Introduction & Myths
After graduating with 1st class honours I was employed by Bradford School of Art to deliver technical aspects of software to students on the BA where my interest in teaching developed. Continuing my professional development in the form of MA Graphic Design and then PGCE ICT I realised the impact of ICT within society. Although generally the vision of ICT is usually that of spreadsheets and databases, my focus and interest is developing the more creative side of learning through design and project management, harnessing the available technologies, fusing them together, ensuring that ICT can integrate seamlessly. Through this approach I aim to develop pupils’ knowledge and attitude towards ICT demonstrating how this essential part of modern society can enhance their lives.
Learning technologies can improve teaching and learning, only if understanding exists from both pupil and teacher. Problems usually arise when using technologies in the classroom, if it can go wrong it will go wrong and it is through the planning of using these LTs that a backup plan is usually necessary.
Currently the educational institution I teach within is developing their Intranet to promote excellence in teaching and improve learning, enabling “achievement for all.” They implement Microsoft SharePoint, a corporate tool used by many leading brands, such as Easy Jet, and being a Microsoft product is not necessarily the most intuitive piece of software as it is not user friendly. The development of the intranet is in its infancy and the school employs a single person to work full time on its development. Throughout the next year I aim to improve the interface of the Learning Gateway (intranet) creating a more ergonomic experience, incorporating more assessment for learning through the creation of online activities, which will offer the pupils an immediate response also improving assessment and feedback from tutors.
The submission of work is an area I would like to develop as the handing in of Key Stage 3 and4 finished projects does not always go to plan as pupils have a limit to printing 2 pages at a time. Sixth form pupils send work by email and as effective as this is, I believe it to be slightly inefficient and informal. Over the past few weeks I have been looking at creating work areas and document libraries where a class of students can upload work. This currently has its drawbacks as the security permissions are limited, as those who are allowed to upload, are also allowed to read, edit and delete other pupils’ work, which creates a series of security issues.
Another aspect I aim to undertake is building the social side of the Learning Gateway so that pupils can contribute through social networking tools such as blogs and wikis, helping them to develop their own online persona and bring the school together as a community helping departments to collaborate effectively improving cross curricular activities where pupils will be able to make more intuitive connections through their studies promoting a more fluid cohesive educational experience. This should enable pupils to effectively share and exchange ideas, a key part within the curriculum.
E-mail is an integral means of communication within the education establishment, allowing collaboration between staff, enabling distance teaching and learning whilst giving the learner an easy alternative for making queries regarding current issues.
New pupils joining secondary education at year 7 may well be new to the communication theories behind email. As the digital natives are encompassed within the notion that all have a similar access to technology, the reality is that some may not have Internet access or aware of the opportunities to set up personal email. As described email is an integral part of communication within education, it is then essential to set up this service for each pupil. Introducing email to pupils will help to develop key skills as Lerman (1998) describes such as “speak, listen, read, and write for purposes that seem meaningful to them” Transferring the FENTOs (Groves, 1999) key areas of teaching, implementing the use of email creatively within the classroom, the teacher is able to “promote and encourage individual learning”, helping pupils to determine a greater sense of autonomy, as they are able to offer support and advice to their peers. Sharing and exchanging information with each other is a key skill that should be developed to achieve a level three although there are difficulties evidencing this and using email could develop this key issue.
To introduce the task, pupils are divided into groups of four and set a research project where they have to collaborate together to produce a travel package report, including mode of travel, hotel, performance and restaurant reservations. Each pupil undertakes one of the research criteria, uncovering the important information using appropriate search methods. Relevant pictures associated with each criterion are downloaded and saved to their personal space, suitable text is copied and pasted into an email along with the hyperlinks, acknowledging their sources, the images then attached. This information is shared amongst the group electronically through the use of their email, transferring relevant data and images to each other without the use of verbal communication or transporting files through USB sticks, keeping pupils in their seats. During the lesson, pupils communicate only through email, which should promote a positive work environment ensuring behaviour, and classroom management is of minimum effort as the teacher will be able to “facilitate learning in groups” more effectively. Using the email client the pupils should learn how to set up group communication, from this the pupils should be able to attach files, select information and choose recipients.
Using the acquired shared information the pupils then produce a promotional report recommending their package deal aimed at a mature audience, this is then attached and emailed to the whole class. Evidence is then easily obtained regarding sharing information and ideas in an effective manner whereby the pupils have learned from experience by sending and receiving emails, to and from multiple users, developing research, writing and general ICT skills.
Interactive whiteboards are rarely used for anything other than demonstrations, presentations or the displaying of lesson objectives. Once delivered the whiteboard is then relatively redundant as the teacher works their way around the room, the screensaver activates and generally the “Windows XP” logo floats around. The aim of my PowerPoint is to make use of the whiteboard whilst the teacher is not there. The lesson is developed for OCR Nationals Level 2 ICT, Unit 21, AO3, and would aim to get all pupils to a Distinction grade. The tutor would initially explain the objectives, demonstrate the task in approximately 10 minutes and then move onto the next slide. This slide contains a pre-recorded demonstration accompanied by a written description of what to do. This approach would help the pupils to develop their own sense of autonomy as the tutor can only be in one place at once. To accompany the video a Word document containing step by step instructions to aid understanding.
The Sun (2008) in their article “ePortfolios in Education: The Time Is Now” claim that ePortfolios are here today and in great use yet, Tolley (2009) in his thesis, discusses the ongoing discourse regarding universal eportfolios, and states that “only 5% of the population uses an ePortfolio 5% of the time.” However ePortfolios and emerging technologies are constantly being developed and tested yet as Rogers et al (2006) suggest “the implementation seems to be limited at this time.”
There will however be a significant emergence of ePortfolios over the next five years as it is expected that each child should possess an online portfolio as part of one of the government’s key objectives (Spider, 2008). This development of key skills will prepare the child for further study or future employment, making a positive contribution to society. Although here lays the debate, what is an ePortfolio comprised of? Since the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and the boom of social networking, digital artefacts are being constantly created, dotted around the web in the form of images, videos, blogs, wikis and tagging. These artefacts combine to build a progressive picture of the online users “social” development that as Vuorikari (2005) suggests, “could be combined to create an ePortfolio utilising learning progresses through the ability to organise one’s own knowledge.” This skill will enable pupils to make connections between their works and reflect on their progress, yet there are many issues regarding the implications of social networking within the school sector (which appear later in this paper), and the employment sector where it has been known that employers use social networking sites to keep tabs on their employees or decisions regarding employment (SmartPros, 2006).
Developing an ePortfolio within the school sector relies on the education and understanding of new skills, which are required for the constant, reflective process that takes place in building this lifelong artefact, a process that must coincide with the curriculum, integrating all subjects, yet heavily reliant on ICT, skills not all pupils and teachers are competent in.
Luca (et al) citing Bloom and Bacon (1995, p.2) found “that especially new students may have difficulty with the lack of structure in the process,” the learner therefore needs to take ownership of the portfolio, understanding that through the student centred learning, combined with their individual approach, personal development will occur, although this is not as simple as it sounds. The systems life cycle, a key element within the delivery of units within ICT, a process students are constantly reminded of, is an ideal model to map reflective learning, yet evidence suggests there are difficulties when completing a task as pupils tend not to complete the self evaluation forms, highlighting what they did well, not so well and how they can improve the next time. As this is an integral part of developing an ePortfolio, aimed at enhancing learning, strategies such as rewarding good reflection, need to be put in place to ensure this learning tool is successful.
This is an area I shall attempt to introduce to my year 7 students.
During my time as Lecturer at Bradford School of Art I attempted to tap into the Social Networking technology through using Myspace, to ensure candidates were aware of deadlines and the current brief as the Myspace community was at its peak and seemed the logical way to ensure they were receiving messages as the majority spent a considerable amount of time building their online personas. Students were not receptive to this approach, keeping their private and student lives separate. Being also guilty of this, not adding colleagues from work, preferring to keep my work and personal life detached, I do however believe that this form of networking could aid education within secondary schools.
Social networking within the secondary school provokes a sense of fear and accountability within the institution (Nightingale, 2008), as the responsibility of “socialising” these young people (Coughlan , 2007), ensuring they adhere to the unspoken norms, lies greatly on the shoulders of the educators as well as the compelling, global, issue of
e-Safety (BECTA, 2007). Whilst schools are generally approaching this as a whole school, PSHCE issue (Chapman), raising awareness not only regarding the dangers of grooming and predators but also that what you post online is there for the world to see, digital subcultures are forming who redefine the social norms of dominant culture to that of their online group (Buckingham, 2007). Yet the norms of online behaviour are not defined or agreed for any digital social group, which can lead to online disputes. One dispute that appears to be on the increase is cyber bullying and with the advancements in technology it is becoming more difficult for the victim to ignore and even more difficult for schools to deal with (Barton, 2008). Institutions are generally unable to control this form of “socialising” and are reliant on webmasters of social networking sites to deal with any issues, although generally unsuccessfully and sometimes with consequence as there has been a severe increase in teen suicides related to cyber bullying.
In an attempt to control, links to sites such as Bebo, Myspace and Facebook are usually filtered and blocked, whilst instant messaging software, such as AIM and MSN Messenger are not installed; pupils find a way to bypass security protocols and use these technologies during lessons through third party sites. It is therefore in schools’ best interests to absorb this phenomenon and utilise its impact through developing an online community of their own (Larsen, 2007), which can be monitored more vigilantly. As social networkers are deemed socially uninhibited this would allow schools the opportunity to monitor problems such as bullying, identifying the bullies and bullied and tackle the problem with written evidence.
Social networking, online, is a skill that should be developed within the school environment alongside socialising, offline, facilitated by the educators, ensuring that the form of behaviour, is acceptable by all that contributes and online etiquette adhered.
My institution employs Microsoft SharePoint Server for the delivery of their intranet and Learning Gateway, which incorporates a variety of technologies that could develop, control and educate using the social networking approach.
Questioning pupils regarding the development of a school social network, many were enthused by the idea and thought it would be of great benefit. I look forward to developing the social side of SharePoint.
Computers and Assessment
Computers and Assessment
Assessment for Learning is an area that is developing rapidly within the school sector. The sharing of objectives and what is required to achieve the highest possible grades seem light years ahead from the primitive teachings of the 20th century. Self-assessment is also key, developing autonomy and independence of thought. Computers and assessment can have a significant impact on learning, developing quizzes and online assessment, that feeds back instantly can enhance and improve teaching and learning, showing the pupil where they need to concentrate on to develop. In an attempt to develop the Learning Gateway at my institution I created an online quiz using Flash, to grasp whether the pupils understood the terminology for “Information: Fact, Opinion, Reliability, Validity and Bias.” The response was good, and most pupils were engaged and focused, showing a clear understanding, benefiting from the quiz and the immediate feedback.
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