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Increased engagement & achievement – Where is the evidence?

A final reflection from NorthGlen on the progress made towards raising student engagement and achievement through eLearning tools and strategies.

 

Initial Resistance

Teachers who were unfamiliar with the attractions of the cyberworld responded as expected. Their responses included:

  • A lack of belief in the educational value of eLearning (‘whatever that is’)
  • The perception of ICT to be at best a tool for learning and at worst a distracter
  • Fear of embarking on use of ICT that would reveal their digital immigrant status (Do you mean that on top of everything else we are all going to have to use powerpoint?)
  • The cry for more computers in classrooms

 

What are the learning needs of our students?

We sought ways to make learning accessible, seamless, and stimulating. We wanted to increase engagement but failed to establish a clear target group. This meant that reluctant teachers were quick to point out:

  • Not all kids have computers and effective internet access at home
  • Not all kids want to learn using ICT

Cluster leaders had to convince teachers that engaging even small numbers of students who might not have been motivated to work in more traditional ways was a valid measure of success. And surely engaged learners are going to achieve better? But how can that be quantified? How do we know that the students who are using Moodle would not have been working anyway?

 

What are our own learning needs?

The first challenge was how to engage teachers.

Reassurances were needed. Skill levels needed to be raised. Successes needed to be shared, showcased and celebrated. Once students began to engage in activities where they had the option of using ICT tools teachers were easier to convince.

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Teaching Actions / Design of tasks & experiences

We have come a long way in 3 years to the point where use of phones to capture and storyboard steps in a Science experiment is encouraged – not just tolerated, where students collaborating on a task set up a facebook page to gain agreement on their approach before bravely posting their group effort on Moodle for the teacher to see:

Elearning is incorporated into most schemes of work as an integral part of teaching and learning in both schools.

Evidence of the use of eLearning strategies is a requirement of performance review.

Moodle has become in many subjects more than a repository for resources and course outlines with increasing use of interactive and collaborative tools.

 Refer to NorthGlen Group resource pages for examples of what is happening in classrooms.

  

Impact of our changed actions

The concept of students accessing resource material at midnight through Moodle was laughable initially. Three years on it is not so ridiculous.

 

So where is the evidence?

Are students who use eLearning tools more motivated than other students?

Are students who use eLearning tools more motivated than they would have been using traditional learning strategies?

Are they achieving better results?

How do we know?

 Typical comments from students include:

“I think it’s cool to have my work marked before everyone else has handed their paper copies in.”

“It’s easier for me to learn when I get to go over the resources again in my own time.”

 

We do know:

  • Students in subjects where ICT tools are integrated into delivery are in regular contact with teachers asking questions seeking clarification
  • Students are collaborating with each other on-line
  • Students are increasingly familiar with the concept of electronic submission of assessment materials and so are well prepared for the reality of tertiary study

 

There is a whole new ‘inquiry’ needed to establish the extent of the impact on students but our sense is that in our 2 schools more students are better equipped for life long learning. More students are using technology as a tool for learning. Wireless broadband is around the next corner. The learning journey will continue.