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Research Made Easy

To increase the chances of lower ability senior students gaining literacy in English (the five reading and five writing credits that can only be gained via English), we added AS 91105 Use Information Literacy Skills to Form a Developed Conclusion to the course programme. This standard offers lots of practical skills. Although students in this course are not necessarily aiming for further tertiary study, the skills that underpin AS 2.8 students are vital for all students needed in know how to find, evaluate and synthesize information. In other words, it’s a standard designed to create 21st Century learners and thinkers.

Gone are the days when we’d stand glumly at the photocopier of the local library feeding it 20c coins and copying pages of books to take home, review and draft from. The internet has made information gathering much easier but has created new challenges.

With junior students, I promote the need for A.C.C (authenticity, credibility and currency), show them fakes websites and a range of search engines as part of formal writing. For our low ability senior students, I do pretty much the same but add in Boolean searches, databases usage, attribution and cittation.

Microsoft has a couple of tools that can help with both finding and saving information.

1.Researcher – If you have access to the full version of Microsoft Word (make sure you have the full version installed and are running the latest version of Windows), there’s a handy tool in the ribbon at the top to help with research. Simply open the Reference tab, then click Researcher and a side pane will open to the right of the document you’re working on. In the search box, type a keyword and press Enter. From there, a selection of scholarly writing will appear. Students can select the site they need or even part of an article and add it to their document. For AS 2.8, they will need to synthesize the material along with information gathered and use it to answer their focus question. Researcher automatically adds a citation with the content which makes creating a bibliography later easy.

2. Smart Look Up – this feature can help students to clarify their research when collecting information off the internet. If a student has copied a portion of an article into a word document but is struggling to understand the meaning, they simply select a word, go to Review button and select Smart Look Up. This will open an Insight pane to the right of the document they’re working on and provide more information related to the word or phrase including links to related research. (Insights are sourced via a Bing search). Students can drag those links directly into their text and add it to their research. Smart Look Up helps students engage with their research and, make sure they’re getting relevant information.

3. Clipping information – if you use OneNote, you’ll be able to download OneNote Clipper. Simply go to OneNote.com/clipper and add clipper to the favourites bar. To “clip” a page from the internet, click the Clip to OneNote button on the favourites bar and a dialogue box will pop up. The student can decide where to save the information to in OneNote via a drop down. If they’re on a site with lots of clutter, select the Article Only icon and only the text will save. The URL for the source site saves to the bottom of the “clipped” material which again helps with creating a bibliography later on.

I watched tutorials on both these tools via the Microsoft in Education website. It’s a great place for some PD when you have a moment. The tutorials are short, visual and demonstrate how Microsoft tools and apps can be applied across a range of subject areas.

 

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Edit like a Pro

This year my school purchased Adobe licenses enabling our Media Studies students to use Premiere Pro. While I had previously worked for a TV production company (in Comms!) so understood the production process, the murky depths of editing suites were not places I spent lots of time. Not surprisingly, coming up to speed with industry standard editing software on my own proved to be a steep learning curve.

It’s good to be reminded of how our learners feel when faced with new material and skills which needs to be developed to a measurable standard within a required time frame. So when in doubt, start at the beginning.

Adobe’s website offers a range of short tutorials that explain the process from a basic starting point (importing footage) to more advanced Premiere Pro features (using After Effects).

After watching the beginner tutorials, I devised a series of worksheets and then played the tutorials over the TV screen as we worked through the answers together. This meant I could pause and re-watch parts that the students

found confusing while a couple of students who knew the basics watched some more specialized tutorials.

The beginner page enables you to download footage of a hoover boarder and then play around with that. I downloaded the footage on all 8 of our class laptops and once we finished the beginner tutorials, we used this footage as out first play around. Students worked in pairs and then presented their short clip to class.

Overall the standard of their trailers and short films produced this year were vastly improved on last year when we didn’t have Premiere Pro. Most of the class just scratched the surface with what the software can do but a few really pushed themselves using Green Screen, experimenting with colour saturation and frame rates.

 

Here’s a few basic tips based on our seven week foray:

  • make sure students import their footage onto a local network drive – working with clips off a USB means although you think you have started saving a rough cut on your timeline, next time you log in, the computer won’t be able to locate the footage.
  • become familiar with the interface – there are four panels to work with and each has its own purpose
  • the tilda key is a quick way to view in full screen. There are other short cut keys, plus drop down options for various editing features. Students soon work out their own preferences.
  • in the timeline, the coloured lines above the video and audio tracks show you what has been rendered. When scenes are glitching, you probably need to render them. Select the in and out points, then render in to out (in the Select drop down). The red line above the offending footage will change from red to green. I encouraged students to render individual scenes before adding into the timeline.
  • time – how I wish we had more. Ideally, I’d get students to have a week practising filming in Term 1 then use that footage to put together a practice clip in Term 2 before even starting to film and edit their own project. Sadly, this wasn’t possible in the time available.
  • there is pretty much nothing you can’t solve by watching a tutorial – except poor camera work and sound recording although even then, you can sometimes make a silk purse with a sow’s ear although this is time consuming and not the recommend approach!

 

School Daze

Source: School Daze

A timely post as NZ teachers take a break. But how many will be catching up on marking? Lots I bet! Some great ideas here about quality feedback. Extremely pertinent as the powers that be continue to demand evidence of learning progress and sadly link that to professional competency.

The Learning Profession

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The conflation of marking and feedback has led to a pernicious culture in schools that equates lots of written marking in books with high quality feedback.The irony is, of course, that the evidence on written marking is thin (read the EEF’s review on the evidence of written marking: ‘A marked improvement’) and sometimes great feedback isnigh on impossibleto evidence.

It’s difficult to pick the best metaphor to describe the profusion of marking and consequent impact on teacher wellbeing but I’m going to go with this (and excuse the hyperbole – I’m an English teacher): teachers are drowning in a sea of marking. At the start of term we dip ourtoes into the sea of marking (got to test the temperature)and before we know it ourfeet have been pulled out from under us by an undercurrent we didn’t see coming. Midway through the term we’ve lost sight of land and…

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Sway My Way

As our school heads down the path of being a 365 learning environment, I’m starting to expand the range of learning tools I’m integrating into lessons. It also helps that my department has improved access to computers this year so suddenly, digital learning becomes more achievable!

Sway is a Microsoft app that enables teachers to create audio visual presentations for students, parents and colleagues. The best place to start is with a Microsoft in Education tutorial. The Teachers Academy site provides dozens of online tutorials which talk you through the various features of a range of Microsoft apps as well as providing some great professional learning opportunities  and subject-specific resources.

Having used Office Mix, Sway is quite similar but, from my way of thinking, more aesthetically exciting. It’s a fantastic way to flip or tilt learning by providing students with key concepts while catering for a variety for learning styles and then providing opportunities for students to consolidate their learning through quizzes or other activities. You can embed tweets, stack pictures, embed video and podcasts.

My first attempt is pretty basic and is based on the novel The Outsiders by SE Hinton for a Year 10 class. I’ll use it at the end of the year as a revision tool.

I used a template and then customized it through the design tab by selecting a colour scheme and font I thought would work best for my class. The next step is insering title slides followed by text slides to break the presentation up into sections. You can then insert pictures selecting from Sway’s recommendations or uploading your own. In the same way other media such as YouTube videos can be inserted. The navigation bar sits at the left of the screen with the work space in the middle. You can easily flick between the two or expand various sections and hide others.

Progress can be previewed at any stage to check and tweak the layout. You can also select remix from the top tool bar and let Sway work its magic on your presentation by applying it’s own design and layout.

My first Sway features a mix of content, set activities and extension activities. Like Office Mix, there are examples on the Sway website of other presentations. I recommend browsing in case there is one that could work for your class – or perhaps for a relief lesson if you need one at short notice.

Your finished presentation is saved on the Sway website and stored on the cloud. From there, it’s just a matter of projecting and playing or sharing the link in a Class Notebook (you can embed directly there) and letting students work through at their own speed – just make sure they have headphones first!

 

Here’s an aspirational speech from an 11 year old! Her speech emulates the TED talks style of presentation with lots of gestures, intonation and rhetorical questions. I often use video of young TED presenters as exemplars but I have never seen a student pick up on the presentation style as explicitly as Florence in her Gender Stereotypes speech.

As the epitome of public speaking, the ideas trust TED also provides a wealth of useful resources, such as the tips presentation below from Chris Anderson the person charged with helping speakers polish their performances. Get students to note five tips as they watch/listen then share with a partner then do a whole class mindmap on board. It’s a great way to reinforce key features they need to be aware of when writing and presenting their ideas.

 

There’s also a really great article here on presentation literacy featuring famous (and infamous) TED presenters who have conquered fears of public speaking to own the the big red dot!

Oh and if you’re keen on a really great gender stereotypes related TED Talk, show students the following presentation by media expert and proud Dad Christopher Bell. I’ve shown my Level 2 literacy class this year as a starter and then ecnouraged them to find a TED Talk they could respond too. It proved quite motivational for a class of book-phobic teens and they chose on a range of topics from running to transgender discrimination.

 

 

 

 

Probably the most dreaded activity for many students is oral presentations. Our school guidance counsellors have told me they get lots of visits from extremely anxious students around this time.

Providing supportive environments, a back up stool for shaky legs, making preparatory tasks fun, viewing inspirational speeches for motivation all help but for a core group of learners, none of this really works. You could argue that speeches are just one of those evil necessities (like going to the dentist) but where’s the engagement in that?!

And while we might be able to jolly our juniors along, for the Level 2 alternative English students I teach, opt out rates are high. Four credits up for grabs but if you’re terrified of public speaking and chasing reading and writing credits, it’s a no brainer.

I think for those students, a better selling point might be developing more relevant, accessible tasks. Broad topics like “adaptation”, “choices”, “courage” are simply not doing it for them.

As long as we can assess against the schedule – is it appropriate for the audience, does it contain conventions suitable for the type of presentation, is it crafted and controlled, are a range of speaking techniques used in the delivery – alternatives to persuasive formal speeches need to be offered.

  1. Small group seminars – a seminar is more interactive than a formal speech. It should contain some visuals, some direct engagement with the audience and be informative. With Level One students, I’ve used this activity and linked it to career planning. We started by completing the career quest survey online, whittled the job options down to three then one, carried out research and developed a seminar on a specific career/industry. There are clear links here to with the Vocational Standards on offer.
  2. How To presentations -Instructional clips are popular. From making loom bands to using a green screen, it’s likely that students have consulted YouTube at some stage so this is a genre they’re familiar with. Due to the lower levels of crafting involved, this is probably better suited to junior students. Here’s some links to clips some American students have created and presented on Smart Phone apps which range from 30 secs to two minutes. Students need to produce story boards, scripts and practise their delivery. Here’s the backgrounder with rationale explained in detail.
  3. Mihimihi – This is an introductory speech that shares whakapapa (genealogy, ancestral ties) and other relevant information. A mihi is presented in Te Reo. A few years ago, a junior student who was struggling to write a persuasive speech nailed this. He began presenting his mihi as per the conventions and then proceeded to unpack the relevance of each reference point to his identity. I still have the scrawly, hand written transcript.  A Level One student also chose this option and invited her whanau to school for the presentation. Again, it one of the best pieces of work she completed all year. Engaging, crafted and delivered with pride.This may just provide the deeper connection some students seek and also help them to draw strength from their whanau and whakapapa thus overcoming nerves.

Here’s a clip on making a visual mihi too:

There’s a few alternatives. I’d be keen to know what other people have tried as well.