NEXT-TELL aims at developing teaching scenarios to support students’ 21st century skills, The term 21st century skills can be used as an umbrella for interdisciplinary skills that become more and more important in today’s society (critical interaction with and examination of media, collaborative learning and working, self-determined and reflective learning).
Scenarios developed within NEXT-TELL comprise assessment methods and tools that make use of assessment for learning/formative assessment in order to appraise these skills.
- Professional Skills:
The communication of professional skills is one central concern of schools and represents the expertise of teachers. NEXT-TELL offers cooperative support to develop formative assessment practices in the field of STEM subjects (e.g., mathematics in google spreadsheets) as well as TESL (e.g., English in immersive learning environments).
- Media skills:
Students need media skills to interact self-determined and reflective with media as well as examine them responsibly, critically and creatively. NEXT-TELL aims at supporting not only students’ but also teachers’ media usage in a formative way. Thereby, we concentrate on media usages that focus on a generative knowledge acquisition. For instance, teachers can gain knowledge on how to compile a presentation within NEXT-TELL or can be further educated and accompanied during class when setting up and organizing an ePortfolio.
- Collaborative skills:
Today’s work life requests collaboration among people when mastering challenges (e.g., constructing a building, developing new pharmaceuticals, school development or production of energy). NEXT-TELL supports schools in giving their students adequate learning opportunities to develop such collaborative skills (e.g., how to moderate a group work?).
- Learning skills:
In order to support students in the process of lifelong learning, it is important to give them the opportunity to learn how to direct, organise and determine their learning. Although professional skills are important, it is one aim of NEXT-TELL to communicate the main steps of a self-determined and reflective learning. NEXT-TELL would like to use the spectrum of curricula and self-determined learning goals in a constructive way. Important phases in the process of self-determined learning are shown in the figure of the cycle of adaptive teaching.
NEXT-TELL tries to strengthen formative assessment practices and collaborative learning in schools. Since formative assessment practices are difficult to implement in school settings, it is our vision to facilitate these with the help of ICT.
ICT can help to gather assessment data, automatize data evaluation and to visualize them in a meaningful way.
The advantages of technology come to fore when implemented in the overall context. The figure of “The adaptable teaching cycle” below illustrates the roles of ICT and of the human when integrating formative assessment into the classroom.
NEXT-TELL distinguishes six steps in the adaptive teaching cyle:
- collecting data
- analyzing data
- visualizing data
- interpretation and reflection of learning and
- negotiating with others (e.g., teacher-student).
Formative assessment is always transparent. This means the student is informed (and maybe can even participate in the decision making process) which learning aims there are to achieve throughout his/her learning process. Ideally, learning aims are communicated as competencies with a corresponding scale of achievement. Rubrics are one way of approaching this. To be appropriately supported by ICT, it is necessary to clarify beforehand which tool should collect which data.
NEXT-TELL offers the method of evidence centred activity and appraisal design (ECAAD) for this, which is directly supported by one of our developed tools – the ECAAD planer.
- Collecting data:
There is a lot of data during students’ instruction that could be collected indirectly (e.g., through a digital questionnaire) of directly through the interaction of the students’ with a cloud-based tool. These data can be interpreted accordingly.
Hypothetical, there are no boundaries for a cloud-based instruction. However, the learning management system Moodle has won recognition as a possibility for teachers to accompany their classroom instruction with digital courses.
Apart from that, there is the opportunity to work in cloud based environments like google docs or spreadsheets to use word or spreadsheet processing. Furthermore, classroom instruction could be conducted in an immersive learning environment like OpenSIM. All of the aforementioned tools have in common that they allow collaborative learning.
NEXT-TELL is working on collecting data in an automatized way from these tools to make them accessible to a formative assessment.
- Analyzing data:
In order to document students’ progress on a competency level, it is necessary to relate new data to already existing data of former learning activities. NEXT-TELL makes use of the Open Learner Model (OLM) algorithms to visualize students’ competencies as well as potential challenges and misconceptions throughout the school year. This approach differs from the regular school certificates where students’ performances are represented as a mean grade consisting of four to six exams and oral grades. In an Open Learner Model, new learning activity data are weighted more in order to represent the learning progress of a student.
- Visualizing data:
The main task of the Open Learner Model is to visualize and exemplify the knowledge and the learning process of the student in order to give students, teachers but also parents access to an external representation of students’ knowledge (on a competency level). Therefore, NEXT-TELL would like to find out how these visualizations have to be designed that students can understand them accordingly and that students as well as teachers see them as a helpful source to further plan learning processes. The NEXT-TELL Open Learner Model offers several different visualizations formats without additional work by the user.
- Interpretation and reflection of learning:
Visualizing the learner data serves to purpose to raise awareness in students about their already existing and to be developed competencies. Apart from that the Open Learner Model should facilitate students in reflecting about their learning processes and also in planning further learning steps. The metacognitive reflection process is an important step in becoming a self-determined learner.
NEXT-TELLs ePortfolio system Mahara supports students in documenting their learning progess with the help of learning artefacts (these could e.g. constist of the Open Learner Model visualizations). In contrast to Moodle, which is mainly used by the teacher to organize learning processes, Mahara is a student-centred tool where students decide how their profiles look like. Within Mahara students maintain control of their data.
- Negotiating with others:
The last step of the recurring circle should enable exchange and communication between teachers and students. Mahara, for instance, could be used to give continuing feedback to students learning artefacts (if students decide to share their profiles with either teacher, peers or even parents) in a commenting way in order to support their learning progress.
The six steps of the adaptable teaching circle can be seen as a spirally sequence in which steps could be skipped but also repeated. Because of the available information about the individual learning progression of their students it is possible for teachers to better adapt their teachings.
As a research project, NEXT-TELL is interested in the impact that web 2.0 technology might have on classroom instruction and the learning outcomes of students.
Teaching in a technology-rich classroom is sometimes referred to as classroom orchestration. We understand this orchestration metaphor rather as the orchestration of a Jazzband than a classical orchestra due to improvised parts there might be during the instruction.
To investigate the impact of the technology-rich classroom on learning, NEXT-TELL makes use of the cognitive density concept from Crawford and colleagues (2008). It is assumed that a pedagogically sound use of technologies (like web 2.0 tools) influences the interaction between teacher and students on three dimensions: (1) content, (2) communication, and (3) time.
Technologies (e.g., the internet) facilitate the access to a large amount of learning materials. More importantly, technologies facilitate responses for students on their learning with appropriate use of formative assessment practices (see the adaptable teaching circle). Students as well as teachers are informed more comprehensively and faster about learning activities, outcomes and challenges. These information could be used for more reflective processes.
Whereas the teacher in a classroom without technology gathers students’ answers one after the other, it is in a technology-rich classroom hypothetically possible to gather lots and lots of student answers to the same question at the same time. This could be used for a more informed overview about students’ knowledge states when e.g., starting a new topic. Apart from that it is easier for students can comment on their peers work or even work collaboratively on one task. This way, active participation rises almost automatically.
The estimation is that a change of the instructional activities on the aforementioned dimensions might lead to a more comprehensive overview about the students for the teacher and therefore enables the teacher to better adapt the instruction. Furthermore, students might exchange and collaborate more with each other on content related topics, be more engaged in learning and reflection and might even focus more on future learning,
The interplay of all dimensions lead to a better learning!