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Assessment for learning (AFL) has been a long-standing practice in the field of education. Unfortunately it continues to be misunderstood and under utilized. In our ever advancing technological age how can tech / online resources be used to assist educators in implementing AFL in their classrooms? Here are a few links to sites that may spark some ideas:
Try going anywhere urban and see if you can find someone without a smartphone or connected device of some kind. Virtually impossible in today’s wired(less) world. This holds true for schools as well. Both staff and student alike connected 24/7. This holds both potential and pitfalls for our education system.
Student information systems have been a part of everyday life for school staff for well over 20 years now. With this the presence of computers in the classroom has become a must. Teachers are required to input attendance daily and marks on an ongoing basis. Administrative staff use the system daily to adjust schedules, lookup demographic info, schedule courses, etc. Our reliance on computers has taken hold in some classrooms with teachers adopting connected tech to engage students.
Fast forward to 2016 and smartphones are a reality in every classroom (to varying degrees depending on socio-economic circumstances). What are we doing to harness the potential devices walking into our classrooms each and every day? Is there a sign on the door claiming no phones allowed? Is there a bucket at the front of the class where phones are deposited? Are students encouraged to record homework using Evernote or OneNote? Are apps like Remind being used to keep students on top of upcoming assignments? Is Google translator being used to help students understand a new language? Are videos being created to demo dissections in a biology class?
From my experience the reality is all of the above. Yes there are still the classrooms where devices are taboo and must be kept out of site but there are those classrooms that fully utilize the potential of these powerful portable computers. As an educator with a distinct bias towards use of technology to enhance both teaching and learning I cringe every time a device is handed to me after being confiscated. Students have a responsibility to ensure they are being responsible in their use of smartphones by not texting or snapchatting during class but we as educators also must recognize that these devices are here to stay and we can either resist or realize the Borg were right all along.
Thank you Tristesse for recommending this video. Very inspiring!
Change is difficult at the best of times but technological change seems to be on a whole other level. Educational practice is personal and perfected seemingly in isolation. Feedback is available but typically in short supply. With this professional isolation comes the development of a skill-set that has been tried and tested over time. A comfort zone is established and an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mindset. A set of tools are also established and a comfort zone with these tools soon follows. Enter the technological revolution!
Change for the sake of change is never a good thing. ‘What problem are we trying to solve?’ is a great question to ask. The SAMR model, developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, looks at the evolution of technological integration in education. Replacing one device for another device without significant change in practice or student engagement lacks meaning or purpose. This is not to say the potential for change is not present but rather the comfort with one form of technology or one methodology is a strong force against change. So how can we achieve change given this dynamic? Peer collaboration and/or curricular change are the influences that can bring about meaningful pedagogical change. Without the necessity the urgency will never exist. Without peer support the buy-in will never be achieved. Now I speak in absolutes but in general these ideas hold true.
Peer collaboration is, in my opinion, the single greatest vehicle for change that exists in our system. Working along side a colleague in the same discipline (or cross-discipline) is inspiring and rejuvenating. One example that comes to mind is of a group of colleagues who worked on identifying the fundamental skills a student needs entering Science 8 and developed a series of activities to start the school year and provide this foundation. Collaboration between these colleagues persisted the entire school year and the difference in the enthusiasm and ability of those grade 8 students was evident. Another example is when I had the pleasure of collaborating on a project in Biology 12 with support from the University of British Columbia. The project focused on what part of the curriculum and the students put together fine projects but it was the professional conversations and thinking through the various challenges associated with the project that led to meaningful understanding of my teaching practice.
Curricular change, as is slowly occurring in British Columbia, is another way to bring about fundamental change in a system. Coupled with a reevaluation of what is important comes a reevaluation of assessment practices. Asking yourself ‘why am I asking students to do this,’ or ‘what skill or concept am I assessing with this assignment,’ is key to any successful teaching practice. If curricular outcomes drive pedagogy toward a student-centred approach with technology as its backbone then and only then will change not be an option.