Our system and system leaders, are reminding us that as professionals we are required to do more than teach. We are obligated to continually engage in a cycle where we constantly ‘Plan’, ‘Act’, ‘Review’ and ‘Respond’. We are required to be action researchers!
One of the opportunities that came the way of @materdeiwagga at the beginning of 2013 was to be involved in an action research project. The project was supported by researcher, academic and realist, Professional Tony Shaddock. His mix of appreciating the life of a busy teacher, yet affirming the need to maintain reliable and valid approaches to action research, was enlightening for all those involved in the project.
The focus of our project was one aspect of the TED project @materdeiwagga – for more on that go to http://web.mdccww.catholic.edu.au/content/year-7-ted The lead question for our action research was….
- How is student-centred pedagogy best supported by digital technology for all students?
The supporting questions were….
- What is the relationship between student-centred learning and digital technology?
- How can digital technology be used for students to demonstrate their learning?
Surveys, teacher reflection, student interviews and teacher interviews were some of the tools used to extract data and measure progress. Another tool was to directly ask teachers those questions outlined above. Here are their answers….
Digital technology has allowed for more student centred learning. Students have the power to go access instructions, information and source material whenever they need to and as often as they need to. This means that all students can work at their own pace and level. Shared docs mean that students teach each other giving them more power. For a student with a hearing impairment both the access to this written information and the digital sound system have enhanced their ability to be a fully included. Differentiated material is less obvious when it is on a laptop rather than paper.
Students have the ability to chose how they demonstrate their learning through use of digital technology. This means they can use both the most appropriate method for the content and ideas they are presenting and in keeping with their skills and capabilities.
Initially through the teaching of a core set of collaborative and information sharing tools. Students need to be able to understand the value of: 1) Pulling information from somewhere 2) Pushing it to someone else 3) Sharing it dynamically in a collaborative and live form 4) Publishing it at as completed solution and 5) Reflecting on and giving/receiving feedback to others. A platform, suite, set, ‘solution’ of tools that facilitates this 5 steps allows students to then seek creative solutions as to the shape of that information, no matter which of the 5 steps they are doing. “What is the best way to get/give/share/show/evaluate this information is a behavioral value. The Web 2.0 tools we have available to do this grows almost daily. Students who understand their relationship to connecting to information and using it are suggesting Web 2.0 tools that we haven’t found as teachers.
Digital technology underpins student centred pedagogy by allowing students to be independent learners. As the facilitator of the learning I don’t need to know everything.
Student centred pedagogy, when employed with technology, allows students access to the world of information and allows them choice:
In the pace of their learning
In finding, choosing and selecting information that is the MOST appropriate, relevant and pertinent to their work
In exploring, trialling and selecting a range of digital resources
In who they can collaborate with and how
All learners in TED are constantly using technology to choose activities that they want to work on, who they want to work with, who they want to share with and as a way to peer and self evaluate their learning.
All learners in TED have a sense of confidence when it comes to technology. Even if they don’t have a lot of skill with a particular program or tool, they know there are peers and teachers around them who can help. There is more “I can figure this out” instead of “I can’t do this”. There’s less “I don’t know” and more “I can find out”. Having technology at your fingertips is important for that confidence.
Student-centred pedagogy using a guided inquiry model provides all students with access to learning particular to their needs. The focus shifts from researching and remembering content (a style of learning where only the intellectually advanced consistently succeed) to developing a process that allows students to immerse themselves in a new topic, explore their own thoughts, ask their own questions and focus on areas of interest that arise as a result of this. Students are then able to create a product that addresses their interest area and share their work with peers. Increasing access to a range of valid, current information through reliable technology increases the validity of this style of learning and reflects real-life problem solving strategies. Seeking and reflecting on peer and teacher feedback allows students to consider the strengths and weaknesses of both their process and product. This style of pedagogy provides entry and engagement points at each stage for students with a range needs and abilities. Access to and manipulation of technology both throughout the process and to create the end product empowers students to work independently and collaboratively without the traditional constraints of space and time. It gives them 24/7 access to the resources they need which means greater flexibility to work outside the classroom. Consequently, students can use the face-to-face time with their teacher more effectively to focus their conferencing time on problems they can’t solve by themselves or with their peers.
Overall, technology transforms the process and product of learning, it assists students with a range of learning needs and empowers students to develop their problem-solving skills. Whilst it is a highly useful aid, it does not replace the role of the teacher.
Student centred learning can be supported by digital technologies through:
o Students are able to access course materials anytime anywhere through Moodle and Google drive.
o They are able to work at their own pace on discretely differentiated tasks.
o Instructions and course materials may be revisited as many times as necessary to achieve understanding.
o Students can choose from a range of web 2.0 tools and available software and digital equipment to demonstrate both the process and end product of their learning.
o Students are able to work collaboratively regardless of their geographical relationship to each other.
Students are increasingly choosing to use technology to add to the quality of their work. Students in TED will vary the type of technology they use and to what extent they use it according to their desired outcome and what they are working on at any given time. Quite often this is done not consciously. Students are seeing how their peers are using technology and are then trying different applications as a result of this.
Technology is allowing students to work at their own pace and to access the task at hand continually. This means that students of differing abilities are all able to progress and learn within the one space. Students, working with teachers, and peers, are increasingly making decisions around how they can use and/or apply technology to give them the best possible outcome.
Technology allows students to be independent learners. It means that teachers no longer have to be the source of all knowledge or the centre of gravity in the classroom. Technology supports both the process and the product of student -centred pedagogy.
I trust the above adds a little to the world wide dialogue taking place about the relationship between pedagogy and digital technology. Our experience is that quality teaching, combined with a willingness to strategically focus on the capability of digital technology, greatly assists with our goal to ensure student-centred pedagogy best serves the learning needs of our students.
I would appreciate any comments.