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VLE … not just a distribution tool? December 2, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Management, Resources, Tools.
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A colleague came to me recently asking if there was a way our VLE might be able to help with an initiative he wanted to undertake within his department and with their Year 8 students. They’d always solicited feedback from students, but this was usually ad hoc and with the intention of informing the course and lesson structures. Their wish was to make the feedback process more structured and more useful to the students, enabling them to monitor and reflect on their progress.

Although we have a learning platform built around a SharePoint implementation, we decided on using the Feedback tool in our Moodle VLE since the resultant data could be viewed, extracted and manipulated a little more easily. Referring back to the feedback they provided would also be slightly easier for the students.

history review questions

Question sheet

We chose a traffic-light system (Red, Amber & Green) to give a three point scale, which they would set against different aspects of their course, what they learned, what skills they developed etc. In addition each section concluded with a free-text response into which they would add action plan points.

Once all the responses are submitted, the teacher can see an overview, allowing topic or skill areas the students felt less confident with to be seen immediately … which of course enables remedial action to be taken where necessary. S/he canhistory feedback results also see the action points the students feel they want to address, again making the choice of an appropriate course of action so much easier and hopefully subsequently more effective.

Each individual student can see a summary of their responses and print it out for future reference if appropriate. More importantly, they will be able to refer back to their responses later in the year when they repeat the process and thereby be able to see whether their action points have had the intended effects.

Here we can see the free-text responses showing the action points students had for one of the sections.

feedback cloud

cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by ianguest: http://flickr.com/photos/ianinsheffield/6443365481/

Formulating targets for self-improvement is never easy and as we can see, some of the responses perhaps need teasing out a little more. Part of the process of moving the students forward will be in helping them develop the more reflective aspects of their approach, so their action points become increasingly SMART.

Wouldn’t it be great if all subjects required their students to undertake self-reflection like this, on a regular basis so it simply became a natural part of learning? And how about if that data was fed into a central system so a student could see their progress profile across their subject range? And if their pastoral tutors (mentors) had access to that data too so that students got timely and appropriate guidance on addressing areas needing further development … and got praised for areas in which they’re improving?

OK I know. Small steps.


cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo by cjsimmons: http://flickr.com/photos/cjsimmons/130008318/

As well as the quality, feel the WIDTH … August 21, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Musings.
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For some while now I’ve felt that the ICT many students in school are exposed to, struggles to represent the ICT those students experience in their everyday lives, nor that with which they might need to become comfortable and facile as they move into higher education, work or adulthood. In school they seem to learn about and with the usual industry-standard applications, yet occupy a

Width warning

from ell brown on Flickr

world where Internet connectivity and mobile devices provide access to untold riches across a range of applications to support their work, learning and play. But our schemes of work (and the specifications which drive them?) seem to limit and restrict, rather than liberate. Given the formal nature of our assessment systems and the need to obtain nationally recognised qualifications, perhaps that’s hardly surprising.

I’ve been mulling over for some while now the means by which we might extend the range of ICT opportunities we provide for our learners. To offer chances beyond the formal system … which by its very nature struggles to respond to the rapidly developing environment that is ICT. But how?
There were certain factors which I felt were important to incorporate:

  • Participation by students should be voluntary.
  • It should work alongside and with our current ICT provision, yet not impact on the workload of the colleagues teaching it. Consequently this would likely need to be some form of supported self-study (with some element of self-evaluation?).
  • The areas covered should explore new tools and the new affordances they bring.
  • The architecture should be extensible in the sense that new ‘modules’ can be added as needed to further extend and enhance provision.
  • Tasks undertaken should link with other areas of the students’ studies, providing authentic opportunities to develop skills.
  • There may be lessons to learn from the principles of gaming, both in providing motivation to participate, degree of challenge and monitoring and rewarding progress.
  • The facility to develop communities of practice should be an integral aspect, so that students support (and assess?) each other.

Now let’s consider Jenny, a Y9 (14 yr old) student who has been set a homework task by a teacher. The class have been working on a group activity over the past few lessons and the teacher wants them to summarise and present their findings … they’re often asked to do this in different subjects. Sometimes they get a choice of which medium they use, digital or not and sometimes they’re told to do it in a certain way. Jenny can produce a PowerPoint presentation standing on her head; she’s been developing her skills since Y5. So have the rest of her group. But they always struggle when it come to dividing the labour; should they all work on different slides then bring them together. Or should they take different roles, someone collecting imagery, someone else writing the text and someone else editing it all together? What’s more, they’ve not yet mastered the techniques which the PP platform offers for team working and collaboration (well, that’s not in any of the schemes of work so they wouldn’t have). Perhaps there’s an alternative technology which might set their presentation apart from the others, or one which offers greater potential for collaboration, synchronous or otherwise.

It’s to provide support for this kind of situation that I want to work on. Provide an environment from which students can extend their learning of ICT skills beyond that which they normally encounter. Somewhere they might go to address a shortcoming they might have or even just out of interest and curiosity … or even maybe just for fun!

Lots of thinking still to do so any thoughts you have, do please drop them in the comments. Am I just being fanciful?

Go Go Gadget … in Google July 16, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Resources, Teaching Idea.
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Our curriculum team is currently planning a BTEC Level 3 Award in Leadership Principles. One of the first tasks the Y12 students who will be starting this course next year will undertake is a self-review in which they “Complete a personal skills audit evaluating their strengths and weaknesses as a leader and learner.” They will then expand this to a 360° review by soliciting the views of people with whom they have close contact: teachers, parents, friends, employers, club coaches etc. Comparing their own views of their strengths and weaknesses with those of others who know them well will form the starting point for designing a personal development plan.

My challenge then was to develop a mechanism which would allow the students to rate themselves against a set of twelve criteria (e.g. “The student has an understanding of the importance of moral values in successful leadership”), made as simple as possible using a Likert-style system. The next step will be for the students to select a set of respondents who can also rate them against the same criteria, preferably anonymously. To enable the data to be viewed and analysed quickly and efficiently, the output should ideally be graphical … possibly a bar chart?

My first thought was a survey tool; there are plenty about after all. Unfortunately many have limitations on the number of responses or number of questions you can ask, then there’s the issue of accounts being created, having to set up their surveys and whether the data could be viewed in a useful format. However ticking with the idea of a survey tool, I turned to Google Forms which seemed to offer all the features we needed, with the advantage that a single form could be set up with the spreadsheet that services it easily distributed to all the students for them to copy and use. The form is also then easily distributed to their chosen respondents as a simple web link. (You can see a working idea here)

The important bit

If you’ve used Google Forms before you’ll know that as each respondent completes the survey form, their data are fed into a row on a spreadsheet, which means that it is only a couple of clicks to display the results graphically. A quick and dirty view is swiftly obtained from the ‘Show summary of responses’ feature in the spreadsheet:

Summary of responses

google form responsesand whilst perhaps showing potential areas of strength and weakness, this doesn’t allow the student to make a comparison between their view and those of others. My feeling was that a radar chart ought to provide a more informative representation of the data … but the radar chart tool in Google spreadsheets doesn’t manipulate the data in the way we needed. But then whilst mooching around, I came across gadgets – tools to manipulate data which have been produced by individuals and submitted to the gadget gallery. What’s more I found a much better radar chart generator produced by Corinna Lo and had it up and running (thanks to Corinna’s helpful instructions) in no time.

[scroll to see the interactive check boxes to view different aspects of the data]

Now a student can look at their own response as a sort of footprint, superimpose those from others with a single or multiple clicks and even compare each with an average figure. Strong and weak areas are quickly identified, making the drawing up of a development plan so much easier. Later down the line, the review could be repeated and a comparison made with the original to showcase progress made.

Next steps

I’ve been thinking about whether to set up Google accounts for the students, but I’m not familiar with Google Edu accounts and what that all entails. I suspect a number of the students will already have GMail accounts, so distributing the sheet should be straightforward. It shouldn’t be too much of stretch to expect those who don’t have accounts already to set one up, so probably that’s the easiest way to go in the first instance.

There’s also the issue of showing their review to tutors, but that should be as easy as sending a link.

This is very much a work in progress so if you have any observations, can spot things I’ve missed or have any suggestions for improvements, I’d be delighted to hear them.