Archive for Innovation

Literacy & Numeracy Skills in Australia not improving.

As reported in The Australian today (10/9/11). Australia’s national Literacy and Numeracy skills of students in years 3, 5, 7, & 9 have not improved significantly in the 4 years of the NAPLAN testing. This is very disappointing for me as a teacher of students predominantly working in this learning area. Throughout my career I, along with my colleagues  have put endless time into teaching the literacy and numeracy skills to these children, and we see significant improvement throughout the year and demonstrate measurable improvements.

For many years I have questioned the purpose if this standardised testing and how the information was going to affect the teaching and learning experiences for our students. Although it is too early to speculate how the government and respective education departments are going to react to this information, I am of the belief that the implementation of the Australian National Curriculum will work to improve the gap, between the content and curriculum outcomes for students across the country, will reduce significantly. I have taught in 3 of our southern states and have seen significant differences between the standards of achievement required at the end of many junior school years. In my experiences I believe there is significant time at the beginning of each teaching year spent predominantly “teaching the test”. This is where students are given past years and practice tests in the NAPLAN format to teach the students how to answer the tests. Although I do see some merit in teaching how to answer these tests because they are a sterile form of assessment and generally, only used to assess year to year progress. I would rather have the students spending their time truly learning the content of the curriculum and being assessed in this format towards the end of the year when the content has been taught and learnt. I believe the assessment at the beginning of the year is of less significance. When these results are analysed and returned to school’s and students the year has almost finished and the results are of less use to the teachers. If on the other hand the assessment was completed as a part of the end of year benchmarking assessment, the results could be analysed during the summer break and have up to date results ready for teachers at the beginning of the new year. The significance of this would be that the results can be used as a foundation assessment to base the immediate teaching for the new year on.

The innovation needed here is not that of technology integration or of teaching strategies, but of the management of data and the timely collection of this information. Authorities need to give the teachers the opportunity to teach the content thoroughly and comprehensively without the worry of teaching the students how to complete the tests. The beginning of the year can then focus more on the relationship building between students and teachers, and creating a comfortable and stimulating learning environment where authentic teaching and learning can occur. This will improve the opportunities for our students, and allow the learning to be focussed upon the specific needs of individuals.

I believe this, along with the continued fantastic innovative teaching by wonderfully skilled teachers and the engagement with authentic and innovative  lessons,  our students will have significantly improved learning outcomes. We could then begin to close the gap between Australia and the learning education powerhouses in the world ratings.

Students spending less time at school than ever before | Adelaide Now

Students spending less time at school than ever before | Adelaide Now.

This is a very interesting read and could provoke a great discussion about whether students NEED to attend school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for 13 years to learn and develop skills for their life beyond school.

I believe there is a place for face to face education in the lives of all children, whether it is distance education, home schooling or traditional classroom education. This is necessary for the development of foundational skills in reading, writing and fundamental mathematical calculations. Beyond this the education of our young people should be strategic and transferable into their adult lives. If you look at the home school situation, there is core learning that is completed and beyond this the ‘teacher’ is responsible for engaging the student in worldly experiences that enhance the core skills.

We often use the phrase “being Life long learners”, if we teach our students that the only time and place to learn is through formal education and their time outside of ‘school’ is for study of what we learn at school, and recreation. How are these students able to make the connections for their adult lives?

Whilst listening to a recent podcast by the “Ed Tech Crew” [#171], I heard of a great initiation by a gaming development company in the US, they called it “FedEx Day” and every Thursday afternoon the staff were all encouraged to stop the programming they were working on developing for the company and work on a project of their own interest. This sparked motivation to learn new skills outside those of their working role. And the company supported this through having a presentation of their works the following day to share and support each other in these projects.

Instantly I began hypothesizing how this might transfer into a school setting, and are we doing this already?

Are personal learning and interest projects the beginning of  the opportunity we are providing students to learn investigation and inquiry skills? If this is the true reason for these projects and investigations; should we be also allowing the students to work outside the school room and their after school routine by providing opportunities for these students, of all ages, to investigate through experience?

As I think about this, the instant questions I have for my own hypotheses are: What are the logistics of taking the students to these locations? How could we do it? And, When would we have the time? I suggest that where possible students are provided with the opportunity to visit physical locations and experience them for themselves. Then share these experiences with their peers. Imagine the presentation skills, the public speaking, listening skills, public values, etiquette,  compassion and inspiration we would see develop. All the things the wider community values and is asking to be taught in schools and the teachers are screaming “crowded curriculum how do we teach everything?”. The students would learn from actual events, they would transfer their understanding to their own learning, and they would have a sound knowledge, demonstrated in their presentation.

Allowing the students to spend time ‘in the field’ will enhance confidence, improve engagement and provide meaningful experiences for students of all ages. As a domino affect we might even see a reduction in discipline issues due to the students engagement and desire to learn. The time spent in the learning environment would be focussed and concise, students will have the desire to learn and be at school, and the curriculum can be enhanced through valuable learning experiences.

I would love to hear about experiences and your thoughts.

Keep up the Education Technology Innovation!

Rachael