What is the answer?  

On the second session, we worked in groups and tried to answer the main question that Professor Sugata Mitra asked in the very first class of this module—“What knowledge and skills should a child have acquired by the age of 12 and how do we evidence it?”

 

After a short discussion, we agreed on that children at this age should be able to take advantage of available resources and find answers (either for schoolwork or their curiosity) by themselves. 2015 is a different time from my childhood while most of the time I have to depend on parents and teachers to give me answers or at least point me to the right direction to read. Nowadays, with the development of the modern technology, internet and search engines can provide almost everything you would like to know. Therefore, we thought that 12-year-old children now have a much better chance to find information than 20 years ago. Therefore, they are expected to use the powerful resources such as the internet to explore the world.

 

However, there are also challenges brought by this convenient  access to the massive amount of information online. For example, can children determine what the keywords to use in order to get the most relevant search results? And how could they determine whether the information found is valid or not? Or could they be able to pick up the most correct and relevant information between thousands of links?  Thus, a certain level of high order thinking skills (Hopson et al., 2001) will be needed in order to use the internet and search for information more effectively.

 

Also, the desire to learn is vital to take advantage of the modern technology. Unlike 20 years ago, a kid without the urge to learn are in greater danger now because of the countless harmful contents and addictive games in the virtual world are available at their fingertip.  Although with many advanced technology available, a 12-year old children should also have the basic skills just like 20 years ago, such as communication skills (e.g., form and explain their own opinion), numeric and literacy knowledge.

 

To be honest, I think we are expecting more from children now than before. Apart from what we learnt in our childhood, they are also expected to have a certain level of critical thinking and skills to take advantage of the modern technology. Thus, the occurring question is–how should we assess them for these knowledge and skills we expect them to learn?

 

All members in my group agreed that new methods of assessments are necessary. Firstly, formative assessments should be promoted in order to bring different angles to enquire children’s learning performances. For example, self-refection and peer assessment should both contribute to the final assessment as well as teachers’ opinions. Also, apart from tests involving multiple choices and doleful presentations, summative assessments could be in different forms such as projects presentation and showcases which students can pick their own topics and show their advantages in different subject/areas. Other forms of assessments including debates, book reviews, and student guided enquiries, can also be integrated. The aim of these new types of assessments is to bring new perspectives and give children  opportunities to show their individual differences in their study. Hopefully, in this way, the assessment results could be more objective and children can have more confidence when realising their individual difference and appreciating their own strong points.

 

This class has worked like a SOLE session, students have the access to internet, work in groups, have a topic question and a final presentation at the end. The only two differences from most SOLE sessions are that a) the students are adults, b) we didn’t use the internet in our group. In my opinion, SOLE can work among adult learners as well as children. It’s just that our group didn’t use the internet is because we already had some prior knowledge for the topic question, even though several group members (including me) admitted that we didn’t have a clear answer to the question at the beginning of the class.  That is why it went more like a brain storming plus group discussion rather than collaborative learning and searching information on the internet. However, we did use another form of modern technology—one of the group members brought her Macbook to the class and noted down our discussion in a word document.

 

Bibliography

 

Hopson, M.H., Simms, R.L. and Knezek, G.A. (2001) ‘Using a technology-enriched environment to improve higher-order thinking skills’, Journal of Research on Technology in education, 34(2), pp. 109-119.

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