Using ICTs in the Classroom

Initially, I had planned to explore the impact that blogging and purposeful audience feedback may have on student writing. I moved away from this idea when logging onto the internet at school became overly difficult. Our server had very slow connections and this impacted on student enthusiasm for their tasks and ability to complete work. Our network speed became an even greater issue in Term Two and was compounded by the arrival of the configure/conflicker virus. Our network was down and only revived partially at times until well into Term 3.

The floatation device that saved my e-Fellow goals was that my classroom had stand alone Mac based computers. All our work was completed on a Mac platform and although we did not have access to the internet or network it did not hinder students, it instead required us to become more collaborative in sharing our two computers to complete all the steps required in making a Movie.

It is a major area of concern when using ICTs how very quickly and frequently the tool - be it a server or the internet, connecting a data projector, camera, voice recorder etc can impact on a lesson. The way forward needs teachers who are ICT confident to problem solve and to also recognise when the plug needs to be pulled on a lesson and plan B swung into action.

ICTs are a fantastic tool and I urge teachers who have become frustrated to take the time to become more confident, develop checklists for when problems are met and have back-up plans for when technology fails to fire. Your students may will be a tremendous resource, very quickly they will become experts and do much of the work for you, they will make terrific mentors to other students and also lead you to new ways to work with ICT.

I mention this as I feel it is important to recognise that as we move forward in increasing the use of ICTs delivery of learning it is often impeded by hiccups in the system that are beyond a teacher's control or the immensity of new technology and its continuing evolution that can overwhelm the unsure.
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As a result of my e-Fellow time I want to be able to discuss;

  • What dispositions and literacy behaviours are displayed when e-learners are engaged in literacy learning within a group?
  • What are the conditions and supports that are needed to facilitate these dispositions?






Student Documentary Makers
The Kapiti District Coast Council invited my students to enter their documentary film into the Otaki Youth Short Festival Premiere night. An excellent opportunity for the students to have their work seen by a wider audience. Sitting viewing a number of films made by students on a Saturday night had the added bonus of consolidating my thoughts on where I want my e-Fellow study to go. I had been at the stage of casting the net widely and looking at all the opportunities my class has in e-learning but having seen the films I have pulled the net in and will look at the dispositions in evidence during the creation of a film.

Problem Solvers
When making the movie the Year 7 & 8 students were given the responsibility of production and editing. Between them they cut the length of the interview through careful editing. They then decided that the interviewers could not be heard and so they decided to film these students asking the questions again and then edit their clips into the film.



Odd year Term 2 - it must be Antarctica!


Our year 7 & 8 learning programme cycles through a variety of Integrated topics and as 2009 T2 was an odd year our it was time to study Antarctica. A rich topic with many valuable concepts to explore within the context of Antarctica - the land, the climate, the resources, the scientists, the whaling issues, patagonian toothfish pillaging, explorers, artists on ice, the politics, the tourists... Like Shackleton, in a term with everything else on the to do list of daily teaching, we have no hope of getting through the pack ice of the many directions provided in the Antarctic Context.

The students enjoy the many rich learning opportunities of multiple concepts but by the end of the term it has become a skim over the surface and any depth of knowledge and ability to apply it the new knowledge is not readily apparent.

In Term 1, 2009 I was ready to plan for Term 2. I knew had a class where:
  • collaborative learning was not a strength,
  • leadership was thought to be through bullying or being the "cool" kid in the class,
  • a wide range of abilities with a few having exceptional abilities,
  • persistence and resilience was not evident for the majority, their way forward was to rely on adults rather than self or peers to problem solve,
  • they are 21st century children who live in a world of high tech ICTs that entertain and deliver information to them on a daily basis,
  • failure of task/presentation completion. The difficulty and length of a projects many demands was a road block for many who would give up before they would start a presentation project because of their previous experience where they were unable to or did not complete work, it did not meet their own goal or the standard reached by others - previous sense of failure was determining their drive to achieve or not, and
  • literacy learning needed to be a focus in the study to improve students ability to achieve in the four literacy roles, code breaker, text participant, text user and text analyst.

So there I was Antarctica reaching out in front of me with its many opportunities for learning, there was my class, there was an e-Fellowship requirement of needing to use ICT to promote literacy and me.

  • What concept in the context of Antarctica should we pursue and why?
  • What skills did my students need most?
  • How could I use ICT in an innovative way to promote literacy and what is literacy anyway?
  • What skills and risk taking could I bring to the learning?


Looking at my class in this way I knew I had found my path. They needed;
  1. a structured learning opportunity to complete a project collaboratively and have their success celebrated,
  2. to be able have input in the learning and work,
  3. to have a purpose for working to a high standard,
  4. to have a real reason to be literate in order to move on to the next step,
  5. to in fact want to reach the next step, and
  6. to understand what characteristics a good leader should have, but more than this, an understanding of how a leader and a team interact when they are working together towards a common goal.


The concept


I now had my concept.

The World needs Leaders who make good decisions that consider the rights of people and the environment.

The context was then easy. Who better to lead them through this learning than one of the greatest leaders of history Sir Ernest Shackleton, who was trapped in the pack ice off Antarctica, leading to one of the world’s most remarkable stories of survival.

Incorporating ICT to promote my concept gave me an opportunity to build on the idea of using animation in movies with the class. It was natural to move from this focus to full recognition that my students are in fact a generation of digital natives and that they should be able to choose how they want to use ICT to share their learning with an audience. They chose a range from clay animation, an interview, rapping/acting, 3D animation to the animation of Sylvanian animals.


Beginning to Identify Leadership Traits


To be successful collaborative work habits would have to be part of the learning and there was plenty of scope for literacy to be promoted. To prepare students to identify the role of a leader they were given a creative task in groups to make an Antarctic animal created with balloons, string, paper plates etc. They were also given a leader - the leaders were hand chosen to act out an assigned role of leader and ranged from - Supportive, encouraging, considerate to utterly disinterested and disorganised to an obnoxious bully. Students were then asked to reflect on the leaders and the qualities that led to success or not.

Continuing on from this the students viewed the original black and white film footage by Frank Hurley complete with the dramatic piano music and subtitles. This was not received well by my digital natives who expected more from a “film”. While watching the students worked on taking short notes in table that they could use later while viewing.

The next step was working in groups on a list of leadership characteristics and then matching these with examples from what they now knew about Shackleton. These remained on display in the classroom and were frequently used by students to support language choices.

The major gathering of understanding was watching a modern film of Shackleton - “Shackleton” with Kevin Branagh in the role of Shackleton. Once again, there was not a full buy in by the students watching and I could only begin to wonder how an entire term focussed on Shackleton and leadership may evolve. Thankfully, the more they watched the more involved they became in the relationship established by Shackleton with the Captain and his men, and also on the important decisions made to survive. Although they knew it was a true story they did not seem to appreciate what an amazing feat of survival it was, an area that needed further exploration as the study progressed.
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I came across Jen Green’s book “You wouldn’t want to be a Polar Explorer” Illustrated by David Antram, Franklin Watts, 2001. This book gives a light hearted recount of Shackleton’s ill fated 1914 voyage. Divided into sections it has provided a clear set of scenes for the students to work with. The book targeted at 8 -12 year olds helped focus the groups towards the section they were to depict. It had enough detail to prompt their creativity and was accessible to all students.

Students read the group's section of Jen Green's book “You wouldn’t want to be a Polar Explorer” and each group member had to partake in retelling their part of his journey to the teacher. This worked particularly well with many groups as all students had responsibility to ensure the group's success. One student wrote in their reflection for this task,
" Reading it heaps of times but we forget it because we were talking too much. We are not sure we are ready for this because we talk too much we will work better next time."
Students followed the oral retelling of the section by writing it in their workbooks.

As the groups assigned roles it was encouraging to read their reasons for why they had selected a particular student for a position in the group.

The role of Producer of three groups led to student comments such as;
“…great at reporting back and she makes great decisions that everyone ends up to enjoy”
“….responsible and knows what he is doing”
“….very responsible and she is a good leader. She is usually organised. She listens to our ideas.”

Moving through the groups and discussing their choices and reading out aloud to the students what that they had written about each other to support their choices was very worthwhile. Immediately I saw a shift in body language as the students took on board that these statements were genuine. The statements gave them a sense of belief and confidence in themselves that similar exercises in Health often aim to do but sometimes miss the mark due to their context.


Persistence

By now the other classes were progressing through a number of interesting issues and activities surrounding Antarctica and I was narrowing the focus of my students to this one concept. Leadership.

Would it be successful or had I set them along another path of failure and dissatisfaction for many?

I kept going as I was determined my students would enjoy success and that my reasoning was sound. Looking back on all that they have achieved I am pleased I did not buckle. It seemed the more we revisited Shackleton in different formats, angles and activities, the students gained more confidence and a feeling of success as they could complete the tasks that were set.

If you follow the following link you will be able to follow the learning activities I put together to support my students as they discovered the qualities of a true leader. Indeed from their writing and discussion of Shackleton they have all learned to identify sound leadership traits and are able to give reasons why these leadership purposeful decisions are important.

What is Literacy?

During our eFellow meetings the idea of literacy and what it means was a topic of frequent discussion. We were all in agreement that it takes many forms and equally so we as teachers have responsibility to take these many forms into account in our teaching.

Mark Treadwell has the following list in his ebook Whatever Next, A Global Curriculum Framework for the 21st Century (2008).

• Critical Literacy: The ability to identify key aspects of information validity such as
accuracy, objectivity, authority, currency and coverage.
• Basic Literacy: Language proficiencies using the historical notion of literacy
• Information Literacy: The ability to search for and hence access appropriate
information across a range of genre, formats and systems.
The ability to sift, scan and sort information.
• Technological Literacy: The innate ability to discover how a new or evolved technology
operates; recognising its limitations and benefits. The ability to
choose the most appropriate tool to access and process
information and present new knowledge & understanding.
• Media Literacy: The ability to synthesise a wide range of viewpoints/
interpretations from a variety of media and build a concise model
of understanding of those ideas.
• Cultural Literacy & Global Awareness: The ability to manage information in the “global
village”.
• Scientific Literacy: Knowledge of scientific concepts and processes.
• Cognitive Literacy: The capacity to build cognitive models/frameworks of
understanding


Choices


I found it interesting to note the students choices in film content. No girls chose to use claymation as a medium prefering acting mainly and one group used Sylvanian animal characters for their animation. The group who chose 3D animation did so with one student as expert in this area and they were well supported by this student. Three groups of boys chose claymation and it was the plasticine carrot being waved in front of them that got them all through the written tasks in order to be prepared for their film making.

Workbooks

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Students had clear expectations of the steps that they needed to achieve and were supported by a framework in the form of a work book I made(see section 2. Resources for a copy). Because the steps before making props and rehearsing were clearly stated in the workbook they were non-negoitable and this greatly assisted in focusing student effort.

A task I was talking about later with my students was greeted with "You need to make one of those workbooks for us to follow." It was pleasing and enlightening to see the value of this framework to the students. Next time I would not fully make the books but add pages custom made to group and ability to support and extend students where appropriate.


Leadership focus ICT supported


Early on I ensured that the learning had a leadership focus and was ICT supported, learning around the use of ICT supported and inspired but did not overwhelm students. This meant that I needed to work behind the scenes to ensure footage was ready for the next step of student input. Editing and looping was completed by the teacher with students production editing focussing on titles, subtitles, voice and sound.

Tools Used


Jan Green - chapter per group to focus ICT
Macbook pro and G4 computers - this is what I know and have control over
I can animate - animation package
Blendr - http://www.blender.org/ free open source 3D content creation
audacity - for voice recording manipulation
easi speak - voice recording device
i Movie - manipulation and post production
Comic Life - Teacher resource for workbooks
Plasticine