Perhaps, as my first contribution to the list, you will allow me to share a
vision with you all - it is fairly brief so perhaps you will have the time
to read it...
Email [log in to unmask]
It is my firm belief that the application of information technology to the
world of education and training is long overdue. What I advocate is not
the piecemeal use of computers in the administration and teaching functions
within education, but rather the development of a flexible, fully
integrated system that supports a great many of the administration,
teaching and assessment needs of institutions, students, teachers,
employers and the government, from the first day of a students formal
education and throughout their life.
It is my belief that we are now at the point, both culturally and
technologically, where the creation of such a system is no longer a dream
of some sci-fi story, but a desirable, practical reality. What I am trying
to do is to make people aware of the potential for such a system to change
the nature of education for ever.
Below, I have given a very brief description of the kind of system I am
advocating. I hope you will take the time to read this account and your
comments, or any help you can give in achieving this aim, would be very
Harness The Power Of Technology For Effective Teaching & Learning!
It is my belief that
the education system needs to be able to track ALL learners from their
first class to the day they die.
A bold statement, but why? Because currently, teachers or employers can
only obtain, at best, a "snapshot" of an individual's interests, ability,
aptitude or attitudes, often expressed in subjective or vague terms, and in
little real detail.
I maintain that all parties with an interest in education desperately need
an objective, comprehensive system of tracking. This tracking should
encompass the learning material(s) encountered, the teaching given and the
results of both formative and summative assessment. Computer analysis of
this data can be carried out in order to provide a profile of the
individual and an insight to the long-term progress and trends for each
We need, in effect, to stop using the blunderbus approach and adopt a
sniper's rifle when targeting teaching. Using the computer analysis
described above, it should be possible for an intelligent computer
programme to plot a "critical path" ( or paths ) for future learning for
each individual. This means teaching more specifically what the student
needs to know - at the level at which they need to know it, and perhaps
within a variety of contexts.
The adoption of standardised and modular learning and assessment systems,
linked to a technological support system of the type outlined above, would
make this task possible. As the vocational education/training system is
already well down this road, my comments will be addressed primarily at
But How Do We Obtain And Use Suitable Data?
Currently, a teacher's Scheme of Work and Lesson Plans are not used in the
evaluation of the learning outcome. This data is routinely discarded at
the end of the year, and yet it is a very valuable record of what the
learners ( should ) have experienced and learned. If this data was
routinely collected for each class, its use for analytical purposes when
evaluating the learning outcomes could prove invaluable as it provides a
benchmark from which to begin assessing the learning that took place.
It is essential to know what the learner has seen and had access to, and in
what volume and over what time scale, in order to judge whether they have
sufficiently covered the learning objectives and range required for each
learning outcome. Meta-Data of this type can be entered by individual
teachers via. their Scheme of Work, or following a weeks lesson(s). As
each lesson should be targeted at the move towards, or the achievement of,
a particular learning objective, this should not be too demanding.
Where suitable, the use of Computer Aided Learning ( CAL ) systems, could
also track the learning experience for each individual.
Formative assessment is essential in all models of effective teaching and
learning. The old adage that:
'practice makes perfect'
is incorrect. What is it should say is:
'practice, the results of which are known, makes perfect'.
For all that, formative assessment is a practice that is used less and less
as time, pressure of work and resources are cut. At the same time, the use
of summative assessment ( often carried out repeatedly in vocational
training, and therefore of a semi-formative nature ) has increased greatly
with the introduction of modular programmes.
>From this you may recognise the potential for the use of a "deficiency
model" of training/education that uses assessment results for targeting
future learning required.
Computer systems that "know" what teaching has been provided and the
learning material each student has accessed can, based on this, deliver
highly effective assessment, formative or summative, and provide detailed
feedback of any learning deficiencies encountered with virtually no
additional work burden on the teaching staff.
1. details of the teaching given;
2. a knowledge of the learning materials accessed;
3. a knowledge of prior learning objectives achieved;
4. the results of assessment, both qualitative and quantitative, formative
a computer system can make judgements regarding the degree of learning that
has taken place, and the area(s) and degree of learning that has yet to be
By comparing learning objectives with assessment results, and reviewing
this against the known long-term performance and prior knowledge of the
topic, it becomes possible to direct both the student and the teacher to
specific areas of required learning. What the student gets is a daily
"action today" directive, and ( perhaps ) a list of targeted learning
materials or activities from which to learn. What the teacher gets is a
detailed "lesson plan" directed at individuals, groups or the whole group,
depending upon circumstances.
Formal summative assessment should be conducted on-line, marked
automatically, the result recorded on a database and then passed back to
the student and tutor within seconds. The system can be very secure and
robust. Optical Character Marking allows fast and accurate data entry.
Topics/material unsuitable for testing on-line could be marked
conventionally and the results entered by hand.
More importantly, such a system would form the basis of all the systems
Only with such a system in place could the other elements of an integrated
teaching support system be generated.
Assessment of Prior Learning ( APL ) is a tale of woe in education and
training. The system described above would eliminate APL completely, as
all prior learning would already be known AND accessible.
Who Else Benefits From Such A System?
I believe that all learners should be identified individually. Using the
existing National Insurance Number, allocated to all, as a way of
identifying each learner in schools, training or FE/HE would help to ensure
that all data held was accurate - regardless of age, name or career changes
etc. As a result:
Local authorities and institutions could more easily track and monitor
individual student applications for courses, grants and other requests for
support. Foreign nationals would supply some other suitable form of
Government gets "by the hour" statistics and longitudinal studies of
trends, viewed from any perspective you desire.
Employers, and other interested parties, get on-line proof of
qualifications and abilities plus the ability to "target" for recruitment.
For government and major companies, a detailed, demographically based,
breakdown of skill trends will help Education, Training and Human Resource
Managers plan long-term for their recruitment and training needs.
What Is Needed?
The vision, will and resources to create such a system.