Professor Rune Johan Krumsvik, head of Digital Learning Communities at the University of Bergen.
Used properly ICT in schools can help reduce the secondary school drop out rate, one of the biggest challenges facing Norwegian society today, according to a recent education study.
A survey of 17,529 students and 2,579 teachers in Norwegian upper secondary schools shows that using ICT such as learning platforms in school increased student prosperity, encouraging them to graduate and thus increasing career options and allowing them to steer away from developing social problems later in life. The survey was part of a larger study titled the ‘The relationship between ICT and learning outcomes’ (in Norwegian, ‘Samanhengen mellom IKT og læringsutbytte’ (SMIL). To read the entire research report, visit: http://bit.ly/183KzuZ), authored by Prof. Rune Johan Krumsvik, head of Digital Learning Communities at the University of Bergen and his colleagues.
Krumsvik says giving struggling students more options for completing schoolwork will encourage more of them to complete secondary school. “Prosperity is connected to motivation, and motivation has an effect on learning outcomes,” Krumsvik says. “A student who struggles to read may be better off video recording an assignment instead of writing it and then uploading the recording onto a learning platform. ICT gives a lot of opportunities but the teachers have to see those opportunities and have the necessary competence, otherwise they miss out on those opportunities and their students end up sitting on Facebook.”
The SMIL study concludes that while Norwegian schools are overfilled with technology, ICT tools are not always used in a pedagogical manner and teachers lack ICT training both at the university and professional level.
Using ICT tools in the classroom must be rooted in solid pedagogical practice in order to impact learning outcomes, Krumsvik says. In another example in the study, a natural science teacher used a variety of tools to engage his students, including using a learning platform and iPads. “This teacher managed to pull the weaker students up a little bit higher by using ICT tools,” Krumsvik explained. “But this teacher had a clear purpose and focus for using ICT in the teaching lesson. If not, it would have given students the opportunity to drift out into cyberspace.”
The study also found that far too often teachers use learning platforms and other tools for administrative tasks instead of for pedagogical purposes. “If teachers are using a learning platform for sending messages to students or collecting student assignments, it has an administrative focus,” Rune explains. “But if you use it for example to facilitate process-oriented writing you take it a step further. This is not revolutionary practice but the ICT use starts to get more subject related. Then you use it for collaborative learning in a better way.”
Process-oriented writing facilitated by a learning platform represents solid pedagogical ICT use, says Morten Fahlvik, education researcher at itslearning. “Process-oriented writing is a good strategy, but without ICT it takes to long time to manage. It has some logistical challenges if done on paper only. The combination of a word processor and learning platform speeds up the process and makes it easier for both teachers and learners,” Morten says. Today, process-oriented writing can involve students submitting assignments on a learning platform, the teacher giving formative feedback and the student incorporating the feedback. This process continues until the assignment deadline.
Morten Fahlvik, education researcher at itslearning, says blended learning presents good opportunities for using ICT in a subject-related manner.
Other examples of good pedagogical ICT use can be found in itslearning’s latest whitepaper titled ‘The blended classroom’. “Our whitepaper demonstrates the benefits afforded to teachers who plan and conduct their teaching and learning activities in the blended classroom,” Fahlvik explains. “The whitepaper features a section about a Swedish teacher who applies blended learning to his physics class. He measures student background knowledge with exercises on the learning platform and uses the findings as the basis for the learning journey. He activates his students in the blended classroom with intent of raising the quality of student homework and better utilising classroom time.”
itslearning’s latest whitepaper titled ‘The blended classroom’ demonstrates the benefits afforded to teachers possess who plan and conduct their teaching and learning activities in the blended classroom.
Despite some teacher’s efforts to blend their classrooms, far too few teachers use ICT in a subject-related context, Krumsvik says. “Many teachers use a PowerPoint in the same way they use a blackboard. Where is the evolution in that?” Krumsvik asks. “With today’s possibilities, teachers have to adjust. If you want to be a teacher who participates in collaborative learning you have to use the technology available.”
For more information about the UiB’s Digital Learning Communities Research Group, visit http://www.uib.no/rg/dlc.