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Archive for the ‘inquiry based learning’ Category

Surveying students about their learning preferences and progress used to be a cumbersome process involving screes of paper and (from me at least), a calculator. But there are tools and apps that make the process much easier – for teachers and students who need to conduct surveys as part of their learning/for course planning/professional development.

  1. Excel Survey Tool – Firstly, log in to your OneDrive account then select the New Excel Survey option. Excel will prompt you through the steps which involve giving your survey a title/subtitle, selecting the response type (you need to tick required to make the question compulsory) and adding new questions. There’s a text box option if you want longer form answers, and if you’re like me and create surveys organically, you can re-order questions by dragging and dropping individual questions. Save in View to preview the survey and edit before sharing. Like other MS tools, there’s a Share option in the top task bar to the right. This creates a URL linking to the survey. You choose where to send the link – it could be in an email or in a class notebook , in a word document or on a website. Just type in the names of the recipients and voila! You can open the results in the Excel spreadsheet and from there create charts.
  2. Microsoft Forms – This app is part of Office 365. My Media Studies students have used it successfully for the past two years as part of planning to create film trailers and short films. Again, you need to log into 365 then select the Office Forms app to get started. We brainstormed questions together on the board based around the requirements of the Achievement Standard we were working from and, to ensure individual students could share their results when they got together in groups of three later. The surveys can be shared like Excel Survey via the Share button. Once you have reached the respond by date (it pays to have a cut off), Forms will collate the data and create charts highlighting key findings. Here’s a link to one of my students blog posts based around their survey results.

Whichever option you choose, both Excel Survey Tools and Microsoft Forms are ideal for helping learners to gather and analyse data. Just remember you can only share with people within your organisation. This worked for us as at Level 2  our brief was to make a film/trailer for our peers. Slightly trickier for level 3 when the brief was to make a short film for the wider Taieri community. Students included staff in that survey.

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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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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!

 

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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!

 

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Back in May, I shared my plans for a Year 9 film analysis assignment using Microsoft 365’s Notebook and Office Mix. The last week of term was probably never the best time to execute this ambitious plan but nothing ventured nothing gained!

Overall, the class of able, very self-managing learners completed comprehensive analysis of Ang Lee’s Life of Pi via shared pages in a class notebook. The notebook also supplied them with extra reading on the role of religion in the film and commentary on coming of age genre as well as podcasts of interviews with both Ang Lee and Yann Martel so plenty of extra activities for early finishers 🙂

I’ve uploaded half a dozen of the finished products to the Mix Gallery and on reflection, now the dust has settled, I’m pretty pleased with their efforts. We skipped an essay assessment (which we’ll complete next term) so the overall learning objective was for them to create a presentation that showcased their knowledge and understanding of the film, it’s messages and the effects of film-making techniques. (I’m hoping the hyperlinks work because you generally have to sign in to Microsoft to view stuff. If not try searching under Other – Life of Pi).

I briefed the students thoroughly before we embarked on the Office Mix creation about the need to help each other out, be patient when waiting for my assistance and encouraged them not to panic if technical issues prevented them from completing to the standard they wanted. This made a huge difference to how the next three lessons progressed as they proactively supported each other so was far less stressful than previous my experiences with other learners. In short, they are the exact right group of stuents to trial such learning opportunities.

I’ll summarise the pros and cons and you can judge for yourself if this was a worthwile use of two weeks of a jam packed term:

Pros:

  • all five key competencies were demonstrated by all students
  • students have a comprehensive set of class notes for revision later in year
  • range of learning needs and styles catered for
  • students worked at own speed
  • collaborative environment flourished – students became teachers as we trouble shot technical issues together
  • students had a chance to work in a team and create an interactive presentation that will also form part of study notes (and may be easier for some to keep track of!)
  • when I was away for a day, this assignment was ideal for relief

Cons:

  • some groups had issues working on the shared PowerPoint consecutively, especially when doing tasks for homework
  • some groups were unable to save their finished product to the school network (saving issues)
  • audio option was random – cut off while some students were talking. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason for the random cut offs – some recorded fins for over a minutes some cut off at 38 seconds?!
  • we used streams not surface pros so no access to stylus for annotating the plot graph although some tried free hand
  • I still have to teach them to write an essay!

Our next step will be to talk about creative commons. Only one group attributed their use of content from a secondary source. If this type of assignment becomes the preferred method to consolidate learning, it seems we need some school-wide education about the use of third party content.

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Following my last post (soapbox more than sharing sorry) I realised something. Aside from the very real pressures preventing teachers from using digital technology effectively, have we been blinded by science? What if we all take a big step back, right back to the NZC, then maybe forward a bit to our curriculum area’s learning objectives and then inch forward slightly to our department’s goals. Is it possible to start from the purpose of the lesson and THEN consider the place of digital learning tools?

Here’s an example. My Year 9s are going to close view Ang Lee’s stunning film Life of Pi this term. Close viewing a visual text (being a critical media consumer) is a core skill in English. We want students to be able to infer meaning from a visual text, to consider how the director uses a range of film techniques for a specific purpose, to analyse how those big ideas are incorporated in the text and reflect on the importance of those ideas in their lives, their community and the world.

To attain those objectives we generally:
1. Watch a film and review key scenes
2. Explicitly teach a range of film techniques
3. Discuss and analyse ideas in the film
4. Discuss and analyse the director’s purpose
5. Relate techniques to purpose
6. Reflect on the film’s messages for individuals and for society

So, you watch the film, you do term:definition matches and you write an essay that demonstrates you can apply knowledge and express ideas.

How could digital technology enhance that process?

1. Close view – Use the best TV you can with best sound system available. Use pause and slow mo.

2. Techniques – take screen grabs using a snipping tool, print image to A3, get students in groups to label the techniques or use phones/ipads to go out and replicate a few scenes to help embed techniques and effects. Make the key literacy terms interactive and competitive – try quizlet, Kahoot, Edmodo.While it might take 30 minutes to make your quiz, if you make it generic, you can reuse.

3. Ideas – upload background notes on your LMS. Then give the students opportunities to work through a range of tasks (character analysis, themes analysis, narrative techniques) online, in any order they choose, over a week.
4.Director’s purpose – check: has your DVD got interviews with director at end? Are they on YouTube or the film’s official website? These can be viewed as a class or online with headphones as a close listening activity. I’m going to use an interview with Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi) on RadioNZ as an extension activity.

5 and 6. To consolidate their knowledge (moving from Bloom’s understand and apply to analyse, evaluate and create) students choose their groups (student choice) and complete an assignment requiring them to collaborate and create.

If you go right back to Bloom’s Taxonomy (or Solo or whichever theory resonates), it’s a matter of starting with basics then working up to the higher order thinking by creating opportunities to independently analyse and avalute. I’ll use One Note on 365 because that’s the platform my school uses. It took me about two hours to set up a shared content library, individual student folders and a collaboration space (the basic tenants of One Note). The aim is to use Office Mix (an add on to powerpoint enabling students to add audio, quizzes and drawings) to create a presentation they will then present to class providing an opportunity for some public speaking as well.

If we start with the big picture, consider core skills, learning objectives and key competencies and plan from there, then digital technology simply becomes a means of getting there – while also allowing students to develop digital literacy skills.

Of course it takes time to learn how to use One Note, Office Mix and Quizlet but it also takes time to create paper handouts and worksheets. My advice for the over or underwhelmed is pick one class or one unit of work. Start with a big bit of paper, mind map the big picture goals/objectives/competencies then consider possible steps. For me, taking time to make sure the folders I create for students in our class notebook match those in the content library and are in a logical order is vital to ensure students can navigate their folders easily. So forethought and curbing a tendency to add extra folders after I’ve set up the directory under the guise of “extras” are crucial.

And as for the essay? My students will still write essays this year (a core skill as that is how they will be assessed for externals in NCEA) via written text studies so will practice that skill again before exams. Risky strategy possibly but if they can see the assignment through, hopefully they will have gained greater insight into the text and thus have more to write about.

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Following on from my previous post about engaging senior students struggling to connect with English, I thought I’d share some start up activities developed over the past few years which now form a nice wee package of introductory lessons.

Week One is important. You only get one chance to make a first impression. That first impression for any student is key but for young people who have already experienced consecutive years of Not Achieved (and however you dress that up, it’s never a great feeling), it is vital. Instead of weighing students down with course outlines and standards offered on day one, last year I decided to focus on The Future – for the world, for them as people, and for them as English students to encourage them to reflect on where they want to be and (hopefully) see some relevance in the days, weeks and months ahead because for Mr I Hate English and Ms I Never Read, by definition, this can be a very long year.

To start with, we watched a very cool compilation video summarising the highlights of 2014 via Upworthy. All they had to do was watch and see if they could yell out the event/person’s name before the subtitles. This year – and hey, it’s still early, the best one I’ve found so far is a summary via Facebook.

Fun Factor – check.

Taking it up a level we then close view The World in 2020 (I’ve also used Shift Happens in the past) and discuss ideas around changes in technology and education. Next I used a selection of articles from Mindfood on Future Trends which featured in December’s issue (and has been repeated this year). Students choose a topic that selects them (food, travel, technology) read one or more articles then answer a series of questions. The activity culminates with them pairing up with other students who read about the same topic, summarising and mind-mapping the predictions plus adding their own.

Big Picture – check.

Next I use a reflective piece of writing by a teacher simply titled Some Thoughts (on studying English) which a colleague shared with me years ago. I remind them (hopefully) about skimming and scanning as a close reading technique and then they read and answer questions.

Subject importance – check.

Now we’re up to about Day 3 so I get the students to complete the Careers Quest  (regardless of whether they have done it before or not) which involves answering questions about their likes, strengths etc. This data generates a list of career options as well as entry requirements for the industry, income, current employment climate and information they can use as the basis for a report writing or oral presentations later in the year. (Make sure they save their results so they can refer back later on – and write down password!)

Individual relevance – check.

At this point only, I give out the course outline and go over available standards and credits with them. It might feel as if I’ve created a false impression that the year is going to be all about YouTube and mind maps but what I’ve learned about these students is they already know they will find the standard required hard but what might motivate them to give things a go is if they can see some relevance and understand that we are working together to develop life skills.  Certainly beats writing letters about yourself ….

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