Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014

This time last week I was in Adelaide to attend the Australian Computers in Education Conference (ACEC2014), the once annual but now biennial conference of the Australian Council for Computers in Education (ACCE). ACCE is the peak national professional group for those interested in ICT in education. It brings together state associations like the Queensland Society for Information Technology in Education (QSITE) and EdTechSA, which was the host on this occasion, and is the national affiliate for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The members of these associations are predominantly K-12 teachers but also include teacher educators with interest in the field. That makes their conferences, and especially ACEC, interesting as sites where academics and teachers come together with research papers mixed with presentations with a strong classroom focus. ACEC is a rare opportunity for interactions across the school-university spectrum.
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23 Things?

A while back I was invited to participate in a USQ Library pilot of a 23 Things project. I was specifically invited to contribute to discussion around the use of sites like ResearchGate and Academia.edu for building academic profile but I was also encouraged to participate in the rest of the project. My specific part comes toward the end of the project.

It’s actually 23 Things – Lite because there are 10 things rather than 23. At one per week who has the endurance to slog it out for 23 weeks? The project has a blog at USQ 23 Things where contributions about each of the ‘things’ will be posted and discussion is possible.

Participants are encouraged to establish (if necessary), and use, their own blogs to reflect throughout the project. Not surprisingly then, the first thing is blogging. That kicked off last week with a blog post about blogging. Ever since I’ve been meaning to do some renovations here and post something other than automated links from Diigo. That week has passed; the next thing, Twitter, is up and running; and I’m still running behind on this one. I did contribute to the comments on the project blog and in the private Facebook group but I’m only now getting to write something here.

The project is evolving as it goes. Somewhat paradoxically, in the interests of making navigation to the posts about ‘things’ easier, the project blog initially began putting those posts into pages rather than posts so that there was no RSS feed for following them. Neither was there any other subscription mechanism. That has changed now so that the project blog is more bloglike – probably a good thing if the goals of the project include having participants learn how the ’things’ function in the real world.

At least the activity has prompted me to get back to writing something here and to tinker with the theme and generally renovate the site. Perhaps a few weeks of attention and being challenged by what other participants are doing will get me back to doing more than auto-posts of Diigo links.

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SITE International Symposium – University of Canterbury

On Monday and Tuesday of this week I attended the SITE International Symposium 2014
Future focussed teacher education: Inspiring with digital technologies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. I am grateful for support of SoTEEC and FoBELA for financial and logistical support for my attendance.

This was a small symposium with just 2 keynotes, 17 refereed presentations, and some posters and panel sessions. The proceedings will be available soon in EdITLib. My own immediate reflections on various presentations are recorded in my Twitter stream with the #SITENZ hashtag.

Most of the attendees were from New Zealand but there were 3 from Australia, and one each from Fiji, USA and UK. The small attendance made for focused conversation around the various presentations.

I presented a refereed paper, Pre-service Teachers’ TPACK Confidence in a Regional Australian University, which was an updated version of one that I had presented at SITE in 2012 using data from the first national survey conducted as part of the Teaching Teachers for the Future (TTF) project. This paper was able to include data from the second national survey conducted as part of TTF. The instrument used for TTF was based in part on one developed by Romina Jamieson-Proctor that was used by USQ and Griffith to collect data in 2009 and 2010. That allowed for longer term comparisons of USQ student responses on some sub-scales. On the first national administration in 2011, USQ students scored significantly higher than the national average on the measures of TPACK confidence and it was clear that there had been significant increases across the period from 2009 to 2011. As happened nationally, USQ had a further increase between the two administrations of the survey in 2011attributable to the TTF intervention but the major increase for USQ students had occurred prior to TTF implementation. The most likely explanation for the difference is the restoration of the ICT Pedagogy course (EDC3100) beginning in 2010 and the cross-program adoption of online and blended approaches from 2009. Exposure of students to explicit teaching about pedagogy with ICT and to its frequent application in their own learning appears to have increased their confidence for working with ICT in their own professional practice.

The first keynote on Monday morning was presented by Dorothy Burt, who is the eLearning team leader at Pt England School in Auckland and the facilitator of the Manaiakalani cluster of schools. The schools in that locality are mostly decile 1, that is, they fall in the 10% of NZ schools with the highest proportion of students from low socio-economic backgrounds. A large proportion of students are from Maori and Pacifika background and average household income is as low as $19000 pa. Despite the challenges the schools have embraced a 1:1 digital technologies program following work that established $3.50 per week as an affordable cost for devices. The use of social networking and other approaches that open up learning to the community have been a good match for the cultural background and there have been substantial gains in learning for students in the schools. As the NZ assessment authority plans to move toward digital administration of tests the students from these schools may be ahead of the trend for once. Among the issues raised by Dorothy was the challenge of finding teachers with the appropriate preparation to work in the digital environment especially with students who have been working that way for a couple of years. Current approaches to teacher education are not ensuring that all graduates are prepared for working in that mode. The same challenge exists for us at USQ as more schools move toward 1:1 programs for younger children.

The second keynote on Tuesday morning was presented by David Gibson who is Director Learning Engagement at Curtin University. David is founder of simSchool, a simulation for teacher preparation, and spoke about games and simulations in teacher preparation. He began by presenting some material about the work he is doing at Curtin using cluster analysis with large data sets brought together from various university systems to investigate patterns with the immediate aim of reducing student attrition. That provided a basis for discussing the value of computer based games and simulations for collecting data that can be used to guide learning and teaching. There are certainly possibilities worth investigating in our programs, both for use directly in teacher education and for preparing our graduates to work effectively with games and simulations as they become more common in classrooms.

The other sessions also provided insights into how teacher preparation is being approached in New Zealand and prompted thoughts about what might be applied here and how.

A piece of news that may be of interest to colleagues is that the 17th Biennial ISATT Conference will be held at the University of Auckland from 13-17 July 2015.

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EDUsummIT, NTLS, and SITE Executive

From September 29 to October 7 I was in Washington, DC, where I participated in a series of meetings associated with my involvement in the Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE) and my role as Editor of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education (JTATE). EDUsummIT ran from Monday, September 30 until Wednesday, October 2. The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) followed on Thursday, October 3 and Friday, October 4. SITE Executive met on the morning of Saturday, October 5.

EDUsummIT <http://www.edusummit.nl>: EDUSummIT describes itself as a global community of policy-makers, researchers, and educators working together to move education into the digital age. It seeks to engage educational leaders from across the world in conversations framed around issues and challenges facing education today and through that dialog, develop action items that are based on research evidence. The first EDUsummIT meeting in The Hague in 2009 emerged from the group of editors responsible for the International Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education. I was involved in preparations for the second EDUsummIT held in Paris in 2011 and, although I was unable to attend due to teaching commitments, contributed to an article which has recently been published in a special issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning.

The theme of EDUsummIT 2013 was Research-informed Strategies to address Educational Challenges in a Digitally Networked World. I was a member, with colleagues from Belgium and Israel, of a small team that facilitated Thematic Working Group 3 on Teacher Professional Development. We developed a short briefing paper prior to the meeting and will collaborate on development of a paper for a special issue of Education and Information Technology. Our briefing paper and those prepared by other groups are available from the EDUsummIT website <http://edusummit.nl>.

The EDUsummIT activity began with meetings of the theme leaders on Monday afternoon and ran until Thursday morning when there was a joint session with NTLS. The welcome reception on Monday evening was held in Madison Hall at the Library of Congress. Tuesday sessions were to have been held in the same building but were moved to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, because of the shutdown of government facilities including the LoC. Wednesday sessions were held on the campus of George Washington University. Most of the summit time was spent in thematic working groups where the aim was to identify  issues related to the theme and develop plans for future action. Those discussions were punctuated by plenary sessions that shared progress across the working groups. I also participated in an additional working group of editors that was formed to develop plans for dissemination of EDUsummIT outcomes.

NTLS <http://www.ntls.info>: The National Technology Leadership Summit (NTLS) is an annual meeting of representatives from SITE and the major subject area teacher associations in the USA with additional representatives from related organisations and editors of educational technology journals. It was held in the headquarters of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) over Thursday and Friday of the week. I was assigned to a group working on a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education activity. The impulse for that focus was the new USA science standards that include engineering and the perceived challenges for science teachers who typically have little or no engineering background. We worked to develop a working model of an electric motor and explore some implications for inclusion of engineering in the new science standards. I also participated in a meeting of editors and was a member of a panel of editors that led discussion on the final afternoon around strategies for stimulating further discussion of the science and engineering links.

SITE Executive <http://site.aace.org>: On Saturday morning I attended the SITE Executive meeting. Discussion ranged across activities of various sub-groups within SITE, the outcomes from EDUsummIT (for which SITE is a sponsor), outcomes from NTLS (also sponsored by SITE), the Microsoft Teacher Education Initiative (in which SITE is a major contributor), SITE governance, journal activities, and a proposal for a SITE Regional Symposium to be staged in Christchurch (April 28 & 29, 2014) in conjunction with the NZ teacher education federation (TEFANZ) and abutting the Distance Education Association of NZ (DEANZ) conference. The theme of that symposium will be Inspiring with digital technologies in 21st century teacher education. Readers who may be interested in attending should watch the SITE <http://site.aace.org>, TEFANZ <http://www.tefanz.org.nz>, and DEANZ <http://www.deanz.org.nz/> websites for further details.

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SITE 2013 report

During the week from 24 to 29 March I attended the 24th Annual Conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) which was held in New Orleans. I was grateful for Faculty support, both financial and for time away to attend the conference. The necessities of travel resulted in some free time on the weekend prior to the conference when I was able to see some of New Orleans and a couple of nearby historic plantations. I have shared some photographs in a Flickr set for those who may be interested.

Despite my best intentions to prepare this report during the period of the conference and submit it by email on the way home that did not happen because I was busy during the conference and had a few other pressing tasks that needed to be completed before I returned to the office. I did manage to report on the conference as it happened by ‘live tweeting’ from the sessions that I attended. That material is conveniently collected on a website at http://eventifier.co/event/siteconf13/palbion and includes key points, images of key slides, and links to relevant sites. I find that live tweeting helps me to focus on the presentation and avoid losing concentration as a consequence of shifting timezones.

I was involved in 3 presentations during the conference. Re-visioning Teacher Preparation for Mobility: Dual Imperatives was co-authored with Romina Jamieson-Proctor, Petrea Redmond, and Wendy Fasso (CQU). It reported results from the DEHub funded project we completed last year and has been accepted with minor revisions for publication as one of about 25 chapters in the SITE Research Highlights book for 2013. A copy of the paper will be submitted to USQ ePrints but I am happy to provide a copy for anybody who wants one. The other two presentations were panels in which I participated in my role as Editor in Chief of the Journal of Technology and Teacher Education. In the first of those the associate editors of JTATE engaged in discussion with prospective authors about the journal focus and publication process. In the second I joined editors of other journals in the field for a short presentation and discussion with participants interesting in publishing work in the field.

In addition to presenting and attending presentations I was involved as JTATE Editor in meetings of the Consultative Council and SITE Executive and in a SITE Leadership meeting that elected the next President of SITE who will take office at the conference in 2014. I was also co-opted to assist with jading the poster presentations.

Each of the 4 days of conference began with a keynote. Day 1 was Milton Chen from the George Lucas Foundation who spoke about the issues addressed in his book, Education Nation: Six Leading Edges of Innovation in Our Schools, primarily around the action that is needed for schooling to respond to changing times. The remaining keynotes all addressed global issues of equity from different perspectives. Paul Kim from Stanford University spoke about MOOCs from the perspective of the work he has done in developing countries and the MOOC he developed to around designing new learning environments to address some of the issues. Mariana Patru from UNESCO spoke about the developments in policy and practice required to build a digital-age teaching profession around the globe. Peter Dzvimbo from University of South Africa addressed the challenges for integrating ICT in teacher education and schooling in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the keynotes I was able to attend 2 significant invited presentations – one by former SITE President, Ann Thompson, about the past present and future of ICT in teacher education and another by Don Knezek, recently retired as CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, on the need for advocacy around ICT in teacher education.

Despite difficult economic conditions in the USA and elsewhere attendance at SITE was up this year with about 1300 attendees from 65 countries. Most of those had some involvement in one or more presentations so there were typically 12 or more choices available during parallel sessions. I managed to attend more than a dozen parallel sessions, each with 2 or 3 presentations. Topics included TPACK (measurement, necessary leadership conditions, video cases for development, development in secondary programs), mobile learning (mobile portfolios, mobile app for monitoring teaching practice), digital stories, action-oriented research, hybrid and online doctoral programs, and more. The full proceedings of SITE will be available through the Education and Information Technology Library database for those who may be interested in more detail. Expect that to take a week or two to become available.

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Tidying the assessment for EDP4130

With just a few weeks until the start of semester I’m working on my course materials and website for EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy. Consistent with my belief that students are most often most interested in what they need to do to successfully complete the course I’ve been giving a lot of attention to the design of the assessment. My approach might be described as some variation of assessment for learning in which I attempt to design assessment that will encourage students to engage with what I think is the important learning in the course.

Ideally I would design assessment around a series of mostly small tasks that would spread the workload for students and for markers, avoiding the tsunami of marking that usually mounts at mid-semester and the end. That approach would allow me to provide meaningful feedback through the semester so that students do not suffer nasty surprises on high stakes items and can take corrective action, if necessary, in time to make a worthwhile difference to their final grades. I’ve worked in courses where the assessment consisted of (almost) weekly tasks linked to learning activities that occur in class. That can often be arranged so that students complete much of the necessary work in class leaving relatively little demand on their time out of class. It usually also means that they have feedback within a week so that they can adjust their approach.

Unfortunately that approach to assessment is not acceptable right here and now so I am limited to 3 pieces of assessment though those may include multiple components. That allows linking of assessment to the learning activities as  I might want to but imposes restrictions on due dates so that feedback is less frequent than might be desirable to shape progress.

Given those constraints, in addition to the professional experience that must be satisfactorily completed for students to pass the course, the 3 assessment items are as follows:

Item Content
1

Short report about planning for the curation task including establishing a personal learning network
Simple online quiz about curriculum documents, readings, and introduction to Scratch

2 Short report about the CSG WebQuest
3 Short report about the digital technologies activities
Short report about a learning activity with design briefs
Curated collection of resources and associated report
Simple online quiz over the course 

I’m now in the process of working through those components to ensure that things are complete, adequately explained, and presented so that they will be accessible and clear to students.

I posted yesterday about finalising the digital technologies learning activities and now have both those and the related assessment requirements in place. Rather than directly assess the activities, though the quizzes may include some specific items about Scratch programming, I have opted to require students to write a reflective blog post for each of the four phases and share that with their personal learning network. Their reflections are to briefly describe the activity, make links to the Australian Curriculum documents, explain what they learned, and comment on potential application in primary classrooms. The actual assessable piece will be a report that summarises the content of those posts. I hope the result will be encouragement for students to think about what they are learning through the activities, both at the time they are working with them and toward the end of semester, and a piece of work that is manageable for all involved in the submission and marking process. 

Some months ago I posted about adjustments to the WebQuest about Coal Seam Gas that I developed for a previous offer. It had worked fairly well but feedback from students suggested that some changes might be in order.  Those changes were made and the CSG WebQuest is now tidied up with links to resources checked and should be ready for use.

I’ve used variations of the design brief activity since I first developed a technology education course in 2002. The first iterations were in classes on campus where students worked in groups one week to develop a design brief that could be managed by a group of their peers within a standard class period. The following week briefs were exchanged around groups and responses generated. After some debriefing discussion students wrote a short report for assessment. Since 2011, when EDP4130 was offered online as well as on campus, I have used the Moodle database to manage the exchange of briefs among individuals or small groups. Assessment is still based on a report about the activity and what was learned. For 2013 I’ve adjusted the report requirements and associated marking guide on the basis of feedback from 2012. Those elements are ready but I have yet to revise the materials that guide the activity. A significant part of the work for that may be to revise the instructions and illustrations for the database following our move from Moodle 1.9 to Moodle 2.x. 

I posted my early thinking about the content curation task some time ago. The basic requirements for the planning to be reported on in Task 1 and the collection and report to appear in the assignment are written up. What remains to be done there is to provide some introductory material about curation and PLNs. I’ve been collecting resources for that in my Diigo space but will need to find time to extract and present the key points.

Preparation for the quizzes is similarly incomplete. I have some material for the first quiz that I prepared in previous years. With a little updating and addition of some Scratch questions that will serve. The second quiz will need to have items developed as I put together the balance of the semester resources.

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Introducing digital technologies for teacher education students

In a previous post, Scratching about with planning, written in August before I went on leave, I wrote about my intentions for addressing the digital technologies element of the proposed Australian Curriculum in my revision of EDP4130 Technology Curriculum and Pedagogy. I had settled on Scratch as a medium that could be used to introduce the basics of computer program to preservice teachers in ways that they should be able to adapt for use in their own future classrooms. At that time my plan for the available 10 weeks of classes was to offer a 3 week structured introduction to Scratch, followed by a small common project using Scratch, an individual project with Scratch, and exploration of alternatives to Scratch.

After thinking about that and working through the development of materials the final configuration is similar but less focused on Scratch. Work with Scratch now uses 50% of the time for digital technologies, rather than 70% as in the earlier planning. The final configuration is as follows:

Class weeks Activity
1 – 3 Structured introduction to Scratch using ideas from various sources
4 – 5 Extension project work (individual or small group) using Scratch
6 – 7 Exploring alternatives to Scratch (individual or small group)
8 – 10 Independent digital technologies project (individual or small group)

Preparation of the material has progressed as far as preparing a working draft and putting it on my web server. The first introductory activities are based on the Scratch Getting Started Guide but most of the remainder of the activities in the first three classes are based on lessons developed by Simon Haughton with some adjustments for the learners being adult preservice teachers rather than school children. The remaining classes are open to students exploring in directions that appeal to them with suggestions offered for starting points in their explorations beyond Scratch

That part of the course now appears to be ready for use by students who will be attending classes on campus and those who will study entirely online. I have yet to prepare some accompanying material that will make links between the learning activities, ideas presented in the curriculum documents, and simple programming concepts. I also need to prepare some simple quiz items that can be used to check student understanding of the key ideas.

I think that Scratch looks simple and approachable. The success that it has had with kids bodes well but I’m still more than a bit nervous about how the preservice teachers will take to programming concepts. It’s a different way of thinking and I expect we will have some challenges through the semester.

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ICT and teacher education

David Jones asked “When will we no longer teach ICTs to pre-service teachers?” I was going to post a comment in response but doubted that I could keep it brief so opted to post here instead.

David’s post cites a recent exchange we had on Twitter:
Twitter exchange with @djplaner

I still think that the continuing evolution of technology is a critical part of the puzzle. That’s probably more true if we consider the broader domain of ICT (information and communication technology) rather than the narrower IT (information technology) but both are relevant for educators and are evolving in ways that require users to adapt behaviour by learning.

Educators typically face three sets of learning about new technologies. The first is the same learning about operation of a technology as is required by any user. The second is learning about the application of the technology to accomplish something useful for life in general and/or for specific areas of activity. The third is learning about the pedagogical applications of the technology. In terms of the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) framework proposed by Mishra and Koehler these are technological knowledge (TK), technological content knowledge (TCK), and technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK). Expert teachers blend these forms of knowledge to facilitate student learning.

For the past couple of decades optimists have argued that the challenges of effectively integrating ICT for learning and teaching will be solved by the new generation of teachers who have grown up with ICT. The flaw in that argument has always been that there is a procession of technologies that are newer than the graduates. It might be fair to assume that students arrive in teacher preparation programs with working knowledge of the operation of current technologies, although as well as school leavers our intake at USQ typically includes mature age candidates who may be less familiar with some technologies. However, the knowledge that pre-service teachers (PSTs) have about technologies is often superficial. They can manage day-to-day use for their own purposes (TK) but may not know about applications for specific content areas (TCK) and almost certainly have not considered the pedagogical applications (TPK).

David writes about the SAMR model and notes that much of the use of ICT for pedagogy has not moved beyond substitution/augmentation to modification/redefinition. The reason for that may lie at least partly in the constant evolution of ICT, which creates a moving target for innovation. It takes time to develop the easy familiarity with any tool that permits adaptive and creative use. By the time teachers develop their knowledge of any form of ICT to the point where they can become creative there is likely to be some new ICT to adopt.

There are other factors to consider. David notes the inertia of schools and systems that inhibit change. That is consistent with prior research. Becker (2000) noted that changes in teaching practice with computers occurred where teachers had necessary skills, some freedom in curriculum, access to equipment, and constructivist-compatible beliefs. Although most teachers now have basic skills and computer equipment is widely available, the recent push toward tighter control of curriculum and high stakes testing will not be helping with innovation.

For as long as I have been involved with teacher education, first as a student in 1973, as a teacher and principal from 1974 until 1991, and as a teacher educator since 1991, teacher preparation and development have included learning about ICTs (in the broad sense). In 1974 that included the use of blackboards, overhead projectors (OHPs), film and slide projectors, and duplicators. When I started at USQ in 1991 the program still included a course that addressed many of those technologies. It disappeared in the next program change but there was a required course that introduced common applications on computers. David now leads a course that is the current incarnation of that tradition. The specific content of the courses has evolved along with the ICTs available to teachers. Currently the course has a focus on pedagogy (TPK?) rather than technology (TK?) but it seems inevitable that it will be the occasion for at least some students to acquire knowledge and skills for technologies that are new for them.

This evolution of course specifics alongside ICTs seems inevitable and appropriate but we might ask whether anything of value has been lost in the process. The better courses in educational media included some principles and skills intended to improve the quality of material produced by teachers for use on blackboards, OHPs, and printed materials. Layout, selection of font styles and sizes for readability, and selection of colours for adequate contrast were part of that. Observation of materials produced by some of the current generation of PSTs suggests that including principles and skills for design in different media would still be relevant today though the media produced would be different.

Prior to my arrival at USQ there had been a period in which PSTs had learned at least the rudiments of programming in Logo as promoted by Seymour Papert. Learning about computer programming disappeared from teacher preparation as the focus of computing in schools shifted toward using more of the emerging educational software and integrating productivity applications. Recent developments in the technologies learning area within the Australian Curriculum suggest that it may be time to revisit that topic and I have been reworking our technology education course to include work on digital technologies, including programming in Scratch. In that respect the wheel appears to have turned.

Is there any escape or must teacher educators continue with the seemingly Sisyphean task of teaching ICTs to PSTs? I suspect that, for as long as ICTs continue to evolve, offering new opportunities for work in various fields and for learning and teaching, it will be necessary to include them in teacher preparation. The more pertinent questions might include what and how we teach about ICTs to PSTs. If the rate of change in ICTs is sufficient to require teaching PSTs about them then it will also be necessary for teachers in classrooms to learn about ICTs. That was at the heart of the quotation in David’s initial tweet, expressing the hope that new teachers with IT expertise would solve the “problem of getting teachers aware of IT”. If that will not work, what should we do?

It seems that, for the foreseeable future, teachers at all stages will need to be continuously learning about ICTs. In that case, the best that teacher educators can do is to prepare PSTs to be expert learners. That’s not an original thought (see, for example, Teacher as Expert Learner and Teachers as Master Learners) but I think it is at the core of what we need to be doing in teacher preparation, with ICTs and otherwise. There will be some principles and core skills (such as for design as noted above) that should be included in our programs but mostly we need to be graduating teachers who are excited about learning and equipped to support and encourage other learners. Exploring ways to use ICTs to support their own and others’ learning is important and will be supported by initiatives like working with personal learning networks and contributing to professional communities through activities like content curation as David and I are proposing to do in our respective courses.

References

Becker, H. J. (2000). Findings from the teaching, learning, and computing survey: Is Larry Cuban right?  Retrieved from http://www.crito.uci.edu/tlc/findings/ccsso.pdf

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Content curation as assessment for learning

I’ve had a long pause for travel and then, once I returned in mid-October, catching up with comments on drafts for doctoral students and getting a conference submission away. Sometime last week I managed to get my head back into this space and begin thinking again about course design. I’d previously thought through feedback and experience of recent offers and come to the conclusion that ab initio development of curriculum materials should be replaced by an activity that would be closer to curation than creation, encouraging students to engage with a  personal learning network to locate and curate resources to support teaching of technology education. The challenge now is to develop that idea into an assessment task that will help to engage our students in appropriate learning.

As always, there are some constraints imposed by bureaucratic processes. There are limits on the number and timing of assessment items that make it more difficult than it need be to arrange for an optimal flow of activity with checkpoints at the most appropriate places. It seems undesirable, and risky, to trust the outcome of an untried assessment process to a single submission at the end of semester. Ideally there might be multiple checkpoints that would provide for corrective feedback along the way so that students who initially misinterpret the requirements can be helped back on track. If I’m serious that this is about assessment for learning rather than assessment of learning then it seems sensible to try to arrange that students do not spend the semester learning the wrong thing.

Given the administrative restrictions, I decided a little while ago that the best I could do would be to arrange a checkpoint by placing a requirement for a plan/report about 3 weeks into the semester. That would require students to make an early start on the curation process and would deliver them feedback early enough to allow for adjustments where those might be necessary. The final piece of assessment would include the curated collection and whatever report might be needed around that.

With that basic structure in mind for the content curation task I needed to think about how that might be described and specified in a way that would both allow a degree of choice for students about content and tools and ensure some defensible basis for assessment of the products (and process). Rather than risk reinvention from scratch I spent time last week searching for material to support my assessment design, ideally by way of a ready made rubric. I’d been collating links to material on curation in Diigo for a while and some concentrated search turned up a variety of resources related to content curation but no ready made solution to my assessment challenge. About the closest I came was the curation project in a class offered by Corinne Weisgerber. Using some ideas gleaned from that course syllabus and other sources I found in my search last week I’ve been working toward setting up at least the skeleton of the curation task for EDP4130. I’m focusing first on envisaging what students might produce at the planning stage and by end of semester and writing some marking guides around those. Once I have that in place I can think about preparing a fuller description of the task with links to relevant resources. That will almost inevitably result in another iteration through the marking guides to align and refine those. As usual, I expect the first steps will be the most difficult because they involve a blank page. Once I have a draft, the refinement might be easier.

My current thinking about criteria for the final collection and a short associated report is:

Criteria Notes
Publication Curated collection published on a professionally presented public site
Content A number of properly attributed items linked to the collection theme
Value added Evidence of selection, editorial comment, contextualisation and critique
Audience engagement Evidence of efforts to promote the collection and of responses and further dissemination
Curation process Explanation of the curation process, role of PLN, etc.
Professional learning What was learned in the process and what is the continuing value of curation for professional growth?

I think those criteria address the key aspects of curation as I’ve been reading about them but I’d be interested in comment about anything I may have missed or that seems not to belong.

The earlier piece of assessment needs to be pitched toward ensuring that students make an early start and are on track for success. For that I’m thinking about the following criteria applied to a short report about progress to that point:

Criteria Notes
Theme Identify and justify a theme for its professional relevance to technology education
PLN mechanics Explain the choice of 2 or more online services as sources of information for curation
PLN membership Explain the choice of 3 to 6 experts as sources of information
Curation tool Explain the selection of a curation system
Curation sample Provide a sample of a curated item with an explanation of the curation process

Again I’d be interested in comments about what I might have missed or anything that seems out of place.

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Scratching about with planning

Work on redevelopment of EDP4130 came to a halt over the past couple of weeks because there was other work that needed to be done immediately. That, and the fact that I spent a few days scratching around with some ideas about the revisions, resulted in silence here. Now that I have completed a couple of other jobs, both related to EDP4130 and the review and accreditation process, I can try to do some more work on the revisions before I head off on leave to travel for several weeks.

For as long as technology has been part of the general curriculum in Queensland (and across Australia) it has fitted the pattern of what is often referred to as Design and Technology. The mantra of the national curriculum statement that appeared in the late 1990s was “designing, making and appraising with materials, information and systems”. That was variously interpreted and linked with other curriculum areas in different states. In Queensland, the 3 verbs of “design, make, and appraise” became 4 nouns – “investigation, ideation, production and evaluation” – but there was a broad consistency. Information and ICT figured in the curriculum but was not central.

In 2012 the development of the Australian Curriculum has progressed to the point of releasing a document on The Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies that proposes two subjects, Design and Technologies and Digital Technologies. The first of these will require some adjustment in our preparation of teachers but shares much with what is already in the technology curriculum. The second represents new ground, including concepts about computer hardware and software for which we are not currently preparing our graduates. It will require more substantial changes to enable graduates to approach teaching about concepts that many of them will not have been exposed to in their own schooling.

Because the proposed scope and sequence for Digital Technologies includes basic concepts of computer programming – linear, branching and looping instructions – which will be new to our teacher education students I wanted to introduce those concepts in a way that would quickly build the basic concepts they need but could also suggest how they might approach the teaching of the same ideas in schools. Thus I came to be literally scratching about with Scratch, which provides a visual programming experience that is simple enough to be accessible to children and sophisticated enough to support teaching the important programming concepts.

Having decided that Scratch is likely to be a suitable basis for developing the important programming concepts I need to devise a workable plan for that component of the course. We run a 13 week teaching semester but students are out for 3 weeks of professional experience placement, leaving 10 weeks of actual course time available in 2 blocks, each of 5 weeks. For students studying on campus there are 3 hours of class time each week, conventionally divided into an hour of lecture (whole group in a large space) and two hours of tutorial (groups of 20 to 30 in smaller spaces). If Digital Technologies is to have equal billing to Design and Technology in the future curriculum then allocating one tutorial hour to each (and some suitable balance in the ‘lecture’ hour) would seem reasonable. That would allow 10 hours of class time to introduce students to computational thinking and the essential programming concepts via Scratch or otherwise. That’s not a lot of time but it will have to do.

There are possibilities other than Scratch that may deserve exploration so it will be important to allow some time for that. Students are likely to come to these classes with different background experience and skills so some flexibility in that exploration would be appropriate. If there are students with prior coding experience or access to particular hardware and software they might be able to tackle more ambitious projects. Possibilities for exploration might include building games with GameSalad or Stencyl, making simple apps for smartphones using Infinite Monkeys, coding with Google blockly, learning a ‘real’ programming language with Codecademy, or one of many other rapidly evolving options.

My first thoughts about how to block out the time are along these lines:

Class weeks Activity
1 – 3 Introduction to Scratch using ideas from the Scratch site resources
4 – 5 Common project using Scratch – prescribed outcome
6 – 7 Individual project using Scratch – free rein
8 – 10 Exploration of alternatives – breadth and/or depth

That pattern should ensure that everybody develops fair familiarity with Scratch, including some ideas about how to structure learning with it. It should also provide opportunities for exploration of multiple alternatives (breadth) or selecting one alternative and completing a simple project (depth).

Because a proportion of the students take the course entirely online it will be necessary to develop any materials and activities to support that mode. Students on campus will have the opportunity to attend classes in a computer laboratory where they will be able to obtain support as and when they need it.

That’s the core of my plan for that part of the course. Materials will need to be developed and some form of assessment designed but that will take a little longer.

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