The following is taken from the Description of Work:
The creation of a digital environment in the classroom has particular benefits for low achieving students, for example, the facility to respond ‘anonymously’ to questions from teachers or peers reduces the anxiety levels which research shows has a significant impact on participation. Also, the facility for teachers to carefully track individual responses will support a more focused diagnostic intervention with students, a key element in supporting the progress of these students who can often be lost in the wider mass of the classroom (Shirley, Irving, Vehbi, Pape, & Owens, 2011).The use of digital environments in classroom in recent years has changed from a more “private” to a “public” use that integrates private use(Hegedus & Moreno-Armella, 2009; Robutti, 2010) as predicted in Sinclair &Jackiw (2005). This shift, which echoes the historical shift from the use of individual handheld slate to blackboards, is recognised by recent literature about the relationships between the use of “private” activity (individual or in small groups) and “public” activity (to which all the students participate).The public screen not only displays the student work in real time, providing immediate feedback, it enables individual students to compare and connect their own work with that of others.
There has been widespread adoption of projective technology in the classroom in some countries. Although these technologies have the potential to afford a shared interactive space for teachers and students, the impact has been patchy, with many teachers using the technology to convey information rather than using it to stimulate more active learning. Indeed the students themselves have had diminishing opportunities to access the technology in the mainstream classroom. However, the rapid development of small mobile devices gives an opportunity for students to access technology as and when they need it in the classroom.
The main locus of progress in this project will exploit the synergy between the most promising current practice in teaching and assessment in mathematics and science with the latest technological developments to create a new pedagogical approach called ‘the Connected Classroom’(Shirley et al., 2011) drawing on mobile technology and wireless networking. For example: new technological tools such as Student Response Systems (SRS) offer an opportunity for teachers to develop aspects of their existing practices for the advantage of their lower achievers. Such tools can act as an amplifier of the feedback systems in the classroom but little is known about their impact on this target group. In doing so the students and teachers will develop their understanding of how they can choose when and when not to use technology to support learning. A variety of technologies will be available, providing opportunities for comparison of their effectiveness and allowing teachers working with technology with their pupils to become better informed in terms of their students’ developing understanding using a range of technologies.
Existing online assessment materials which provide formative feedback congruent with the aims of the project may be trialled by some partners. For example the ‘Smart’ (specific mathematics assessments that reveal thinking) tests developed at the University of Melbourne are an example of such materials. (See www.smartvic.com) The University of Utrecht is also developing online materials which may support assessment.
An example of such technology (but there will be a variety of technologies trialled) is the TI- NspireTM NavigatorTM which is a bespoke wireless system of handheld devices designed to support mathematics and science classrooms. This uses a ‘hub and spoke’ architecture to allow data, programs and questions to be sent and received from the students’ handheld devices. The hub is connected to a projector which creates a public interactive space where students’ responses and activities can be shared. Pedagogies developed using such a system will prepare the education system for a future where handheld devices are available in all classrooms (Clark-Wilson, 2010).