Assessment Tasks and the use of Technology

On two occasions within the last few months @materdeiwagga has been fortunate to have @aussietony, Tony Ryan, as a keynote presenter and small group facilitator working with teachers about contemporary learning. Teachers positively commented about Tony’s ability to identify with their challenges in the classroom and then provide practical strategies that were student-centred and inquiry focused.

Tony has worked with schools in Australia and overseas. He has a wealth of knowledge and knows what can be achieved when teachers make the conscious decision to work in new paradigms. As part of his commitment to work with us, Tony had numerous conversations with me as principal both before and after his visits. He also had two conversations with the Leadership Tam and sent various emails to ensure he was working with us to serve our needs. Throughout all those times, the understanding between us was that we had to be honest with each other.

A part of his presentation on day one, Tony was asked to critique two assessment tasks. He stated the quality was there and that they would definitely ‘cut muster’ with NSW Board of Studies requirements. However, “they are very 2007ish.” His point was that there was little choice for students to be creative and innovative with the use of technology.

About a week later I had another conversation with Tony. He again made the point that technology should not come before student centred pedagogy, and challenged me to encourage teachers to ensure that technology was “core” to tasks. To be fair, there are many @materdeiwagga examples of assessment tasks and other related learning activities where students creatively use technology to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding. However, based on what was presented to Tony before his visits, and at the time of his visits, there is still some way to go before it becomes ‘whole school’.

When setting an Assessment Task, in fact any learning activity for that matter, we need to ask ourselves….

1. Can the task done without technology? If so, it is not a valid task for the learning of today. 2013 learning requires technology to be used for more than just research. It needs the technology to be indispensable!

2. Is the task asking students to be collaborative and work in teams? If so, does it extend them further to act as “co-creators”? Working in teams and ‘co-creation’ will be essential requirements for most workers in 2020, if they aren’t already now.

3. With collaboration and co-creation, is it just within the school? If so, why? Why can’t the task or learning activity involve students working with others outside of school? For example,
i)  15 students from 3 different Wagga schools creating ?????
ii)  Peer writing with students from other schools across the state to create a story book, creative writing essay, persuasive speech etc….
iii)  Working with students from schools across the nation to solve a local problem.
iv)  Working with students/teachers from outside Australia develop a “cross-cultural App”.

3. How can Social Media assist? How could teachers see students using Twitter/Facebook/Pinterest to assist with their learning?

4. What about the creation of an iPhone/Android App.? What about the creation of a website? I know Weebly is one helpful tool that some teachers @materdeiwagga have introduced to students. WordPress is another tool that three Leaders of Learning use as part of the leadership of their area of responsibility. Also, many teachers have asked students to create videos about a concept to demonstrate understanding and then these videos have been used to teach the rest of the class. An excellent use of digital technology for the purposes of learning!

5. What about publication? It is a tremendously positive comment on any learning community when they have confidence to publish student work on public websites. Some schools have been doing this for sometime.

In totality, it seems overwhelming to be doing all of the above. However, if we continue to take things one step at a time, then in three years time, our use of technology to support quality learning will have grown exponentially. 

Our school, any school can take one unit at a time and reframe the task so that it couldn’t be done without the technology. At the moment, based on the nine pieces of evidence cited by Tony, almost all of the tasks could be done without the technology. 

The fact is, I am very pleased with the progress of teachers and their use of their technology @matredeiwagga. We have done the right thing in the past two years to concentrate more on how technology can support student-centred pedagogy. We simply cannot and should not, put the technology before the the pedagogy. Our progress with eFolios, Moodle, all things Google, iPads, KLA blogs & websites, and many other technology initiatives, especially over the last six months, has been a privilege to witness. The challenge is for us to now, with significant student input, discover the best ways to use technology for the purposes of student learning.

Any school(s) out there interested in co-creating with @materdiewagga students?
Any school(s) out there interested in co-creating students across the state to………
Any school(s) out there interested in working with students from schools across the nation?
Any school(s) out there interested in working with students/teachers from outside Australia develop a “cross-cultural App”?
If not, do you have any ideas how we can?
I would appreciate hearing from you.

8 thoughts on “Assessment Tasks and the use of Technology

    1. Hello Christie,

      Thanks for your question, “What would be the purpose of the (cross-cultural) App? Maybe to ‘interpret’ local ‘hip speak’ of teenagers. Translate ‘local language’. Would many teenage kids know what a Bar-B-Que is or even a (meat)’pie’? Maybe a comparison about obtaining a Driver’s licence perhaps??? At what age? Hours required? Maybe none of this is important, but I am sure the students would work out what they want to know and what they need to know.

      1. Greg,

        I think you may have given me an interesting idea for a new task for a Society and Culture prelim topic; intercultural communication. Design a cross-cultural app:)

  1. The question about whether the task can be done without technology is a good one. We don’t want technology to simply become ‘a better pen’. Technology should also, in my opinion, not drive the task, but rather provide students with opportunities to collaborate, share, create and learn in a variety of ways. Challenging them to think about the way they use technology (social media etc) by using it in different ways in the classroom should assist them to become more critical citizens for the C21. Moving beyond the geography of the school seems like a natural progression and an exciting one, but one that I think we as teachers could certainly model better for the students. If we want them to start moving beyond their borders, maybe we need to start doing this more as professionals. I was also happy to see you recognise how far we’ve come and how far there is to travel. An interesting road ahead.

  2. An interesting post Greg. I believe we have come a long way with our use of technology at MDCC to design and construct effective assessment tasks to promote student centred learning. I too believe, like much of the current literature suggests that the critical aspect is the embedding of the technology in sound pedagogy, not just about being able to use the technology. The teacher makes the difference, hence the importance of models like TPACK and SAMR for integrating technology as well as the quality of PD. Whilst I agree that technology is important, and that is permits us as teachers to design tasks, learning activities and so on that would not be possible without technology, I still believe that students can demonstrate creativity in other ways without the use of technology. A practical example is a year 9 RE assessment task this year that required students to create their own representation of Jesus, some chose to use technology, others chose to build, construct, paint or draw representations, thereby creating tasks using tools geared to their strengths (element of choice). If we just stipulated that this task had to use technology, we would have missed out on seeing some of the exceptional tasks submitted and the ability of some of our students to demonstrate other modes of learning suited to their needs and strengths. The effective integration of technology in education is a complex issue, however, a very exciting journey.

    1. Hello Shane,

      There will always be a place for a task or activity which allows students to CHOOSE to build, construct, paint or draw representations, thereby CREATING…… Tasks of this type are always valid, worthwhile tasks of substance. It does not always have to be technology, however, in this day and age it may be the exception rather than the rule.

  3. Fabulous.

    In my Drama teacher role I want to contribute to ‘published’ examples of work/techniques/workshops. There is immense volumes of ‘performances’ online, but not much in the manner of vision that documents the ‘process’ of learning.

    Using a web-cam or digital process which is non-intrusive in terms of how it works would be brilliant.

    Students are natural ‘crowd-sourcers’ they identify collective responses to as many things as they can. This phenomena should be something we take advantage of. Even within our school communities we can stretch the understandings students have of collaboration by having students collaborate across year groups/content areas. I have seen it talked about, but time-tables tend to squash actual innovation.

    So many exciting challenges here Greg. The questions you ask have immediate practical associations we can work with/play with to increase the connectivity of our students.

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