I’m quite inspired by Ewan’s idea of a problem finder curriculum, but I’m not entirely sure how to get there to be honest…however it has encouraged me to persevere with trying to give my pupils’ greater ownership over their own learning, and making their learning more real.
I know it’s nowhere near the idea that Ewan’s proposing, but I have made a couple of recent attempts to use the web to make learning a little more real in my classroom. The first was with an Intermediate 1 Biology class who were about to learn about body temperature. As a parent, I felt that the learning might seem more relevant if the pupils were to produce a website on body temperature for new parents – something I remember being quite anxious about first time round. I knew I’d use Google Sites for the actual creation of the sites, but I didn’t feel that the pupils would buy into this completely with the horrific URLs which Google Sites uses. So I bought a domain name to try and help with this…mybabystemperature.info
You can view their sites by following the link above. The pupils really engaged with the task, many of them taking the responsibility of producing a real website with an actual audience quite seriously.
I’ve since followed this idea up with something similar, but this time the site can be used with a wider range of classes: biologyrevision.info
As you’ll see, I’ve already begun to use this with Standard Grade classes as well as Intermediate 1. Once again, the pupils seemed to really enjoy producing something which is “real” and has an actual audience. And the beauty of Google Sites is that they can collaborate and review in private and only publish once they’re happy with it.
I’m looking forward to finding better and ever more challenging ways of opening up learning in my classroom…
There is much talk of e-portfolios at the minute, particularly as part of recognising achievement. Throughout these conversations I’ve been thinking of something Lynne Lewis said to me when I first started my secondment. She pointed out the power of blogging as an e-portfolio. A blog can be used by pupils to record learning and achievements through video, pictures and text. It can then be read and commented upon by their parents, peers and teachers. This blog could be started in the earliest phase of their schooling and could continue throughout their school career. Pages could be created to summarise specific achievements or events. This blog could even then be continued into later life as an ongoing record of learning and development.
We’re lucky in East Lothian to have the EduBuzz system provided for us, so we’d have an e-portfolio system for free! Of course, you could use Glow instead, but I think the WordPress platform would work much better in the meantime. Perhaps when Glow has developed, this could be used instead.
Why shouldn’t we do this? I think the normal objection to this idea is along the lines of child protection/privacy. Should pupils be posting all of this information on the web? How would it be monitored? Firstly, a blog doesn’t have to be fully public. If you clicked on the link to Lynne’s blog above, you’ll see that it’s actually private. There is a selection of privacy settings within the EduBuzz system to restrict who can see your blog.
It’s also possible to mark an individual post as private.
I also think this could be used as a learning opportunity for pupils. As part of their use of their e-portfolio, they could explore the issues of what they should and shouldn’t be uploading. This could even help them to be more sensible in their use of Facebook, Bebo, MySpace etc…
And anyway, this isn’t new. Lots and lots of pupils are blogging. You need only look at Margaret Vass’ blog to see lots of examples of this. This would simply be about formalising this into an e-portfolio/record of learning & achievements and continuing it throughout the pupils’ school careers.
My school has a well established tradition of holding regular good practice lunches. These are really informal opportunities for the staff to get together and share ideas around a particular topic. They’re also a good opportunity for some free food!
As I’m now on the Learning and Teaching group I’ve taken the opportunity to share the outcomes of these lunches, and any other sessions run by the group, online. I believe that this is a much more accessible format than traditional folders in servers for members of staff to catch up on what’s happened and to see what’s coming next. It also has the added bonus of sharing what’s going on to the world!
The address is: http://edubuzz.org/blogs/rossgoodpractice/