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Research School Network: Moving Forward with Technology in the Classroom Moving Forward with Technology in the Classroom

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Moving Forward with Technology in the Classroom

Moving Forward with Technology in the Classroom

by Research Schools Network
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The EEF’s 2019 guidance report Using Digital Technology to Improve Learning’ states that in this digital age, the question is no longer whether technology should have a place in the classroom but how technology can be effectively integrated to improve learning. The Covid-19 pandemic and the sudden shift from traditional classroom teaching to the remote learning model forced teachers, even the technophobes amongst us, to face this question head on.

During each period of school closures we worked together as a department to trial different technologies and online tools as modes of assessment and feedback. We worked collaboratively to design quizzes with integrated feedback to support pupil progress and address any misconceptions or misunderstandings and used software such as Microsoft Whiteboard and polls during lessons for whole class feedback. Members of the department who were more familiar with specific online platforms made training videos to support others and formative assessment and feedback became the focus of remote staff CPD.

That being said, the focus of this blog is not to revisit the strategies we used during remote learning but is on the continued application of digital technologies now we are back in the classroom with the aim to support effective feedback. This is by no means a one size fits all approach but just some examples of how we can use technology both in class and for homework to deliver timely, personalised feedback with the potential to achieve greater learning.

Carefully-designed multiple choices quizzes using Microsoft Forms provides formative information through diagnostic questions and are regularly used as part of homework assignments or revision assignments. Each quiz is automatically marked and for each incorrect answer it is possible for the students to see the correct answer and receive instant, bespoke feedback to match their needs. The feedback identifies what their misconception or misunderstanding is and what their correct thinking should have been. This has now evolved to contain links to extra information or to videos to provide further support for students in order to correct their thinking.

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The careful design of these diagnostic questions makes the students learning explicit. Each answer demonstrates student error in understanding or a common misconception and provides the teacher with useful information about pupils’ learning and needs. It can help us judge whether students have understood what is being taught and make decisions about whether key concepts and skills have been mastered or need to be re-visited. The summary after each quiz provides clear feedback to the teacher who can adapt their teaching accordingly. Results can be viewed per question (see picture below) which highlights particular areas that may need revisiting or can be viewed for individual students to help identify pupils that may need additional support. Additional individual or whole-class feedback can then be used in the following lesson, if needed, to move students’ learning forward.

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This summary information can be easily shared between staff, which is particularly helpful if classes are shared, and can be used by teachers and students to identify areas of focus. The quizzes themselves can also be shared and easily modified and so helps reduce the burden of workload – the marking and feedback for both teacher and students is instant once the quiz is submitted.

Although we are back in our classrooms there are still limitations to our normal way of teaching. We are now confined to the front of the classroom and are no longer allowed to circulate the room, read over shoulders, review our students written work and give that instant, often subtle, feedback to our students that moves their learning forward. The visualiser has become more important than ever in allowing that feedback to continue. I have been using the visualiser as a way to improve written answers to 6‑mark questions in science. Students write an answer that they know will be a draft. I then share an example answer under the visualiser, this could be an example from an examiners report, an answer I have written, an anonymised answer from a previous class or an example from the class I am teaching. We then have a class discussion about the answer identifying strengths and weaknesses and use this discussion to construct a rubric for what a successful answer would look like. It can often be useful to share an example of a high quality and low quality answer so students can make comparisons between the two. We also take the time during the discussion to focus on exam technique – what is the command word? Does this answer explain or just describe? The students are then given time to improve their answer based on the discussion and then the mark scheme can be used to live mark another example answer. Live marking also allows teachers to focus on and support students self-regulation strategies – how they plan, monitor and evaluate work.

The EEF guidance report teacher feedback to improve pupil learning’ gives guidance and examples of how to effectively use the visualiser for both written and verbal feedback. In the report they state that live marking may support students understanding of the feedback given as it allows for additional verbal interaction rather than just a written comment on their page. It removes that ambiguity over the intended meaning of the teacher’s written feedback and means students are more able to act on the feedback given.

SENECA assignments now form part of our homework in science and can be used in class if laptops or iPads are available. Students are set an assignment to complete which could be on the current learning topic, as revision of a previous topic or to assess the student’s prior knowledge before teaching. It is an excellent online tool to assess where a pupil’s, or the class’, learning gaps are. While it enables gaps to be identified it is then crucial the teacher uses this information to provide effective feedback to target those weaknesses. When it is used in lesson, the teacher can easily follow the progress of each student as they work through the assignment and can provide immediate feedback and interventions as they work to move their learning forward.

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One of the overarching messages from the EEF is that while technology has the potential to improve both assessment and feedback the degree to this potential is determined by the quality of the pedagogy behind it and its implementation – see the EEF implementation guidance report. Buying a tablet for every pupil is unlikely to boost pupil attainment but using them purposefully might. When using technology it is crucial that teachers use the information from assessments and ensure that the feedback given is thoughtful and purposeful and that pupils are provided with opportunities to act on it. Some key questions to ask when introducing technology are: what is the pedagogical rationale? Do you / your school have the capacity to implement it effectively? What initial training and support is required? Perhaps the most important question to consider is do all learners have the skills and means to use the technology effectively? If this is not considered you run the risk of widening the gap between successful students and their peers.

Kathryn Kilbride

June 2021

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