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Talking formative assessment at e-Fiesta 2014

4 min read

This was originally posted on 8 April 2014 (Wordpress).

I was really pleased and excited when the NIE Centre for eLearning (CeL) invited me to speak at e-Fiesta 2014. CeL suggested the topic, I guess based on what they know about my research interests.

If you're interested in how assessment can be done with social media, watch the video of my talk below, courtesy of CeL. The slides can be viewed below as well.

I see the talk as an exercise in formative assessment with social media in itself, and I want to explain the thinking behind it here.

The invitation came at a time I was planning my PhD coursework essay on digital literacies and I had thoughts of rehashing some of the stuff that was going to go into my essay. Eventually, though, I realised that my goal should be to make both assessment and social (media) learning accessible to a crowd which might be ambivalent on these topics. I also wanted to make it hands-on to some degree, because there's nothing like making people give something a go while they are your captive audience. This is of course harder to manage in a lecture theatre, but also actually helps me to make my case for using social media.

I only had a maximum of 30 minutes to work with, including 10 minutes for Q & A. I decided not to try and be clever about it; it would have a bit on formative assessment, a bit on social learning, before we check out what they look like together.

There were a couple of important considerations. I had to practise some audience awareness, tap on what MOE teachers already know (activate some schema?) and work in some MOE buzzwords. I realised on hindsight that this makes the gross assumption that everyone in the audience would be MOE teachers, but I think there were enough on the day to make it work.

I also had to make sure the tech worked as frictionlessly as possible. This meant keeping the tools simple and mobile friendly, and making sure the audience could access what I wanted them to access as quickly and easily as possible. I started with customised links, and added QR codes when Rachel from CeL reminded me that those on their phones and tablets could take advantage of them. I also scheduled tweets that outlined my talk and provided links as I went along. The tweets weren't totally in sync with my talk (I should have rehearsed more), but they ensured that the audience was never totally lost and that folks 'at home' could follow along as well. They also kept my backchannel presence active while I was speaking, perhaps working to pull those monitoring the hashtag into the conversation.

The one thing I wish I did better was managing my time. I have a tendency to go 'off script', which might engage the audience more, but also results in some messiness when time is tight. But I think I succeeded in delivering a session that was engaging without being 'fluffy'. I wanted the audience to go away thinking the issues worth mulling over further and taking action on, but I didn't want the typical academic conference 'snoozefest' presentation (not that I've ever delivered one, ahem). I think the balance I struck was ok for the crowd I had. In fact, I think I actually managed to talk seriously about assessment without inserting too much impenetrable jargon LOL. Naturally, there were a million other things I wished I could have worked into the talk. Thankfully, plenty of questions and comments came in the backchannel (as I'd ask for), and I was able stay on my soapbox for much longer than 30 minutes!

I hope I managed to demonstrate in that short space of time how formative assessment can be integrated into teaching and learning, and how this can be very effectively achieved with social media. I also hope that in experiencing it for themselves as learners, the audience are more inclined to put it into practice as teachers. Lastly, I hope my session sparked some interest in assessment issues. Assessment literacy issues bother me a lot, and every time I 'talk assessment' I hope I'm helping to raise awareness, provoke important questions or otherwise plug the gap in some small way.