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Small Steps…

February 10, 2008

warning Last year I was speculating about the wisdom of having work submitted on paper in this connected age. This year, I’m delighted to see that there is some movement towards an online aspect to pupil assessment.

As an English teacher, I have to see a lot of essays… some are handwritten in jotters, some on A4 paper, many are now word-processed (<rant>…though I really do wish that someone would remove the comic sans font from every computer in the land!</rant>)… but all are produced on paper. Quite apart from the swathes of paper that end up covering my desk, if I have any suspicions about the authenticity of an essay I have to type some offending phrases into Google or Eve2 myself… There’s something wrong with a system that ignores the advances in technology that have happened. Or perhaps ‘ignores‘ is too strong a word to use because ICT is an expected part of every pupils’ learning experience and I am very aware of the resources that are being poured in to schools to provide PCs/Macs, interactive boards, projectors and the rest… and then I need to get a paper copy of the essay(s) for submitting for final assessment. There is a part of me that thinks there is something truly ironic in this… but perhaps we are starting to realise the need for change after all.

DK‘s MediaSnackers latest posting highlights an article from the Guardian about some of the changes that are happening in pupil assessment in England. As of this year the Media Studies course offered by the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA) exam board now includes an online element worth 30% of the overall mark. It’s about time too!

The shift powerpointed by Karl Fisch is beginning to become real, and as ever, it is only starting to have an impact because those who make the decisions are realising that things need to change – and this got me thinking.

s20grabThere are lots of teachers blogging and reflecting, there are lots of great examples of pupil work making their presence known on the WWW, there is even a really fascinating blog where you can read some pretty impressive evaluations of the current state of education form those who have the most to lose or gain from it, the students of Students2.0… but there are still very few instances that I have encountered of the people who really will make the changes possible speaking openly about their role in education. There are, of course, exceptions: Don Ledingham of East Lothian fame, Joe Wilson of the SQA, Laurie O’Donnell of LTS to name a few… but these are the exceptions.

Has the time not come for there to be even more openness and transparency in the education system? We have pupils and teachers and parents asking questions, but the top-down model that has dominated education for so long still blocks most of us from getting answers… Of course, the first step for the administrators and leaders to take is finding out how the rest of us are using the tools… mmm… if only there was some sort of forum where they could see a host of practical examples in an informal and friendly setting… perhaps with the opportunity to speak to some of the practitioners thrown in for good measure as well… Oh wait, there is! TeachMeetPerth08… Consider yourself invited!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2008 10:31 pm

    Nice thoughts Mr W. I often wonder how often if ever (unless I have asked him to) my headie checks out what I write. Not that I necessarily think I am lighting up the world but because I tend to write more about what I think than getting the opportunity to express it in person. (Mostly because he’s always in meetings.)

    I like reading Ollie Brays blog BECAUSE it is giving an SMT eye’s view. It would be great to hear from more Heads of Service as well. They should all be obliged to write a blog rather than having their PA send out a wishy washy non-commital newsletter every so often. Let us hear about what is working but also about things that have been tried out and maybe not come off as anticipated and maybe someone somewhere could come up with another way.

    PS Was hoping to make it down to TMP08 but mt current ailmet will not allow me to drive that far.

  2. February 11, 2008 7:41 pm

    Thanks Adam,
    I’ve only once been challenged about something I wrote on my blog. I don’t know what surprised me more: being challenged, or the fact that it has only happened once.

    I really do wish there were more of the ‘people in power’ who were actively taking part in the discussions we see going on in blogs. The quantity of good and even great ideas floating around is phenomenal… and maybe that’s the problem.

    Now that I’m a PT, I am finding it increasingly hard to find the time to do anything other than run my department, let alone blog or think… ironically, the two things that I believe helped me get the post in the first place!

    Shame you can’t make TeachMeetPerth… but I hope we’ll have some live blogging/streaming on the night so you might be able to sit in virtually… 😉

  3. February 11, 2008 9:12 pm

    I personally believe that assessements in most subjects should include the requirement for students to give their online search terms, the results they have linked to and the criteria they have used to evaluate what they have gathered from this research.

    And so much the better if they are submitted electronically with live links that can be checked.

  4. February 11, 2008 9:47 pm

    @Bob: I agree wholeheartedly! I think it is a skill we need to be hammering home from an early age. Pupils have no qualms about ‘copying and pasting’ without any attempt to make what they’ve found their own… and I have to be honest that I’m not always as fastidious as I could be in chasing them up about this.

    I think it’s becoming a necessity that internet research skills should be taught from a very early age. If we don’t start doing this as a matter of course then we can hardly complain when pupils hand in their essays with underlined links from the original websites… mind you, the worst case I’ve heard of actually had the adverts from the original webpage still included!

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