Taking students beyond our e-learning boundaries

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One thing I love about teaching Key Stage 3 Science is the flexibility in the curriculum – anyone who claims that there is a lack of flexibility is, simply, wrong (an argument for another day). As long as you cover the right stuff – ish – throughout a year, everything will be okay. My Year 9 group, 9E, are my only KS3 class this year and when I thought up this project we were way ahead of schedule. It was the perfect opportunity to teach some appropriate Science content and go way beyond it, in terms of content, but also in terms of skills that they could develop through extended use of online learning.

And so the journey began…

Stage 1: Planning the project. I wrote down some half-finished scribbles, that I failed to complete as the project just kept growing! There were some things I needed to cover to stick with the curriculum and plenty that I wanted the students to get stuck into. I got some great ideas from @drewburrett initially, so thank you.

I got pretty excited by it, so on Tuesday night – the day before I saw the class – I:

  • created a wiki using wikispaces – something that I’d never used before
  • created 15 group accounts for students to use in pairs and printed
  • created 15 group accounts for Animoto
  • created 15 group accounts for Glogster
  • put the login details for each group together and printed two copies of each groups details for the pairs of students

That was a busy night, especially figuring out wikispaces!

In the Science department we have 30 laptops, purchased through our Specialism funds, that can be booked out. The next day I booked out 15 and we got started. The students were very excited, so I got them to research the Solar System and find an object that they wanted to choose for the project. They then created a page on our wiki that explained some of the details of this, and put a link to it on the Student Work page on the wiki. They required such little help to get to this stage!! It was amazing. They logged into the wiki, found the ‘New Page’ button and got started with images and text as if it were completely second nature. Some students couldn’t quite figure out linking on the Student Work page but they got there.

Throughout this time, I was updating the Project Outline page to detail the lessons that had been completed and the lessons to come. This gave students an area to refer to when considering what work they had to do for homework, or during the lesson; hopefully encouraging a bit more independent learning without the need to rely on the teacher explaining everything all the time.

The journey got bigger and better…

I don’t want to make this post too long, so I shan’t go into too much further detail. The students watched the Aliens section of Brian Cox’s wonderful Wonders of The Universe, during which they all contributed to a CoverItLive session. They followed this up with an Animoto or Glogster into what sort of Alien life would live on their planet – with some really fantastic pieces of work and great ideas. This was all linked onto the Student Work page.

Following this, students learned about satellites, seasons, phases of the moon and the difference between weight and mass. In the process, students created a resource to explain Seasons and Lunar Phases using their school Google Docs account via our VLE and linked it to the Student Work page. Throughout this, ideas were being collated and discussed using a variety of Wallwishers to allow a collection of their thoughts and to further their knowledge and understanding of different parts of the Solar System. Details of the Wallwishers used can be found on…yep…the Student Work page.

Assessing each other…

The students then had to produce a presentation that summarised their understanding, using PowerPoint. After each group had presented this to the class, the groups assessed each other using our Presentation Assessment Google Form, that I’d created. Once all the assessments had been complete, students spend some time assessing each others’ work from the Student Work page using the Resources Assessment Google Form. The results from all of this were outstanding. The assessment of each others’ presentations were truly truly reflective of what we saw, and the comments provided were brilliantly constructive. The assessment of the resources was equally impressive!

In Summary

The following online tools were used:

  • Google Docs
  • Wallwisher
  • CoverItLive
  • Animoto
  • Glogster
  • Wikispaces
  • Our VLE

There were a few issues, related mostly to the hardware. Glogster, Google Docs and Animoto (in particular) caused Internet Explorer 8 to crash an awful lot. That meant that progress was often slow on some of those tasks; leaving some work lost or incomplete. Also, CoverItLive don’t have a simple way to allow guests to access the session and contribute, which resulted in some students being unable to contribute live to the discussion and having their comments approved by me.

Overall, though, it was a great success. Students showed such creativity, such great ICT skills, and such enthusiasm throughout the length of the project. Their ability to adapt to new tools was astonishing. Their assessment of each other was fantastic, and was helped in part through the anonymity (to each other) of the Google Form. Oh and in a written SATs-style test they all did amazingly!

There is so much more I could say about specifics, but I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the gaps and ask any questions.

2 Replies to “Taking students beyond our e-learning boundaries”

  1. Hi Drew – I just wanted to leave a quick comment.

    Funnily enough, we were in the same physics class at Edinburgh, though I think I started teaching a little before you… though I’m not teaching any more.

    Anyway, I wanted to say how inspiring some of your posts are. I’ve dreamed about doing a project like this for a while (I even wrote a paper about it) but somehow never managed to get it off the ground. I hope you continue to push the boundaries and good luck!

  2. Thanks for your comment Adam. I don’t remember the name (without a surname!) but I’m sure I’d remember your face. Get back into teaching! I’m into my fourth year now and loving it – you need to come back to the dark side and get doing these sort of projects! 🙂

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