The project was designed from an information architetecture perspective to achieve some outcomes that are over and above those dictated by the syllabus requirements. There was a lot of consultation and planning for this with the teachers. It required preparation of the ‘entry document’ and some initial professional development to explain the strategic goals embeded in the project to promote the following.
- To provide an online discourse community to assist individual learners in a collaborative task
- To promote reflective writing as a literacy requirement
- To ‘google proof’ the collection of information – turning ‘seek’ activities into higher order – justified knowledge in a given context
- To include 3 elements of digital story telling – Diigo, Creative Commons Licensed images (Flickr) and Voice Thread
- To expose students to ‘audience’ – and in that regard – the appropriate use of sourced information and images
- To ensure that all members of a ‘group’ play an equitable role in the over all task
- To generate peer discussion and teacher to student discussion
- To evaluate student ability to use online collaborative tools in a non-ICT based setting
This to me is a critical factor in using online activities. Just ‘going online’ with Ning or anything else has to have a deeper teaching and learning agenda – and one which can be evaluated within known terms of reference. That is the only way that we can show others of the classroom benefits to reforming curriculum, pedagogy and daily classroom practices. This is what school principals need to know how to put into practice if they want to take 21st century learning beyond a few isolated classrooms being run by passionate teachers (who are usually advocated and early adopters). ISTE recently suggested that this is less than 5% of teachers.
So this was an interesting ‘test’ of the professional development model that I’ve been working on with a number of teachers. My aim is to install a workable framework in several classrooms, in which the use of a discourse community (web2.0) tool is used with three digitial story telling tools. The rubrics for the management and formative assessment is central to the overall development of this model in collaborative (not just Project Based Learning). The teachers are not ‘technophiles’ and the majority of students in this cohort are not studing any form of ICT. Its much easier to do this stuff in classrooms where ICT use is a ‘norm’ but in this cohort, they are based in traditional, low-tech, envrionments.
What is interesting, and happening in all the projects that I’ve been able to model with teachers – is that one of the first topics of student lead discussion – is the nature of the project itself.
Students on learning
Students talk in their evaluations of the project using interesting language. In the one above, he talks about being ‘committed towards learning again’, as if he’s become disconnected. He then talks about ‘research’ being boring – I think he is talking about ‘seek and find’ activities – teacher writes up a question, the student Googles it. That is something I’ve been having numerous conversations with students about recently. “What ICT use looks like in the ‘general classroom'”.
I liked the phrase ‘I find it interesting that even teachers are … and giving advice’ – as if this is something that doesn’t happen in their learning normally.
It gives me a lot to think about, as they are talking more about the nature of learning, normal activities and engagement – than they are about the mechanical requirements of the assessment task.
I’ve been keeping a list of final works, so that I’m sharing an wide range of works and not showcasing.
This example illustrates how creativity and mutli-literacies can be demonstrated by the student. These are ideas come through collaboration, negotiation and leadership . These are skills that are well outside the summative assessment requirements in the original brief. The students have maximised the use of Voice Thread’s collaborative nature. Multiple accounts to create multiple info-bites. This student took on the role of project co-ordinator and used the reflective writing process to give clear indications of his, and his groups progress. These can be referenced by time and date to his collaborators work. In their work, I see this students influences as a writer.
Judy O’Connell has talked to me about the importance of information fluency again and again. I think that this example is an illustration of that – and highlights the importance of effective Librarians in assiting students come to terms with multi-modal digital literacies.
The students have thought about the audience and the media. They have got a female voice to dialog some of the issues in the case study of a female motorist. This requires creative thinking and planning if you are in a boys school. The images that have been selected add to the narrative, which in turn contains some additional language that cant come from Google – “the independance of young people” – which is a key motivator in getting your first car. The students are talking from an authentic perspective, and using language to create a connection with their audience.
My concern is that the pressure to ‘mark’ work against far more simplistic criteria misses many opportunities to explore, discuss and reform the way we undertake summative assessment. Right now, I’ve been working on formative, to model ways to support learners and give them a real sense of where they are and where they need to go. It is so important to me, that we take the time to not only create projects that promote ‘creative solutions’ in engaging ways but also to ensure that students are celebrated in their work, when it includes a depth of thinking that cannot be summed up in a ‘rubric’. Online learning with online tools requires us to re-think summative assessment – or at least find ways to give students critical praise as creative individuals. That is something to work on I guess.