Not Just a Teacher

binge thinking on technology and education

Not Just a Teacher

ICT, a way to do it properly – The Sequel

April 24th, 2012 · 2 Comments · General

In my Easter offering of Why ICT should still be taught and a way wo do it properly ,  I described a completely new approach to teaching three Year 10 classes the dreaded and much maligned OCR Nationals ICT course. I provided a step-by-step outline of the approach which if followed, means ICT can and will be an essential part of your students’ learning. Here is a follow up to highlight progress with this model and give information on issues faced, measures taken and strategies attempted to improve the success of the approach.

Let’s first of all re-trace the steps:

Step 1 : Expose your students to divergent thinking, alternative ways of viewing learning and education, lessons and school.

I suppose it is inevitable that in this way of working, a lot of the exposure to such ideas would come in the early stages and when it comes to them actually doing the work, it is a challenge to remind students of the reasons underpinning the work being done. I have found that saving a few reminder videos, articles, quotes that I bring out as starters is a good way to refresh memories not only for the students but for me as a teacher also. I have used this book heavily for this purpose as well as quotes picked up on Twitter and of course from Seth Godin’s blog.

Step 2: Stimulate students’ interests and passions.

I think this stimulus for the work, the passion, the interest factor is vital to keep reminding students about regularly. I can see a few students, as the weeks go by, falling into the drudge of ‘just doing the work’ and not stepping back and thinking about the reasons behind it, the motivation for something they are passionate about. Preventing them from getting into this mindset is vital. Again, I use starters for doing this, showing the Digital Leaders work in our school video and reshowing Dragon’s Den – Reggae Sauce are a couple I have used.

Step 3: Student voice. Seek student opinion on the work done, lessons taught and progress from this point onward.

This is something I have to come back to and haven’t quite got round to yet. I intend to survey the students again, asking their opinions on the model of teaching and impact it has had on them. However, what I did recently was to print out my blog post (where I outlined the model) and I gave it to all parents that came to Year 10 Parents Evening. This wasn’t for the sake of recognition, boasting, nor to receive plaudits for the work. It was intended to show parents what and how their offspring are being taught and why. I have to say the response from most parents was very supportive.

Step 4: Lead students to look within themselves at causes they feel passionate about, problems they would like to solve, help solve, promote or educate people on.

Much of this I covered in Step 2 but in addition, I think it is vital there is an insistence that every student keeps to his/her passion. I have had a small minority of students who want to go off and do different things, base some of their work on something else. I have not let them do this as surely this can only undermine the work already done and effectively, the model as a whole. I feel I must emphasise that this has only been an issue with a couple of students and they are individuals I had to really assist with ideas for passions, lead them to find something to be passionate about. Perhaps, that means I should have put a little more effort and maybe thought about different strategies in the early stages of passion building.

Step 5: Foster group/peer mentality ethos while encouraging critical analysis.

There is clearly lots of this going on in my classes. I am witnessing students working in an environment where they largely share what they are doing, assist each other, share what they have found, give and recieve feedback. This is clearly, in my view, a major plus to the teaching model. Fear of sharing, the fact that pockets of students are working on the same units has created a really strong collaborative community. On a regular basis, students are looking at each other’s work for ideas, how to do things or just purely to enjoy what has been done. To me, there is little more satisfying in my career than what I am witnessing as regards this.

Step 6: Have students set personal targets and their own deadlines.

This has been quite a daunting administrative task to be honest. As described previously I have set  up a shared calendar on Outlook and set out rules as follows:

  • All work has to be completed by Year 10. No units should be uncompleted by the end of the year
  • Long term planning has to be completed showing how many units intend to be completed by the end of Year 10
  • Everybody has to complete all work to at least Pass standard and where students are capable of higher grades, it is expected they will attempt this standard of work
  • Intermediate deadlines must be set in the shared Outlook calendar. (The shared calendar did not allow students to edit or delete entries. Only I had permission to do that)

I have stuck to nearly all of these except the later point regarding editing or deleting entries when just before Easter, I allowed a week where there was something of an ‘amnesty’. I felt this was necessary as some students:

  • Struggled in the early stages judging how long particular peices of work would take
  • Did not build into their planning having to amend work and the knock on effect of this extra time
  • Changed early plans and even changed units that they were choosing to study
  • Had genuinely made mistakes that they needed to sort out

I have maintained one-to-one sessions with students especially as regards feeding back on work and constantly deliver the significance of keeping to deadlines set. This is vital. In my opinion,some of the most valuable skills in all this are the deadline and target setting and ensuring these are kept to. However, despite all this, I still find myself seeing a date for work to be marked in the shared calendar and then I go to mark work which is not there. Although, this situation is improving as the students get used to the way of working, issues remain.

Lastly on this point, I think it is worth mentioning a very small minority of students who have been unable to structure or organise their work and I have had to step in and essentially set them deadlines, insist on work for a certain date and then go through the motions if it is not there. One of these is due to special needs and the other two I would have expected them to struggle with self-management. They struggled when I set deadlines in previous models and it is not really a surprise that when they have control, this continues.

Step 7: Try to be as much of a 21st Century Teacher as you can be. (Ongoing….)

If I am going to self-evaluate in this regard then I feel I am best asking myself if I have become a facilitator of the students education and development in the lessons or not.

Self-analysis is always a difficult skill. The balance being too hard on your self or too easy is a challenge and I always feel there is a tendency for not recognising certain aspects in your own teaching others would easily pick up. Yet, when I stood in a class in the last half an hour of the last period of the day with a student teacher today, I can honestly say I felt like the model that I am using here is allowing me to become something akin to what Sunnaborg describes here:

“My job was not to tell; my job was stimulate thinking, encourage exploration, make associations, and be a connector.”

The trainee had come to me for advice on what tools she should use, how to set work for her Science classes that would stimulate use of ICT. She was concerned about her own lack of knowledge and skills. I was able to stand back and briefly summarise what she was seeing in front of her. A class who were exploring, creating, sharing, working on different projects, at their own pace using tools and skills I had not stood at the front of the class and delivered.

As for the thinking and connections in Sunnaborg’s description, the examples of student’s work you can see here are evidence that this is happening:

Anti-smoking video

Video reviews

Web graphics designs

Gaming advert (video)

Summary

I suggested in the original blog post that ICT departments need to become the most dynamic, forward-thinking subject in a school and that ICT should be the hub of the house, the kitchen. Well, I think I am certainly working towards this. How do I know? I sent the link to the blog post through to my SLT and here is a sample of responses I got:

“Wow stunning !!!!”

“yet again you show your passion for your job and others want to try to follow you”

“An excellent and highly impressive post which as you say has stirred things up a bit. Always good to do this! Are you sure you won’t change your mind and stay?”

As always, please feel free to comment, morph this stuff and come back with anything you want to add or say.

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