Are you watching Kalispell?

It is so good to start reporting on student work. Our Project Based Learning (Charter) project for our 9th Grade students (160 boys), opened for business in February 2008. We spent the previous 6 months planning it, my role being the strategic planning of the Educational Technology enviroment. I’ve blogged heaps on my vision for that during all this time. I’d like comments, but I am pretty sure that the combination of PBL (Napa) and a bespoke Web2.0 driven environment is unique at this point

So in this post, I’d like to share a student work. The cover shot shows the driving question and the following 11 pages demonstrate the multi-literacies that are embedded in the project delivery. I copped a lot of flack about my insistence that my classrooms would not be “ICT” rooms and in doing so ruffled a few feathers.

I would not install Microsoft Office, as to me it represents static skill development. Kids find it easy to knock out a powerpoint, word doco or publisher document (complete with word art – a personal pet hate).

Out browser based classroom is packed with Web2.0 links – our LMS is Moodle, with Web2.0 customisation to drive the projects. We wrote our own reporting package – as the Napa version was, at the time either un-available to us or looked liked being offered at considerable cost. So we did, as we have always done, create a ‘Home Brew’ solution. Not that Moodle is anything less than the best LMS I know – despite being FREE.

Adobe Creative Suite CS3 is the publishing and creative platform. Yes Photoshop is harder than Paint, and InDesign is harder than Publisher – but we are advocating that learning is multi-modal, so we developed in house videos, and developed a breadcrumb trail to help them learn deeper skills. We have about 4 of the 15 staff that can ‘do’ InDesign, and 1 or 2 who can produce ‘high end, graphic design’.

Im a 20 year Art Director before EdTech, so I know that CS3 is challenging, but if you are going to learn something, it might as well be the industry standard.

In 3 weeks the kids worked on their project – which is Information Software Technology mashed with Catholic Studies (the context). Kids had no previous experience of these applications. So you can imagine the moaning and complaining that we had in week 1. “I cant use it at home”, “I can’t work it” etc.,

But after a week, they stopped moaning and started to ask specific questions “How can I link this text box with that one and flow my text around the graphic in between”. Learning to ask the right question really helps get the right answer.

The above slideshow is the result of their research. The attention is ‘visual texts’ is amazing. Their selection of images, consistency of design, choice of text and application demonstrates just how well the PBL process drives students to work less on low end Blooms (stuff they can Google) and to consider ways of applying the information they find selectively to support the text and visual argument.

I particularly love the ‘identity theft’ page. The visuals on this page, the idea they portrait in them is something I’d expect from a Junior Graphic Designer, not a 15 year old student. It is clever, relevant and mature in the way they balance it with the text.

Of course no one is mandating that they use x number of words, y number of images and z number of graphs … they are choosing the balance to support the driving question.

Why power your classroom with Web2.0? – this is why, we are giving them access to tools that they use natively, we are giving the ACCESS to Social Software, BANDWIDTH to view videos in their learning and a structured LMS that scaffolds their learning and support it. When I compare this work (and there are 10 more like this I could insert here), to what we are asking 15 year olds to do in ICT based classrooms, there is a clear difference.

This goes back to my view that we often ask too many low level questions, drag topics over too much time and issues assessment tasks that hardly challenge their skills less inspire them to explore creative solutions on their own terms.

I’d really like to get comments and feedback on this work – in the context of the time frame, the end product and the level of learning that is being demonstrated. I’d love to show the students your comments – as I am keen for them to see that what they are doing in their blogs and ‘online classroom’ is “punching through the walls” as Will Richardson said recently. Its really important for them hear this feedback!

One thought on “Are you watching Kalispell?

  1. The extraordinary thing is that if we ‘give kids a go’ then we are honouring their potential rather than making assumptions about what is right for them in their learning. The slideshare presentation show just how important graphic design is in getting the message across. Marshal McLuhan said that ‘the medium is the message’! It’s about time that educators began to breath and speak the same message. Great design, important points in the topic are highlighted, and the ground is set for learning how to deliver a message, as well as being able to work with content to go to deeper ananlysis rather then ‘cutting and pasting’ text. That’s the next step. Actually this presentation would have been totally perfect if the student simply indicated where the content came from – a time honoured technique and in my opinion far preferable than the old teacher statement “put it into your own words”. No leave, the fantastic slideshare as it is, but next time around add the references – and then the finished product is totally perfect. After that, maybe this year, maybe next, do the same great work, but demonstrate synthesis in the process, and even add your own critique.

    I love the work your students are doing – “Go Boys” – a great round of applause!

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