NEXT-TELL is an Integrated Project (IP) in the ICT challenge of the 7th framework programme of the EC; its main objective is to provide, through research and development, computational and methodological support to teachers and students.
To bring about our vision of 21st Century classroom learning, NEXT-TELL will work towards these main objectives:
- Articulate a conceptual framework for designing and implementing methods that can be used to formatively assess ICT-enhanced learning and to negotiate the assessment process amongst stakeholders.
- Provide resources and ICT support for teachers and students to develop learning activities and appraisal methods appropriate for 21st Century learning based on this conceptual framework.
- Provide IT support in the classroom so that teachers and students have available nuanced information about students’ learning when it is needed and in a format that is supportive of decision making, thus optimizing levels of stimulation, challenge, and feedback.
- Provide IT support for making students’ activities in informal learning places – and in general in the “learning ecology” outside of school – part of ‘accountable work’, thus building on students’ interests, fostering their identity development and supporting their social networks.
- Foster in-service teachers’ professional development by providing new methods and tools forlearning from students’ learning and for learning from peers’ teaching.
- Increase a school’s capacity for data-driven decision making by means of leadershipdevelopment, including ICT support for the strategic planning of teachers’ professional development.
NEXT-TELL’s formost goal is to provide an innovation platform, used by teachers to continuously and collaboratively innovate ICT-enhanced formative classroom assessment. To achieve this, NEXT-TELL provides method and tool support on three levels:
- For the teacher (and for students) in the class, and for homework, to help with pedagogical decision making (feedback, instructional planning);
- For groups of teachers conducting inquiries into students’ learning with the aim to improve pedagogy and use of ICT in their teaching;
- For principals and head teachers to strategically align ICT with pedagogical goals of their school.
The Next-Tell approach is composed of six layers:
Starting from the ECAAD layer, where assessments get developed and integrated into learning activity sequences, in the learning environment these activities get enacted by students, and information relevant for formative assessment (as defined in the ECAAD planning phase) gets recorded by the tracking tools. Learning products get saved in the E-portfolio. A part of the information tracked gets further interpreted in terms of students’ knowledge, skills, and abilities and is displayed in the Open Learner Model. Information in the OLM, along with available other student and learning relevant data available to teachers gets in depth-analysed by the TISL process (Teachers’ Inquiries into Students’ Learning), guided to some extent by the school’s information needs as resulting from an strategic view of ICT innovation, formulated in the strategic layer with the SPICE tool.
While ICTs are often touted as “solutions” to schools’ “problems”, they more often than not create new problems. One problem we see arising in the ICT- and information-rich classroom (with the 1:1 classroom as the pinnacle) is information overload and knowledge fragmentation.
The picture below illustrates clearly the challenge in the technology-rich classroom: How is the teacher supposed to keep track of what his students (we only see three, but there are about 20 more) do, what they understand, what they grapple with, when and with respect to what they need help, what to provide as feedback? Clearly, the teacher needs to be supported by classroom technology in tracking students’ activities. But this is not enough! To give timely feedback and make decisions rapidly, the teacher needs to get information about changes of students’ knowledge, skills, abilities, not only their activities. In other words, effective classroom tools need to support the teacher in formative assessment.
Our vision of the 21st Century classroom is that of a technology- and data-rich environment that supports teachers and students to use various sources of information generated in the classroom and during homework in pedagogical decision-making. Such an information infrastructure will improve instruction, diagnosis, workflow, and productivity as well as enhance collaboration and communication among students, teachers, and other stakeholders, especially parents. Teachers in particular will be supported in their function as diagnosticians who have to make constantly and rapidly decisions in a highly dynamic and complex environment. NEXT-TELL aims at bringing this vision to life.
The main concepts feeding into this vision are: Cloud computing, Open Learner Models, formative classroom assessment, teacher-led research, and strategic alignment of ICT.
(1) The learning environment resides in the Cloud
The recently published 2011 Horizon Report K-12 identifies as one of the two major trends for the years 2011-2012 (in addition to mobile computing) the adoption of cloud computing in schools: “As IT support becomes more and more decentralized, the technologies we use are increasingly based not on school servers, but in the cloud. The continuing acceptance and adoption of cloud-based applications and services is changing not only the ways we configure and use software and file storage, but even how we conceptualize those functions.” In NEXT-TELL, the idea that educational applications reside in the cloud are are available as (web) services is foundational. Currently, we work on providing automatic feedback on writing in English as a Foreign Language using Google Docs, and on supporting learning about data visusalisation in Google Spreadsheet. On the more technical front, work is underway to integrate tools such as the Google Apps automatically into educational workflows. See Deliverable D2.1 for more information. The use of cloud applications and open APIs allows also for the tracking of students’ activities, which is essential for ICT-embedded formative assessment (see (3) below and Deliverable D3.1).
(2) Open Learner Models are the key information providers
In the context of NEXT-TELL the learner model may be considered a collaborative information resource that contains inferences about a student and their learning. Opening the learner model (allowing the student to inspect information about themselves, through visualisation) is a state-of-the art method for supporting students’ learning. NEXT-TELL will develop and research OLM representations that support both the highly dynamic decision making in the classroom, as well as the more reflective, analytical planning of personalised learning paths. More information can be found in Deliverable 4.1.
(3) ICT needs to support formative classroom assessment
Teachers, students and parents need more diagnostic information on learning than can be provided by standards-based testing, and by high-stakes assessment. At the same time, we cannot devote more time to assessment because it cuts into time for learning, which becomes increasingly scarce. Assessment, hence, needs to be embedded in learning activities, and dynamic. NEXT-TELL is developing a number of embedded assessment methods that focus in particular on 21st Century skills. One example is the use of competency-based Knowledge Space Theory (cbKST) as an ICT-integrated assessment method applied to the crucial competence of graphical representations literacy. See Deliverable D2.1 for more information
(4) Teachers need to be supported in continuous innovation of assessment
A core element of our vision is that in order to integrate ICT deeply into teaching and learning, teachers must be the drivers, not only the recipients, of innovation. Specifically, teachers need to be supported in developing new ICT-integrated classroom assessment methods, and to share these methods with colleagues across schools and system layers. We employ two strategies to help realizing this vision: Support for the development of assesment methods, and support for research into the use of these methods. The first strategy is operationalised by developing a methodology for assessment design (we build on the Evidence Centred Design methodology) plus software tools that support this methodology and the deployment in the classroom: The ECAAD methodology and tool support, further described in Deliverable D2.1.
A second element so support teachers in becoming innovators of formative assessment methods and pedagogies takes the form of a teacher-led inquiry methodology, which we call TISL (Teacher Inquiry into Student Learning). The preliminary modelling of the TISL approach comprises these elements: (1) framed by principles of action, design, context and inquiry in teacher research; which (2) supported by advanced learning technologies; (3) contributes to an evidence-based approach (4) to innovation, assessment, and teachers’ guided professional development in the school setting. For more details, see Deliverable 5.1.
(5) ICT needs to be aligned with schools’ strategies
Finally, school leadership is essential for any sustained innovation in schools, pedagogical, technical, or organisational. With this in mind, NEXT-TELL will provide a methodology, based on the Balanced Score Card approach, for ICT planning in schools: SPICE (Strategic Planning with ICts in Education). SPICE entails a strategic orientation of the use of ICT: What goals does a school want to achieve with ICT in terms of learning aspirations, organisational objectives, and human capacity targets? The implementation of this methodology in a school will be supported by the SPICE software tool. Deliverable 5.1 has more on this.
WP1 is concerned with the management of the overall project and also with controls of quality assurance. It is carried out by JRS, who has successfully coordinated to date a large number of EU projects.
WP2 is all about ECAAD method development, which deals with ICT based classroom assessmentband design, and how to integrate assessment activities ICT based learning into a learning sequence. The conceptual modelling will be take a general form and be further specialized for two important areas of school learning, STEM disciplines and language proficiency (mainly English for speakers of other languages).
WP3 to WP5 all develop particular layers and tools, taking requirements and feedback from the pilot studies (WP6) and feeding them back as regular tool releases. WP3 is responsible for implementing the technology for the evidence layer, i.e. to record learning activities automatically, analyse learning activities in various forms and to provide general e-portfolio functionality. WP4 addresses the issue of modelling student learning, and will involve the development of a multi-dimensional open student model (OSM). WP5 will develop methodologies and provide tools supporting teachers’ learning and will implement them as TISL, a platform and set of tools for Teachers’ Inquiry into Students’ Learning. TISL will be designed in alignment with a general method for teacher-led inquiry and research. WP5 also includes a new certification framework for a fine-grained certification for teachers.
WP6 runs the pilots studies and associated evaluation based on the results and tools of WP2 to WP5, broken down into researcher-led design studies and teacher-led design studies. Overall more than 40 schools have already been contacted and are willing to participate in these studies, in particular for the researcher-led design studies. During the project this set of schools will be enlarged significantly to run the teacher-led design studies.
WP7 performs the necessary training activities, which have a high importance within NEXT-TELL and therefore are handled as separate work-package. In addition the training activities build an important part of the NEXT-TELL dissemination and exploitation strategy, distributed the generated knowledge to a larger community.
WP8 is responsible for dissemination, establishing and maintaining a user community and the identification and formulation of exploitation opportunities.
Project start: September 2010
Project end: August 2014
Number of partners: 12
Number of countries involved: 7 (AT, UK, NO, DK, PL, IT, DE)
Co-funded by the European Union under the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) theme of the 7th Framework Programme for R&D (FP7)
If you would like to get in touch with us please contact us at the NEXT-TELL-office.
+43 (316) 876-1136
JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH
DIGITAL – Institute for Information and Communication Technologies
MTO Psychologische Forschung und Beratung GmbH