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Research around Learning Tools - improving literacy in reading and writing

Started by Sam McNeill 24 Oct 2017 10:23am () Replies (4)

Kia ora katoa,

I want to link to a review I've done of a recent research paper around whether or not Learning Tools (free via Microsoft) can support the literacy of students. This was conducted by http://www.katherinemcknight.com/ for RTI International.

My review, along with links to both the original research and my annotated copy, is included below:


Full disclosure - for those who I don't know, I joined MSFT this year as part of their education team, but have a background in teaching both English and Social Sciences in Decile 2-3 high schools, as well as ICT Director at an independent schools in NZ.

What I found most interesting about this research is it is a response to feedback from schools saying they want quicker turnaround on research that is relevant and up to date. This may, arguably, reduce the robustness of the research - I invite you to make up your own mind. I also call out the tendency of potential bias in any research around a commercial product, but I think the author certainly cautions the reader appropriately.

I know there are many literacy experts in this forum so certainly welcome any feedback or insights you may want to share in response.




  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 25 Oct 2017 12:29pm ()

    Thanks Sam, again you’ve given us something rich to consider. Thank you for the full disclosure and the openness to note any bias in the report - very important, teachers will see right-through anything that doesn’t reflect our reality.

    Two things for me, both relate to accessibility.

    The rigor of longitudinal vs term-short term research. Personally, research has more weight when we're asking authentic questions and having this in a NZ context. Sometimes it can have more weight with numbers sitting behind it (1000 in a case study rather than 30) etc. I found the questions in this study very useful, as they also touch on teacher pedagogy. Having been reinvigorated by the messages from Dr Ann Milne, it prompts me to think...we may need to be extra careful that any research doesn’t perpetuate a status quo for Pākehā children or ignore some of the findings that shows a divide growing for Māori and Pasifika students in Aotearoa. Accessibility is the key idea here.

    Then there’s accessibility for all – where using digital tools to access text (read, write, listen) can level the playing field for those students who would normally be at a disadvantage in a traditional sense. Those are the good-news, tearjerker stories that make great case studies interesting – whether they’re long term or short term. That’s when evidence-base practice can make a difference for learners; teachers engaging in professional inquiry know this well.

    I’m hoping you can come to our 4min smack-down on the 16th November Sam – where teachers are invited to share stories, resources, tools, evidence of how technologies can make learning more accessible for those on the fringes of learning. Be warned, you've only got 4mins! wink

    smiley The Great 4min Smackdown: What about the fringes? 16 November, 3.45pm - 4.45pm

    Time limit: 4 minutes! Bring along one good piece of software, app or idea to share for an audience that may not always have their learning needs met. For example, any Te Reo Apps, assistive technologies? This will be a fast and furious smackdown sharing session. We'd love for you to share your resources/ideas/experiences during this webinar as well as in a shared Google presentation. REGISTER NOW!

    This webinar will be hosted in Adobe Connect and supported by a thread (and shared presentation) in the Technologies group.

  • Sam McNeill (View all users posts) 25 Oct 2017 1:01pm ()

    Kia ora Tessa,

    Good feedback and agree that accessibility (in all its various guises) is critical in ensuring the best educational outcomes for students.

    Thanks for the invite to the 4min Smackdown - normally something I'd love to attend, however I'm in Kuala Lumpur that week at BETT Asia so may struggle to dial in with the timezone difference as that will be smack in the middle of the morning sessions.

    I finished off my day yesterday reading the reflections from Andreas Schleicher on the recent Qudwa Global Teachers Forum - this is also was a great read:


    My thoughts on it are here.

    Andreas' quote that really stood out for me was:

    Knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies. But there is no central bank that prints this currency; we cannot inherit this currency, and we cannot produce it through speculation. We can only develop it through sustained effort and investment by people and for people. And no school system can achieve that without attracting, developing and sustaining great teaching talent. (emphasis my own)

    He raises the interesting tension that exists between government-led national curriculum which invariably move slowly and can be change resistant, vs the need for pedagogy to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of future-ready skills and employment. I don't have the answers here but certainly enjoyed the thought provoking read.



  • Tessa Gray (View all users posts) 09 Nov 2017 2:29pm ()

    Right-on the same page there Sam! There's a real challenge from Andreas and the findings from PISA to direct our learning experiences (and assessment practices) towards developing global competencies. Very powerful and compelling Q&A session. /discussion/view/974111?orderby=latest

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