Guest Post by Alex Krzensk Head of Faculty Middle School Mathematics at Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie), Queensland, Australia
Digital filing cabinets still need to be organised.
Tablets, BYOD, LMS, digital resources, digital texts, Dropbox, individualisation, differentiation, learning space… When the term ‘digital learning’ comes up in conversation one can immediately assume that at least two of the aforementioned will soon follow. Regardless of your experiences or specific affinities, everyone would concede that the digital possibilities of what can be done in a learning environment these days are quite extraordinary. Moreover, the capacity to effectively tailor learning to the needs of the individual is now attainable and subsequently starting to become an expectation.
Broadly speaking, if the internet is currently considered the digital Middle Ages, then ‘digital learning’ is definitely still in the digital Stone Age. While there are some shining beacons out there, Khan Academy of notable mention, the bulk are buried under an avalanche of advertising and tool bars. This article outlines Churchie’s strategy for content delivery, individualised learning and student development within the scope of Middle School Mathematics.
The specific points addressed include: Structure and organisation, remediation and extension, differentiation and individualisation, self-assessment and reflection and student accountability, responsibility and organisation.
Structure and organisation
The platform we use at Churchie is Microsoft OneNote. The multiple layers within OneNote are used to organise Terms, administration, digital resources, exercises, class notes and revision notes; to this end we define OneNote as a digital filing cabinet.
Figure 1: Middle School Mathematics OneNote structuring
Within the Churchie construct, students have everything required at their fingertips, clearly labelled and easy to access. Specifically there are three main components embedded into every OneNote, Administration, Content and Self-direction.
- Subject Notebook and Termly Sections
- Clustered, compressible, weekly content (using subpages)
- Page labels include references and concept
Opportunities for remediation and/or extension
Every week and topic has a ‘resources’ front page which incorporates links to tutorials, worksheet generators and quiz generators under the ‘Learn, Practise, Test’ model.
Figure 2: Topic based ‘resources’ front page
As these generators are both infinite and customisable, students are able to tailor them to reflect their current level. Additionally, students can catch up and/or review concepts using the tutorials at any stage.Students self-managing by either reviewing tutorials or creating harder worksheets is normal both in a class and homework context.
- Eliminates the ‘it’s too easy/too hard’ or ‘ I’ve nothing to do’ adage
- Promotes student awareness of their own level of understanding
- Promotes responsibility for learning.
Opportunities for differentiation and individualisation
In addition to the previously discussed ‘resources’ pages, the Churchie OneNotes have the scope to individualise learning as well as differentiate high and low ability.The ‘resources’ page for each topic, in conjunction with digital text references, Figure 3, are used in parallel with a High Ability OneNote, Figure 4, and Problem Solving OneNote, Figure 5. These independent OneNotes provide the scope to target specifics and opportunities to aggressively extend students as quickly as their interest is stirred.
Figure 3: Churchie core OneNote Text reference
Figure 4: Churchie HA OneNote with targeted enrichment activities available online
Figure 5: Churchie Problem Solving OneNote, Categorised by Year -> ACARA strand -> ACARA Substrand
This system of OneNote use:
- Provides opportunity for self-pacing and individualisation of content
- Students and teachers are able to target specific types of questions or concepts
- Provides opportunity to explore additional content quickly and efficiently.
Remedial OneNotes are also produced but generally are the previous year levels core OneNote.
Opportunities for self-assessment and reflection
Given that providing the resources and opportunities is only half the battle, the Churchie OneNote’s also embeds reflection points that foster accountability, responsibility and independence. Specifically, the students are required to self-reflect on their progress for each concept and provide evidence of their progress.
Figure 6: Student self-rating excel outlining competency for each exercise
Figure 7: Student revision page requiring screen clips from each topic quiz
Figure 8 & 9: Pressure test challenge students to execute in test conditions, screen clips required in revision section
Pressure test challenge students to execute in test conditions, screen clips required in revision section:
- Students are prompted to reflect on understanding
- Students are required to provide documentation of revision
- An effective model of review and reflection is regularly encouraged.
Opportunities to develop accountability, responsibility and good organisation
In addition to the points discussed, the Churchie OneNotes also serve as an exemplar for students as they develop key skills. The assumption that Middle School students can organise themselves across potentially ten subjects and four co-curricular activities is simply unfair. Ultimately, we want Churchie boys to be organised, accountable and aware of their strengths and weaknesses as they develop towards academic independence during their Middle School journey.
Figure 10: Student OneNote, Term 4.
More about Churchie: The Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie) is an independent School for dayboys and boarders with about 1800 students from Reception to Year 12 in Queensland, Australia. Terry Byers, Churchie’s Director of Innovation in Learning, is the 2014 Australian Microsoft Expert Educator and will be representing Australia at the Microsoft in Education Global Forum in March 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.