Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Using Tech Tools for Assessment and Differentiation

Last year at school we had a good look at our curriculum and wrote Pre-School to Grade 12 learning outcomes for the different subjects/curriculum areas.  This year we are looking at assessment - how we are going to formatively and summatively assess the students on their learning journeys.  At the same time I've been thinking about how we can use technology to differentiate instruction, to help all students succeed in reaching these outcomes.

I've always favoured choice.  Students learn in different ways and show their understanding in different ways too.  As far as technology goes, some tools may be perfect for one student to show his or her understanding, but might not be right for another student.  Some students like to talk, some like to write, some may prefer to show their understanding as a graphic.  In IT I like to think we can support all the different ways that students want to show what they know.

Last year our Grade 3s got to the stage where at the end of the year students were able to choose what tool they wanted to use, and we would support whatever choice they made (see post supporting whatever they want to use).  These students are now in Grade 4, of course, and so it seemed that a good way to start the year would be to offer them the same choices for their first unit of inquiry.  In a planning meeting we decided that all Grade 4 students would get to explore Glogster as a possible tool that they might want to use, but that there would be choice given for the students who didn't want to make an interactive poster.  I feel the students have already been introduced to a variety of different tools last year. Perhaps students might now decide to make a video, a cartoon or a mind map rather than a "traditional" presentation, and even if they want to make a presentation there are many tools they know how to use, such as Prezi, Voicethread or Spicy Nodes.  It's up to them to decide what to use and how to use it.

Given this sort of choice, the technology the students choose will naturally lead to differentiation.  Even students who choose to use the same tool will use it in different ways to produce something unique and something that reflects their differing interests, abilities and skills.  They will all show their learning in the way that is best for them.

A couple of years ago, with our older Middle School students, I was teaching MYP technology and gave similar choices.  At that time I didn't even teach the students how to use the tools, this was part of their exploration.  I showed them some different examples of what could be done with the tools, their role was to dig deeper and teach themselves a couple that appealed to them, eventually choosing one for their assignment.

Getting back to our Grade 4s, another thing I'm shortly going to be introducing them to is their own blog.  Last year in Grade 3 all the classes had a blog and the students all used that.  Now I think it's time for them to start their own, to be able to collect their work in one place and reflect on it.  To be able to take this on with them as they move up the school.  I'm thinking of showing them Posterous (which I see has now been revamped into Posterous Spaces).  I'm thinking this blog may be a sort of ePortfolio, a place where students will be able to reflect on their learning, what they know, understand and can do. And this blog can also be a tool for assessment, and one that provides plenty of scope for differentiation.

Photo Credit:  Colours that reflect Joy AttributionNo Derivative Works by Rilind Hoxha

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