By Sandy Galland
National standards are a reality, and could be great; but as we all know, insanity is about doing more of the same and expecting a different result.
CORE Education is active across New Zealand bringing a variety of tailor made e-learning approaches to learners of all ages. A component of its work is the provision of teacher development, tools, strategies and training.
Core national facilitator in ICT PD, curriculum and achievement, Jill Hammonds believes ICT opens a plethora of opportunities for students to utilise technology to be better learners and for teachers to make a positive move towards raising standards in literacy and numeracy.
The controversial National Standards requires numerous things from schools – levels need to be met and according to Hammonds, simply spending more time trying to get students to write better or read better is not going to do it.
“Nor is spending more time measuring where kids are at, unless we then do something creative and interesting that will move our diverse learners forward. We need to get creative and find ways to engage our struggling and achieving students.”
Hammonds believes it is important we gather classroom based evidence and have effective reporting, but also advocates that it is programme delivery in the classroom which will begin to turn around student achievements.
“If a child is having problems with literacy and you spend more time with that child doing more of what they are failing at; it’s not good for their self esteem or their progress. “You have to stop and look at those students and figure out how they learn, what is their learning style in their natural environment? Then we need to bring that into the classroom.”
All children develop differently and each child responds to different stimuli in different ways, she says.
“Contemporary children are often engaged by highly visual stimulus, for example, television, games consoles, and mobile phones, which give them instant gratification. How can we address this for teaching literacy in the 21st century classroom?”
Learning should be for the students future, not the teachers past, Hammonds declares.
The disparity between traditional teaching approaches and the learning patterns of today’s students means more teachers are facing higher proportions of challenging students on a daily basis.
The current situation is not working for many children, and teachers need to take a new approach to ensure children are gaining the knowledge and skills that they need for a successful educational career.
“Teachers need to consider the standards in relation to students who are high achievers as well as students who are struggling and to provide intrinsic incentives, authentic feedback, and opportunities for the children to read and express themselves on topics that interest them,” Hammonds says.
Intrinsic incentives ensure children experience success through taking responsibility to improve their own work and skills by completing tasks that are clearly purposeful and achieve a result. The children are able to see and measure their own progress and take responsibility for reflecting upon their work.
Intrinsic incentives need to be:
- Clearly purposeful
- For an audience
- Achieving a result
- Ones where students experience success
- Where students take responsibility, but get the support they need to get better
- Where students can see and measure their own progress and take responsibility for reflecting on that and reporting to parents.
Authentic feedback can come from a wide variety of people and gives children genuine reader-reaction which can create a continued interaction of critique and comment from a diverse group of readers.
Authentic Feedback involves:
- Genuine reader reaction
- Critique and comment from a wide variety of readers
- Continued interaction.
Hammonds says that simply spending more time trying to improve reading or writing, or spending more time measuring children’s achievement is not going to advance children’s literacy skills. Instead, teachers need to do something creative and interesting that will help diverse learners to progress.
She cites word processing as a valid example of getting children motivated about writing. “With pen and paper a child who is struggling with writing is probably very untidy and the finished product gives them no pleasure.”
If this same child sits down and writes a document, they can then, via tracked changes, go back and edit the work, add in words, move sentences. The tracking shows they have put thought into the work.
“Trying hard is different from succeeding, and on paper a student might try hard but the end result might not reflect this and any editing makes the work messier.”
The next step is the student taking the finished written work and being able to place it on a blog, wiki or email and send it out to the appropriate audience. This audience can then respond.
So now instead of the student dreading writing, they are doing something with a purpose – they are blogging (for example) and in their mind that is entirely different from writing.
Neatness is no longer an issue, they get to spend time doing quality editing and they get something back from their efforts – something which has engaged them.
Hammonds says she sees a degree of resistance from teachers to fully utilise computers in classrooms.
“Many are not confident with the process and feel they are going to need to learn ‘all the tricks’ before opening up the technology for the students. In fact, many just need to allow students to use the technology currently in their classrooms.
“We need to be more open to change and I think teachers need help with this part of implementing the standards. Over the next five years or so I think this is going to be a vital area of professional development.”
She adds the previous round of curriculum changes has seen many teachers tossed to sea with the sheer volume of issues which needed to be addressed and implemented. Going forwards she advocates ICT as a limitless tool in which to lift the learning achievements of all children.
“ICT is not just doing things with computers. It can be geared to raising specific student achievements and we need to help teachers see these opportunities.”