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The Role of Virtual Learning Environments in a Primary Schoo

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Ingebjørg Sæbøe

on 22 March 2014

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Transcript of The Role of Virtual Learning Environments in a Primary Schoo

Main issues addressed
Research review
So what is VLE?
Monica Johannesen
a) VLE tools for assessment

Extract 1: Use of student porfolios were used to document attainment in a variety of competence aim-charts.
Extract 2: Digital portfolios in use were considered most functional, and it inspired teachers to explore new practices.

b) VLE as a collaborative tool for documenting achievement

Extract 3: Teachers used VLE tools for collaborative writing. This lightened the role of the contact teacher, as every teacher could administrate and document in the same place.

VLE gives life to new practices, including assessment practices. The Actor-network theory, (ANT)
which isn't commonly used for educational studies
, emphasizes processes of
creation, modification and sometimes destruction
of networks of human and non-human actors. It provides a particular way of understanding the context of learning and teaching as an actor-network of material objects and social practices.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) are widely used for teaching and learning, and may emerge as a potential tool for e-assessment.

But what do we know about VLE and teaching practices it surfaces?
Associate professor at Faculty of Education of Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences
The Role of Virtual Learning Environments in a Primary School Context: An Analysis of Inscription of Assessment practices
She works as a lecturer and researcher within the realm of ICT-supported learning, with a particular interest in ICT competence of primary and secondary school teachers.
Assessment is a vital part of educational practice - it shapes classroom practices and defines curriculum. Traditionally, summative assessment (of learning) has played the lead role. But formative assessment (for learning) is now considered to be the most powerful factor in promoting learning (Black & William 1998)

The article identifies the potential of digital information and communication technologies as supporting tools for assessment. '
VLE's may furnish e-assessment.

Virtual Learning Environments
With a broadly interpretive approach, the study has been designed as an
explorative case study
, to examine a particular context. Eight teachers at three primary schools were interviewed, and the study was conducted over a period of one school year.
An overweight of
research on
the subject is
related to higher
Three different perspectives have been identified in the literature:

1) Assessment of traditional skills
2) Assessment of new educational goals
3) Assessment of student's digital literacy.

Computer-based assessment tools can be used to assess traditional skills, but creates new challenges, such as under-performance among students with mediocre computer skills whilst using computers in tests.

The Norwegian context
Summative assessment is mainly provided orally (teacher/student/parent-conference) There is, however, new national regulations that ephazises written documentation, and many schools districts have implemented mandatory written evaluations. K06 focuses specifically on competence aims in subject areas.

Meaning: Systems for measuring attainment are needed!

The term 'Virtual learning enviroments' embraces everything from e-learning to computer-based simulation. It is mainly related to certain software packages, and has during the last decade been implemented in many higher education institutions worldwide. I.e. Fronter and It's Learning are used in just about every school, but the factual use is most within the capacity of
web 1.0 technology
, as a tool for information sharing.

VLE as software packages can be characterized as a
web 2.0 technology
that offer access to a common tool for co-producing information. It also extends pedagogical tools, such as multiple choice tests, portfolios, etc. Whenever presented, focus mainly lies on automatic online assessment, with effiency as a priority.

1) VLE in summative assessment

It seems as if teachers strove to assess traditional skills in new ways. VLE is inscribed with features that are supposed to help teachers store and distribute forms for measuring knowledge attainment and make them accessible to peers, parents and student. Key notions:

Translating force for educational politics
Makes it easier to meet requirements of written assessment (system is a strong negotiation partner on behalf of documenting assessment.
Time-and-space independend collaborative writing is a strong ally.
Danger in implementing e-assessment systems: things that are easy to measure are valued more highly

Findings revealed seeds of new assessment practices, strongly influenced by the new regulations on assessment, the teacher/student/parent conference and by the VLE tools.
General discussion using ANT (cont.)
2) VLE in formative assessment

From study data, there are indicators of a changing practice that supports new educational goals. The use of VLE stimulates student to become self-regulated learners, as the teacher arranged for students to use results from both self-assessment and tests to reflect on their own learning. Portfolio tools enrol both teachers and students in a new practice, where formative assessment is put up front, although this doesn't seem to be intentional.

3) Other influences of VLE

Central actants in assessment work: Using written evaluation forms to document attainment and conducting TSP conferences as a part of student assessment, that are both related to the Norwegian curriculum reform.

But: The most interesting find: The tight relationship between the documentation of each student's attainment, the VLE tools's ability to support such documentation and its presentation, in the TSP.
It brings several partners into the assessment practice.

Conclusive comments

Qualitative metods to investigate VLEs in assessment practices

Interesting: How VLE enrols parents, students and teachers into the network of assessment

VLE used based both on how traditional skills are taught, and supporting a teaching practice for new educational goals. (The latter: digital portfolios)

A range of challenges for assessment policy. It will be cruicial to dig deeper into the potential of e-assessment to support new educational skills - particularly pedagogical implications.

There's an urgent need to clarify the role of technology in assessment.

Paper's contribution to the field
Highlights primary education, which hasn't been the main focus in this field

Gives an insight into how a VLE can contribute in in establishing a new assessment practice.

Opens our eyes on usefulness of actor-network theory being put to good use in educational research

Pre-known theories
As mentioned in the article, John Hattie (2009) presents the effects of a range of teaching practices. Goes to show, feedback and self-report grading may be more effective than i.e. frequent testing and teaching for the test.

He also concludes that teacher-student relations are vital. This will undoubtely affect feedback situations.
John Hattie
Erstad (2009) stresses the fact that e-assessment brings forth new assessment practices, i.e. peer- and self-assessment. VLEs enables this process.

Holm (2009) states that evaluation is a prerequisite for improving student skills. In this particular study, the
per se can be identified as the students' ability to self-regulate, which is interesting, because it basically surfaced as a 'side effect'. This arose when teachers realized there was an obvious mismatch between the students self-assessment and the teacher's assessment.

Smith (2009) says students in a 'test regime' develop a test techniques, that will lead to results without them obtaining any deeper understanding. Looking into VLE, however, has made me realize that involving several actors, will not only make testing and assessment easier, but give every possible opportunity to avoid that very fact. (Seeing is how VLE enables self- and peer-assessment, which ideally should involve "everyone".)

General discussion using Actor-network theory
Findings (cont.)
c) The use of VLEs in Teacher/student/parent conferences

Extract 4: Teachers stated the overall aim for documentation was to arrange for formative assessment. They strived to fulfill new assessment requirements and the preparation for the conference, including reflections.

Extract 5: The use of VLE to let student reflect on the relationship between self-evaluation from the portfolio and the teacher evaluation of a given test. A teacher stated that she lacked attention chen it comes to student self-assessment, and reflected on what she could have done differently and better.

Extract 6: (From same teacher as above) There was evidence of mismatch between student self-assessment and teacher's assessment. This was used to set new goals for the next period. The VLE engaged both students and parents in the assessment process, and became a foundation at the particular school.

My own practice
It wasn't difficult to relate to the extracts in this article. There were numerous times I knew just what those teacher were experiencing, let alone feel both frustration and glimmers of hope.

VLEs (in my case Fronter), does play the part as enabler, on several levels. In my case, four teachers working collaboratively on documentation and assessment of 65 students, need the right tools to make that process as seamless as possible. Fronter does the trick, and the contact teachers do feel less pressure and work load because of it.

However, for everyone to get involved in using and maximizing VLE, teachers need a full-scale upperhension. I'm pretty sure most teachers (I know this for a fact at my school), only use about 50% of all the functionalities in, this case, Fronter. This does make it seem like a 'web 1.0' ordeal. Luckily, this is a work in progress, as the school just implemented it. They're getting there!

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