Victoria is the only state where teachers are required to report on the progress of students in ICT capability. This places the Australian state one step ahead of the rest in terms of student progression. The Victorian Curriculum focuses on four general capabilities – Critical and creative thinking, Ethics, Intercultural and Personal and social – but is not limited to this, as it also states the three remaining capabilities in the Australian Curriculum.
Why is this so important?
The reason why this puts Victorian teachers one step ahead is because it allows them to plan for the progression of students in ICT capability. These teachers would be able to gain an appreciation of where the students are, where they ought to be, and where they might be heading next. It is my point of view that assessment means that you are establishing a starting point for their continuous journey in ICT capability.
As a result, because of the fact that you can’t really teach ICT capability or any subject really effectively without planning, and that assessment is closely linked to the both of them, student progress is achieved if the correct teaching strategies are implemented in the classroom.
What do you do?
As the majority of ICT work is practical, it is important to use formative assessment methods or ‘assessment for learning’ techniques which will allow you to accurately track the progress of students throughout the Victorian Curriculum as indeed the national Curriculum. The most effective way to assess a student’s ICT capability is to give them something to do and then to monitor the approaches they use when completing the task. You have to remember that a finished product may not reveal the methods used to complete it.
What are the issues associated with assessing ICT capability?
When assessing ICT capability there are a number of issues that you need to be made aware of. Although ICT capability can be taught without the use of ICT, much of it practical and therefore it can be hard to gather the appropriate evidence of a student’s progress in capabilities from tasks and activities. Some issues that you will need to consider include:
- Possible conflict between ICT objectives and subject learning; sing student group work in ICT;
- Overcoming technical problems;
- Avoiding putting students without computers at home at a disadvantage and;
- Deciding what the student has done and what the computer has done for them.
How to avoid conflict between ICT objectives and subject learning
When teaching ICT capability in literacy lessons it is essential that the subject learning objectives overshadow the ICT objectives. The best way to achieve this when teaching ICT capability is to make the technology transparent. As a teacher, you should be able to help the students to focus on using ICT as a tool to achieve literacy outcomes in such a way that they are hardly noticing using the technology itself. It is crucial that you equip the students with sufficient experience to enable them to use ICT without having to stop and think. In order to be able to achieve this, when it comes time to teaching students new ICT skills and techniques in lessons it is best to “create a need, and then to be on hand to show them what to do when they are engaged in the problem” (Bennett, 2007,p81). These techniques and skills will inevitably shift away from low-level skills and routines as they progress throughout primary school. So it will be significant for you to constantly monitor the way students are solving problems and doing tasks in order for you to be able to show them new and better ways of using ICT to achieve the learning outcomes.
It must remain your goal as a primary teacher for students to equip them with sufficient experience to enable them to use ICT without having to stop and think. According to Bennett et al. (2007, p. 71) the most “effective way of teaching children ICT skills and techniques is to create a need, and then to be on hand to show them what to do when they are engaged in the problem.”
Assessing individual students’ ICT capability when in group work
It is essential that the ICT practices that students use in the classroom replicate those that are occurring in society. Collaboration in group work with ICT needs to occur and this creates an issue when ensuring that everyone in the group has the opportunity to develop their capabilities in ICT. For example, unequal sharing may occur when there might be a technology enthusiastic student who will seldom allow another individual to access the computer and on the other hand, they may also be a student who prefers to sit back and let someone else do the work for them. Another reason could be that they lack the confidence or experience and may be afraid to expose their inadequacy to fellow students. These factors are dependent on the social climate of the school or classroom.
Unequal responsibility or effort may be more common than you think so it is essential that you employ strategies to ensure that all students have equal opportunity to contribute to the activity or task and develop their
ICT capability. Here Bennett et al. (2007) emphasises some key strategies that may aide you in overcoming some difficulties of paired work:
- Give the students specific roles or tasks when engaged in an activity;
- Signal changeovers regularly during a lesson to ensure that pairs get equal access to the keyboard;
- Train the students in paired work and;
- Prepare on-computer and off-computer tasks during a lesson.
How do I overcome technical problems?
Technology is not reliable at the best of times and so one of the problems that may occur is being unable to print out a student’s work once it has been completed. When this happens it is best to assess their work by using observations and what can be seen on the screen. What happens when a computer crashes? Or a student has a corrupt file? To avoid students missing out on being assessed approach it by always assuming the worst and make it a practice of students to save their work as they progress. Microsoft Word has a feature that allows students to save their work at certain times such as 5 minutes or 10 minutes. The latter is usually the better option as if it is too low it may slow down the work of the student every time it saves. It is better too if students make it a habit themselves to save their work especially after they have created a large chunk of work.
Children with computers at home are at an advantage
It should never be discouraged to do ICT work for homework. To ensure everyone has the opportunity to continue their ICT activity outside the classroom schools need to compensate by running after-school computer labs. When it comes to assessing ICT capability you need to be mindful that if an activity is completed at home or elsewhere outside the classroom, which it may be done by a parent or older sibling. In this case, ask the student to demonstrate the ICT techniques she/he used to complete the activity.
How do I know if a student or computer has done the work?
The best way to assess a student’s ICT capability is by observation and you can couple this by talking or asking older students to write a reflective report about the ICT techniques they used to complete the task or activity. Self-assessment sheets are also ideal for this situation as they help students to reflect on just how far to which they developed their knowledge and skills.
The Victorian Curriculum has led the other states down the path of progression and continuity for students. The impact that this will have on its students and their future will be quite different if the rest of the country does not step up in the near future. Today, there is so much evidence and literature that highlights the benefits of teachers using assessment for planning and in the 21st century, an era that is dominated by ICT, student ICT capability needs to progress. In my view, regardless of what curriculum you teach, if a teacher desires for this to occur then they too need to step up and put in the effort. What do you think?