinking, encourage them to ask questions, inspire them to partake in further research, and to then want to do more. By having instant access to students’ work and products of activities, teachers are able to improve their instruction, extend those who require challenges and assist those who require further help. It allows for differentiation to occur and for teachers to completely know their students’ knowledge and understanding of topics.

“When technology is integrated into school lessons, learners are more likely to be interested in, focused on, and excited about [learning]” (Huneycutt, 2013).