Digital Approaches to Activating Prior Knowledge - Digital Literacy Dover

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Digital Approaches to Activating Prior Knowledge

In our staff meeting we explored ways that technology can really enhance our ability to activate and assess prior knowledge and to introduce concepts. We all have approaches to pre-assess students understanding some of which involve technology.

There are specific digital tools when used a part of our repertoire can amplify the process of activating knowledge. In clever ways they help assessment, monitor, track and provide the data to help us differentiate learning in the face-to-face classroom. Overtime we should be comfortable with the following and use them to help assess and support differentiation.
If you teach Maths there is an amazing range of specific adaptive tools at your fingertips. (MangaHigh, Khan Academy, My iMaths) 

First steps:

We all provide students with materials to look over before class, such as unit pages in Teamie, chapters of a textbook or to watch a YouTube video. We also use formative assessment tricks at beginning of lessons such as questioning, mini-whiteboards to connect back to prior knowledge.

Isnt this enough?

Well, yes but with a few tweaks if can be significantly amplified. If we want students to be watch a video or to read an article we should be setting them some questions to focus their thinking.

Technology can really help with this process by letting you
  • Track and monitor if students have actually watched or read the material
  • Automate collecting responses from the students
  • Help you see a collated view of responses and flip between questions or students.

Challenges and thoughts:


A few table groups spoke about the timeliness of pre-assessments. If you really wish to differentiate you need adequate time to analyse how students have performed.  For instance if you are beginning to explore a new concept, students can engage with a homework task in the days prior but does this give you time to modify what you were planning to do?


Suppose instead of having a mini-lesson during class time explaining a concept, that you record yourself with a document camera and have students engage with this ahead of class. What if only half of the students look at the resource? Do you repeat yourself or split the class into groups. Overtime I would suggest that students understand why you are exploring this approach and help them see it as part of the routine and to be prepared. We also need to do something in the first part of the class that explicitly refers back to the homework and references the prior knowledge so they understand how it connects to the learning. If they come to class prepared and yet that work is not referenced by the teacher they will be less willing to do the pre-assessment next time.


To be organised in advance and to preset some homework preparation requires some effort. If you also want to create your own material to support the course it can be extremely time consuming.
  • Start with using a Teamie post to ask a simple question about a resource. This can be a virtual plenary to your lesson. Lock the comment if you don’t want students to see each others comments and then unlock when class begins and get them to read or reply to each others responses.
  • Take an existing good resource or video and repurpose using EdPuzzle.
  • If the approach works explore making your own resource. Try a screencast on your mac using Quicktime, or borrow a document camera to record a mini-lesson.

Presentations - click to end to see department ideas

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