Deepening Understanding

1. What is understanding?

"Understanding is a matter of being able to do a a variety of thought provoking things with a topic, such as explaining, finding evidence and examples, generalizing, analogising, and representing a topic in new ways." (Tina Blythe, 1998)

Gathering evidence of understanding "is transferable and involves assessing for students' capacity to use their knowledge thoughtfully and to apply it effectively in diverse settings-that is to do the subject." (Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, 2005)

2. Recognising different learning styles

“Indeed, in education, the challenge of the next millennium consists precisely in this: Now that we know about the enormous differences in how people acquire and represent knowledge, can we make these differences central to teaching and learning? Or will we continue to treat everyone in a uniform way? If we ignore these differences, we are destined to perpetuate a system that caters for the elite – typically those who learn best in a certain, usually linguistic or logical-mathematical manner. On the other hand, if we take these differences seriously, each person may be able to develop his or her intellectual and social potential more fully.” (Howard Gardner, 1999). ( A three minute teacher tube presentation that explores how teachers can personalise learning through the use of contemporary tools.)

3. Developing the capacity to learn

"But for many, the ambition is greater. There is a widespread belief that being an effective, powerful real life learner is a useful thing to be; and that twenty-first education should be aiming to help young people develop this generic capacity to learn" (Guy Claxton, 2006).

A 4 min teacher tube presentation that places contemporary tools within a broader 21st century context

4. Multi literacies

"Engagement is often the easy part of the equation when working with ICT. ...harnessing that engagement, developing a teaching and learning environment that genuinely prepares students for the future, and thinking critically about the direction technology is shaping our society and social relationships are challenges we currently face in education." (Dr Maureen O'Rourke, 2001).

Practical level of engagement - A practical level of engagement must be added to the use of ICT where its use is 'appropriated to accomplish a particular purpose'.
Technical level of engagement - When students engage at a technical level the focus is generally on the use of specific hardware and the 'technical possibilities'.
Critical level of engagement - "A critical level of engagement also provides students with opportunities to develop their understandings about the way we construct and communicate information in our society and to gain control over such media themselves to the extent that they can make informed decisions about it's use."
(Dr Maureen O'Rourke, 2001)

The use of contemporary tools in the 21st century classroom must be for authentic purposes.

5. Construction of knowledge

Constructivism is a theoretical framework leading to classroom methods; technology integration is better represented as a method stemming from nearly any ideology. Utilization of technology is not a goal of constructivism. However, the use of technology may very well enable the dynamics of students constructing personal meaning, learning from one another, learning from experts, and creating unique interpretations’(Eugine Judson, 2006).

6. Contemporary tools at the point of need

The greatest challenge for teachers and students using contemporary tools in the 21st century is the question of access. Throughout a typical unit of enquiry primary students would need access to online resources for the purpose of research, desk top publishing software and graphic organisers to collate thoughts and internalise new information as well as digital cameras to record excursions, incursions and guest speakers. As they begin to question and deepen their knowledge further they will need emailing or online conferencing facilities so that they can clarify their thoughts. If they want to present their findings they will need access to multimedia programmes. If they are creative they made need keyboards with music software such as 'Cakewalk' to provide effective, original backdrops to their multimedia presentations. If they want to take action as a result of their enquiry the use of contemporary tools is limitless. Students will need access to contemporary tools at their point of need.

What is Web 2.0? Ideas, technologies and implications for education, Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), Technology & Standards Watch:

7. Using Kidspiration at the point of need

A current class used the software programme Kidspiration to internalise their learning so far in mathematics in 2008. They had to categorise the areas of learning and then link key aspects in each concept i.e. the combined total of angles in a triangle. The students were given a five minute input into how to navigate the software. On this occasion the software was used as a means of reflection and metacognition.


8. Some student thinking

'I think Kidspiration has helped us so that we could see what we are learning - you could write it down on paper but you don't normally record how you work it out or what the problem means'. (Emily, Year 5)

'I think Kidspiration has helped by writing all our information down so that by next year you won't need a couple of sessions re learning what you have already learnt. You can also share what you have learnt with your learning group or family and friends'. (Davis,Year 5)

'I think Kidspiration has helped us review and write down what we have know in Mathematics - it has helped us share our information'. (Cassandra, Year 5)


Teachers need to carefully consider the use of contemporary tools and how they are utilized throughout the learning process. The more autonomous an enquirer, the more they will be able to use contemporary tools with minimal technical guidance and instruction. Teachers need to develop an environment where questioning, clarifying, internalising and sharing learning about authentic, relevant issues is the focus, not the technical use of the technology. Students need to able to articulate what contemporary tool they are using through the process and, more importantly, why they are using it. Finally, the classroom structure has to allow students a degree of freedom whereby they can utilise the contemporary tool at the point of need. If students have to wait too long, the moment may be lost.