What is #digitalstudies?
If you are reading this post, the chances are, you already know what #digitalstudies is; however, for a refresher take a look at the introduction on the wiki to see how it differs from the more ‘traditional’ subjects of ICT and Computing. Here, you will see that a fundamental difference is the way in which the subject is assessed using blogging portfolios or bportfolios.
What is a bportfolio?
Traditionally pupils, students and adults would keep an online eportfolio of their work that they could ‘exhibit’ as a way of demonstrating their achievement and skills over a period of time. The aim of this would be to show potential schools or employers what they were capable of doing in the hope that they could get a place at that school / company.
The problems with this eportfolio approach included:
- Each portfolio piece is isolated, not showing how it links with other pieces
- Eportfolios do not show progression from initial idea to solution as it is the completed work that is shown
- Eportfolios do not include self, peer and teacher comments
- Eportfolios do not encourage the owner to respond to comments during the progression of their work, favouring a response to completed work.
- Eportfolios do not encourage the owner to comment on their own progression
- Eportfolios do not show failure
By including the portfolio as part of a blog (i.e. a bportfolio) the owner is able to impart so much more information to the reader. There is also a real sense of progress in the owners work.
Demonstrating #digitalstudies skills through a bportfolio
Rather than delivering isolated units that do not interrelate, #digitalstudies allows the pupil to look at a project that as a minimum will last a term, although could concievably last a school year. By using a Problem Based Learning / Project Based Learning approach pupils are encouraged to seek solutions themselves rather than have the teacher show them first. Projects will be structured in such a way that a solution will require the pupil to demonstrate skills from each of the available strands (authoring, literacy, society, technology).
As the student progresses through their solution they will be expected to post their thoughts and processes on their blog so that they can receive feedback both from readers inside and outside of the school. This will also act as a means of showing how they progressed through the broad stages of analysis, design, implementation, testing and evaluation (and user documentation if appropriate).
Assessing #digitalstudies skills
Firstly, it should be stated that whilst bportfolios are the most significant part of assessment for #digitalstudies, it will also be supported by product / solution presentations and hack days. A hackday (or morning / afternoon) allows a pupil to complete an integrated task rather than a traditional written paper. It is possible that a Hack Day could also be supported with a written paper as obviously pupils still need to familiar with the requirements of GCSE exams.
Traditionally I would give a class a mark scheme, rubric and even an example of completed work so that they knew exactly what was expected of them. Nothing really wrong with this as it provides the pupils with very clear expectations and there was no confusion over what they had to do. I use this approach mainly because that is ‘always what I have done’. The biggest problem;however, with being so explicit about what I expect the pupils to do is that I am forcing them to take the route that I want them to take to get to a solution as I have told them what they need to do to get each mark. I have removed any incentive to explore different paths. This traditional method also discourages learning through failure as they already know what I expect.
#digitalstudies must have a far more flexible way of assessing. It cannot say to a pupil that they must take a certain route from the foothills of a mountain to its summit; indeed, it should allow them to choose their own summit. We should put the mountain range in front of them, show them the different peaks, show them the different places that they can start from and then let them find their own way. Sometimes they will go wrong and will have to come back down and try a different route; sometimes they can ask a climbing partner (pupil) for support or ask a guide (teacher) for help. Ultimately though, they must find their own route and be responsible for their own successes and failures.
Assessment of their failures, successes and progress will be done continuously by internal AND external peers, teachers and essentially anyone who reads their blog. They would obviously be encouraged to seek support outside of their normal environment by using email, twitter, etc to contact ‘experts’ who could help them – they would be expected to blog about this contact as way of showing progress towards a solution.
Assessment of most of the work done in #digitalstudies does not need to be AoL but MUST be AfL and should be continuous. We should not present mark schemes telling pupils what steps we expect them to take to get to a solution. We should let them find the best way appropriate to their skills and encourage them to broaden their investigations through AfL.
Whether it is a good thing or a bad thing is not for this post; however, at my school we use ‘Challenge Grades’ that are calculated by pupils taking MIDYIS and YELLIS tests and a likely GCSE grade statistically attributed to them. We then ‘boost’ this statistical prediction by another grade (or more) to take into account the Value Added that we expect to deliver through the pupil attending our school. We then send a report home every half term to say whether the pupil’s work for that half term is + or – against their challenge grade; this also includes a 140 character ‘how to improve’ comment. At the end of the school year we write a full report.
I have included this introduction as it demonstrates that whilst I believe that #digitalstudies must be flexible in the way pupils are assessed, I have to, as probably all of us do, report back on the pupils progress. I do not see a conflict of interest between #digitalstudies and providing a grade, although I can see their being some difficulties.
I have to provide report grades between A* and D, so must find a way of mapping what the pupils are doing against this grade. At the moment, I have mark schemes so their is no problem as x out of y equates to n grade but as I said earlier this means that all pupils have taken the same route to a solution and is therefore not appropriate for #digitalstudies.
My initial thoughts are to provide a rubric that assesses the actual blog rather than the computing / ICT work that they do. By setting a scheme that awards grades for such things as ideas, reflection, creativity, data gathering, post frequency, feedback to others, organisation, appearance of blog, etc I will be able to keep the pupil informed about how they are using their blog and that they are on the right track. I am also able to complete my reports and provide informed feedback to parents and SMT.
I believe, as does @sharland in his post assessing pupils’ work for #digitalstudies – my examination of badges and levels that badges are the way forward. Badges allow the pupil to progress by taking their own route towards a solution. Rather like gamification they can quickly pick up badges for work that they are already proficient at, whilst also being encouraged to persevere for those badges that they do not yet have the skills for.
Using a PBL approach, solutions cannot be achieved unless a broad range of badges have been collected; however, the badge system must also differentiate. By including badge levels (e.g. Novice, Intermediate, Advanced) pupils of all abilities will be able to reach solutions. This is where the real skill in delivering #digitalstudies will come into play – Problems must be set so that all pupils have the chance of reaching a solution no matter their ability. The weaker pupils should be encouraged to collect the Novice badges and aim for Intermediate where they are stronger, whilst the stronger pupils should be aiming for Advanced status throughout their journey.
There is still some way to go to develop the badge system although @infernaldepart is looking at developing an independent system along the lines of Mozilla Open Badges.
In conclusion, the bportfolios used in #digitalstudies will allow for traditional grading as required by SMT, whilst open badges will allow a more flexible ‘grading’ system for the pupils using a type of gamification incentive.