Category Archives: Uni Assessment Blogs

Using Online Collaborative Platforms in Class

The teacher who is supervising my practicum placement this semester has fully embraced the use of ICT within the classroom and it is evident that this use has become second-nature to the students.

During the first weekly visit at my practicum school, my Supervising Teacher had set class work that required students to work in small groups. The task that the students were working on was a PowerPoint presentation and each group was given a specific section of the presentation to work on. (each student at the school has their own laptop so it is easy for them to participate in such activities). However, to facilitate this collaborative effort of putting together a presentation by 20-odd students, the teacher created a Google Doc which was located in a class Google Drive account. Now for those who have in the past tried to work collaboratively with others on a specific document (be it a Word document or something else), you would know that at times it can become chaotic because you wouldn’t know who edited the document last and what the most up-to-date information was. However, Google have overcome this problem by creating a platform where multiple users can work on a document simultaneously and the content that they add gets entered into the file in real-time. This means no more multiple versions of a document and no more cutting and pasting into a master file. Therefore, in the case of education, this means teachers can set group tasks and students can work collaboratively in class or remotely at home (National Professional Standards for Teaching: standard 2.6.1).

Over the course of this lesson, students were busy working on their section of the presentation. Some students were working on the design of their slides, while others were collecting pictures from online sources to include in the document. Others were putEdmodo picting together the content for the presentation. Overall, it was a great activity because it not only had the students working together on a common project, but it also had them utilising one of the most up-to-date software platforms on the Internet. Once again, Google is revolutionising the way we do things online. But it didn’t end there. Once the students had completed the PowerPoint presentation, the teacher uploaded the file to Edmodo so that all the students in the class could access the document.


The use of Edmodo is a great initiative because it enables the teacher to distribute information to students from one central location. But the real benefit is that the students can access this information both in class and at home. Therefore, when setting homework, for example, the teacher uploads the worksheet or information to Edmodo and the students have immediate access to it. No more excuses of “I lost the worksheet” or “I didn’t have the information” as all students have access to this platform at school and at home.

I have already learnt a lot in this very short space of time from my Supervising Teacher. By him embracing ICT in the classroom and using it in this way, it means that he is able to engage with his students on another level – the ‘online’ level – and this is a domain that most young people are experts in. Therefore, he believes that he is being more effective as a teacher as he is creating an environment which is more conducive for student learning (NPST: standard 3.4.2). And by the enthusiasm that his students show when working on set tasks, it’s hard to argue otherwise!

Effective Questioning Technique

During one of my observational classes I observed the classroom teacher leading a discussion with the students on the particular topic that the lesson was based on. The discussion came to a point where the classroom teacher started asking the students questions about the topic and I noticed that one particular student kept on raising her hand to provide a response. The teacher proceeded to ask this particular student the answer to the questions and initially it started out as not being obvious that this student was hogging the ‘air-time’. However, it was interesting to see how the discussion/questioning proceeded because it began to feel awkward that no one else was contributing to the question/answers. I certainly noticed this and so too did the classroom teacher (and I’m also sure that the students felt the awkwardness as well). So to combat this, the classroom teacher changed his tactics in terms of gathering responses from students. Instead of continually asking this one particular student for her response, the teacher proceeded to directly ask different students questions relating to the topic of discussion. This quickly changed the feel within the class and it helped engage the other students.

Following the class I asked the teacher about this student and the situation regarding the ‘hogging’ of air-time. He said it is quite common for this one student to be eager in putting forward her responses when the class is having a discussion/question session. I enquired further about the other students and asked whether they had the knowledge to answer these types of questions and he went on to explain that the other students did have the answers to the questions but the one student who is eager to respond intimidates everyone else. So to combat this, he said that he will direct questions to particular students rather than asking for responses from the floor. In Developing Instructional Skills (date and author unknown), the author suggests that this is a good method of bringing particular students into a lesson and to keep them alert. Another tactic that the teacher uses is to change the level of questioning when directly asking certain students. For example, he would use a lower-order question to engage students; not because they are less able or due to the fact that they do not have the knowledge, but rather, because he wants a response from a different student and by putting forward a lower-order question, he is more likely to get a response as the student will feel comfortable. We proceeded to have a discussion around Bloom’s Taxonomy theory and how this relates to eliciting responses from students (see attached document for suggested questioning and how they can link with ICT resources).

The following video clip (from behaviour management guru John Bayley) called Praise & Preparation shows a similar scenario where a primary school student is keen to answer all the science questions. The teacher in this example acknowledges the students’ willingness to respond by openly says that she is going to choose someone else. But so that she doesn’t discourage this student, she exaggerates the thanks and praise toward this student for being keen to respond. This seems to be a good tactic as the teacher doesn’t discourage the keen student but clearly indicates to other students that she is looking for them to contribute to the classroom discussion.

 

The strategy employed by the classroom teacher showed to me that he had: 1) an excellent understanding of how his students learn (National Professional Standards for Teaching: standard 1.2.3.); 2) he was implementing effective teaching strategies to combat the question/answering issues (NPST: standard 3.3.2.); and 3) he was managing classroom activities effectively so that he could maintain a supportive learning environment for students (NPST: standard 4.2.2.).

Content Knowledge and ICT Integration

After watching Chris Betcher’s classroom demonstration, two things immediately stood out to me. Firstly, it is clear that Chris has a very good knowledge of the content that he is teaching (which in this lesson is about creating blogs – the web platform that the class is using is WordPress). Secondly, I feel Chris implemented extremely well the teaching strategy of explanation/demonstration (on the SmartBoard) to his students on what he was talking about. Then Chris lets the class ‘go’ so that they can implement what it is that he has just spoken to them about. As a result of this, there seemed to be a nice feeling of learning and discovery amongst the students.

 Therefore, from a professional practice perspective, I believe Chris demonstrated the following from the National Professional Standards for Teachers:

PROFESSIONAL KNOWLEDGE

Standard 2 – Know the Content and How to Teach It.

 2.1.2 – Apply knowledge of the content and teaching strategies of the teaching area to develop engaging teaching activities.

You could see by his ability and understanding that Chris has in-depth knowledge about the software platform WordPress. As such, he is very effective in his teaching because there is no confusion about what he is saying and the students appear to be able to following his directions easily (Shulman 1987, pg.9).

2.2.2 – Organise content into coherent, well-sequenced learning and teaching programs.

Due to the deep knowledge that Chris has on this content, he has been able to organise the information in a coherent and well-sequenced manner. This is demonstrated by his explanation of what the learning content is, as well as by his ability to let the class ‘go’ so that they can implement what he has just taught them.

2.6.1 – Implement teaching strategies for using ICT to expand curriculum learning opportunities for students;

and

 2.6.2 – Use effective teaching strategies to integrate ICT into learning and teaching programs to make selected content relevant and meaningful.SmartBoard

The use of the interactive whiteboard was an excellent choice of ICT integration into the learning environment because it enabled Chris to explain and demonstrate in real-time what he was trying to teach the students. Also, it mirrored what the students were seeing on their own laptops (or other IT device).

 

PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE

Standard 3 – Plan For and Implement Effective Teaching and Learning.

 3.2.2. – Plan and implement well-structured learning and teaching programs or lesson sequences that engage students and promote learning.

As mentioned above, Chris implemented a well-structured lesson which was filled with good content knowledge, which made it easy for the students to follow. This appears to create a rich learning environment with strong student engagement.

3.4.2. – Select and/or create and use a range of resources, including ICT, to engage students in their learning.

During this lesson Chris integrated the use of a SmartBoard into his teaching as well as other ICT resources such as the Internet (and blog pages) and laptops/other IT devices for the students. This appeared to create an engaging environment where students were eager to learn. Also, learning was modified to suit what was being taught. The aim of this is to help students better understand the content, and therefore, hopefully the students are more likely to absorb the information (Mishra & Koehler 2006, pg. 1023).

3.5.2. – Use effective verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to support student understanding, participation, engagement and achievement.

I feel Chris managed the interactions in the classroom very well. He was able to control the students and get their attention when needed. To do this, he used techniques like ‘being silent’, asking students to close their laptops half way (so that they weren’t distracted by what was on their screen), and he was able to re-direct focus on to him by saying “eyes up here…”. Furthermore, Chris appears to physically move around the classroom well and this helps to keep students engaged and not stray ‘off task’. Finally, his body language is open and warming. This helps to create a nice feel in the class between him and the students, which ultimately leads to a rich and engaging learning environment.

 

Standard 4 – Create and Maintain Supportive and Safe Learning Environments.

4.2.2. – Demonstrate the capacity to organise classroom activities and provide clear directions.

As outlined above, Chris had a well-structured lesson which incorporated the use of a good range of ICT resources. His content knowledge was excellent and this made it easy for him to be able to provide clear instructions and demonstrations to his students (Shulman 1987, pg.9).

 Overall, I felt that this was a very good lesson as it appeared to be informative and interesting. The live interaction between the SmartBoard, the Internet (the example blog page that Chris was using), and the students and their laptops was amazing. This would truly have created an engaging and high-productive learning environment for the students.