Two weeks ago I presented at the 'happening' Beykent University conference. My dear friend, Fatih Yucel, the Assistant Director of the ESL Program over there had asked me to Keynote my ideas and working practices of what Curriculum means to me, and what I am doing in consideration of ICT and CEFr in the context of our Preparatory (Hazirlik) program at my school. Fatih had organized for each speaker to give a short TV-interview about our feelings on Curriculum and why it is essential that curriculum designers, and in particular teachers, look to their educational frameworks for guidance in putting over better content and working practices to their students. My fellow Keynote, Tony Gurr, also adds to the video-fest we found ourselves involved in prior to the opening speeches.
Although the content of my presentation focused primarily on Curriculum, I tried to make it more user-friendly for the audience. Curriculum-Focus has traditionally been considered as 'dry' by even the most enthusiastic of teachers. So, I attempted to present my practices via technology-support and video content. That way, teachers could get to see that it doesn't need to be dull, frustrating and off-putting if it is approached in the right way. My feeling is that if schools put Curriculum and ICT at the forefront of their planning focus, teachers can develop more skills that can engage and interest their students.
The main ICT-Tool I use at my school for Curriculum planning is COMMON CURRICULUM. This new and very exciting organizer allows for serious collaboration between designers, teachers and students. Here is a short video explaining how it works.
Once teachers Adopt this software, they can see how collaborative using the Curriculum Content as the main focus for their collaborative group work with colleagues. Gone are the days of waiting for other busy teachers to come together and discuss what is in the program. By using the same sign-in and password, teachers can work from home planning and organizing their week. Then once the autonomous brainstorming and ownership-led input has been collated on the software cloud, face-to-face interaction can take place with many more feelings of achievement felt by all of the group.
Tony Gurr, an Ankara-based teacher, is also an avid proponent of ICT and curriculum focus. His video interview, below, alludes to the fact we all need to be considering inclusion of the Learners and not just Teachers, for the building of successful curricula. His presentation was by all accounts informative and interesting, but what strikes me, since none of the Keynotes could see each other presenting as we 'informed-our-audiences" at the same time, is how each of us were talking the same language, and that was without any collaboration beforehand. This is what makes me very excited about this new focus by presenters. We have all realized, and others are too, that there needs to be something done to reform how we teach, and more importantly, how our students learn. They need ownership as a stake-holder, just as we do if success is to be found and achieved. It is no longer about Us & Them.
What Tony alludes is where I believe the CEFr plays a vital role in getting the feelings, opinions and ideas from our students bang-slap-into-the-middle-of our content-considered teaching plans. The second video clip from me is a short-part of my presentation where I allude to the importance of CAN DO Statements and Interviews. Taking my Adapted "CAN DO" statements for the specific needs of my students, I hold student-interviews at the end of each month and discuss with them where they believe they are on the CEFr scale of progress. The data is then recorded and shared with the students, so that they can see what they believe they actually can do. Here is the video of that part in my presentation.
If we give our students the opportunity to self-assess they are more likely to take the whole learning experience to another level. I have snipped four students' latest CAN DO STATEMENT & INTERVIEWS graphs to let you see what I mean.
This female student from Ankara started the year at 2.25 on the CEFr scale measured from 0-5. She has had an up and down type of year, which could be related to her sports scholarship, her age or indeed the difficulties she has faced living in a different city to her family. However, what we believe is important to show is that she is able to see her progress, peaks and troughs via this transparent system differentiated to her own learning.
This female student is also a sports scholarship student and from another city, Izmit. She came in at 3.0 on the scale and found the initial stages of her year very difficult to adapt to. Hence her performance dropped off quite considerably. She says herself that the inclusion of formative assessment exposed her weaknesses as a as an English learner, which she is now thankful for. Up until our ICT-supported program, her English lessons revolved solely around grammar and gap-fills. Now, as you can see, she is starting to take-off, and we believe she is a prime example of how effective this system is.
This male student is a born and bred Istanbul kid. He arrived from another private school, so he is well-adjusted to Istanbul life and the education system therein. He arrived at 3.58 on the scale, which is quite high for a Hazirlik student. However, his problems have not been so much English, but more Academic study-skills. His steady growth, yet not too impressive in real terms over 6 months on the scale, is probably down to his over-confident nature and approach to lessons. That being said, his skills- development has risen sharply, and he has also said how much he has appreciated the transparency
The final student I would like to share with you is also a male student, and a sports enthusiast. He came from a highly respected private middle-school in the city. The fact he has not performed this year possibly alludes to his general feeling towards education as a whole. We do not take it as a reflection of our program, but more of an indicator as to how important differentiated learning and individualized instruction is at the back-bone of any program. We welcome the transparency, as it shows what we need to keep trying for future students of his type coming to our school. We have tried to work with him throughout the year, but it has fallen on deaf-ears for the most part. We can only hope that he can see sense of his own performance and lack of progress with this very clear and transparent indicator.
I strongly believe that transparency of our curricula and development of better collaborative practices with supportive ICT-Tools can lead to better teaching and Learning across Turkey. If teachers and institutions make the transparency leap for their own frameworks and practices we could all really be on to something as 21st Century Educators and Learners.