Peer Assessment and Computer Literacy for Junior High School Students in Geography Lessons in Hong Kong

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This is a practical experience in adopting an interdisciplinary approach to teaching geography to junior high school students. Some computer literacy lessons were given to 166 grade eight students for a geography assignment. The students submitted their work onto a central server at school using secure file transfer software. Then the students assessed one another's work using an online survey tool. The results revealed that in general, the students were satisfied with the use of online assignment submission and networked peer assessment. Recommendations were made at the end for similar attempts.

Keywords: Peer assessment, Computer Literacy, High School, Student Satisfaction, Geography

INTRODUCTION

Learners today are faced with the issue of information explosion. In order to better prepare our high school students for further studies or for work, it is not sufficient to just teach them subjectspecific knowledge in the traditional way. To truly meet the needs of students, a high school should provide varied teaching and learning approaches and deliver a curriculum that is challenging, integrative, and exploratory (National Middle School Association 1995). However, in most high schools, computer skills are taught in computer classes and therefore the students learn them out-of-context (Eisenberg et al. 2004:8). It is recommended that when designing the curriculum, schools should "focus on learning with technology, not about technology" (President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology Panel on Educational Technology 1997). This study documents an interdisciplinary approach to doing geography peer-assessment and teaching basic computer literacy at the same time. It attempts to find out the attitude of junior high school student toward online assignment submission and networked peer-assessment.

In this study, a geography teacher taught 166 students some basic computer literacy skills so that the students could do online assignment submission and networked peer-assessment in a manageable manner. The tools used were general purpose software that the students could apply in other subjects. It was found that the students could apply the basic computer literacy skills in their geography assignments. Also, most of them had positive attitudes toward online assignment submission and networked peer assessment. The names of the software tools and some recommendations are provided to teachers who intend to try the same at their schools.

Structure of the Report

First, we will give some background of the school and students. Then we will describe how the teacher helped the students build up some basic computer literacy skills. After that, we will explain the steps of online assignment submission and networked peer assessment. Then the results of a survey on their perceptions will be discussed. Finally, we will conclude the experience gained from this study and make some recommendations to whoever wants to attempt the same in their institutions.

The School

The students in this study were in the second year of secondary education (equivalent to grade 8 in North America) in a boy's school in Hong Kong. The students were male Chinese students aged between 13 and 14. There are totally 1255 students and 50 teachers in this school. In terms of number of students and teachers, there is a very typical secondary school in Hong Kong. There were no computer literacy subjects in most primary schools nor in the first two years of the high school in HK, so the students did not have many competencies in using computers in general or how to collect and organize information using digital media in particular. They usually just accessed the school intranet to look at announcements and download handouts. On campus, there were two computer rooms and the geography room also had computers installed. Geography was a compulsory subject taken by all high school students in the first and second years. …