Sunday, August 28, 2011

Children and Tech Series - Post #10

feedback, assessment, authority, control and meaningful learning…oh, and a bit of Scratch

Chapter 10 and the Epilogue of Jonassen et al.’s Meaningful Learning with Technology articulates some interesting ideas about how technology, and using technology as a learning tool, can/will influence and change how learning happens.

I’ve posted before about my interest in reflective learning, and these readings really generated a lot more thinking. Since the midterm exam, I’ve been thinking about how digital technology and blogging could be used as a tool for reflection, documentation and communication in an early learning context. In my imagination, I see the ideas in Chapter 10 and in the Epilogue really fitting in with that thinking.

We know that standardized assessment doesn’t address the actual learning that students do, and that performance or authentic assessment which looks at the processes that students undertake over long periods of time gets far closer. Using technology – say something like a blog – as a portfolio, communication tool and archive in a classroom would be a great way to promote self-reflection, encourage autonomous learning and decision-making, provide a venue for constructive multidirectional feedback, and create an easy record for assessment use. Having it be a collaborative effort among all students and educators, who would choose to post examples of work, photos of classroom activities and other classroom artifacts together would further enhance the engagement and democratic elements of the technology as a learning tool.

In a constructivist/constructionist learning environment, where students are engaged in their own learning by getting involved in process that are meaningful to themselves, teachers have to give up some of the authority they traditionally hold. If the teacher no longer dictates what the students will learn, but holds a space open for students to create their own meaning, then the learning environment has become a very different place than what is usually seen in typical classrooms everyday. An educator engaging with learning in this way becomes “…not an arbiter of knowledge but rather a coach who helps students engage in a larger community of scholars.” (Jonassen et al., 2009, p.242) Technology, when worked with and engaged with critically and thoughtfully, can help carve out that kind of democratic space, create places for authentic feedback and assessment to occur, and build classrooms that are fun and interesting places where children learn.

To bring it back to Scratch – so interesting to contrast the ideas inherent in it with these ones. Scratch is so open source – the fact that you can download and upload so easily provides an amazing venue for feedback and peer-to-peer assessment. The Scratch community organized around the Scratch website where all that sharing is taking place engages in very democratic, anti-authoritarian process JUST BY PLAYING WITH SCRATCH. The very shape of the programming language and program itself lends itself to meaningful learning. That’s what’s really exciting about the convergence of all of this for me – the fact that the very shapes of things help us grow more into the kinds of learners, and people, that we want to be.

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