Naplan Testing

acara naplanACARA has done some extensive work to get the Naplan testing up and running online. It has used the input from staff and students to improve access to and engagement with the Naplan testing and the results have been very positive:

“In NSW alone, 2,500 schools participated in the readiness tests in the past five weeks. Results from a survey of those taking part showed that schools felt students were more engaged with the online tests compared to pen-and-paper assessments. In NSW, with over 460,000 tests having been completed, feedback over the past five weeks has shown:

  • 76 per cent of students liked doing the test online
  • 87 per cent of schools indicated a level of confidence to transition to NAPLAN Online.”

It is important to match testing techniques with the people who are being assessed or you end up in that testing a goldfish to climb a tree meme we all know. Currently there would be many teachers who have not really participated in exam systems because they would have been assessed by continuous assessment techniques. The world has changed to technology and so there is now a disconnect between pen and paper and cognitive flow. Students have grown up with smart phones and tablets and so paper information is less relevant and accessible  to them.

We have yet to address the linguistic issues in benchmark testing in a nation where so many languages are spoken and English might be the second, third or fourth language of the student:

“In 2016, there were over 300 separately identified languages spoken in Australian homes. More than one-fifth (21 per cent) of Australians spoke a language other than English at home. After English, the next most common languages spoken at home were Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese, and Vietnamese. Tasmania had the highest rate of people speaking only English at home with 88 per cent, while the Northern Territory had the lowest rate at 58 per cent.”

Australian Bureau of Statistics

The ACARA site explains clearly how it has gone about its preparations for moving testing online and it has very much adopted a consultative approach and  has provided plenty of online information and support for parents and other key stake holders in this process so that they can inform themselves and become a positive part of it.

Good standards of literacy and numeracy improve communities and the economy of the country. Unesco has completed plenty of research on that. There was also a field study research paper published in 1998 by the University of Nebraska : Benefits of literacy field experiences: Three views which concludes:

“We continue to alter our field experiences as we seek to improve
our teacher education program. Even though we each set up our field
experiences differently, we agree on some important tenets of field
experience. First, we think that being reflective about this process is
an important part of improving the product. Secondly, we think the
notion of practicing what we preach is particularly important for not
only preservice teachers to see, but also classroom teachers. And fi
nally, we think that preservice teachers are more apt to remember their
field experiences and learn from them when they are allowed to con
struct their own learning in a realistic classroom setting.”

This is what ACARA is doing. It is helping teachers , parents and students to construct a realist approach to benchmark testing in 2017 and beyond because the world has changed.

 

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Puzzle Craft 2

Puzzle Craft 2I am nearly up to level 100 on this game . It is fun, challenging and really makes me think. You cannot solve things in 5 minutes and you really have to work on strategy across the 5 villages at this level. I have to get a blackberry to be able to progress to the new and last village. You cannot bash and smash your way through this game. You cannot buy your way out and you cannot take the easy road. You have to work with your brain to sort though the possibilities and work out a way of achieving what you are focused on at that point. I work all the villages at different times because some bring resources I need, some rewards, some build up the points levels and then the main village is where I am still trying to complete all the buildings to move on. That and the blackberry. It is a great game for people who like lots of challenges and who like to puzzle! The swamp is awful. No matter how much you install swamp cleaners it never improves. That icky stuff still gets you and your resources. It makes you realise you can be totally inattentive at times . While you are looking at one thing , you don’t notice the swamp is claiming another. Ditto the moles in the mine. They are horrible. My solution now , since I have more money, is just to blow them up because they can really wreck your board when you are trying to get resources in the mine. I don’t think I’ll ever collect all the moose because of the swamp, but then again, there are other things I thought I’d never do in this game and I end up thinking my way through. The game plays with you. It will reward you generously for trying your hardest and achieving something good and it will force you to reshape your approach so that you are more successful in your strategies. I love the water puzzles. At this level they bring some interesting configurations you have to manage but the opportunities are there to apply yourself. The graphics in the game are really good. Much thought has gone into the images, the characterisation and effective visual literacy. That’s the thing. You do have to pay attention. You do have to notice and you do have to read the information about the plants and animals so that you can devise ways and means of progressing. In this game research is important and you have to manipulate the data you have to get good outcomes. I am now regularly getting the  tools from the magic portal so that has been helping a lot. You have to build up those points so that you can. I have also liked seeing the videos of what other games there are on the iPad. It is one way you can get some free rewards but it is also a way of seeing how much the iPad games graphics have improved and the selections of games. This game has just got better and better the more I have played it. I have never felt like I am doing the same ol’ same ol’ and I have never felt like it is too easy or too hard. There is a good balance. There is also an opportunity to work it out for yourself. Some things in the game are just there and are not explained. It is not a nanny game. It makes you stand on your own two feet and think for yourself. Sometimes you just have to work out for yourself how to get something for get rid of something. I like that. There is no easy fix because I have a brain and I can use it. Love that approach in this game.

The impact of smartphones

We have been talking about it for a while now: The impact of smartphones on our society and the next generation. The rise in car accidents which could be totally avoided. The zombie walk. The mobile phone twits who bang on anywhere and everywhere and allow their phones to ring whenever they want. We have observed the impact and we have reacted but we don’t seem to have resolved much. We love a narrative. We’ll all create a story about the impact of phones and the media will push a narrative which will have a far reach. We actually need to think this out properly and for ourselves. What is the right age for a child to have a smart phone? What are the impacts of smartphones on children? Should a teacher have smartphones in class? A teacher could have 30 students, thirty phones and then 30 devices. The phones could be giving access to parents which means another layer of social management in a classroom. Not sure any other job expects anyone to manage that many devices and that level of interpersonal communication complexity. The teacher then has emails and communication coming in from other staff, administration, professional organisations and parents on their laptop. Smartphones mean we can communicate very quickly with others when we feel like it.

The professional standards by aitsl for teachers require that teachers

4.5 Use ICT safely, responsibly and ethically –
Demonstrate an understanding of the relevant issues and the strategies available to support the safe, responsible and ethical use of ICT in learning and teaching.

What about others, though, who are also responsible for young people using smartphones? It’s not the phones which are the problem . There seem to be a lot of young people who don’t have a broad range of interests and who, for all of their connectivity , are disconnected socially. The Atlantic has published an article Has the smartphone destroyed a generation? which is a very interesting look at the impact of smartphones on the current generation. Jean M. Twenge has a book coming out : iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood—and What That Means for the Rest of Us. . The article is based on that book and well worth the long read because it is written by someone who has been investigating this.

Sustainable living – CD repurposing

I have just made one of these drop spinners from a couple of old DVDs and it works like a charm. It is a good way to recycle, reuse, repurpose and create something which is functional. I find the CD drop spinner very easy to use because I can easily get the clockwise twirl with one hand as I hold the yarn with the other. It is all good thinking. You have to trouble shoot, look for bits which will make the drop spindle and find the fibre which works the best. You can start with cotton wool balls to get started. it teaches hand eye co ordination, develops peripheral skills and then you have to develop a rhythm. The CDs can be decorated to get a nice pattern as you twirl them. The video is evidence of life long learning and a commitment to a sustainable planet. I actually used the backs of teddy plastic eyes to hold the CDs in place and then some grommets to buffer the CDs. I also used some beads to weight the bottom of the stick. It’s a great maker learning project. There are written instructions on World in a spin.

Make the most of online tutorials

We live in a visual world. We have access to devices and the internet. Nobody needs to be stuck. We haven’t quite got to the stage where we are capitalising on the value of video tutorials . Some people are still text based and want text information. Most people have shifted to ingesting video information and it’s worth its weight in gold:

You can find out quickly how to do things
You can promote information to fill in learning gaps
You can highlight relevant information

Different age groups view technology differently at the moment. Older people would probably think it is not very sensible, secure or appropriate to be doing their banking with phones and tablets. It would seem too casual for them and not the way they have been brought up with the highly valued bank book, the important banking and financial meetings and the belief that financial dealings are a very serious business. Younger people would want the ease and convenience of device banking because they are time poor and have a different way of looking at it. Not everything should be done online because there is real value for all concerned to have genuine people contact with real conversations. Online videos , though, can smooth the way to getting people more comfortable with how they can do things differently. All businesses and organisations need their little video tutorials about how to make the most of their services or ideas. Video tutorials help people to know how to do things so they can participate. Trawling through FAQs can often leave people as baffled as they started unless they are well organised and presented. Even FAQs could have videos to help people navigate interfaces and thinking around content.

The how to create a website video by WordPress has had nearly a million views. It was well worth the making of the video and the comments attest to that. Backing up online content with video help is a good way to engage everyone as the aitsl site clearly demonstrates. Videos initiate a culture of participation and can shift thinking and practice. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook all have video capability and so we can all share our thinking, ideas and knowledge in a very easy way to create those connected conversations which will move us all forward instead of dividing us. In truth, there is no generational gap. There is generational advantage which can be shared now across the internet. Every generation has its strengths and videos and images are an efficient way of making those connections.

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