16. January 2014 · Comments Off on Accessibility, LLN, personalised learning and flipped classrooms · Categories: Accessibility, LLN

 Some thinking is starting to come together in lava-lamp like clumps for me about accessibility, LLN, personalised learning and flipped classrooms and where good practice in these areas overlap.

Accessibility is about provide equal access to online experiences regardless of ability. Like universal design in buildings where wheel chair ramps are also great for people with prams or temporary disabilities using crutches, thinking about making content accessible to the most people possible opens a lot of doors.

LLN (Language, Literacy and Numeracy) pre-testing allows educators to look at students’ scores across 5 Core skills – Learning, Reading Writing, Oral Communications and Numeracy – and compare those to the level at which the formal qualification is written or they’ve decided their non-qualification course needed to be written.  Educators can then identify any gaps between the students’ core skills and those required to succeed in the course. From there, if the qualification is formal, the educator can recommend or provide interventions to help the student skill up. If the course was written in response to a training need at an organisation or for a target group of people and the majority of the learners fall short of the LLN requirements, the training needs to be reviewed and adjusted.

Flipped classrooms (and apologies to friends who dislike this term), are about getting students to prepare before they come to class, then spending class time on great interactive learning and identifying and intervening in any comprehension gaps that come to the fore. “Yeah right! Learners are really gonna prepare before they come to class!” a lot of educators are wont to say. Yet we expect them to be able to complete homework in their spare time or prepare for assessments, why not tell them the class is part of their assessment and they need to prepare for it?

Personalised learning – or differentiation – is a concept I’ve heard of but kept relating back to what they did in my school days. They tested us early and filtered us into groups where we knew what they thought of us early on. Level 1 people knew we were going to uni. Level 2 people were probably going to go into vocational training. Level 3 people were probably going straight into work or marriage or both. Looking back, I can see what a horrible class system it set up. I remember asking my maths teacher to be moved to level 2 maths as I struggled with spatial concepts and word problems about bloody trains. He told me I wasn’t trying hard enough and that I tested well. Guess what? I STILL hate most maths.

However, an article from the December 2013 edition of Educational Leadership  really made the practice of differentiation come into focus for me. A short, targeted pre-assessment is given at the start of a lesson, then students are assigned to one of three different activity groups based on their answers. No levels or stigmas –just groups. And the kids who showed the least comprehension are set the task of creating flash cards to share with the rest of the class for reinforcement for others. Learning through preparing to teach: something I do quite a lot.

In the Moodle, course creators can create groups and provide access to content based on group membership. In face to face classes, group work is part of the norm. Would pre-assessment and then differentiation it really be that hard to do for blended learning? Could we make a skilling up intervention mandatory for certain groups within the course? Or should skilling up be something apart?

Finally, from what I understand of adult learning, the perception of self-efficacy is key to success. In other words, if you think you can’t, you can’t.

So should educators ask this final question on any pre-assessment: How confident are you that you understand this material? This would allow any learner who scored well but wasn’t confident to learn at the level at which they were most comfortable, with guidance from the educator’s pre-assessment.

Image: Taylor’s lavalamp at work CC by nc sa Brederous on Flickr

19. December 2013 · Comments Off on Relevance, Accessibility and LLN · Categories: LLN, My personal learning journey

I spent a week creating two really lovely, pretty shiny learning objects that are irrelevant. Don’t let this happen to you!

Accessibility – ensuring content is Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust. Zooming in on the U part of that and considering the cross over of supporting learners to upskill Language Literacy and Numeracy skills has been a big part of my thinking and reading as of late.

It should be. There are some surprising statistics about Australia that shows about half of our working population needs some sort of help with LLN. It’s not that people cannot read or add up numbers – it’s that sometimes their work environments make demands that even the most educated can find challenging. Consider doctors who may not be native English speakers or a recently retrenched factory worker having to go back to school and learn how to learn again – or me, who is hopeless with the metric system when it comes to weights and measures!

To help crystallise my thinking and to address a stated need by my colleagues, I set out to research what online resources existed. I was looking for ones that would provide a level of interactivity, good, useful information and would meet standards of accessibility for people who are differently abled and across various devices. I didn’t find much quite frankly.  

Some colleagues asked me to create learning objects on formal and informal writing and writing complete sentences. I worked very hard on them and finally published them yesterday (YAY me!).  

But today, I find myself not as pleased with my efforts. 

The Queensland VET Development Centre’s Symposium report “What’s happening with language, literacy and numeracy in vocational education and training (VET)?” was a bit of a wake-up call.

Specifically this: 

‘Built in, not bolted on’

While learners with very low level skills can benefit from stand-alone delivery to prepare them for vocational learning, at most AQF levels, contextualisation in VET makes LLN skill development more meaningful and effective. As Skills Australia point out in their discussion paper on the future of VET:

Connecting LLN to a student’s core VET program enables the student to address their poor LLN skills in a meaningful and relevant context. 

Oh damn. What I should have done is explored what sort of writing these people are going to be doing in their work and drawn from that – report writing, emails, filling in forms – and created my learning objects based on THAT. What I’ve created isn’t bad, it is just unplugged, a thing apart.

In creating resources for students, I need to create resources that would go into their courses – not sit in the Help Centre on their own. I focused on the output, not the problem, and in doing so created two pretty,shiny things that will in all likelihood rust away unused and unloved.

So glad I learned it now before I churned out more pretty, shiny things that are completely irrelevant. Don’t let this happen to you!