Saturday, November 13, 2010

Progress Report, anyone?

This pic shows the end of a fascinating exchange on Twitter last night, one which sums up much of what I love about social media - but which in a way saddens me, in that the very praise that gave me genuine pleasure showed how slowly things move in educational circles.

The work that @digitalmaverick is referring to and commending to @janeyk419 is a blog, Progress Report", maintained through 2006 and 2007 by first a couple of S4 students and then by one of them. It began when the two girls came to me for private tuition; following an excellent Standard Grade result one of them returned to the blog for further mentoring as she worked for her Higher English. It became more widely known when I spoke about it at an early TeachMeet at the invitation of Ewan, aka no. 2 son.

So far, so satisfying. But note how long ago that was: four years have elapsed since that blog was being used to improve the writing skills of the students involved, four years since I realised my ambition to use technology to disseminate advice which in the normal classroom I might have had to repeat over and over again to different individuals and groups. The blog itself is as old-fashioned in blogging terms as the one I'm writing now, and the formative assessment given in the comments is what I've built up over a career in the classroom - no change there. After my talk at the TeachMeet, I expected a huge growth in the use of such basic technology to further all kinds of learning - including the fairly traditional model practised by me.

And that's why I was so surprised last night, to find that someone actually recalled this event vivdly enough to consider it outstanding, and that it was not in fact so old hat now as to be past mention. I suppose I thought there would be examples of outstanding practice all over the social networks, an explosion of exemplars that would render this now inactive blog redundant, a curiosity at best.

I left the classroom just as the possibilities of this medium were opening up. There was at the time one classroom's worth of laptops on two trolleys, and you booked them weeks in advance. Any one class was lucky to get them for a period a week, and the labour of tracking them down and finding that someone hadn't plugged them in to recharge put you off the notion as often as not. I don't know how much better provision is now, but I do know that more and more pupils have their own technology. I gather from some former colleagues that they find it a drag to use computers more than is absolutely necessary, but it's been 6 years since I was in school and I'm limited in my local contact now.

I do, however, have one question: how much detailed formative assessment takes place online these days? (unless it's one of these things that are not done any more) It seems to me an obvious area for widespread sharing, for teachers to be of use way beyond the walls of their classroom. Maybe there's loads, and I'm just showing my lack of current experience; in which case, dear readers, I wait for your correction - and your links!


  1. How much detailed formative assessment takes place online these days?
    Not that much I am afraid.
    My own use of blogs was more about getting primary pupils motivated by providing an audience than about providing detailed feedback. A lot of other folk use blogs in the same way. Not being a secondary teacher I wonder how your work would scale to multiple classes?
    Peer assessment might be easier to sell to teacher than public assessment?

    There is still a huge lack of knowledge about the possibilities of using online tools across Scotland.
    A friend recently remarked to a colleague that he was going to TeachMeet. Getting a blank look he explained that it was a fringe event at the Scottish Learning Festival. SLF got a blank look too!
    I recently queried >100 primary ICT coordinators about blogs, no more than a handful had heard of blogs.
    It seems that there is a widening gap between the early adopters who are using all sorts of different tools and the majority of teachers who are using none.

    There does seem to be a bit of a resurgence in blogging at the moment as glow, for all its faults, is introducing blogs to more teachers. It might need a few more rinses to get firmly established.

    I think Ewan quotes someone, who's name escapes me, saying that the use of tech got interesting when the tech got boring. Hopefully blogging will get boring soon.

  2. I wonder how your work would scale to multiple classes?
    I've thought about this, and came to the conclusion that as I did that sort of thing with whole classes (25-30 per class) on the papers they submitted, it would actually save time, in that I could have referred different pupils to what I'd already written online for someone else. Much of what I had to say was repetition, after all, slightly tailored to suit the individual. And if pupils were in the habit of reading each other's postings and the comments thereon, they might learn before they wrote. This would be A Good Think, IMO. :-)

  3. A good think works for me:-)
    Thanks for the explanation I hope to pass on the idea write once & link idea to some secondary folk. The whole idea of opening jotters and marking to the community of learners could lead to a very interesting learning community.