Saturday, September 15, 2012

The WISE model - A quick and nasty guide to evaluating classroom ICT use.

I’m fortunate to be able to visit every classroom in our school. Like most schools, we have invested heavily in ICT. Are we getting value for money? Is the investment really improving educational outcomes? In some classrooms I could answer “Yes” - but in some the answer would have to be a disappointing “No”.

It is not necessary to have an in-depth formal instrument or formal testing to get a sense of how well ICT is being used in classrooms.     

The first “rule of thumb” indicator I have is a simple one - are the students CREATING product ...or CONSUMING product... or both?  If the students are simply consuming product, i.e. using “drill and practice” programs or merely absorbing content from the ‘net, then ICT use in the classroom is likely to be making only a limited contribution to student learning. However, if students are CREATING product then there is a good chance that ICT is being put to good use.

If students are creating learning artefacts then a simple acronym provides another lens through which I can quickly evaluate the significance of the classroom program. That acronym is  WISE.

WISE stands for...

W hy? (or WHAT). Why is ICT being used? Could similar artifacts be produced via traditional means? A hand drawn poster is as valid as a Publisher document for example.   What are the teacher’s  SPECIFIC objectives, what are the SPECIFIC curriculum links? What can students achieve  using computers in this context that could not be achieved otherwise?   

I mportant (or interesting) Is the project / experience both IMPORTANT and INTERESTING to the student? (Tasks need to be important or interesting to the student - not just ”fun”.)  If not, then the chances are that the task is electronic “busy work”.

S haring.   How are the students sharing both their end product and the process of creation?  How are they sharing their artifact with the educational community beyond the classroom? If they are not sharing the artifact...why are they producing it in the first place?  If it only has worth inside the context of the classroom then why would students value it? If it has wider significance why is it not being shared?

E valuation.  How do the students demonstrate their learning? Is the artifact itself significant outside of the classroom environment?  What skills need students display / include? Do they know this? How can a development of skills be demonstrated?

This acronym is hardly cutting edge. (I could dignify it beyond it’s worth and call it “The WISE model”.) However, it does provide me with a lens through which to quickly get a sense of how well ICT is being used in a classroom.   As with all technology, classroom ICT is neutral - it is how well it is being used that is important. And to assist with that we all need to be a little WISE when it comes to classroom use of ICT.

Image = Google images

Monday, September 10, 2012

Optimism from a half empty glass

I initially uploaded this image to my facebook page to share the humour with my friends. It’s a joke, a somewhat “down market” spin on an old adage.  But then I started thinking...

There is actually some wisdom hidden behind the humour. We know the adage, dare I say it, the cliche, about the glass being half full or half empty.  The  optimist sees the glass as half full, the pessimist sees the glass as being half empty. But it is the same glass - it is the perception of the user that is the variable.  Optimism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder (or, I am tempted to say in view of the visual, in the hands of the beer holder).

When we see something individually we interpret it through the lens of our own prejudices and biases, we see the glass “our way”.  However, when we join with others in a group we learn from the wisdom of the group.  Thus the pessimist is exposed to those with more positive outlooks, the enthusiast is tempered by those with a more cautious views.

It is yet another example of the power of the group - the wisdom of the collective.  

Most schools are hierarchical - which may have some administrative advantages but tends to assume that the view from behind the desk is the same as the view from the classrooms.  Sometimes it isn’t.  By genuinely consulting with staff, leaders avoid seeing the issues of the day through the lens of their only their own glass - and allows for the collective wisdom of the group to come into play.

Something to think ( or should that be “drink”?) about...

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

They don't build monuments to teachers

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

They don’t build monuments to good teachers.  They don’t need to.  Their legacy is reflected in every successful person.  Every person who is able to achieve their dreams can thank, in some part at least, their teachers.  And the wonderful thing is, unlike fame and power, that legacy continues on and on...

Poem = Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley