Tag Archives: scaffolding

Process, process, process

Kuhlthau

 Kuhlthau, 2004.

The Year 8 immersive big picture project has come to an end. After an intense and productive week, students presented their perspective on what makes the human race worth saving with creativity and technical flair. Though the bell sounded the end of the week, the learning process, I imagine, will continue visibly and invisibly beyond the project itself. 

I’ve always been more interested in the unseen learning, the mental moments and shifts in between the visible structure.  Supported by a 7 day continuum, uninterrupted by regular classes, if learning moments were audible or contained in comic speech bubbles, we would have heard ‘ping!’ and ‘zap!’ and ‘kaboom!’ If learning was a visible chemical reaction, we would have seen from discussion and interaction marvellous blended colours and awesome explosions.

 Watching and assessing the presentations (mainly film or photostory), a  spectrum of topics and creative approaches was noticeable, as well as depth of thought and synthesis.  Some of the presentations were obviously stronger, and others weaker, but sitting next to the teacher who knew the class well, I was able to glean valuable insights such as whether the student had come a long way, pushed boundaries or surprised with hidden talents. Choice and big picture questions had allowed students to connect with topics of interest, and some had run with this. If the idea behind this project (or one of them) was to engender passion-based learning, then this was successful in a good number of final products, but the architecture of learning and teaching is multi-layered, and in the aftermath, there is much to be reflected upon and pulled apart.

These are some of my thoughts throughout the week as I roamed from room to room:

  • the confusion and mess at the start is normal, and should be a warning  point to students and teachers
  • Carol Kuhlthau’s graph of ups and downs in the affective domain during the research process may be useful to provide an insight into what can initially be a frightening undertaking
  • teachers are just as much learners in this situation, and a forum throughout the process would be great support as well as make transparent the learning journey if recorded
  • there was a noticeable difference between some classes in terms of concepts grasped and degree of synthesis, so teacher support in unpacking questions, leading discussion and debriefing at different stages of the process cannot be underestimated
  • time needs to be taken by teachers to equip themselves for this journey
  • assessment encompasses the whole process through recording in One Note and is more valuable than the assessment of just the final product
  • a celebration involving the entire project cohort is an important part of the journey, and although this was done by some teachers to some degree, there was insufficient time to do this properly
  • the learning process will continue silently after the last day, and we should not lose this but provide opportunities for discussion and reflection, and record these.

I’m looking forward to a recorded presentation of this journey, especially comments from students and teachers about how they felt at different stages, and what they learned along the way.

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Filed under creativity, learning, research, teaching

Digital media is no longer an option – it’s a necessity

John Connell’s post ‘Literacy, Postliteracy, Modes of Expression….and a real Guitar Hero!’ raises the very important topic of digital literacies.  John Connell said that

the process of democratization of expression that is inherent in the development of the Web means that we now have available to us low-cost tools that allow us to express ourselves creatively in media that were previously unavailable to most because the barriers to entry were too high.

 Jenny Luca commented:

I recognise that my students respond to visual media today far more than they do print based.

In response to discussion about what constituted literacy, Hilery commented

A literate person can mediate his or her world by deliberately and flexibly orchestrating meaning from one linguistic knowledge base and apply or connect it to another knowledge base. The definition of literacy is dynamic, evolving, and reflects the continual changes in our society: not least the very real political challenges to the status…

(I love this definition, and wish that I could link to Hilery so I could read more of what she has to say).
Two very interesting things to ponder: what is literacy? and do we need to redefine it? (ok, two and a half);
and is digital literacy just an added dimension, or is it something more vital?
Jess from the United Kingdom put me onto a recent article by James Paul Gee and Michael H. Levine on Innovation Strategies for Learning in a Global Age.  The authors identify a newly emerging digital participation gap, and talk about competencies needed to succeed in a global age which can be developed through the ‘untapped power of interactive media’. The report also states that, apart from the reading gap between richer and poorer students, there is, more recently, another gap – between students who have mastered digital media and those who haven’t. Interesting to see these two problematic areas identified side by side, because both are needed to function competently in the 21st century. I’m sticking my neck out here but in Australia, at least, digital literacies are still way behind more traditional literacies; they’re seen in many cases as an extra dimension, and often as irrelevant in government schools which are not funded for functionality in an online world. In equipped schools, however, teachers’ training for technology remains limited, and they are often reluctant for trained teachers or teacher librarians to provide support. (There are several reasons for this, but I won’t go into them in this post). Or they’re unaware of the need for this support, eg. technology-based activities are unsupported and unscaffolded. The situation baffles me still. The article expresses this very eloquently:

Mastery of digital media for the production of knowledge constitutes a new family of “digital literacies,” since such media, like print before them, are tools for the production of meaning. For a student to fully leverage all the possibilities for learning and knowledge production to be found on the Internet, he or she must learn how to access, assess, and modify the plethora of information available. These skills don’t just develop on their own. They require mentoring and teaching, especially for children who come from families unable to provide this at home. So the digital gap is not just a matter of who has access to technology. More important, it is about who has access to well-designed learning systems and mentorship built around new digital technologies.

There’s so much that’s spot-on in this article. It cites digital media as naturally eliciting problem-solving behaviour and attitudes, and as enabling the solving of real-world problems. Fact is, as acknowledged in the article, we all know that young people’s digital involvement outside of school has been impressive:

In fact, children are already using digital environments and tools to join learning communities and become experts. Many use the Internet, communication media, digital tools, and membership in often virtual, sometimes real, communities of practice to develop technical expertise in different areas. These include video games, digital storytelling, fan fiction, music, graphic art, political commentary, robotics, anime, and nearly every other endeavor the human mind can think of. Their informal process of learning, collaboration, and transforming passion into knowledge is desperately needed in schools today.

Finally, there is the suggestion for a way forward: an indepth examination of the benefits of digital media; tech-savvy teachers training others; literacy assessments measuring problem-solving skills. Is there any research about the benefits of digital media – apart from well written articles? Because if there is, then we need to drag it out of the filing cabinet and bring it to the attention of educators and education specialists.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, Web 2.0

ePals – connecting globally

I was talking to one of our Indonesian teachers, and he asked about the possibility of connecting his class to one in Indonesia. At a recent SLAV PD, Camilla Elliott suggested ePals. It’s a secure place for teachers to connect their students to classrooms around the world, taking advantage of a cultural exchange far beyond the limits of the textbook. You can connect with classrooms either through the forum on the project index page or the search box on ePals’ home page. Through ‘classroom match’ I typed in ‘Indonesia’ and the age range of the students. There were many results such as this one:

I’m an English teacher at one of the middle school in Padang West Sumatra Indonesia. Our first language is Indonesia and Minangkabau but we learn English as our foreign language. My students are very interested in English and want to…

ePals is supported by project ideas and forums, eg. The way we are:

What makes me who I am? In this project, students will engage in a collaborative learning experience. Through email exchanges, students learn about the daily lives, cultures, climates and geography of children who live in other regions of the world.

The project structure includes essential questions, objectives and culminating activity. The 4-part project elements include pre-activity prior knowledge and context-building questions, an exchange of 4 emails with ePals, a presentation of information about ePals’ countries, and a reflection/assessment activity. Each of these steps is well supported for teachers with detailed suggestions, estimated time taken and links to resources. In the culminating activity, students create digital presentations about themselves and their ePals which reflect their newly found cultural knowledge.

There’s a project index
including topics such as The way we were; global warming; habitats; maps; natural disasters; water. Links to information are supported by National Geographic. The home page also includes featured teacher, video and forum, and top 10 ePals activities. There’s a running list of new classrooms that have joined, showing their flag for easy identification.

It’s a great way to use blogging for authentic communication and global connection, be involved in collaborative projects, use technology and build literacies. And it’s safe and protected by blocking spam, pornography and offensive language, and managed by teachers and administrators.

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Filed under Education, Teacher librarians, technology, Web 2.0