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Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee June 2019

Once again this post has taken some time to get to sorry – Life is just a bit busy at the moment. But Friday a week ago I went up to Wellington for the day for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, this post comes with a disclaimer that these points are my interpretation and I am happy to be corrected, and/or provide any additional info. An additional disclaimer that I was pretty sick with the lurg doing the rounds, and dragged myself onto the plane at 6:25 am that morning on some pretty good cold meds to boot!! But, as usual, it was a very worthwhile day with lots of interesting discussion and some projects moving forward.

Stuart Wakefield – Chief digital officer, MoE

Stuart was on the agenda to talk around anti plagiarism software (a common discussion point at OCT meetings) but he actually offered a much more broad overview of some of the ministry projects going on, and ‘what could the ministry listen too’ to make sure they were meeting the needs of as many as possible.

There were 3 key ‘rolls’ for the office/team Stuart leads

  1. digital support internally –
  2. Digital support for so different education type agencies eg, NZQA, ERO, Library, MSD (study link) people
  3. Direct support of schools

The support of schools includes all sorts of things, from software licensing (hence the plagiarism software), digital equity for students (how is this managed, supporting pilot programs, internet access etc), digital wellness – screen time, cyber safety (netsafe, N4L, and government level cert stuff)  mental health, and physical features such as furniture .

Several points of interest for me, the first being equity. Massive discussions around the table about what that looks like and what that means, both with Stuart and then later in the day talking about technical support in schools. It is one thing to give a student a device, but if there is no internet at home, or the infrastructure of the school can’t support it, or if teachers are not confident in changing their pedagogy, then the device can’t function fully. John C talked about virtual desktops for devices in his school – they are looking at this route so that less powerful devices can be virtually upcycled with software that might not run on a less powerful machine – trouble is it comes at a cost for a very grunty server. Discussion around how to get wifi into all homes without undercutting the market (I hadn’t considered this) but the ministry is looking into some creative ways to manage this (linked to maintaining a free view TV network – as it seems TV is going to be universally through the internet sooner that we might think).

The next was why do we need anti plagiarism software. I get a bit titchy about this – if you assign a ‘project’ and get 30 identical reports back, then it was a recipe, not a project. How can we move to more authentic learning experiences for students so they are not just copying. But also, in Science, there are only so many ways you can say something like ‘more successful collisions per second means the rate of reaction is faster’ so everyone would be ‘plagiarising’ Those with experience using turn it in or other softwares commented on the PLD required to use it well, and some said using the software had provided students with the opportunity to learn more about plagiarism, which provided great opportunities for critical thinking. I think the take home message is the ministry is open to funding something like this, but it might be at the expensive of something else – so teachers/schools would need to think careful about what their digital priorities would be. BUT also, with the new NCEA review, will this still be an issue?? Watch this space I guess.

Mixed in with the discussions around PLD, I leaped in with my usual comments on the TELA scheme and that PLD for teachers receiving ‘new’ laptops is still lacking….. and what information has been gathered to determine satisfaction around the scheme? So TELA is still simmering in my background, but was not one of the main points in this meeting.

Another idea was around a machine readable curriculum – how can we get ‘resources’ so they can be read by any device/browser (at least, I think this is what it meant) so that is doesn’t matter what devices students have, they can all access the materials. This would mean students don’t need ‘grunty’ devices if all the tools they needed could be web based……

So a really interesting, forward thinking discussion was had.

Round Robin

Due to weather delaying flights and people not being able to arrive, I ended up dominating this a little…… but points of discussion were

  • Tech support – still not enough movement on getting a more uniform technical as well as e-learning/changing pedagogy in schools. Tied into teachers not always being tech savvy using new devices, much less new software. Discussion around how schools are at liberty to spend their money as they choose – do not need to fund a tech if they don’t want to. But round the table there was a massive discrepancy of support in schools – one school with around 1300 students had a 1.5 teachs (one full time, one part time), another slightly smaller had 0.5 of a tech who often worked longer, and another of similar size had no on site tech. Some schools had teachers with time allowances to support staff using technology in their classes, so had teachers with time and units, and some had nothing. So it really is an area of concern as more resourcing goes into digital technologies and learning, especially with the increasing use of online and digital assessment. If teachers are not comfortable using IT in their teaching and learning programs, how can students be expected to be successful in online assessment? And if the infrastructure is not in place so technology is reliably usable, how can teachers be expected to use it?

Outcome was the committee is going to write to the ministry and the PPTA exec to look for ways forward to get a more uniform support for schools – at the moment there is no ‘legal’ route as schools do have autonomy over how they spend there operations grants. There was a comment made that as the NCEA fees have been scrapped, there is going to be even less money (or less chance of money) available to schools to get ready for digital assessments.

  • As already mentioned, John talked about virtualisation of desktop computers for students, so the students could use cheaper computers and still use grunty software. Asked for opinions and ideas around this – the ministry is pushing for schools to shift to the cloud, but this means you no longer control availability or cost of access – to quote John. So if you have any thoughts or experience on this, please reach out and let me know and I’ll take it back to the group
  • I raised an issue around VC courses for language learners, especially Te Reo Maori. I have spoken to a few teachers and schools about this, and VC is not really meeting the needs of these students as well as it might. There was some discussion around how this might work better, but no concrete ideas, so again if you have any please get in touch.
  • DTTA update. Chris Dillion gave a big update from the Digital technology teachers Aotearoa group. Ket points of interest were

– the teacher shortages for DT teachers is going to hit HARD. Many schools were unable to offer DT due to not having a suitable teacher – what impact would these have? And what would ERO think

– New curriculum content – difficulties around working out what was teachable and workable at yr 9 and 10. Varying levels of competence coming from primary schools, some have made massive strides while others not doing much. (I quietly thought this was a bit like Science – some primary do loads while others do not much). Makes it difficult for teachers who are still coming to grips with the new expectations. It is the old chestnut I guess, do we box students in to a year level of ‘skills’ or try and find ways to let them work at their level? But when a kid comes in and says, oh, I’ve already ‘done’ ‘scratch’ it does make it difficult, especially because you can do loads of things with various programs or softwares, but some students won’t see past the tool.

– Assessments are now available – schools will need to ‘book’ a time and a set.

– Support for the Hangarau Matihiko curric and assessment seems to have stalled – difficulties with translation and information from different sources. Watch this space

– Check you the webinar from Kate Curtis and Nathan Owen on the NCEA review changes.

– The date for DT.HM embedding is still 2020 – below is a copy and pasted exert

The following has been passed on from MoE via email, and will be communicated to all schools soon. I have highlighted the relevant parts.

What will ERO be looking for in 2020 in terms of implementation of the new curriculum content?

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes and to ensure that schools are accountable for their stewardship. Under the Education Act 1989 all schools are expected to be involved in an ongoing, cyclical process of evaluation and inquiry for improvement. Through the annual reporting process, they are required to report on the achievement of their students, their priorities for improvement, and the actions they plan to take.

ERO supports this review to ensure schools are providing their learners with the rich and engaging curriculum they are entitled to.

It is expected that by 2020 students will be meeting the progress outcomes for digital technologies to match the curriculum level expected for their year level at school?

Over time students should be supported to progress in their learning in technology. In 2020, the Ministry of Education expects that schools will be using the revised learning area to provide students with even broader opportunities to learn in and about technology, informed by the new content around computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes.

As for all parts of the curriculum, teachers will design learning programmes with rich and authentic local contexts that provide quality learning experiences for students.

So lots of info from the DTTA – and I again want to acknowledge how hard various members of that group have been working in the back group to support the new curriculum.

Andrea Grey – NZQA

After the last PPTA ICT meeting, I had a comment on my blog from NZQA asking to respond, so I was a teeny bit nervous about them coming to talk to us. Turns out I had not much to worry about, and Andrea was very pleased to come and talk to us to try and build on the/the NZQA’s understanding of where things are at, and what steps might be taken moving forward.

Here are the key points as I remember them – it is also worth having a looksy at the NZQA/NCEA website for more info https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-ncea-online/

  • exams will be online ‘where appropriate’ from 2020 (but paper copies will still be available).
  • Exams have gone online in response to more and more learning experiencing being online. In my opinion, this links into the growing disparity between schools in NZ, some students are using computers very often, and so doing an exam and typing etc are much more ‘natural’ to them than using a pen and paper, while for other students and/or schools, they are still doing most of their learning from work books or paper, so online exams are exceptional and strange. So school who have the infrastructure are finding this all ok.
  • NZQA are working with N4L and school providers – ‘on the journey together’ to understand the main issues/problems and attempt to find solutions. There is no one size fits all….

There was a side discussion around exam centers – some smaller schools and Kura are not exam centers, and sometimes needing to travel is a barrier to learners – so how can those barriers be overcome? Would online assessment mean more students can access assessment from their own school/Kura/Marae? And do students need to be in a big vast hall? Or could they be in a more familiar environment that they feel more comfortable in and so do better…. And even with paper exams, I think it is a shame we shove kids into a hall because it is ‘easier to manage’ either with staffing or timetable changes, rather than give them the best chances of success in environments they fell comfortable with. Personally, when I’m ‘thinking’, I like to sit on the floor and spread out with my laptops and papers all over the show….. I HATED sitting in a desk for 3 hours.

  • about 200 schools have tried one or more online exams to date – some big cohorts and some smaller.
  • Feedback from students has been positive (around 90% strongly agree or agree) – even in instances where technical issues occurred (perhaps because students are more resilient to tech fails than teachers….) although it was acknowledged only about 25% of students who sat the exams completed the feedback forms (which I don’t think it too bad for teenagers!!)
  • Special assessment conditions are a work in progress – text to speech from next year and aiming for speech to text for 2021
  • Any time assessment is still on the radar, but not the immediate future. Will be assessed with the NCEA changes

This also lead to a fun side discussion around some research needing to be done around the timing of assessments…. Is there a magic number for time after learning to have an assessment? How to we promote long term retention? How do we promote skills rather than content ‘regurgitation’? I know from my own teaching that I get frustrated with students who learn something for one assessment, and seemingly can’t remember the skill two months later for another topic (eg writing balanced equations in chemistry…. but there are others). So is assessing straight after the learning always the best option? What are we trying to assess when we assess? How might this look with the changes to assessment with the NCEA review. How might classrooms and learning programs need to change to accomodate varying ‘assessment’ timetables?? I hadn’t really considered the timing of assessments as much as I might have before this meeting and have had several interesting discussions online and in person about what this might mean for different learners, subjects and skills.

  • next target for online exams is languages – there has been some complications with browsers auto-translating!! (I thought this was awesome…..) and then into maths and Science – but how do we move passed substitution
  • for 2019 there are 35 exams online – manly text based as there is confidence that these work as the exams are mostly just substituted for the written exams

Which lead into a really cool (and hopeful) discussion about how online assessment might move on from straight substitution of paper exams into other different ways we could assess students. How could these exams meet the needs of all learners. How could the ‘language’ base of maths problems be removed so it is easier for students to interpret what the questions are actually asking? How could ‘2D’ pictures students are asked to draw or label be redone as animations or VR immersive sessions where students can display their knowledge in different ways? Good an exam have an element of game based design – a pick a path story of sorts? It was a really cool discussion around what assessment could look like, and how might we like to look?

 

So all in all a slightly different meeting with a few more ‘big picture’ ideas than there have been previously. I left with some ideas to ponder and research to do, and some hope around what learning might look like in future

As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and pass anything on to the committee if you have any questions or concerns 🙂 some things don’t fall under the umbrella of the committee, but I’m happy to try and find where issues should go as well.

Have fun

 

 

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