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My Rambling Thoughts on Teaching and Learning

ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool

Introduction

Language teachers and students have a plethora of digital tools available to them to assist their learning of language.  Selecting the appropriate technology for use in the classroom and beyond has its challenges for teachers.  There are many different options, and often, it can become overwhelming to select the right tool for the learning environment.  In the past, the focus of technology in the classroom has been to engage or excite students (Kolb, 2017).  As a result, the frameworks available to evaluate digital tools do not always focus on good pedagogy but rather, the excitement it creates for students and often forget the importance of the learning objectives (Kolb, 2017). The purpose of this report is to develop a digital resource evaluation tool which can be used by language teachers to evaluate digital resources so they can effectively incorporate them into a teaching plan.  The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool has been developed to assist language teachers in improving their pedagogy and integration of technology in the classroom.  This report will outline the tool along with how to use, interpret and apply the findings and successfully implement the use of technology with purpose in the classroom.

ACUTES Digital Resources Evaluation Tool

Instructions on How to Use the Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool asks teachers to answer a series of questions about the digital resource they are looking to implement in their language curriculum.  Each question is allocated a score from zero to three based on the answer.  If the answer is “Yes” it earns two points, if the answer is “No” it earns no points and if the answer is “Maybe” then it earns one point.  For the questions which ask the teacher to “List advantages/benefits” and “List disadvantages/costs” teachers allocate three points if the positives outweigh the negatives and no points if negatives outweigh positives.  From there, each aspect is given a total score, and an overall score is then calculated at the bottom.  The final total can be anywhere from zero to seventy.

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool is as follows:

Instructions on How to Interpret and Apply the Results

There are a number of ways the results from the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool can be applied.  Ultimately, the results are a guide for language teachers to determine which particular digital resource may be most effective and are dependent on which aspects (Access, Curriculum, Usability, Teachers, Engagement or Students) an educator places more importance.  Overall, each aspect should be considered independently before looking at the evaluation as a whole.  When making the final evaluation, teachers need to make their final decision based on how many red, yellow or green sections are in their heat map along with the total score.  The following table provides a summary of the interpretation and application of the results.

Each language teacher will value different aspects of the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool, which may change the final decision made about the digital resource. 

The Research Behind the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool

The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool is based on several evaluation techniques and frameworks.  The main frameworks include the SAMR model (Pride, 2016), the TPACK Model (Koehler, 2012), the Tripe E Framework (Kolb, 2017), and the Online Technology Tool Selection Criteria (Guth, 2016). 

Access

When choosing a digital resource, it is only beneficial to students if they can all access the resource.  There are many facets to access from price and affordability, to disability considerations, to ensure that student data is not compromised (Condon, 2017; Miller, 2019).  Language teachers need to consider if the resources are cost-effective while delivering a benefit to learning (Miller, 2019).  Another consideration is that students need to be able to access the digital resource on the device they choose to use, regardless of the operating system (Petty, 2017).  This is even more important if the school has a BYOD program.  Finally, it is imperative that language teachers investigate the terms of service; in particular, the minimum age requirements, to consider it is an access opportunity  (Hertz, 2010).

Curriculum

In teaching and learning the curriculum is a significant focus, where the primary concern is that the digital resource fits the curriculum (Koehler, 2012).  The curriculum needs to focus on the learning objectives, knowledge and skills (Koehler, 2012; Kolb, 2019b).  Planned and purposeful use of technology enhances learning objectives and helps students in the learning process for learning a language, including the skills for reading, writing, speaking and listening (Ferlazzo, 2013).  The technology itself should focus on “avoiding drill and practice” which can have adverse effects on learning outcomes (Kolb, 2019b).  When trying to find digital resources which fit the curriculum and improve learning outcomes, there must be evidence or research which supports the implementation (Condon, 2017; Miller, 2019).  This also ensures that the use of digital resources especially in a language classroom is not just substituting good pedagogy with technology for the sake of adding technology to the curriculum (Petty, 2017).  Technology should assist in redefining a task (Petty, 2017).

Usability

Integrating technology into a language classroom can quickly become complicated when students have limited English (Hertz, 2010).  Usability is a high priority, and a digital resource needs to be appropriate for the age and learning level of the students (Koehler, 2012).  If the technology is going to interrupt the learning process or the time it takes to use is cumbersome, this leads to “the tool detracting from the focus of the lesson” (Petty, 2017).  As a result, the digital tool needs to be easy to navigate and have training and support so students can focus on the learning of language skills (Guth, 2016; Miller, 2019; Petty, 2017).  Learning to use new tools takes time, usability along with the ability to save progress and partially finished work is essential (Hertz, 2010).

Teachers

When evaluating a digital resource, teachers need to take the time to investigate the resource for themselves.  Part of this investigation needs to look at the advantages and disadvantages of the resource.  Educators know the content, pedagogical and technological knowledge they possess, and as a result, they are the best judge of the costs and benefits for them as teachers (Koehler, 2012).  As educators, the best source of advice is our teaching colleagues and specialists in the field (Miller, 2019).  As language learning is a personal journey, educators need to ensure that the selected digital resource has the ability to be flexible and cater to diverse needs (Anderson, 2020a; The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning, 2017).   The last component for educators is to make the workload more manageable, from tracking student response to embedding the digital resource into the school’s LMS (Guth, 2016).

Engagement

There is a perception in education that adding technology will engage students.  The danger of this is that “students can quickly get distracted when using technology tools; engagement in using a device is not the same as engagement in learning.” (Kolb, 2019a, p. 22).  When looking at the engagement aspect of evaluating digital resources, it is crucial to focus on making sure that students see the resource as part of the learning not as an add on to the learning (Kolb, 2017).  In order to improve student engagement, technology and digital resources, authentic tasks, collaboration and creativity need to support the language learning along with a healthy dose of competition (Ferlazzo, 2013; Guth, 2016; Kolb, 2017, 2019b).

Students

While teachers must consider the benefits and costs of using the digital resource for themselves, they also need to consider the benefits and costs of using the resource from the point of view of the students learning a new language (Hertz, 2010).  One area students want, is to retain control over the content that they create, this makes it extremely important to make sure that when selecting a digital resource that they can retain the sole IP rights to the content that they create (Guth, 2016).  When working with English language learners, in order to improve their speaking, reading, writing and listening skills they need to have plenty of opportunities to get feedback, as such this is a significant component of the student aspect (Carhill-Poza, 2017).

Conclusion

With a plethora of digital tools available to assist language teachers and students in English language learning.  A tool like the ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool can help language educators come to a decision about the right tool for their learning environment.  By moving away from having technology for technologies sake, teachers can ensure that their teaching is driven by sound pedagogy and the importance of focusing on the learning objectives of each and every lesson knowing that the technology they have chosen meets all the needs in the classroom.

References

Anderson, S. (2020a, 21st January) Skype in the Classroom at JPC/Interviewer: J.-A. Angell.

Anderson, S. (2020b, 4th February) Testing The ACUTES Digital Resource Evaluation Tool/Interviewer: J.-A. Angell.

Carhill-Poza, A. (2017). Re-examining English Language Teaching and Learning for Adolescents Through Technology. System, 67, 111-120. doi:10.1016/j.system.2017.05.003

Condon, L. (2017). 3 Steps to Choosing the Right EdTech For Your Classroom. Retrieved from https://getatomi.com/staffroom/3-steps-to-choosing-edtech-tools-for-your-classroom

Ferlazzo, L. (2013, 14th July 2013). The Best Advice on Using Education Technology. Retrieved from http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2013/07/14/the-best-advice-on-using-education-technology/

Guth, W. (2016, 11 November). Web 2.0 DIgital Tools Selection Criteria.  Retrieved from http://dl.sps.northwestern.edu/blog/2016/11/web-2-0-digital-tools-selection-criteria/

The Handbook of Technology and Second Language Teaching and Learning. (2017). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Hertz, M. B. (2010). Which Technology Tool Do I Choose? Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/best-tech-tools

Koehler, M. (2012, 24 September). TPACK Explained. Retrieved from http://matt-koehler.com/tpack2/tpack-explained/

Kolb, L. (2017). Learning First, Technology Second : The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons. Eugene, UNITED STATES: International Society for Tech in Ed.

Kolb, L. (2019a). SMART Classroom-Tech INTEGRATION: By asking the right questions, school leaders can coach teachers to use technology to drive deeper learning. Educational Leadership, 76(5), 20-26. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.usq.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=134555676&site=ehost-live

Kolb, L. (2019b). Triple E Framework. Retrieved from https://www.tripleeframework.com/

Microsoft. (2020a). Getting Started with Skype in the Classroom Educator Guide. Retrieved from https://1drv.ms/b/s!Ah6-kSoVK_2KnD7iWVsk0kfE9osp?e=HztzFS

Microsoft. (2020b). Skype in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://education.skype.com/

Miller, M. D. (2019, 23rd August 2019). How to Make Smart Choices About Tech for Your Course. Retrieved from https://www.chronicle.com/interactives/08262019-adviceguide-tech-choices

Petty, B. (2017, 25th January 2017). How to Choose the Right EdTech Tools for Your Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.fractuslearning.com/choose-right-edtech-tools-classroom/

Pride, C. (2016). SAMR modelling as a scaffold for classroom technology. Metaphor, 2(June), 43-44. Retrieved from https://search-informit-com-au.ezproxy.usq.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=161509039091674;res=IELHSS

Putnam, D. (2001). Authentic Writing Using Online Resources: Selling Our Words in the Community. The English Journal, 90(5), 102-106. doi:10.2307/821862

Saqib Khan, M., Ayaz, M., Khan, S., & Khan, D. (2016). Using Skype To Develop English Learners’ Speaking Motivation. 28, 41-48. Storybird. (2020). Storybird – Artful storytelling. Retrieved from https://storybird.com/

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Speaking and Listening From a Distance!

Skype in the Classroom is a service offered by Microsoft that enables teachers to connect their classrooms with experts, other teachers and classes all around the world (Microsoft, 2020b).  Skype in the Classroom requires a teacher to visit the Skype in the Classroom website (www.skypeintheclassroom.com), sign up using an Office 365 or Microsoft Account, and choose how you would like your class to participate and set up your classroom profile and availability (Microsoft, 2020a).  From here, you can participate in virtual field trips, guest speaker sessions, classroom conversations, collaborative project, special events or a game of Mystery Skype (Microsoft, 2020b).  With language learners, Skype can “play a pivotal role in the development of English learning proficiency” (Saqib Khan, Ayaz, Khan, & Khan, 2016, p. 41).  Skype can assist with the development of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills for EAL/D students (Saqib Khan et al., 2016)

Strengths

  • It is easy to connect with teachers or guest speakers from all over the world – the search feature is excellent.
  • It is free.
  • The use of video assists students in being able to improve their comprehension as they can look for and use non-verbal cues.
  • The resources available on the Skype in the Classroom Site especially for playing a game of Mystery Skype are comprehensive and provide you with OneNote templates, printouts and lesson plans for the lessons surrounding the game, not just for the game itself.
  • Uses equipment we all have – can operate off a phone or computer.
  • Allows students to connect with guest speakers with whom they may never have had the chance in the past.  For example, what better way to learn about the weather than from a meteorologist or learn about a new culture from those who live the lifestyle.
  • Once connected Skype has the option to turn on subtitles to assist with understanding.

Weaknesses

  • Being able to access a guest speaker/class at a time which would suit your class.
  • Classes/guest speakers sometimes do not turn up at the time organised.
  • Students are unable to organise a Skype in the Classroom session as it has to be hosted by the educators.
  • Relies on the quality of the equipment (webcam, internet connection) of both parties, which means sometimes there are issues with hearing or seeing the other side well.

Teaching and Learning

Skype in the Classroom is accessible for all classrooms, from students who are in Preschool to Year 12 including those students who have limited language skills.  The amount of teacher input may change depending on the skill level of the students.  Skype in the Classroom can fit in with any curriculum it just comes down to selecting the right guest speaker or class to connect with inline with the curriculum that you are currently working on with the students (Anderson, 2020).  The idea behind using Skype in the Classroom is to improve the language skills (especially speaking and listening) of students within the context of what they are learning.

References

Anderson, S. (2020, 21st January) Skype in the Classroom at JPC/Interviewer: J.-A. Angell.

Microsoft. (2020a). Getting Started with Skype in the Classroom Educator Guide. Retrieved from https://1drv.ms/b/s!Ah6-kSoVK_2KnD7iWVsk0kfE9osp?e=HztzFS

Microsoft. (2020b). Skype in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://education.skype.com/

Saqib Khan, M., Ayaz, M., Khan, S., & Khan, D. (2016). Using Skype To Develop English Learners’ Speaking Motivation. 28, 41-48.

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Welcome to 2020!

2019 disappeared in a blur and in a couple of weeks I will be starting the 2020 school year. This year is going to be an interesting one. My second baby is finishing high school and the journey of being the first cohort through Queensland’s new ATAR system.

My workload in 2019 saw me having six senior subjects and while I have followed three of the classes into 2020 my workload has reduced (at least for the first six months). Not to mention that I am only teaching Economics. I am looking forward to being able to stay in the same discipline all day instead of switching from discipline to discipline each lesson – less chance of confusion! So while still all senior subject it is all ECONOMICS! This means that I can focus on my pedagogy instead.

I know at points last year I lost my way in this area. I at times my lessons have been put together at the last minute due to the number I was teaching and the reduced time I had to prepare. I know this sounds like a lot of excuses however when your a teacher sometimes time is what makes or breaks your planning.

As well as this I will be continuing on my Masters of Education in Online and Distributive Learning and hoping to complete three subjects along with my Micro-Masters in Leading Educational Innovation and Improvement.

Yet again a busy year with lots of potentials. I hope you will join me along the way as I share some of my findings and understandings with you.

Image by cocoparisienne from Pixabay
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Authentic Learning Authentic Language

Learning a second language is not an easy task.  I know I tried it for many years both in foreign language classes (French, Japanese and Spanish) and in a foreign country (France).  I have much awe for the students in my classes who leave their native country (and home) to come and complete their senior schooling at our school in Australia.  Not only are they trying to understand the content areas I am trying to teach them, but they are doing it in a language which is not their own.  As a result, anything that I can do to support them in their learning environment, my classroom, the better.  Like every teacher, I want my students to achieve the best they can.  For an EAL/D student to be successful in my classroom, I must incorporate Pedagogy, Curriculum and Technology in such a way that it creates authentic learning experiences both in my subjects and in language learning. 

ACARA offers an EAL/D framework (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2014, pp. 23-28) which has influenced my approach to teaching all my students as it is not just the EAL/D students who require language learning.  To best understand my approach to language learning watch the short video below.

My Learners

During 2019 I have had a Year 10 Economic class.  The sixteen students in this class are between 15 and 18 years old.  They are a close-knit class of which two-thirds are female and one third are male.  Only three students in the class are native English speakers with three more students ascertained at a native speaker level.  Those who are not established native speakers have a minimum proficiency level of five on the NLLIA bandscales (Education Queensland, 2018).  The international students are all from Asian cultural backgrounds with first languages including Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Indonesian, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Thai.  The native English speakers are all Australian.  Two students are gifted and often require extension.  Other than a language barrier, there are no learning support needs students.  The students are at a large Independent K-12 school in a metropolitan area of Brisbane, Australia.  The school is in a middle socio-economic area.

So, What Does This Look Like in My Classroom?

My approach to language learning is to use authentic learning experiences which focus on literacy and utilise digital tools to enhance learning.  As part of the Senior Economics Syllabus students are required to be able to create extended “responses that communicate economic meaning using data, information, graphs and diagrams to suit the intended purpose” (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018, p. 18).  Students are required to respond to an economic question asking them to evaluate and analyse stimulus material making connections to the theory and content they have learnt during the unit.  Students participate in this learning goal at the end of each unit of study.  When it is first introduced in unit one, it is a seven-lesson learning experience.

The Learning Experience

Students participate in a Skype Guest Speaker Session with an economist who provides data about the current state of the Australian Economy surrounding the current topic of study.  As the guest speaker presents their information and data students partake in shared note-taking using OneNote.  When graphs and diagrams are provided, students use screenshots and annotate them as the speaker explains them.  At the end of the session, the economist asks students a question asking them to write a 400-word response which analyses and evaluates an economic event or policy which the economist discussed using the presentation as the stimulus material.  From here, the students participate in a workshop which explicitly teaches the writing skills required to write a response which communicates economic meaning.  Over the next few lessons, students are working in small groups on a collaborative Word document constructing a joint answer to the economist’s question.  A follow-up Skype session is organised for students to present their responses to the economist and receive authentic feedback surrounding their understanding of economic concepts and language.  After this, students can improve their responses and continue to practice their skills until they feel confident that they can answer a similar question in exam conditions.  By utilising technology and connecting to an expert, the exercise of writing a response to an economic question becomes an authentic experience which also improves language learning.  According to Kessler (2018), these experiences support students “in developing autonomy over their own learning and can increase their motivation and also contribute to their engagement” (p. 207).

My Role As A Digital Age Teacher

During this learning experience, my role as a teacher changes from being a guide on the side to learning with the students to being the sage on the stage.  During the economist’s presentation, I’d be learning with the students, thus focusing on the learning relationships (andragogy).  This lesson also focuses on building shared knowledge and active involvement (refer to the model above).  The focus of the workshop is the explicit teaching of the genre-specific writing skills required in economics. It is not only good pedagogy for EAL/D students; it sets up all students for success when it comes to writing economic responses (Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, 2018).  While the joint responses allow students to work on demonstration of persistence, active involvement and time management, for language learners it can assist them, especially when struggling with writer’s block to look at their group member’s contributions and then build on those ideas (Kessler, 2018, p. 208).  These collaborative writing practices and knowing that the economist is going to supply them with feedback encourages them to “participate and support peer and self-editing” (Kessler, 2018, p. 209).  Collaborative writing also allows me to support those students who require further language instruction in a small group setting.  With authentic feedback from the economist students take control of their learning (heutagogy) and continue to practice, prepare and revise the language skills they have gained in the process (see model).

Digital Tools

These digital tools (Skype, OneNote, and a Collaborative Word Document) have been chosen due to their collaborative nature along with the prevalence of them in various professional settings.  Collaborative tools are becoming more and more commonplace, and we as teachers, must incorporate them into our classroom settings (Kessler, 2018, p. 214).

Conclusion

At the end of the day, all students benefit from implementing authentic language learning supported by using digital tools along with having access to professionals in the disciplines they are learning.  My next steps will be to share these collaborations with other schools and look at setting up collaborative projects on a variety of topics within the Senior Economic Course.

References

Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, A. (2014). English as an Additional Language or Dialect Teacher Resource. Australian Government Retrieved from Http://docs.acara.edu.au/resources/EALD_Overview_and_Advice_revised_February_2014.pdf

Education Queensland. (2018). Bandscales State Schools (Queensland). (12/111572). Brisbane: Queensland Government Retrieved from https://education.qld.gov.au/student/Documents/bandscales-eald-learners.pdf

Kessler, G. (2018). Technology and the Future of Language Teaching. Foreign Language Annals, 51(1), 205-218. doi:10.1111/flan.12318

Queensland Curriculum and Assessment Authority, Q. (2018). Economics 2019 v1.1 General Senior Syllabus. Brisbane: Queensland Government

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Language Learning & Teaching With Web2 Tools

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So the task was to use a digital tool to design, develop and share a visual model showing my personal structure or schema for language learning and teaching through digital and/or Web 2 tools.

I would love to know your thoughts, especially if you are a teacher with EAL/D students.

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