Giving an open-ended task is always an interesting issue for teachers. There is a risk involved. Will the students run with the task? Will they stay on track? Will they handle the technology or be distracted by it?
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The task set was using a differentiated ‘take-away homework’ which has become popular in recent months. A chance for students to choose the level of complexity of the task based on their confidence with the materials and, in some cases, the decision on how to divide the task within the group.
The topic of global development also lends itself to personal experience. Students have learnt from video conferencing with another group in the USA and also from a Ghanaian teacher who visited the class via a pre-recorded video. In fact, the whole topic has, deliberately, been taught without reference to a textbook or a worksheet. All the resources have been current, from credible internet sources. Therefore the research element posed no difficulties. Some recommended video and text links were given via a GoogleDoc but many students then took the themes and ran their own lines of research, for example on the ethical policies of well-known clothing brands and retailers.
An unexpected outcome of the suggestion to the use the Tellagami app (being used for the first time by all the students) was that it gave them a voice without them using their voice. In otherwords, they didn’t have to worry about how they themselves sounded in recording. They could type in and the app would speak the text. This was particularly good with some of the interviews, helping to maintain engagement.
Did it work?
An important question is whether the use of technology enhanced the learning process. Well, there has not been a ‘control group’ so this is not a scientific study. However, it can certainly be said that technology facilitated a far higher level of collaboration in the work and gave a voice to some students who would not perhaps have stepped forward quite so readily.
In all, the standard of the work within the class was exceptionally high, none more so that in the personal reflection on the issues being debated and in the awareness of the arguments surrounding ethical policies in clothing manufacture.
The process of working out what to say, the recording, then editing should not be under-estimated. This is a powerful learning process. The outcome is a high quality of content and demonstrably excellent thought processes.Most students used combination of iMovie, Explain Everything and Tellagami. Storage via GoogleDrive. Some imported their movie into Keynote to present additional text. Another group decided they would do their own thing entirely by hand-drawing Anime-style cartoons and adding them to Pages. It was all wonderfully, on-topic and a credit to their creativity and initiative. Why should the teacher determine the outcome, afterall?
Would I do this again? Certainly. Would I do anything differently? Probably not, although I am now delighted to have such good examples to hold up to future groups. One implication is the type of learning spaces that would best make this type of work possible. I had groups using corridors, stairwells, empty classrooms, library areas, even outside in the rain (that didn’t work so well!) – anywhere to get some flexible space in which to be creative (in otherwords, away from a standard desk). Our new innovation room will only assist for next year – ideas paint on the wall, a TV screen for each break-out group and collective space to draw learning together.
Students learnt more and were more engaged. That can’t be a bad outcome!
This is a different way of working and learning. I wouldn’t suggest that it should be what happens all the time but there is certainly a strong place for it in our curriculum.
Another report (written) can be found here – there is still a place for a more traditional approach (although, do note that this is the same pair who also did the anime drawings!)