Student Success: It's All About Design
Improving every students' success has always been the heart of Edumate. In this way, we see ourselves as partners with our schools, focused on the same goal. Yet we recognise that while the overall goal of student success is shared, the exact flavour and nature of how success is defined and realised can and should be unique to each school and ultimately each student. Version 5.1 of Edumate heralds a major step forward in how schools can achieve their unique goals by embedding them into each classroom's daily learning activities. While much of the functionality to achieve this has existed in earlier releases, Edumate 5.1 signals a more mature and complete package that we think schools will find to be a powerful platform for both designing and delivering their teaching and learning activities.
Learning Intentions: Required and Chosen
One reality in today's schools is that certain elements of the curriculum are mandated and must be included. These are sometimes called things like "outcomes," "standards," "criteria" or "content." Because Edumate is used in many different jurisdictions, we refer to such compulsory elements as "Required Intentions." We believe that just as important as these mandated elements are the local values, vision and mission that make each school unique and may just be what makes the required intentions worth learning. Over the years and across many schools we have found that the Required Intentions become the curriculum instead of being a core aspect of it. This is understandable, but not the authorities' intent. As a teaching and learning platform, Edumate has been designed to help schools easily identify, embed and track all the intentions -- required and chosen -- that create the complete picture of what student success looks like at individual schools. Let's take a closer look at how this happens in Edumate version 5.1.
An Integrated Approach
Every school has some kind of vision or values statement on their Web site, but getting it from there into each classroom's learning activity can be a challenge. Edumate believes that an integrated approach to curriculum design provides the best opportunity for success. The best way to understand this is to see it in action.
Curriculum Set-up: The Unit Template
The first step for a school seeking to achieve its learning intentions is to identify what underpins its curriculum. School leaders do this in the Curriculum Setup interface of Edumate. A new feature of version 5.1 is that schools choose to hide, show, modify or add to the over 30 teaching and learning strategies and components already installed in Edumate. In this way schools align their units of work with the overarching curriculum frameworks and initiatives they have chosen to better achieve their goals. In the sample screenshot, "A School's Vision" has been hidden because the school has added its own unique vision. The screen shot also shows that the ACARA Cross-curriculum Priorities and General Capabilities are not hidden so that these "easy to forget" aspects of the Australian Curriculum are in fact, easy to include!
Design: The Curriculum Module (CM)
Once schools have identified the curriculum strategies and components that should be considered as parts of their curriculum, the actual design of their units begins. As can be imagined, developing a school's curriculum is a long-term endeavour, but worth the effort: what else integrates school goals, teacher professionalism, best practice pedagogy, 21st Century resources, rich assessment and classroom activities? Our suggestion is that schools use Year One of working with Edumate's Curriculum Module to capture the current state of the curriculum. Teachers should view this activity as a chance to make revisions when they like, but to essentially see the benefit to themselves and students when work that might have been in offline documents now benefits from being online with its opportunities for shared curriculum design and collaboration. Many hands will make lighter work and improvements easier to edit in. While this capability has been available since the first release of Edumate 5, version 5.1 reflects many improvements we've wanted to make and have been requested by users. Here are the main changes that make Edumate 5.1 a substantial update to the previous version:
- Terminology used in Curriculum Design better reflects best practice and common vocabulary*
- Better integration of the Australian Curriculum's Content Descriptions as learning intentions
- Improvements to the interface and functionality on the Scope and Sequence Screen
- Refined management and presentation of Curriculum Strategies and Components
- a number of bug fixes
Here is a screenshot that illustrates some of these improvements:
Deliver: The Learning Alignment System (LAS)
When a school has made the effort to intentionally design its units of work, the next step is to deliver these learning activities to students. Schools might use a content or learning management system (CMS, LMS), but there's rarely a direct link from this delivery platform back to the rich units other than when teachers copy and paste from one to the other. We think there's a better way. Fully integrated with Edumate's Curriculum Module is the Learning Alignment System - an option available to all Edumate schools. The Learning Alignment System (LAS) was designed as a different kind of online learning space. Two main ideas drove its development. First, many Learning or Course Management Systems have been designed for higher education and include features that aren't needed by K12 schools. As such, very few schools can show complete adoption of their LMS or CMS. Because all teachers and students are online these days, LAS was designed with simplicity in mind to encourage 100% adoption by all teachers. To this end, every interface where teachers can add content uses the same Rich Text Editor with a menubar familiar to any user of word processors. Once users master adding text, images, videos, uploading files, etc. in one interface, they have learned how to do these things in every part of LAS. This is not to say that LAS is limited. In fact it combines the power of a class blog with a rich online discussion, robust glossary and interactive tasks. Finally, because LAS is part of Edumate, all users, courses, timetable, portals, etc. are all integrated and don't require additional set-up. The second aspect that drove Edumate's creation of LAS is the belief that quality teaching and learning is planned and the product of professional design, reflection and sharing. For this reason, the main structure for each unit in the Learning Alignment System comes directly from the unit teachers design in the Curriculum Module (CM). Each unit in LAS is divided into what teachers have developed as the main teaching and learning phases, chunks or activities. These are created in the Design Tab of CM as Main Ideas and Tactics. The Main Ideas automatically flow into the Learning Alignment System (LAS) to create separate screens to divide the larger learning tasks into more manageable sub-sets. Version 5.1 also includes additional functionality to the Learning Alignment System (LAS) that will make it a worthy platform for delivering the online content and strategies developed in the Curriculum Module. The main improvements in LAS include:
- Modifications to look-and-feel
- Improved image handling of both banner graphics and within text layouts
- Enhanced options in the Rich Text Editor
- Revised Journal Privacy Levels based on user feedback
- Bug fixes
Here are two screenshots that illustrate a view of "My Subjects" as well as one screen from an individual unit:
* Terminology used in Curriculum Design - Based on internal discussions and feedback from clients, some of the terminology used in the Curriculum Module has been revised. This is most noticeable across the top Tabs when creating or editing a unit of work. Below is a list showing previous and new headings:
- Planning > Intentions
- Introduction > Overview
- *Assessment > Evidence
- Tactics > Design
- Delivery stays Delivery
- Conclusion > Review
(* Note - "Assessment / Evidence" has been moved to the left to reflect a "Backward Design" approach)