Tag Archives: independent learning

Digital Literacies

Digital literacies, to me, are an enormous part of the shift towards digital technology in the classroom. As educators, there’s a number of traditional literacies that need attention as well as various new literacies that need instruction within our classes. For a Masters of Education (ICT) assignment, I surveyed and interviewed a number of teachers at my current institution to examine their beliefs on digital literacies. I wanted to find out what literacies would be needed by students in their classes.

While reviewing the literature, I set out to make a list of skills that reoccurred throughout the literature (see Digital Literacies list below). Of these digital literacies, I wanted to know the ones that should be implemented within our curriculum. In order the most popular ones were:

  1. Collecting
  2. Information literacy
  3. Communicating
  4. Connecting
  5. Critical thinking and doing
  6. Collaborating
  7. Text production

 

Reasons

It was interesting to note that interviewees and survey respondents not only rationalized the skills to be used within their classes but also in socioeconomic terms as they believed these skills would help their students after graduation in the workplace. Some went so far as understanding digital literacies within a socio-cultural context as these would make them better people functioning together for a better society.

Language teachers gave a range of reasons why these should be considered important for their students. A few teachers mentioned that these skills could be utilized by students to become more autonomous in their language learning. To finish that thought, when asked in the survey for examples, teachers said that students might become more independent when they have collected bookmarks and know the right tools to find the information they are looking for.

Content teachers looked at these skills from more of an academic research perspective. One teacher remarked in an open ended survey question that students always lack the information literacy skills to find the right information and work the text appropriately. I can only guess that this teacher was referring to critical or higher order thinking skills when they said ‘work’.

 

Reflections

I would consider the top seven digital literacies chosen by teachers represent active skills. Yes parts might include consuming, or passive, but the skills could be mostly envisioned to create, to produce, and to develop.

Coming up soon is the start of our iPad implementation. I am going to have a pilot class with students completing all work on the iPad instead of their laptops. It would be interesting to survey and interview the same teachers again to see if their opinions have changed. I noticed that text production is in the top 7 of 15. The iPad has great potential to produce many different digital texts and for teachers to move away from the essay written on Word. Would this result in a higher regard for text production? Time will tell.

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Portfolios to Assess Language Learning

Read by Daniel Y Go

Recently I’ve been reading about portfolios as an alternative form of assessment. Portfolios could be used to assess the experiences of learning instead of testing knowledge of learning. A portfolio should be an ongoing assessment of learning and not just handed in at the end. The teacher plays an important role here to guide the process and interact with the student and their portfolio. This enables the portfolio to reflect the process of learning more than just the product. This portfolio should reflect learning objectives of the course and could certainly act as formative feedback for the student constantly updating them on their progress. Reflection on this development is also crucial to separate a portfolio from activities.

Within language teaching, the portfolio can reflect students’ progression as a language learner. The portfolio won’t necessarily assess their language but will demonstrate their experiences and (hopefully) their improvements in their language learning journey. Each language student has different strengths and weaknesses and teachers can use portfolios to promote self-directed learning so that students target their weaknesses independently. Through work samples or activity/experience documentation, students demonstrate their active interaction with their weaknesses.

Taking the skill of reading as an example I want to share my preliminary thoughts on a portfolio design for assessment purposes. Often classes complete an IELTS activity with a long text and up to 15 questions only. Sometimes teachers incorporate pre- or post-reading activities but there is much language input in the text as all language learning opportunities may not be maximized. The ability to read the text is not being assessed; rather it is the process of learning language stemming from the reading.

Within a portfolio, students might include the reading and their answers to the questions as a start. However, students could engage with the text more and complete some critical reading within which the student discovers more about the text (purpose, inferences, analysis of sections etc…). If a portfolio stopped here, apart from resembling learning activities only, progress may be limited and opportunities to explore the language within the text may be lost.

Students could explicitly notice unknown language, vocabulary or grammar structures, and make an effort to learn and subsequently produce this language. Written or spoken texts could be produced with the student paying attention to the language learnt. The class could use an online forum to talk (written or spoken) about issues or topics from the text with the teacher facilitating (or stirring the conversation) debate or discussion. Students could even drive the interaction by creating new threads or posting their own questions or comments based on the text using the target language. Transcripts, summaries or reflections of these discussions could easily be included in portfolios.

e-Portfolios can be a personalized central collection point for all their digital documentation of learning. Websites or programs that offer e-Portfolio solutions all promote the organization of students’ documents in a range of formats and links to external websites where students’ work has been uploaded. These portfolios can even have a plagiarism checker included to ensure all students submit their own work for their own portfolios. Finally, most e-Portfolios offer a reflection platform to ensure students are working cyclically and not just completing one off activities.

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