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Projecting October 21, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in research, Teaching Idea.
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Our Year 11 students are drawing their AQA Level 2 Projects to a close, so as they write their reflections I thought it might be an opportune moment to ask them about their experiences.  I spent a few minutes with the eight or so who kindly volunteered their time; the audio interviews can be found on the SHS ‘Look Who’s Talking’ blog, but here I’ll try to provide a synopsis.

…after a short taster:

As might be expected, some settled on a topic quite quickly, already having an idea in mind. Others needed a little more prompting, but the sources from which they drew their inspiration were varied and included books; their supervisors; lessons and subjects; news and magazine articles and the arts.

During the course of their studies they enjoyed the sense of freedom the Project provided, whether in being able to follow a subject about which they were passionate, being able to work in a way and at a pace that suited them, being able to delve more deeply into a topic than was usually possible or having a choice about the way they could present what they had learned. Even writing an essay became more fulfilling since it was on a topic about which they cared and they had carte blanche in the contents and format. Although presenting to an audience caused some measure of stress and induced nervousness in some, having the chance to share your findings proved particularly rewarding, as did working with a teacher on a ‘more equal footing.’ Several reaching the end when the sense of achievement became palpable since it represented the culmination of so much effort over such a sustained period.

This was summed up succinctly by one interviewee as

…to be your own boss and learn what you wanted to learn freely and not have to stick with the curriculum.

Certain aspects of their study came to them less easily and proved tough to overcome, like time-management, the apparent mountain of work, making sense of an abundance of information and overcoming issues with lack of motivation. Yet the interviewees recognised that meeting these challenges provides benefits they would carry forward either into the next years of their education or across into other subjects they’re currently studying. They had become more committed to managing their time, working to deadlines and had become more self-disciplined. They noted how much better they had become at constructing an essay in other subjects and  that the strategies they used to form an argument had improved. Their self-confidence, patience and persistence had all been boosted, reassuring them of their capability to work independently.

Although no questions in the interview asked how technology had been employed in their Projects, several comments suggested how integral it had been to their success, yet made no song and dance about it. To the students, it was just one of the tools they used and so perhaps provides evidence for the degree to which technologies are increasingly embedded? The Internet clearly played a big part, providing access to information (and people!) they might otherwise not have been able to access so readily. However this was often done using more sophisticated techniques than are commonly employed e.g. Google Scholar, Google Books, using advanced search terms and searching YouTube. It’s all very well to bemoan the ease with which students have access to information through the Internet, but if that information is not available in their school or public libraries, then the Internet might indeed be the only option available.

In thinking what we might learn from these observations, I wonder to what extent the outcomes can be extrapolated to our other students and their studies? Those who signed up for the Project are largely well-motivated, capable learners who clearly rose to the challenges they faced; would all students be capable of doing so? Would they want to?

If there is sufficient value in what Project students learned and gained in terms of skill development, then perhaps it is worth relinquishing some of the time we spend on content coverage and give it over to extended project work and passion-based learning? However we need to know the costs as well as the benefits of learning in this way, so we’re better placed to be able to make those kinds of judgements. Although the Level 2 Project is not “Project-based Learning” in the strictest sense, some of the research emerging in this area might begin to inform our deliberations:

Using real-life problems to motivate students, challenging them to think deeply about meaningful content, and enabling them to work collaboratively are practices that yield benefits for all students.

TeachMeet Dinnington – Podcasting: A Game of Two Halves February 6, 2014

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea, Technology.
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Just posting resources for those folk kind enough to sit through my preso.

And here’s the LiveBinder with a bunch more resources and links to the ones mentioned in the presentation above:

TM Dinnington 2014

‘Look Who’s Talking’ December 7, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in Teaching Idea.
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This academic year an idea I had was introduced into our Enrichment programme. It’s an additional slot in our Y12 curriculum which provides an opportunity to explore an optional area of interest beyond the formal curriculum and extend your skills and expertise. At the core of my project, students produce podcasts centred on interviews with other people; their peers, other members of the school community, visitors to school and hopefully people from the wider world. There are two sides to this, the intention being that the students will develop technical skills in the creation of the podcasts and the blog posts through which they’re published, and soft skills surrounding the art of interviewing. As we near the end of the first term, we’ve explored different areas and created several podcasts under the name the group chose – ‘Look Who’s Talking‘ (perhaps I should be blogging our progress?). During a recent session however, I turned the microphone around and asked them a few questions.

I was interested in how we measure and record progress and achievement and how individuals publish that to the outside world. At age 16, is a bunch of categoric grades on a limited scale a good enough reflection of what we’re worth? Here are the slides which acted as prompts during the discussion, and here’s what the students thought:

It was my hope that we’d cover areas in which technology can provide a lead like Open Badges and e-portfolios, two areas in which I have an interest, but although we didn’t get that far, we did cover:

  • Critiquing the progress tracking sheet I used to record the activities they’d undertaken.
  • Monitoring sheets which provide a snapshot of current performance, but lack depth
  • Annual reports which provide deeper comment, although they have flaws and still fail to provide a full picture and constructive criticism
  • Audiences beyond school like potential employers, wider family circle, admissions tutors.
  • The three elements which make up the information provided: grades (and how the tests that produce them have limitations), effort and progress.
  • We need to be able to provide evidence of our experiences and skills.
  • Other mechanisms for recognising achievement or capability (in music, sport etc), Which also come with their advantages and disadvantages. Credibility, currency, validity and the capability to discriminate.

I guess where I wanted to go was, would Open Badges be seen as a useful way of credentialing their participation in the Enrichment programme. Would they have value for them in this programme or other areas which have no formal mechanism through which participation and achievements are recorded and published. But in trying to set the scene by talking about the systems we currently have, unfortunately I clearly tried to cover too much ground. So to move us forward, rather than me outlining what these systems might offer, perhaps the team could interview someone else and find out for themselves? Hmmmm….

Out of place, out of time. March 15, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Musings.
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from ‘almost witty’ on Flickr

Travelling down to occasional meetings in London, I’m rarely without something to do on the train journey. Yesterday I decided to catch up on a few podcasts and found myself listening to Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) in a Future of Education webinar with Steve Hargadon.  It was an interesting talk and good value as Steve invariably is … well as both Steves are actually. The webinar had taken place in an Elluminate session about three weeks earlier and from the interchange between the two Steves, it was clear that several other folks had been in the session, having contributed questions in the chat.  Now I was simply listening to a podcast, not replaying the Elluminate session, with its full multimedia interface, but did I feel left out?  Not at all.  I knew that if I’d had a question about anything Steve had been talking about, if I’d have tweeted Steve (generous and communicative chap that he is), I could probably have got a fairly swift response.

So in summary, I would have been able to take part in a professional development session which had taken place a month before, with someone who was a couple of hundred miles away, whilst I was belting along at over a hundred miles an hour!  Dr Who? Eat your heart out!

And there are people who still fail to acknowledge that learning’s changing …

Resources for #tmeast February 5, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Resources, Teaching Idea.
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A post simply to bring together the resources I’m looking forward to using at TeachMeet East in Norwich tomorrow (or if you’re reading this after the event, … at Teachmeet in Norwich yesterday/last week/last month … this could go on some while!)

7 minutes, 7 ideas, 7 tools for supporting student voice
LiveBinder of links, ideas and support materials

P-p-p-p-pick up a podcast
Bookr image narrative
Sources of podcasts

Hope you find something useful and if you have a question, by all means ask away in the comments below.

And if you are (were?) at #tmeast and didn’t get the chance to reply to the poll question, click here.