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Tablets – Do they really improve student learning – Part 2

I have spent the better part of the weekend reading up on the site, articles, document and blogs recommended to me by @danjjroberts and @ictevangelist.  My head is spinning with edtech information.

First @danjjroberts:

He directed me to, I came across 21st Century Learning Design, a global project sponsored by Microsoft.  On their website they have provided 2 rubrics that teachers can use; one for the activity and one rubric for the work students produce.  It has come the closest to what I have been searching for.  I am actually quite keen on the idea of this.  Teachers have to take the lead on the evaluative and reflective process which puts their own learning in their own hands.  Essentially, a teacher will measure an activity on the rubric and redesign it to move it higher up the scale, and the same for the student work.

As much as I like it, I would need to almost rewrite it for the needs of the students at my school.  As a special school anything too high up the scale is beyond our students in the time frames we have, They would never be able to move off the first, maybe the second level.  I would need to add in smaller jumps, PIVATs/bsquared style.  I am starting to think that this is the only option, but having a guide such as this doesn’t make that mountain seem as high.  I would also want to rewrite the stages for teachers to be SAMR linked too.

I had a long conversation with @ictevangelist soon after my original Twitter question.  I was feeling quite worried as most of the research I had come across prior to asking Twitter is that student learning improves because the teaching improves.  I didn’t want to sell this to school as I had horrible images of staff being put under the microscope.  While I know that this was an unwarranted worry, that the leadership is not as fickle as that, I wanted staff to come to technology in their own time and in their own pace, I could only imagine management wanting to push the agenda forward faster.

In the beginning, when edtech is first introduced, the time it takes to plan for technology is much more than the time it would take to plan a lesson without it.  Of course it is, the teaching staff have been teaching without tablets for years, decades in many cases, they have resources for each lesson, tried and tested strategies for every misconception, lesson planning is a doddle.  I am the “elearning champion” in my school and when I have to plan a lesson in 10 minutes, I stick with what I have been doing for the last 7 years.  It is a learning curve for all of us, no matter how willing we are to accept technology, it is not going to be fully integrated quickly.

Mark directed me to a blog by Steve Wheeler, aka @timbuckteeth, on what he refers to as classroom dynamics.  It makes for interesting reading, I would recommend it, for those of you who just want the cliff notes, it is the summary of a study by Mandinach and Cline (1994) on the adoption of new technologies by school staff.  They state that there are 4 stages:

  1. Survival – staff wonder what to do with it
  2. Mastery – staff start to use it; “in meaningful and authentic contexts”
  3. Impact – staff evaluate how well it is being used
  4. Innovation – staff start to experiment with it: trying out risky ideas.

The researcher in me has linked these in my mind to Bloom’s Taxonomy.

If I can identify where staff are on this scale then I can help them to move on to the next stage.

The next big thing to come out of our discussion was Digital Leaders, at present I am the person that staff come to for troubleshooting.  I, however, can not be everywhere at once, and staff have to be able to handle the little things themselves.  But in the meantime, maybe Digital leaders will be that middle ground – not to mention all the other benefits that the role could bring to the individual student.  I had been wary of Digital Leaders as I am not sure how much our students will be able to handle (I have been in mainstream for 5 years and SEN for two – teaching PT: 0.2) but I won’t know unless I try and I have asked permission from the Head to start a project where I take volunteer MLD students out of lessons for one period a week where we go over the most common apps, how the tablet works and basic troubleshooting.  I will update on this project.  I am quite excited about it now :)

In terms of action research, as there are a couple of teachers who have yet to utilise the new tech in their classes, there is still time to compare the progress of a class using the tech regularly with a class that does not use them, if only for a short while.  As a Special School, we will have to account for the differing needs of the students.  The main thing that concerns me is, from my knowledge of the classrooms, the teachers that don’t tend to use the tablets (and there are exceptions, I am NOT saying that this a rule) are the teachers that I would not say are ‘good’ teachers.

Another easy thing to check is has literacy and/or numeracy improved since the introduction of the tablets?

In summary, I am going to do the following (or at least try to):

  1. set up digital leaders
  2. Introduce teachers to the Mandinach and Cline (1994) phase of adoption
  3. Start to create student work rubrics suitable for SEN students.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Thanks for reading this far – I know it’s a long one!



Tablets – do they really improve student learning?

Yesterday I put a question to Twitter that had been troubling me for a while:


I am very grateful to @ictevangelist, @buttonbashing @danjjroberts @gary_s_king and @naace for their responses.  I wanted to collate all the responses along with my interpretation of them and how I intend to move forward on this.


Use before and after polls of digital leaders

A possibility, but we have yet to implement digital leader in my school, so no “before” polls.  I have however, been convinced of their need by @ictevangelist and will probably be putting out feelers for this over the next couple of weeks to kick off after Christmas.   This is an avenue that I can plan to go down though.

Data from time spent using edtech (like VLE/apps etc)

This is definitely doable, I will need to take into account the fact that staff are not using the tech consistently, but this in itself could be an indicator, is there a difference in the progress of students whose teachers are using the edtech compared with students whose teachers are not using the edtech? Is there a difference in the type of edtech being used, ie, does the VLE provide more learning opportunities than SAM Learning?  is access to apps actually helping (given it is a substitution (SAMR) rather than any great enhancement)?


Dan directed me to where I found some rubrics for student learning and teacher delivery.  I have printed them off but I have to admit I have yet to read them – next blog!


  1. Suggested that the research question be broken down in to smaller parts rather than starting with the “whole school” – many others have agreed with this and I will break it down.
  2. Reminded me that qualitative research is just as valid as qualitative research; teacher and student anecdotes should be trusted – I agree with that in principle, but with a small school, and a special needs one at that, it just wouldn’t have the same validity, and when we are talking about tens of thousands of pounds, I want to be able to offer them something less subjective.
  3. Suggested looking at quantitative “time on task” research (along the same vein as @buttonbashing) – I will research into this
  4. Use local government and employability stats to push the need for digital literacy – not so relevant with our school, only 5 or so students will be capable of employment when they leave
  5. Increased efficiency means that staff can do more, quickly and will therefore get more done which will save the school money in the long run.

I feel Naace may have been a little ideological with their responses towards the end, but they do make some good points at the start.


We covered so many topics and areas that I feel it is worthy of it’s own entry, plus I need to do some more research and reading around the subject, so this will also be part of my second (or third blog).  At this stage I should probably thank Mark as he convinced me to start blogging my journey, to share the trials and tribulations as I start to navigate my way through these murky waters.

I am aware that I (and my generation of edtech-ers) are incredibly lucky to have people who carried the edtech flag forward and are willing to share those experiences (and mistakes) with us through blogs and social media.  The first thing I do when I have an edtech question is Google it.  The second thing is shout at my computer as the school firewall has “…blocked it as web chat…”, thank goodness for smart phones.  I hope that my sharing of this will help other people, as it has certainly helped me start to sort through the ideas in my head.

This conversation is in no way complete and I suspect my journey to find the best way of answering this question at my school is going to be a long meandering path.  Please feel free to comment and share your experiences/opinion.