Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tech: A tool for A & E

When I was talking about using technology for assessment in my last post, I referred to a classroom where the teacher is involved in this type of activity. And by that I mean using the Smartboard and recording group discussions, using photo and video evidence of learning activities, and more. This is not to mention the use the students themselves make of tech to document their own learning.
When I think of other teachers, including myself, we are not quite there yet.
For many, I think there are two perceived barriers.
The first is the technology itself. It is a testament to the amount of work she has done in the background, to first of all conceive of the potential uses of tech for a & e. Then, to determine which combination of devices would suit the purpose. Then to become at ease with the equipment, learning the features of those devices and getting them to work in an integrated way with each other and with her classroom routines.
The second barrier is conceptual, around the idea of COPS. From Growing Success, we learn that assessment is “for, as and of” learning. It takes place in Conversations, Observations and Products. Some teachers that I meet still find the triangulation of assessment data to be onerous, or don’t quite accept that COPs will give them an accurate picture of learning or achievement.
In fact, teachers shouldn’t worry so much! I and many others had a variety of paper systems, before we had technology in the classroom, and EverNote and Idoceo at our fingertips, literally. :) Many teachers have internalized a form of triangulation, without naming or defining it as such.
Countless times, in each section of each course that I taught, I used class list grid checklists. I used circles, checkmarks, Xs, stars, angled lines, and more, when making observations. It was quite the arcane selection of codes and symbols! Sometimes, there would also be Levels 1, 2, 3, or 4.
Most often, I would use these sheets as anecdotal looks at student learning, to see where individuals were on a continuum of tasks or if they were able to demonstrate proficiency at something. I also often used the checklist sheets after having conversations with students, and providing descriptive feedback on formative tasks.
At the end of each school year, I was shredding a couple of dozen pages, at least, of annotated class lists.
But I was still human, and when it came time to come up with a report card mark or meet with a parent, how much better it would have been to have a photo of student work, complete or in process. Or an audio clip of them discussing their ideas or processes.
Instead of being an added burden, using technology for a & e, and becoming at ease with integrating it into our classes, can provide a more accurate glimpse at student learning, and make the reporting process quicker as well. What are we waiting for?

Looking ahead, I am excited to support teachers with the new Trillium Via platform next year. Yes, we are still working out issues in a few pilot schools, and many thanks to the dedicated teachers who are helping us! But I am hopeful that when this new tool is available, it will combine the best of many tech solutions, including the capacity for meaningful pedagogical documentation.

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