How Technology Affects What Takes Place in Classroom – Or Does it?

From the Academic Matters blog, Techucation

It has been a busy summer in many classrooms around the country, as numerous universities have retrofitted their classrooms to include the latest technology resources. Traditional classrooms are being reconfigured to accommodate the technological tools available on the university modern campus (Baston, 2010).

Unfortunately, the results from the 2009 Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, as noted in a Chronicle of Higher Education article, demonstrates that most professors are not taking advantage of these tools (Coddington, 20010).

Despite the great deal of thought and money that go into making the latest educational technology available on campus, many professors ignore the presence of these tools, while other ban the use of technology in their classes (Young, 2010). Instead of considering how these new spaces and technological resources could provide them with an opportunity to change their teaching practice, some instructors suggest that these innovations simply serve as a distraction to conventional teaching.

Wi-Fi routers and easily accessible electrical outlets for students to power up their laptops and connect to the Internet are welcomed by students who are keen to take advantage of online resources that support learning, but derided by professors who would like to ban all electronic devices from class.

Online learning management systems that were initially seen as a great way for instructors to efficiently provide resources to their students and easily broadcast important announcements, now include a host of blog, Twitter and Facebook-like social media resources that can bee seen as drowning out the voice of the professor.

Even the physical configuration of modern classrooms can draw the ire of obstinate professors. Instead of having desks and chairs bolted to the ground, these renovated classrooms have moveable tables and swivelable chairs that were included to facilitate discussion and small group collaboration. Supporters of the 'old school' classrooms, complain that these new configurations detract the student's attention from the instructor by making it too easy for students to chat with their peers instead of listening to the lecture.

The amenities of the modern university are not always compatible with the teacher-centred focus associated with traditional university teaching. To be at peace in this new technology laden landscape professors may need to cast off the role of 'teacher' and instead become a 'learning facilitator'. It may also become necessary for professors to acknowledge that they are not the sole vessel of knowledge in the room thus providing students with opportunities to learn from each other while they learn together. More importantly, it may require professors to accept that - it's not about me. It is about learning.

U.S. Asks Educators to Reinvent Student Tests, and How They Are Given

By SAM DILLON NY Times

Standardized exams — the multiple-choice, bubble tests in math and reading that have played a growing role in American public education in recent years — are being overhauled.

Over the next four years, two groups of states, 44 in all, will get $330 million to work with hundreds of university professors and testing experts to design a series of new assessments that officials say will look very different from those in use today.

The new tests, which Secretary of Education Arne Duncan described in a speech in Virginia on Thursday, are to be ready for the 2014-15 school year.

They will be computer-based, Mr. Duncan said, and will measure higher-order skills ignored by the multiple-choice exams used in nearly every state, including students’ ability to read complex texts, synthesize information and do research projects.

“The use of smarter technology in assessments,” Mr. Duncan said, “makes it possible to assess students by asking them to design products of experiments, to manipulate parameters, run tests and record data.”

Because the new tests will be computerized and will be administered several times throughout the school year, they are expected to provide faster feedback to teachers than the current tests about what students are learning and what might need to be retaught.

Read the rest of the article.

It is about time that the education community steps ups and finds a better way to assess student learning. For years educators have complained about the narrow focus of standardized tests, but we have been unable to propose a scalable alternative. I look forward to the implementation of standardized performance-based tasks that will challenge students to use their higher-order thinking skills and provide educators with essential information needed to improve teaching and learning. While I know it will take years to accomplish this feat, it is a much needed step in the right direction.

Once we've improved the tools to assess student learning, next on the list of much needed school reforms will be to find an effective way to measure the success of individual schools. Even the best standardized student assessment tools do not capture the full picture a successful school. In fact a number of factors, student achievement, teacher added-value, extra-curricular opportunities and participation, etc... would need to be combined to create a final grade of school success. The creation and implementation of these much needed tools would provide the education community with the objective feedback needed to support ongoing improvement and to create a culture where schools don't stop at 'good enough' and instead strive to be best they can be.

Facebook in the Canadian Classroom

Preparing students to become 21st Century learners means that educators will have to be able to balance the benefits and challenges of using social media in the classroom. The key question will be "How does it enhance student learning?"