It’s Not About the Tool… It’s about the Pedagogy

Today a teacher came to down to discuss how they could build a rubric within The Hub to support a research project they were doing for their class.  They had already watched the videos on tv.HWDSB, but were looking for a little more support and direction.

Our conversation started with looking at the project itself, what the students were expected to submit for the project and working backwards to identify what skills were being targeted.  From there, we brought out the curriculum document to really nail down which specific expectations were being addressed and how that would tie into the overall expectations.  For this particular course, the teacher was doing a research project for each strand and we quickly recognized that researching skills were linked to a separate strand than the content itself.  This meant that it would be quite easy to create a rubric specific to those research skills that could be used throughout the course (rather than specific to this project) with an additional section that was project specific. The rubric we create can be reused many times during the course.  On paper we mapped out what a level 4, 3, 2 and 1 would look like and how we could make it specific to the overall expectations, but generic so that it could be used regardless of the topic (after all, it was about research skills).  The conversation kept coming back to what was it that the teacher wanted the student to develop with respect to skills and what the various levels of work would look like based on those skill developments.

With respect to the content specific requirements of the project, we quickly identified that the teacher was most interested in acknowledging if the student had demonstrated an understanding of 5 concepts.  Rather than a traditional 4-scale rubric, we created a three-scale checklist (again on paper) with the headings, “Incomplete”, “Progressing”, “Complete”.  Rather than trying to artificially develop descriptors around 4 levels, this allowed them to essentially say, “you did it well”, “you’ve tried, but missed the mark” or “you didn’t even attempt it”.

Once we had outlined exactly what we were looking for, we turned to The Hub and what the rubric tool could do.  We looked at how to create category groups within a rubric so that on one screen we had the 3-levels in one section and the 4 categories in the other.  We also explored the feedback functionality of the rubric tool.  This allows you to front-end load the feedback for the majority of students based on the level you select.  You can still “tweak” this feedback if necessary for a given student, but if well crafted, this could provide excellent descriptive feedback with minimal work.  For me, this is a key feature of the rubric tool as when I mark, the feedback on the first assignment is awesome… by assignment #30, I’m simply writing, “See me…” because I’m tired of saying the same thing over and over.  I have found that I write much better feedback if I have to do it once well, rather than 30 times poorly.

Finally, the teacher indicated that they had a checklist of what the student was to complete prior to submitting the project.  This is great as there is a checklist tool in The Hub that not only allows you to create the checklist, but you can also create release conditions so that the dropbox to submit the assignment won’t open until the checklist has been completed.

All of this powerful work took place during a single period in the day and the majority of it was independent of the technology.  The solid pedagogical conversations, the links back to curriculum, Growing Success and proper assessment/evaluation were all stemming from a need to make a paper task digital.  But it wasn’t just about “where do I click to…”. Instead it was about creating some good resources and then digitizing and leveraging the tools that we have to take it to the next level.

For me this highlighted a crucial component to TLE.  Not just that, “It’s not about the tool” as we have heard from Dr. Malloy before, but that we all have to be fluent in good pedagogical practice and know the capabilities of the digital tools that we provide.  It can no longer be, “I’m the IT guy who talks technology” versus, “I’m the pedagogical guy who speaks about practice”.  As an organization we have to know and support both sides of the equation (by learning about those areas we are unsure of), even if we aren’t always comfortable doing all of it – because in the end that is how we will Transform Learning Everywhere.

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