During the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021, industry experts Lauren Sayer and Jon Cronin discussed the current state, potential pitfalls and future of digital assessment.
The first session of the Victorian Global EdTech and Innovation Expo 2021 brought together three education experts to discuss assessment in the digital age.
They addressed how education technology has changed assessment, the impact of the pandemic, potential privacy and security issues surrounding digital assessment, and what they hope to see in the future.
Amanda Bickerstaff, CEO of Pivot Professional Learning, acted as moderator. She was joined by two panellists:
- Lauren Sayer, Executive Director, Digital Learning, Research and Innovation at Melbourne Girls Grammar
- Jon Cronin, Education Consultant at Engage MIS and part of the Education Horizons Group
Here are the highlights of the session followed by the full transcript.
How education technology has changed assessment
According to Lauren Sayer, EdTech has had a positive impact on assessment in three ways:
- It provides teachers with instantaneous feedback and allows for quick “pulse checks”.
- It allows students to give anonymous feedback.
- It gives students the opportunity to tell their teachers how they’re feeling (a functionality that students have been asking for).
“The feedback loops have gotten a lot shorter in education now thanks
to technology in assessment and reporting.”
Lauren Sayer, Melbourne Girls Grammar
Jon Cronin also considers that teaching technology has improved assessment because:
- Students can no longer be forgotten or fade into the background. Each student must now be involved in the conversation, but they can do it anonymously.
- EdTech personalises the learning environment without making it isolated.
But Jon warns that while it allows teachers to collect a wealth of personalised information, students still need to take standardised tests that don’t take individual differences into consideration.
The advantages of digital assessment during the pandemic
Jon Cronin believes one of the greatest advantages of education technology in the past year has been that:
- Automating summative assessments has freed teachers up to focus on formative assessments and formative teaching.
Lauren Sayer notes several ways in which e learning and digital assessment worked well at her school during the Victorian lockdown:
- They were able to quickly move summative and formative assessments online and they’re still using that technology.
- They were able to rapidly survey students to find out what was working and what they could do better.
- The transition to digital assessment was smooth because the students had a high level of digital literacy.
“The success of the technology is only as good as the digital literacy
skills that your students have at that time.”
Lauren Sayer, Melbourne Girls Grammar
How to effectively use all the data collected through digital assessment
To be able to make use of all the data we collect, Lauren Sayer believes we have to:
- Give teachers the skills and time to analyse that data and implement it into teaching and learning.
- Hire data analysts in schools to help make sense of the data and translate it into practice.
Jon Cronin agrees and adds that:
- If all that data isn’t informing choices and being embedded into school procedures, it’s useless.
- We should analyse the data to find the grey areas for each child (the areas where they have some holes in their knowledge) and create personalised objectives for them.
“Technology has a great way of analysing this data […] to say, ‘How can I very quickly know where that grey area is for that individual child so they can move forward?’ But not doing that in isolation – it should still be a social activity and it should still be led by the teacher.”
Jon Cronin, Education Horizons Group
Privacy issues surrounding digital assessment
According to Jon Cronin, a few important privacy questions are raised as we collect data through e learning and digital assessments:
- What rights do students have over the information that is collected about them?
- Could the data we collect be misused?
- As we moved towards online proctored exams run by third-party companies, who owns the data that is recorded?
- How long should we hold onto the data? Do students have the right to be forgotten? Do schools have the right to forget what students have done?
“In the Spanish system, you have to keep records of achievements for 20 years… so, it does help to have electronic data if it needs to be shared. The questions are: who really owns it and can it be shared or should it be shared?”
Jon Cronin, Education Horizons Group
Lauren Sayer adds that there have been questions at her school about:
- How can students maintain access to or download their online work so they can take it with them to university and beyond?
“With a learning management system, how I can get that information
in and out is a new challenge for EdTech companies.”
Lauren Sayer, Melbourne Girls Grammar
Protecting data from cybersecurity attacks
Lauren Sayer believes there are two main ways schools can protect their data from cybersecurity attacks:
- They can have a security audit performed by an external company and invest in firewalls and other forms of cybersecurity.
- More importantly, they should educate teachers and students on the behavioural aspects of cybersecurity. These include being careful about what you share online, knowing your rights if something you didn’t consent to was posted online, choosing strong passwords, changing passwords regularly, keeping your passwords secure and using password managers.
“Technology and EdTech companies can only do so much… increasing the digital literacy of our teachers, our students and our business staff in schools is the key aspect in this.”
Lauren Sayer, Melbourne Girls Grammar
Jon Cronin believes the following measures can help keep students’ data safe:
- An integrated system where you only need one password
- Double authentication
- Biometric security
- Security audits
But he points out that each method has flaws and a security breach is only a question of time.
“Moving towards biometric security does help, but it has its own issues, especially with that data stored and shared. And unfortunately planning for your audits is like getting insurance – you never really feel like doing it until it’s too late.”
Jon Cronin, Education Horizons Group
The future of digital assessment
Lauren Sayer would love to see the concept of time redefined in schools, including:
- Having assessments when and where she wants in a secure space
- Deconstructing the concept of semesters and yearlong learning and looking at more flexible ways of learning
- Offering face-to-face and virtual learning in a hybrid form without the current time constraints we have
Jon Cronin would like digital education technology to help him by:
- Marking his students’ essays and suggesting areas to focus his curriculum on
“Rather than me figuring it out for myself, [I’d love if AI] was preparing pathways for me and then it would guide me, but I would still make the decision as a teacher.”
Jon Cronin, Education Horizons Group
Full session transcript
David Linke, MC
Now we get an opportunity to pause for a moment and think deeply about some education technology thinking and some thought leadership in this space. And we’re going to have some people join us, Jon and Lauren, along with Amanda who will have a deep conversation around rethinking assessment in the digital age.
Allow me to introduce Amanda a little bit more. Amanda has spent the past 16 years in EdTech fields with a focus on professional learning, online learning, STEM, computer science, education and curriculum development. She’s currently the CEO of Pivot, but you’ve worked with many EdTech companies around the world and you’re our resident American working in Victoria. So, you can be our American speaking to the Victorian EdTech ecosystem. I’ll hand over to you to introduce Don and Laura.
Amanda Bickerstaff, Pivot Professional Learning
I have such a great Australian accent at this point after being here for a year and a half, but I want to just take a moment to say thank you to everyone at EduGrowth and Global Victoria for putting this together. It has been pretty epic to see how we can come together in a tech-enabled way to continue to really think through the things that are important.
Today I’m very excited to be joined by Jon Cronin and Lauren Sayer, who are two experts in the field of digital assessment, whether from the perspective of Lauren who is still doing that work within a school and Jon who has moved over to Education Horizons Group which already had a nice little introduction. What we’re going to do today is talk about how we can think about rethinking assessment in digital age.
No one knew that we were going to be moving into an online world so quickly. But what was very interesting is that assessment practices, I would say up until this year and a half, hadn’t really changed too much over the last 15 years. So, we’re going to have a quick discussion and it’s going to be great. We have some questions at the end, you’ll be able to ask your own questions. So, please feel free to go into Q and A, but I want to start by introducing our two panellists.
Lauren, I’m going to actually let you talk about your title. One of my favourite things is Lauren has the longest title in education, which I will not even try to repeat, but Lauren is an expert on everything education, I think, in Australia. She has a strong commitment to girls’ education and to thinking through creating spaces for kids to not only thrive in the world today, but the world tomorrow.
Amanda: I’m really excited to have you here, Lauren. Do you want to say hello, and then also your great title?
Lauren Sayer: Hi everyone. Thank you. Yes, it is a very long title. I’m Executive Director, Digital Learning, Research and Innovation at Melbourne Girls Grammar here in Melbourne, Victoria. And it is a privilege to be able to lead digital learning innovation in teaching and the research institute that’s sitting at Melbourne Girls Grammar. So, it’s wonderful to be here and talk all things assessment today.
Amanda: Great. And so, Jon. Jon and I have met through digital technology so far. So nice to actually see you in person, sir. Jon comes to us from a really great background as a practitioner, as an educator, and now, as someone that works in EdTech. He’s been a leader of ICT for nearly 20 years. His last work was Assistant Head for e-Enhancement – that is a long word to say at 7:30 in the morning – at the British School of Barcelona, which is a leading international school in Spain, which is a beautiful place. And now he’s moved over to Education Horizons Group where he focuses on data flow within schools and application of IP, and I’m sure many other things. So, Jon, nice to see this morning. Do you mind giving another introduction as well?
Jon Cronin: Yes, thank you for the introduction. I’m based in Barcelona, so it’s actually the late evening for me, but that’s not a problem and it’s the wonders of modern technology. I was a practitioner for 20 years, assistant head of ICT at the British School of Barcelona which, as Lauren will have found out or testified as well, we sometimes like to give ourselves unique names, so that became Assistant Head for e-Enhancement. Before that, I taught in an inner school in central London for 10 years at an IT outstanding school. So, a practitioner before moving across now to work with the EHG.
Amanda: Great. I’m very excited, so remember everyone, put in some questions if you have them as we go forward. We have a series of questions about digital assessment, so I’m going to start with the biggest question, which is: what do you think has changed through tech assessment, through technology? The answer could be, “Not a lot” or it could be, “A lot”. I’d love to get your perspective. I’m actually going to start with Lauren. So, what do you think has changed?
Lauren Sayer: I think the speed and the processes, and I think formative assessment has changed rapidly, because we can get instantaneous feedback and resources and student information straight away, which is something that’s changed a lot. And the fact that we can do it either anonymously or face-to-face where I think in a traditional way, you were never able to do that with great ease. And I think that’s an important thing. I think the breadth of the ways in which you can do assessment is incredibly different now.
So, we used to… you’d have a written assessment, and then if you were really, really organised as a teacher, you may have an oral assessment. And we’ve all sat through, if you’re a teacher, the hours and hours of oral assessments where everybody’s listening and no one’s really watching, and the advent of technology means we can all submit that at once, we can all look at it in different ways, we can create a showcase and we can get that feedback very quickly.
And I know our students also watch things at a different speed than I do. I know that my girls will watch a video that I make at one and a half to two speed versus one speed, so the pace of which things have changed, I think are there. And again, that feedback mechanism of being able to answer a survey, a multiple choice, all of those things, to be able to do quick pulse checks as people are walking into the room, but also on teaching. I think the feedback loops have gotten a lot shorter in education now thanks to technology in assessment and reporting.
Amanda: I like that idea of shortening that feedback loop, because I think we’ve all been there. We were all teachers, all that paper. You’re like, I’m going to do exit slips, I’m going to totally do it for the whole year, I’m going to print them out, I’m going to cut them in little shapes and I’m going to give them to all the students, and I promise I’m going to read them and make a change. We all had those great ideas, we cared about feedback, we cared about kids’ experiences, but then we got into that process. The printer didn’t work one day, I didn’t ask the right question, et cetera. That really is interesting about that idea of that formative check and really starting to pull that feedback loop in.
Lauren Sayer: And I think the other thing is, you know your students, you know their handwriting, and being able to do something where the students know that it’s anonymous and it’s actually anonymous. We’ve recently done a survey across the school on teaching and learning, constantly reviewing our practices, and a whole lot of our girls have asked, “I’d like to be able to have a way that I can confidently and confidentially tell my teacher how I’m feeling today without having to go up to them and go, ‘Hey, I’m really flat today and I’m not feeling great,’”. Because going up into a classroom and saying that, we could all imagine walking up to our boss in the morning and going, “Hey, I’m really not feeling too wonderful,” in front of a room of 20 other people. We wouldn’t do it.
And our girls are wanting to be able to do that and say, “Hi, I’m right in the zone today, can you push me hard?” And I think that’s interesting, that our girls are asking for this, it’s not that we’re saying you need it as a teacher. And I think that’s the other part of the technology is they see how technology is being used in other areas. So, on social media, they’re telling people how they feel and they want to use it in the classroom.
Amanda: There’s so much good there. And so, Jon, to you. How do you think it’s changed or not changed with technology?
Jon Cronin: Well, an interesting point there is at the same time of meaning you can’t hide now as a student. Where previously you’d have the old, in a classroom, the radiator children, those that would sit at the side and as long as you didn’t disturb them, they wouldn’t disturb you. Now they have to be involved in the conversation, but then at the same time, they can do that by being anonymous. So, it’s almost good for the ego.
Sometimes when you’re sitting in, let’s say, a typical maths group and you know looking around that you might not be getting this, and you don’t quite know how to respond or how to even start the race of learning. So, you’ll be able to go, “Actually, I can take this at my own pace” and it’s almost personalising the learning environment, but not making it isolated.
I can say one way it hasn’t changed, and that’s unfortunately at the end of it all, while we get all this lovely formative assessment and we get these pulse checks which allow us to actually get the information we require as educators to try and move the child forward, we eventually hit the stumbling block of normally sitting standardised tests at the end of the year or the end of the course. So, we do all this wonderful work and then we focus back in to say, “Well, actually, now you’re going to sit in the hall on a sheet of paper and do multiple choice questions, or you’re going to answer simple statements.”
Amanda: And there’s research that shows that students do a lot better on assessments if they practice them and experience them first in the same medium. And I think that’s an important piece as well. One of the things that we had talked about as a group before is this idea of how assessments can essentially train students to look for different things. And so, for Lauren, your example of teaching and learning, the students now say, “Okay, I’m going to think about this deeply and this is what I want to see for me.”
And we can see the same thing when we think about the practices in which we set up assessments, that if you learn it on a tablet where it has commendations potentially, and then you go into something that’s quite difficult and quite different, especially if you’re someone who’s not as comfortable writing or reading. So, I think that’s really interesting, Jon.
I’m going to move into: what do we think has worked? I’m going to go to Jon first this time. So, I’d like you to think of a time that you’ve seen digital assessment work, either in a formative or summative space, over the last year and a half. If you could share that, that would be great.
Jon Cronin: I think one of the great advantages of technology has been with summative assessment and automating that, which has then freed up teachers to be able to focus on formative assessment and to be able to use collaborative tools.
As society is changing and we’re trying to get pupils to adapt to an environment where it’s no longer the industrial model of directors to managers to supervisors to work… it’s more collaboration, problem-solving, being able to communicate and pass ideas through an organisation. So, we’ve been able to expand to almost free up the teacher from the summative assessments. If it’s a quiz or a pulse or fill in the blanks, yes or no, multiple choice… that can be automated to give the teacher a feeling of where each child is at, which then frees you up to focus more on formative assessments and actually formative teaching.
Amanda: And I think that’s the meat of it… so much of what we do is coming up to that summative place. But if we can feed that back into that formative approach, I think that’s really meaningful. And then, Lauren, from your perspective… I know that you have moved schools over the last couple months, and so really interesting to hear from you as an educator. When have you seen it work, especially through that lens of the pandemic?
Lauren Sayer: In Victoria, we were locked down for quite a while last year, and I think where it really worked was being able to move quite rapidly in formative and summative assessment online. So, all of our VCE assessment tasks had to suddenly be run online and being able to use a mixture of old and new technologies of being able to do that, of being able to use technology such as LockDown Browser, to be able to do a semi – I wouldn’t say super high stakes – but a semi high stakes summative assessment and being able to do that via the technology.
But also being able to use our camera pointed down onto some handwritten paper and being able to do it that way and then submit via video is something that we’re still using right now in the middle of – I would say still in the pandemic. We still have girls that are overseas, that can’t get back, that need to be able to do assessments and being able to do it that way.
I also think rapid surveying of students. It was really isolating last year to be teaching remotely for so long and you didn’t have that face-to-face contact and being able to ask your students regularly, fortnightly, at Melbourne Girls Grammar, “How are you going, what can we do better?” But then sitting down and looking at what those results are was incredibly crucial to improving teaching and learning practice along the way. Things like, we started with cameras on, our girls said, “I don’t always want my camera on, but I want more breakout rooms, and I want to be able to talk with my friends because I can’t go and see them,” and how that works.
And I think in that assessment space, that ability to be able to provide personal information was incredibly important. And I think the other part that worked really, really well, was that rapid secure summative assessment that Jon spoke about as well, of being able to feel confident that your students are on track really, really quickly and being able to submit. And I think the success of that was due to the digital literacy of the students within the school. And I think that’s an important bit: the success of the technology is only as good as the digital literacy skills that your students have at that time. And I think that’s important to mention, because both of the schools I’ve worked at in the last five years have a high level of digital literacy with their students and have worked really, really hard to make sure that they did. So, when we switched to remote learning, there wasn’t that huge gap of being able to understand those things.
Amanda: And for those of you that have seen the research we’ve been doing, we found that to be a really big issue, that idea of digital inclusion. That’s not just about device access or internet, but as much about the ability to have literacy when it comes to digital technologies, not only from the point of view of the student or the family and the teacher and the leader… it really has to be all four. Otherwise, it can be quite difficult to shift to digital learning in general. So, my next question is going to be around… OK, you guys, we’re going big. I know it’s 7:37am for us, what time is it for you, Jon?
Jon Cronin: It’s nearly midnight.
Amanda: We’re having a panel discussion when we’re both, all of us are tired, but for different reasons. Jon’s in the past, he’s got a nice Easter behind him, Lauren’s going on vacation today. Thank you for joining us so early, but we’re going to take a moment and go big for those that are here with us. And so tell us about what you’ve seen, especially over the last year and a half. I’d love Lauren, your kids taking their piece of paper and showing, it’s me, it’s really me something as simple as that. But I want us to think about, what can we do with all of this great data that come from a digital assessment? Because we can have pulse checks that are done… you’ve got summative and adaptive assessments. So, what could we do? What is the future of being able to collect and analyse and understand a really significant level of data about students that we’ve really never done before? So, I’m going to start with Lauren if you’re ready.
Lauren Sayer: I think what we need to do is actually invest in giving the skills and the time to our teachers to be able to use that data and to be able to then implement it into teaching and learning. I think we collect more than we ever have, but actually having that time to be able to digest, look at what it it’s giving us and being able to push forward and go, “What does that mean for my teaching and learning?” is the missing link at the moment.
I think we’re collecting more and we’ve got more than we ever had, but I think if we’re being very honest, are we giving our teachers and our leaders and our students, the time to look at that data, reflect on it, and improve the teaching and learning process? So not just the teaching process, but the learning process. Once we’ve got all those exit tickets, are we making sure that that’s in our routine, that when we start our next lesson, we then say, “Well, this is what we’ve said last time, and this is where we’re going”?
And when we’re in our planning as departments, are we just going through admin and going, “Well, this is our next excursion, or this is what we’re doing, and this is our budget, and how does that work?” Or are we all sitting down and going, “This is where my students are right now, this is the feedback that we are getting, and this is what it means in my practice”? I think that’s the opportunity, and it’s a human opportunity. I think the tech is up there now, I think we’ve got great resources of being able to get things, but I think the data literacy and the time for teachers is where we’re starting to miss things.
And I think the next big role in schools, and I know many schools already have it, is that data analytics person. So, it is wonderful to have power BI dashboards and those sorts of things where they’re sitting in schools and they look incredibly pretty. But having someone that can then translate that into practice is the next booming role I think of schools and where we need to go next in that space.
Amanda: As a CEO of an EdTech company, I’m sure, Jon, you could talk about this now. Data literacy is something that we think about… [screen freezes]
Lauren Sayer: You might want to jump in, Jon, while Amanda…
Jon Cronin: All of the time, I think was the end of that sentence. Lauren, in fact I was going to elaborate on what you were saying, is we collect all this data…
Amanda: Can you guys hear me?
Jon Cronin: Sorry, yes. I’d already gone off, not on a tangent, but to answer what I thought was the question. We’re collecting all this data, is it informing choices within the organisation, within educators, within pupils and has it been embedded into our school procedures? So, is it actually a foundation to help the key stakeholders within the school?
Now, I often came at learning from a social constructivist approach and this idea of the zone of proximal development. So, you’d have, Oh, here’s my competencies, the things I know, here are the things I don’t know, and that area in between where it’s a bit of a grey area, I know a little bit, I don’t know a bit, but that’s the area where I need to focus.
And I think technology has a great way of analysing this data to be able to push that barrier up to say, OK, how can I very quickly know where that grey area is for that individual child, so they can move forward? But not doing that in isolation, it should still be a social activity, it should still be led by the teacher. It will still be a cohort moving forward, but moving forward with personalised objectives for individual pupils.
Amanda: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m back. Sorry about that. I’m sure whatever I was frozen on was just the worst.
Lauren Sayer: We just kept going, Amanda.
Amanda: I appreciate it. You know what, we’re educated educators or educators in the 21st century where these kinds of things happen all the time. So, that’s great. Thank you, guys… Do you see more questions about privacy coming up in your work at Education Horizons Group? I know as a kindred spirit working within this space… are you starting to see those questions come up more and more?
Jon Cronin: Yes. And especially in Europe where we have the GDPR, so we have the data rights. Now, it’s interesting, even as pupils answer an assessment question, how much right do they have to that information? And if we’re collecting information about them, how much of that are they allowed to see?
Now, technology does allow us to very easily show transparency to parents or to other people, but there are concerns about, could this data be misused, whatever that data is that we happen to be collecting. And it’s the same for one of the things I think we’ll be moving towards, proctored exams online, where it’ll be a question of, not only to do with space and time, but the ability to set exams from any location. And then how do we maintain the validity of those exams? Now there’s numerous companies at the moment who will do that proctoring for you, but the developments are going to be interesting about who actually owns any data which is recorded about any child.
Lauren Sayer: Yeah. I think the other thing around the privacy and how that works is the ability for students to take what they’ve done at school and take it to their next journey into the university space. I know at my previous school, that was one of the big things that, as we’ve moved strongly into the learning management space and all of your work was online, actually making sure that all of that information can then be taken out so that the students can keep it. And it was one of the things that we had to change at my previous school, was making sure, and we never thought of it, and again our students did, where they wanted to be able to take some of their work out of the LMS and keep it. So, we had to change when we unenrolled students, so it wasn’t at the end of a traditional term, it was a bit longer so that they could keep that work.
And the other thing that they really wanted to be able to do, was look back at previous years throughout their enrolment and being able to go in and say, especially with language learning was probably one of the biggest, which does work on that foundational building block of word association and how that works. Our students desperately wanted to be able to have all of that data and work that they had from previous years and take it with them. And I relate to it, I learned Indonesian as an adult and I still use my dictionary and my glossary and all of my books now. And it’s quite nice that they’re easily able to be taken with me, but with a learning management system, how I can get that information in and out is a new challenge for EdTech companies of being able to have your data, take it with you in an easily accessible format for use in the future.
Amanda: That’s the juxtaposition… what we have is, kids in schools would love to get that data, but then EdTech, and I know that this happens in the US, I was talking to an AI expert just a couple of weeks ago that he didn’t want to get into K-12 at all because of being afraid to be sued. So, while on one hand, educators and students would love to be able to track and see this over time, I think it’s an incredible risky position for whether you’re in Europe, Australia, now that’s moving towards a stricter privacy… So, Jon, I think you had something you’d like to say as well.
Jon Cronin: It was just a continuation of, there’s a few interesting questions about data and who it belongs to, and even your right to be forgotten and the right of a school not to forget what you’ve done in the past. There’ll be a few quite interesting discussions about that. But one area where technology really does help is with historical data. And in the Spanish system, you have to keep records of achievements for 20 years. So, I know that one of the directors at the British of Barcelona, that a child can turn up 15 years later to say that they still want their records.
Now, if it’s back to when they had a management information system, it’s very easy, they log on, they bring up the records and then they can pass those over. If it’s before they introduced an electrical system, she has to go down into the basement, into filing cabinets, walk through, and then hope someone printed off the actual reports and put them into that child’s folder. So, it does help to have electronic data if it needs to be shared. The questions are: who really owns it, and can it be shared or should it be shared?
Amanda: Absolutely. And so, there’s a question from Hannah in the audience… if you’d like to ask questions to the panel, please put that into the live Q and A. But the question from Hannah, I think Lauren you might be best positioned to answer this. So, what is Melbourne Girls Grammar or Haileybury or other schools, what are we doing to stop potential cybersecurity attacks or think about, not just privacy within what we just talked about, but actually incursions that would come from the outside?
Lauren Sayer: I think there’s two main ways that need to be looked at. Obviously, schools are investing heavily in firewalls and security at a level that’s never been done before, and it’s interesting, I’m going into cyber audit time in my role at the moment. And I’m really looking at having external companies look at where are the security gaps in our organisation and how that works. I think that’s an incredibly important part, but it’s almost becoming, like it is with business, that BAU, that business as usual, of making sure that we’re protected in that space.
I think the space that is new and being a teacher, I’m probably almost more comfortable talking about it, is working with teachers and students on the behavioural aspects of cybersecurity and safety in that space, of really explaining to students what it means to share your data, what it means to have strong security of your data, and what that works like. When we put things up, that it is up forever, and what are the implications of how that works?
What happens if something is up that I don’t consent to when I’m under 18? Because the law is really clear in Australia around that, and that it can be taken down legally, and that there are legal ramifications, police ramifications for that. But the behavioural aspect of cybersecurity and safety of attacks is probably the biggest one. I will link it to a previous job, before Haileybury and Melbourne Girls, I worked at the Royal Children’s Hospital and we had medical records, incredibly secure thing. The amount of times that we were working with doctors and had to explain, “Your password on a Post-It note is probably not the safest way to be able to keep that data there and being able to look at that.”
But those behavioural aspects of making sure that we’ve got strong passwords, we change them regularly. Technology and EdTech companies can only do so much, as again it goes back to that part that I spoke about earlier of increasing the digital literacy of our teachers, our students and our business staff in schools is the key aspect in this. Because without those behavioural changes, we can put in all of the stop gaps in the world in terms of passwords, but our students will still say, “Oh, well, I use the one password for everything.”
And being able to talk to them about the gaps of where security and technology can help them, and explain to students that password managers are a really important thing, and how you might use it and to look at different areas. And I think, as we move more into a biometric space of fingerprints and facial recognition, that will become easier, but that behavioural aspect of always having a backup password is important as well.
Amanda: There’s so much to unpack there. I think it’s really interesting, if we think about schools as microcosms of the greater world, we know that the same way that your grandma or your husband or your friend who get scammed, a lot of what happens in cybersecurity attacks is just human error. It’s really not very sophisticated, and I think that’s very interesting to think about. One of the other things that is really fascinating is that with this shift to online learning… that kids had to manage many, many passwords. We saw that two to five technologies on average each with its own password… the technology ecosystem is super fragmented.
So, I know at UHG, you have three main systems that work together, so I’m sure you see it a little bit easier, but a lot of schools are cobbling together a lot of different technologies [which increases] risk. And I think that’s part of the digital assessment EdTech ecosystem is that there really aren’t one thing that everyone uses, especially in Australia. I don’t know if that… Jon, do you see that as well? You see that kind of risk with expanding the tools about really thinking about how to keep kids safe?
Jon Cronin: Yeah, it’s unfortunate, but it’s only a question of time when there will be some kind of breach. And it’s normally a question of how quickly can you get back on your feet, depending on what type of breach it actually is. It does help if you have an integrated system where you only need one password. And even if it’s a double authentication, moving towards biometric security does help, but again, it has its own issues as well, and its problems, especially with that data stored and shared. And unfortunately planning for doing your audits, it’s a bit like getting insurance, you never really feel like doing it until it’s too late.
Amanda: And we’ve all had that moment where we’re like, “OK, I need to have hygiene online because something happened.” So, we have just five minutes left and I want to end with a forward-looking, blue-sky approach. So, we just had a pretty big discussion about how digital assessment has currently impacted our schools, where we’d like it to go, the pitfalls that could potentially come with it. So, we have a couple minutes left. I’m going to go to you, Lauren, first. If you had a magic wand as an educator to [create] technology to support assessment of your students, what would you like to do?
Lauren Sayer: I think deconstruct and pull apart the concept of traditional time in schools. Of being able to, and Jon spoke about it before, of being able to have my assessment when I want to, in a secure space, without having to sit in that hall, I think is really important. But I think also to be able to deconstruct and pull apart the concept of, what is a semester and what is a yearlong learning? Does all our learning need to run to that timetable or can we look at more flexible ways of being able to push and pull together?
And how that works and being able to offer, I suppose, a structure where it’s not just one school, it’s many schools in an ecosystem and you’ve got different credentials that you can start to get, but all of that is reliant on being able to pull apart that concept of time for teaching so that you can learn when it’s suitable for you in an environment. I believe in face-to-face schools and how that works, and I think being able to offer face-to-face and virtual in a really hybrid form would be that Holy Grail that I’d be looking for, but not necessarily with that semester-long time, being able to look at time differently in education.
Amanda: Competency-based models. So, if you’re… governors and others that are in that tertiary space, that think about less time in seat, more competency-based and using assessment that way. Another thing that’s really interesting is, if you’re joining us from far away, like Jon is, in Australia we have some schools that are very, very remote and to have a hybrid if we had better digital inclusion as well, because there were some questions about that…. there is a need for providing a really high level of quality of hybridisation because we can bring people in that wouldn’t necessarily want to live eight to 10 hours away from a city centre. So, Jon, I’m going to go to you now. And so, what is your blue sky? What do you want to see happen?
Jon Cronin: It’s more of a selfish thing actually from my time as a computer science teacher. I never liked marking essay type questions. If I could have AI come in and mark essays and point them out to me and then say, “This is probably what you should be marking or doing.” And also, if that then almost worked as a personal assistant for me to say, “Well, have you thought about, based on the assessment that the pupils have done, this is maybe where you want to take your curriculum, maybe these are the areas you need to focus on.” So, rather than me figuring that out for myself, it was preparing pathways for me and then it would guide me, but I would still make the decision as a teacher.
Amanda: We talk about that all the time in the work that we’re doing… enable teaching, it makes us better. And natural language processing is still in its nascent stages, but could that be used to grade some of these more complex items? Especially for those, like our computer science or math teachers or those that are English speakers that are marking at the end of a semester, that would be really interesting.
But also as an ending point, this idea of actually knowing what to do next in ways that you feel really confident will help a kid. One of the things that’s really interesting is that we asked a question to about 500 teachers in June last year, about what they thought was most important for students right now in a digital world they’d never been in before for school. And the idea was differentiation. It was the underlying principle. And this is the power, I think, of digital assessment.
Of all the things we’ve been talking about… the goal, I think, is that it has this ability to have personalised pathways where teachers are best able to support students wherever they are, to get them to wherever they need to be, so we have a more equitable approach. And I think that that’s… our challenge.
So, I want to say thank you so much. We’re going to end exactly on time. Jon, you’re going to get to go to bed. Lauren, you’re going to get to go to Queensland, which hopefully has nicer weather. We just appreciate your time and thoughtfulness and hope that you continue to do the great work that you’re doing. It’s been a pleasure to meet you through this.