Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Death to National Standards! Long live reporting on the whole child!

Death to Nat Standards!
Long live reporting on the whole child!

Finally, we can concentrate on real time, in-situ reporting to parents/caregivers on all aspects of their child’s progress and achievement. This transition from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that shows long-term academic, social and emotional development will take a serious investment of time. However, the end result will finally provide parents/caregivers with authentic, accurate information about their child’s growth and development in all areas, in real time. No longer will parents/caregivers wonder how their child is progressing or wait months for an update at student-led conferences or a twice yearly written report.

Steve Job’s Schools, introduced in 2013 into the Netherlands and South Africa, fulfils this aim of real time reporting on the whole child:

Differently from a regular primary school, where you have to distil the progress of your child from periodical report cards and an incidental parent-teacher conference, at our school you not only are permanently informed about the progress of your child, but also in much more detail.

 Many schools are well on the way to helping students and teachers develop
individual e-portfolios but now, given a mandate to focus on formative assessment and reporting on the whole child, schools will re-visit their assessment policies, procedures and foci in order to capture learning in all its facets to fully inform parents/caregivers.

Each school will form a shared understanding of what the e-portfolio will look like, consist of across the school community. Schools know the importance of developing shared understandings, consultation, including parents/caregivers, teachers and students, and transparent decision making.

Each student’s individual e-portfolio will show a holistic picture of each students learning journey and may include goal setting, reflections, academic test results, self and peer assessments, teacher, parent and peer feedback, units of inquiry, rich tasks, a daily learning blog, multi-media artefacts of learning, soft and hard skill development (key competencies) and interests and passions.

Jenson and Trever (2014), see below, have developed a graphic of the e-portfolio as a learning tool which emphasises the important point that an e-portfolio is not just a curation of snapshots or artefacts; it is a life-long learning tool.

 Schools will choose their e-portfolio platform according to their needs and preferences. Student/teacher usability, that is, ease of use, is paramount.

I believe students from year two are able to develop their own e-portfolio, not just a learning blog but a personalised multi-media portfolio full of snapshots of their learning over time including reflections and next steps.

                                 Bird (2016)

Student agency means not just giving students a choice and voice in their learning but more importantly giving them the opportunity to personalise and take ownership of their learning. Taking ownership of their own e-portfolio offers students power, control and autonomy of their learning.

Basken (2008) states:

ePortfolios are effective learning tools because they support students’ own knowledge construction, make otherwise invisible aspects of the learning process visible, and place agency in the hands of students, which fosters learners’ motivation.

Students will form a deep understanding of their abilities, their growth as a learner, their passions and their needs and will become self-regulated learners. The following is a synopsis of research findings on the long term impact of e-portfolios:

 Teachers will direct teach and model the skills and tools, provide information and quality time for e-portfolio development. E-portfolios need to be owned by the student and teacher through a shared understanding of learning intentions, success criteria and feedback, that is, an essential agreement. Teaching students to reflect on their work, their progress and achievements will be paramount. As Basken so wisely states:

With ePortfolios, the process of reflection originates as a solo activity, but becomes social through a feedback loop, as the student’s instructor, peers, mentors, and even family members respond to and provide commentary on those reflections. Making and then sharing an ePortfolio with others is somewhat like telling a story: the story of one’s learning journey.
Invisible learning will finally become visible!

Monday, 27 November 2017

VR will greatly enhance learning

Virtual Reality will greatly enhance learning

By 2025 an estimated 5 million students will be using VR

An amazing development was recently reported in the local newspaper that helped sick children cope with MRI scans and unpleasant medical procedures without sedation. The local hospital in partnership with the local university developed a virtual reality (VR) programme to relieve young patient’s anxieties and fear prior to and during these procedures. Using the VR programme they achieved a 90% success rate!

Another useful application of VR is being developed at Carnegie Mellon University where they are developing a virtual peer named Alex who has been helping children with autism to integrate storytelling and learning and to develop science reasoning and science discourse.

So, what is VR? Virtual reality is fully immersive, the world as you know it is gone and a completely simulated experience is presented to you. Apparently, the key to all successful VR is ‘presence’, that is, you effectively forget the real world and feel completely absorbed into the digital experience. Modern VR technology is able to mimic your movements from the real world into the digital and allows the viewer to feel as though they are in the virtual world.

VR is sometimes called the ‘Empathy Machine’ as it has the ability, through storytelling, to develop empathy in the viewer as opposed to film which asks the viewer to relate to a character’s emotions. One powerful example of this is Lynette Wallworth’s VR experience ‘Collisions’ (as sited in Idealog, Winter, 2017).

 So, how can this purposefully impact in the classroom? Biology for example, is usually taught through textbooks, slides, video and drawings but start up company The Body VR are taking an immersive approach to education, letting you travel the human body in person and actively interact with it.

Another example is Medivis, who are redefining anatomy learning building an entire learning platform that allows you to visualise the human body in a fully 3D, life size, holographic format, accurately tagging every single piece of your body – no need for books, drawings, or expensive cadavers!

Ok, so back to the school classroom – what will this look like and how can it positively impact learning?

An educational pioneer in VR is zSpace:

zSpace is an immersive learning experience that allows students to interact with objects and understand the concepts behind them. Students can complete group or individual complex tasks in a natural and intuitive manner. For example, students can experiment virtually using Franklin’s Lab, then use their new skills to design real-world electricity boards in the tech room, and then take the design back to VR to improve and build on their design using virtual tools that would otherwise be too dangerous.

A pioneering school district in New York, Plainview – Old Bethpage Central School District, began using zSpace in 2014 and report that students now give more detailed responses to questions, are more engaged in classroom dialogue and ask deeper questions about learning. They report student engagement as being ‘off the charts’.

As Elizabeth Reede wrote in 2016:

Educators and students alike are seeking an ever-expanding immersive landscape, where students engage with teachers and each other in transformative experiences through a wide spectrum of interactive resources. In this educational reality, VR has a definitive place of value.

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students.

And, the final crucial word goes to Michael Fullan who so aptly states:

Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the acceleration