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The use of ICT for year 2 students in producing explanative texts for a unit of work in Transport

Melissa Bates

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Introduction In this article I will focus on the use of Information, Communication Technology (ICT) in conjunction with literacy approaches to help students acquire skills to develop their ability to produce explanative texts throughout their unit of work in Transport. Information communication and Technology (ICT) has become an essential part of our world over the last decade as well as in our schools. It appears that classroom teachers are attempting to utilise this new found technology to develop and deliver quality learning experiences to their students on a daily basis. In general, studies have shown that the use of computers can have a positive impact on student learning (Becta, 2001; Newhouse, Trinidad, & Clarkson, 2002) However in regard to teaching multimodal texts within a classroom environment research has indicated in a paper produced by Walsh (2010) Data from the nine case studies provides evidence that teachers can combine the teaching of print-based literacy with digital communications technology across a range of curriculum areas. Findings from this research confirm that literacy needs to be redefined within current curriculum contexts, particularly in light of the emergence of a national curriculum. The introduction of the Smart Board technology has enabled teachers to create an interactive and engaging learning environment for students to foster their own learning and development in all Key Learning Areas. Students are further developing their knowledge and skills around ICT in the process and evidently becoming more skilled in using these tools. However you cannot simply provide the technology and expect for it to be used well without first educating our teachers with the skills to do so (Cuban, 2001). Teaching multimodal texts gives apt opportunity for teachers to utilise ICT to maximize student learning and create engaging learning experiences. In order for the digital age to explore its potential within postmodern education systems there needs to be an overhaul of strategic policy ensuring that future policies are designed to provide support where it is most needed. (Beastall, 2006, p.109). The key to engaging teachers in the incorporation of ICT is to grasp how to carry them in their professional learning and pedagogical growth and how to supply them with adequate time to achieve this. Beastall (2006) initiates concerns that economic forces influence the use of technology in schools rather than the pedagogical change that occurs with new research and development, ultimately leaving teachers at a disadvantage. Unfortunately the force to outfit schools with computer technologies has not necessarily taken the teachers perspective into consideration, when in fact they will be the ones who are operating the technology (Brown, 2005).

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Numerous approaches to engage teachers in the combining of ICT with their teaching have been taken however they have been quite unclear and professional development has been more in sequence with the modeling of skills training (Downes et al., 2001). Evidently this can leave teachers in the position to feel confused and unsupported. The inclusion of professional debate in schools, including the teaching staff may in fact help elevate these issues and the transition of current education with technology may be more likely to occur effectively (Brown, 2005). Professional learning for teachers in the area of ICT needs to be built upon a basis of understanding the pedagogical values and how to incorporate student learning and assessment (Beastall, 2006). In the last 10 years government documents such as the MCEETYA Pedagogy Strategy have measured pedagogy as part of the plan for the implementation of ICT in our schools. It is suggested that in order for teachers to develop both their technical skills and pedagogical comprehension that strategic planning by jurisdictions and schools is required. Professional learning that builds teacher capacity to use integrated pedagogies is essential in ensuring ICT supports student learning (MCEETYA, 2005).

How ICT affected the students learning The students being reviewed in this action research plan were that in a year two class in middle to high class socioeconomic area in Sydney. The students completed several tasks using ICT in their developmental stage of learning about and producing an explanative text. Teaching Opportunities included Introduce the Task of explanation writing; explain the focus on the structure of the text type and students will be producing one using the computer; each student will have access to their own computer for the task. Build Knowledge- Construct and/or add to word bank, revise knowledge of transport types. Read and analyse a range of explanation texts. Use examples from children's popular culture and their own experience from different sources, including websites. Investigate the effect that changing word order has on meaning and recognise how commas, connectives and full stops are used to join and separate clauses. Model sequencing and text reconstruction with a familiar explanation text.

Further inquiry allowed me to focus on teaching methods and how to benefit students the most in these learning tasks. I used several different methods over the period of

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time we explored this topic. Specifically I looked at approaches such as using discussion and explanation. Students viewed a PowerPoint presentation about the features and structure of an Explanation and had to look at the skills needed to produce one. Students revised and built on their class word bank for Transport. They discussed what they already knew about what transport is and how we can categorize transport and why. This was accomplished through discussion and questioning. They began a new list of words for explanatory texts. Through discussion and text marking of key features, in pairs students identified the main structure of a text, focusing on the purpose (to explain a process or answer a question), the structure (an introduction followed by sequential explanation organised into paragraphs), the language and presentational features of this text-type, of texts and their features (use the tools of highlighting, annotating, cut and paste, drag and drop). Furthermore this was added to the list of features of explanatory text for use throughout the teaching sequence. Overall the aim was to engage children in practical investigations of explanation texts using key questions that allow children to compare and contrast examples. Students were eventually able to provide samples and identify the features of explanatory texts through discussion and questioning. Assessment Throughout the action research task many forms of assessment and data collection were carried out. The purpose of this was to analyse the tasks the students have undergone and how well they worked for both individual students and the class as a whole. These methods include; 1. 2. 3. 4. Student work samples Class teacher feedback Observation/note taking Student participation

The way in which this information was utilized was through student work samples which will be evidence of the task and how much was completed or understood when compared to the lesson aim/outcomes. This showed how well students understood the content that I delivered and was an important tool in modifying my future teaching strategies. The feedback that the supervising teacher gave on the lessons I taught was also a great tool to see where I needed to improve for my own teaching practices and what level of engagement students had during the tasks. Observation and note taking were used to see if students are meeting preconceived expectations throughout the tasks and also to improve strategies for future lesson development.

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Unfortunately the note taking was not as effective as I thought as time constraints often left me unable to write down these perceptions or they were simply forgotten. I found the best method of data collection came from students verbal and written explanations, work samples and use of technology to produce their final explanative text. Student participation I found was a great way to determine student engagement and understanding of the tasks presented. If they are not participating chances are they are not engaged or do not understand the task at hand. To answer the research question the data samples were very useful as they were able to identify if students were successful in using technology to produce a text and also as to whether they understood the concepts and structure of an explanation. There were varying samples from students of different capabilities to show a cross section of how effective the tasks were and whether they were suitable to use when teaching this topic whilst using ICT.

The use of software to manipulate text order and ask: Which part of the explanation will come first? What clues are there to justify and support our views? Does it make a difference if some parts of the text are reorganized? How? Why? Use these activities to discuss how diagrams and layout support clarity of explanations, was an effective task in building student knowledge in the topic area. I found students excelled with these particular tasks and appeared to highly enjoy the use of computer software. Evidently students were eventually able to produce a explanative text of the use of transport in Australia. They identified different types, uses and locations of transport and supported this with clear paragraphs and explanations of their purposes.

Conclusion Ultimately the biggest constraint of the action plan was in fact the time frame in which the investigation was held. I believe if this could be researched over a longer period of time and over several classes in the same grade a better knowledge of how well ICT can improve students capabilities of producing explanative texts would be more precise and evident. Overall the results and work samples seen throughout the implementation phase of this project was positive and showed how well ICT can be integrated to maximize students learning prospects across different Key Learning Areas. It is important as teachers that we conduct further investigations into our own teaching practices and are open to new ideas and teaching methods to stay on top of current theories and benefit our students learning. Over time strategies and methods change, these are improvements upon what we have already been taught or practice ourselves

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and in some cases they are completely new approaches to address problem areas in education. It is important to always remain vigilant in regard to new research and methodologies to maintain a prosperous and effective teaching style over our career in the education sector.

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Reference List
ACOT. (1995). Changing the conversations about teaching, learning and technology: a report on 10 years of ACOT research. Retrieved September 5, 2005, from Beastall, L. (2006). Enchanting a disenchanted child: revolutionising the means of education using Information and Communication Technology and e-learning. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 27(1), 97-110. Becta. (2001). Primary Schools of the Future - Achieving today. Retrieved September 3, 2005, from Brown, M. (2005). The growth of enterprise pedagogy: How ICT Policy is infected by Neo-Liberalism. Australian Education Computing, 20(2), 16-22. Cuban, L. (2001). Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom. London: Harvard University Press. Downes, T., Fluck, A., Gibbons, P., Leonard, R., Matthews, C., Oliver, R., et al. (2001). Making Better Connections: Models of Teacher Professional Development for The Integration of Information and Communication Technology in the Classroom. Canberra: Goanna Print. Lloyd, M. (2005, November-December). Towards a definition of the integration of ICT in the classroom. Paper presented at the 2005 AARE Conference, Sydney. Loveless, A., DeVoogd, G., & Bohlin, R. (2001). Something old, something new... Is pedagogy affected by ICT? In A. Loveless & V. Ellis (Eds.), ICT, Pedagogy and the Curriculum (pp. 63-83). London and New York: Routledge Falmer. MCEETYA. (2005). Pedagogy Strategy: Learning in an online world. Retrieved August 4, 2005, from Walsh, M. (2010). Multimodal literacy: What does it mean for classroom practice. Australian Journal Of Language and Literacy, 33(3), 211-239.