eLearning Through The Lens Of Key Competencies

EdTech SummitIn the last week of Term 2 I had the opportunity to present at the NZ Tech Advance Education Technology Summit hosted at Massey University’s Albany Campus. Key topics and subjects discussed include:

  • Inquiry | Creativity | Collaboration – The role of technology in modern learning
  • Developing teacher understanding and encouraging implementation of collaborative and digital learning methods
  • Integrating and encouraging digital technology adoption in curriculum and classroom
  • The new narrative: IT training and computational thinking
  • Building technology into the curriculum – lessons, challenges and what we’ve learnt along the way
  • Collaboration at the forefront of today’s teaching environment

When preparing what I wanted to share at the 40 minute session I had been given, I decided on using the Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum to explain why some examples of eLearning from four St Andrew’s College teachers had been successful. Additionally, I wanted to use authentic student voice to highlight this – fortunately, having been blogging on this site for over two years now there was plenty of examples I could draw on.

If you are interested in an independent view of my session then you can see this micro blogs from Nathaniel Louwrens here and this brief reflection from Andrew Corney here. You can download a full copy of my slides from the presentation from this link on dropbox.com.

The Key Competencies are at the heart of great teaching and learning in New Zealand and are the bedrock upon which effective eLearning can be built on.

Key Competencies

The Key Competencies from the NZ Curriculum

It’s worth reading over the entire descriptions of learners who demonstrate the 5 Key Competencies but some highlights I pulled out to share at the conference included:

  • Thinking: is about using creative, critical, and metacognitive processes to make sense of information, experiences, and ideas … Intellectual curiosity is at the heart of this competency … [Students] reflect on their own learning, draw on personal knowledge and intuitions, ask questions, and challenge the basis of assumptions and perceptions.
  • Using Language, Symbols and Texts:  Using language, symbols, and texts is about working with and making meaning of the codes in which knowledge is expressed  … Students who are competent users … can interpret and use words, number, images, … and technologies in a range of contexts … They confidently use ICT to access and provide information and to communicate with others
  • Managing Self: This competency is associated with self-motivation, a “can-do” attitude, and with students seeing themselves as capable learners … It is integral to self-assessment.
  • Relating To Others: Students who relate well to others are open to new learning and able to take different roles in different situations … By working effectively together, they can come up with new approaches, ideas, and ways of thinking.
  • Participating & Contributing: This competency is about being actively involved in communities … They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity … to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.

I started the session off by highlighting the fact that often ICT is talked about in terms of risk. This can come from security breaches, budget blow-outs and ICT project cost overruns, not to mention distracted and off-task behaviour when using technology. I then posed the following questions:

Questions.png

I wanted to highlight how some of the best examples of effective eLearning from teachers at St Andrew’s College was firmly rooted in Key Competencies. I chose examples from the following four teachers:

Teachers

Combining OneNote & MineCraft To Create Pick-A-Path Stories:

This example is explained in more detail here and the basic Learning Outcomes are displayed below with the relevant Key Competencies included:

Learning outcomes from this unit:

  • to produce interactive pick-a-path adventure stories
    • KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
  • to work collaboratively online to produce an end product
    • KC: Relating To Others
  • to create stories to share online with a wider audience
    • KC: Participating & Contributing

As mentioned above, I wanted to use authentic student voice as much as possible so I included an abbreviated version of the following video so that the audience could hear students articulating their learning and the impact that technology had made:

An insightful quote from the student called Harry was:

The goal was not to just make something pretty in Minecraft, it was actually to improve the quality of your writing … after writing the story, the idea was to look back in Minecraft and see how you could improve the writing you had already completed.

SAMR DivingTo assist teachers at St Andrew’s College with integration of technology into their teaching and learning, we have adopted the SAMR taxonomy that you can see on the left.

This is a really useful way for teachers to conceptualise how technology might assist the learning outcomes for their students as well as provide them some aspirational goals for extended use of technology. Tom Adams, our eLearning Integrator, has recently written in detail about effective use of the SAMR model which is definitely worth reading if you are new to it. During the presentation, I introduced the audience to a relatively new product from Microsoft called Pulse. This enables the audience to provide real time feedback on a session as well as allowing the presenter to push out questions for quick polls. I asked the audience “What level of SAMR do you feel the Minecraft/OneNote example was operating at?” and below is their response:

Pulse SAMR

Using Microsoft Pulse for instant feedback from the audience

Inspiring Creative Writing Through Constructing Digital Worlds:

The next example I shared was again around creative writing, this time from the High School instead of a Year 6 class. The full reflection can be found here, however the high level overview of the task was as follows (with Key Competencies inserted):

Learning Tasks For This Unit:

  • Write a short story of ~600 words with a theme of “conflict”
    • KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Text
  • Students Must produce at least 4 “drafts”
    • KC: Thinking
  • Drafts must be shared with peers for feedback/feed-forward & act on appropriate advice
    • KC: Participating & Contributing

What was different about this activity is that students had to build their digital world before they started their writing and use it as a source of inspiration and planning, not just as a reflective tool for editing. Settings were constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Here is a student Ralph talking about his world which I again shared with the conference audience:

Again, I find the language used by the student here informative, with some of his comments being:

  • I wanted readers to grasp that the bombs had come from the bank itself”
    • Clearly, the reader’s experience is at the forefront of his thinking when he is designing his digital world.
  • He blended his natural enjoyment of the game Counter Strike with his school work and learning – a win/win situation!
  • Ralph talks about adding a backstory to the real events of the London Bombings, demonstrating a wider awareness of global communities
  • “As I was designing the level I was constantly thinking of ways I could make the story more interesting.
    • This was not just technology for the sake of it – it was clearly shaping and informing his understanding of the creative writing task that was the key learning outcome here.
    • This was manifested through his drafting process where he removed a lot of the dialogue to improve the narrative flow and added more descriptive text such as the sound of the gunfire

This impressive learning came on the back of an earlier, easier task where the students in the class had leveraged an existing digital world (Google Earth) rather than having to create their own. Through the lens of the SAMR scale this makes perfect sense – the students build their knowledge and experience of digital toolsets in the lower levels of SAMR and once mastered they can progress to more difficult tasks. Here is a write up of the earlier task where students had to explain the significance of setting in a film, and this is a student talking about their comprehension.

Again, it’s important to pick up on the student’s language – the technology is integrally linked to the learning outcomes, it is not merely there for entertainment or distraction. By requiring students to record their personal reflections in this way, students are using a number of Key Competencies.

Communicate Musical Intention By Composing An Original Piece of Music Inspired By Art:

The final example I shared with the audience came from Level 3 Year 13 Music. On the first day of the conference I had been asked to be part of a Q&A Panel about integrating technology into schools and one question from the audience was essentially around what are real world examples of great technology usage in NCEA subjects. The heart of the question was around the challenge of adapting existing assessments to be technology rich and I answered it by a brief description of this example from Mr Duncan Ferguson our Head of Music.

  • Using AS.91419 (3.4)
    • KC: Using Languages, Symbols & Texts
  • Students are required to reflect on their composition and explain the connection with the art that inspired them
    • KC: Thinking
  • These are largely independent projects that the students need to work on themselves
    • KC: Managing Self

Here is the video of the student reflecting on their learning:

Flipping The Maths Classroom:

I wanted to allow some Q&A at the end of my session so I ran out of time to share this example from Mr Ben Hilliam, so I’ll briefly reference it here. In this example, the key learning outcomes included:

  • Year 9 Maths: solving Linear Equations
    • KC: Using Language, Symbols & Text
  • Students were required to watch the instructional videos and then attempt the practice questions
    • KC: Thinking
  • Students needed to regularly complete check lists indicating their progress
    • KC: Managing Self

Here is an example video made by Mr Hilliam:

What I most liked about this example is that students were not left on their own to just work through it, the teacher is still involved through the process, despite the availability of the instructional videos. The following screenshot is from a OneNote Class Notebook showing how the student has completed their progress reports and the teacher has provided feedback:

Work eg2

I used MS Pulse to ask the audience whether they personally felt that using a “flipped classroom” genuinely created more opportunities for differentiated and personalised learning during class time. Their response was overwhelmingly “yes!”

Flipping The Classroom

An alternative way to show poll results from MS Pulse

I concluded my session with the following thoughts:

Concluding Thoughts

I really enjoyed the opportunity to present at the NZ Tech Advance Education Technology Summit and was fortunate enough to receive some positive feedback from the session:

Modelling Google Earth Tours & Internet Research

Barry Martin PhotoI was recently invited to speak at the weekly St Andrew’s College Chapel Service. One of the features of these services is the Deputy Head Prefects walking up the centre aisle at the conclusion of the first hymn, and saying “Today we remember ….” and naming an Old Collegian who was killed in action.

For my Chapel, I researched Barry Martin, student #101 at St Andrew’s, who attended from 1918-25 in the Preparatory School and completed his first tour in the RAF before volunteering for a second and eventually completing 46 operational missions over occupied Europe, before being killed on 2nd February 1943.

To visually represent Barry’s life, I opted to build a Google Earth Tour (something I shared on at the recent TeachMeet hosted at St Andrew’s) and indicate places of significance such as his birth (Waiau, North Canterbury), where he attended school (here at St Andrew’s College), through to his various flight training and operational bases (Canada, Mildenhall and Oakington) and his final resting place (Rotterdam General Cemetery). Google Earth tours are something we have encouraged teachers to use and some good examples include:

Targets

The yellow pins in this Google Earth screenshot represent targets Barry Martin navigated his crew to, over the course of his 46 flights.

The entire story that I shared at the Chapel Service can be seen in the video at the top of the blog, however you can see the start of the narrated Google Earth tour here. What has been interesting to me is the amount of teachers and students who were really surprised by the power of Google Earth, having never really used it in any meaningful context before. Consequently, Tom Adams (our eLearning Integrator) has run some professional development sessions for staff interested in using it with their students.

The reality is, whilst the visualisations of Barry Martin’s journey added engagement through technology, the researching of the information for the presentation itself was almost entirely dependent on the power of the Internet. I had used Microsoft OneNote to easily compile a working document of information, starting with links to relevant websites and notes to myself on their usefulness:

The ease of being able to drag ‘n drop and cut ‘n paste information into this notebook accelerated the research considerably:

OneNote for research

Screenshot of my OneNote notebook for researching Old Collegians

One of my goals in this research was to bring to life Barry Martin’s story and show more about him as person and not just a statistic from World War II. Through the searching of PapersPast I was able to find references to Barry’s pre-war life, including his engagement and  attendance at an Old Collegian dance at the Dunsandel Hall with his fiancee, which sounded like an eventful night with the power cutting out!

Other sources that proved invaluable in finding out more about Barry’s life included Google Books, an unexpected source that showed up the research of Stephen Harris in his book Under a Bomber’s Moon and the relationship between his great Uncle Col Jones and Barry Martin. It is from this source that I obtained the photo below of Barry with unnamed friends, along with the entertaining account of Barry cooking up a storm in the barracks with tins of lambs tongues and tomato sauce sent to him from New Zealand:

Dutch Police Report

Original Dutch Police Report on the crash of Barry Martin’s Stirling bomber.

Other sources were not so easy, but did manage to turn up gold for this research. I optimistically posted on the Wings Over New Zealand Aviation Forum and was thrilled to get a reply out of that which led to obtaining a copy of the original Dutch Police Report that detailed the circumstances and location of the crashed Stirling Bomber on the night that Barry Martin’s plane was shot down and he was killed. This was eventually sourced from the book De Crash Van De Padvinder by P. van der Leer.

This highlights that whilst the Internet can be an outstanding source of quick and accessible information, the importance of human interaction (even if that is via forums, email and text messaging) along with a curiosity not to give up, remains a vital part of any good research. The Christchurch City library had all three volumes of For Your Tomorrow  by Errol Martin which was invaluable for factual details, and the St Andrew’s College library had historical records of Barry’s attendance at the College, 98 years ago.

Old Collegian

I also discovered that Barry Martin’s medals had been auction at Bonhams in 2014:

Bonhams Medals

Barry Martin’s medals – note the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) on the left. Barry never knew he had been awarded this, as it was announced only two days after his disappearance.

It was very gratifying to be able to harness the power of technology to shine some light on an Old Collegian of St Andrew’s College and the ultimate sacrifice he made.

UPDATE:

This is the recording of an earlier Chapel Service that I gave on James Samuel Cartwright. He was a former teacher at St Andrew’s College and All Black triallist and was tragically killed only days after the D-Day Normandy invasion:

Hosting a TeachMeet at St Andrew’s College

This week, St Andrew’s College hosted the first TeachMeet event in Christchurch for 2016 and over 40 staff from 15 different schools attended. If you’re unsure of what a TeachMeet actually is, you can find more at the website http://www.teachmeet.co.nz  but in short:

A TeachMeet is an organised but informal meeting (in the style of an unconference) for teachers to share good practice, practical innovations and personal insights in teaching with technology.

Participants volunteer (via the TeachMeet website) to demonstrate good practice they’ve delivered over the past year, or discuss a product that enhances classroom practice.

Source: Wikipedia

To help promote the event, I took to a new tool I’ve been using recently called Canva which allows you to very quickly and easily develop stylish posters, images and social media banners through their website:

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One of the key reasons TeachMeets are successful is that presenters are limited to only 2minutes or 7minutes for their presentations. This results in a fast-paced event and a range of different ideas and solutions being shared. It also means that preparation for the volunteer presenters is kept at a minimum – it’s not onerous to share something you’re already doing in your classroom or researching to give a go.

From the slides above, you can see there were seven presenters who shared on the following topics:

  1. Wilj Dekkers (St Andrew’s College) Using MineCraft and OneNote for Creative Writing
  2. Tom Neumann (Riccarton High) Using an alphanumeric self marking video game in Moodle to review content of Yr11 Economics
  3. Sue McLachlan (Hagley College) Using OneNote Learning Tools in the classroom
  4. Tam Yuill Proctor (St Andrew’s College) Using OneNote as a Digital Teacher’s Planbook
  5. Karyn Gray (Haeta Community Campus) The Quest for Personalisation of Learning- My Thinking, My Research, My Questions
  6. Schira Withers (Our Lady Of The Star Of The Sea) How we as educators can help students with low working memories improve their self-management skills using digital technologies, thus  allowing them to experience success and move from a fixed to growth mindset.
  7. Donna Jones (St Andrew’s College) Using a 3D app to inspire creative thought and ideas for creative writing.

When one of the presenters was unable to attend at the last minute, I added some thoughts on using Google Earth to create personalised tours to round out the afternoon.

A number of attendees contributed on the designated Twitter hashtag of #TMChch and you can see the entire timeline here with a small selection being:

Continue reading

Microsoft Video Showcases Innovative Educators

On the 23rd November 2015 Microsoft NZ arranged for a TV crew to film and interview a number of staff and students at St Andrew’s College. The focus of the day was showcasing how the Surface Pro 3 and OneNote were being used creatively within the College. The three teaching staff interviewed were Mr Wilj Dekkers (Year 6 class teacher in the Preparatory School), Ms Tam Yuill Proctor (Assistant Head of English) and Mr Ben Hilliam (Assistant Head of Maths).

These three were chosen as they have been using the Surface Pro 3 since our initial trial group was formed in late 2014 and also because they have recently been named as Microsoft Innovative Educators for 2016:

St Andrew’s College’s three Microsoft Innovative Educators for 2016 from left to right: Mr Ben Hillian, Ms Tam Yuill Proctor and Mr Wilj Dekkers

All three have featured on this blog before, with some of my favourite posts about their teaching being:

What impresses me about these teachers is how natural the integration of technology and eLearning strategies are. As I noted on the post about Mr Hilliam above:

Whilst the phrase “ubiquitousness of technology” is over used, this lesson did demonstrate that when used effectively, the technology is not at the forefront of the lesson. It was not gimmicky or flashy, instead it provided functional improvement to what was already a great lesson.

Certainly, the technology available to achieve this integration is available and well supported at St Andrew’s, something that Ms Yuill Proctor noted in a blog post published today:

At StAC I count myself very lucky to have the technology, infrastructure and guidance available to try new tools to enhance the learning programs and assist with day to day teaching.

Having access to the tools and support increases the confidence of teachers to try new things – sometimes this is simply at a “Substitution” level on the SAMR scale of technology integration – but often it goes deeper into Modification and Redefinition:

SAMR Diving

These three teachers, recognised externally by Microsoft for the innovative work they’re doing in their classrooms, along with our eLearning Integrator Mr Tom Adams, need to function as change agents and ambassadors within the College in 2016, sharing their pedagogy and encouraging colleagues to follow their lead.

In 2014 St Andrew’s introduced the 1:1 Computing Programme to Year 9 students, making it compulsory for all students in that year group to bring a laptop. We have now successfully concluded the second year of this and, in 2016, are rolling back this requirement to Year 8 students in our Preparatory School as well.

Both Mr Dekkers and Mr Adams have been heavily involved in planning the rationale and support for the Year 8 programme. The result of this is that close to 700 students in Years 8-11 will be required to bring a laptop to school each day: clearly the need for eLearning leaders such as those recognised above is critical to ensure staff and students can maximise the value of this technology.

I am really pleased that this video, and the recognition from Microsoft of these three teachers, reflects the huge amount of effort and planning that goes into teaching with technology at St Andrew’s College.

Footnote: One of the happy outcomes from the day Microsoft spent filming was the chance to interview Toby, a budding game developer in Mr Dekkers’ class. This led to a followup Skype interview that I blogged about here

Toby 3

Getting Creative with Writing

This post is based around work done by Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. She has already blogged about this unit here. She has also created a Sway about it, which you can view here.

One of our aims, as an eLearning team, is to foster and supplement the intrinsic enthusiasm of many of our staff. We find this blog is a great way to publicise and celebrate the success that we see every day in our school.

studnetsOne such staff member is Ms Tam Yuill Proctor. A previous post on this blog described her success with using Google Earth to explore film setting with her Year 10 English class. This activity was part of a wider unit exploring the importance of setting within English. In response to the great work her class produced in this activity, Ms Proctor approached me to talk through some ideas to continue this innovation-based learning with this class.

Example video showing a world created by a student to inspire their creative writing 

With a continued focus on setting, the class was given a fairly stereotypical short story brief. Write a short story of approximately 600 words with the theme of Conflict. Each student must produce at least four drafts, make those drafts available to their peers for feedback and feedforward, and act on appropriate advice given. Nothing particularly groundbreaking here!

RCstill

A scene created using the source engine of the game Counter-Strike

However, acting on inspiration gained from a keynote address given by Australian author Michael Pryor at the NZATE English Conference, Ms Yuill Proctor had students design the setting for their story before they wrote it. The period before the recent school holidays, the students were set the task of creating a virtually designed setting for their story. They were able to use any digital platform they wanted, and could spend as much time as they wanted, over the holidays, on the setting. The results were remarkable.

While a smaller number of students contacted Ms Proctor asking if they could work in ‘the real world instead’ the vast majority of the students stuck to the original brief. There was a wide variety of work produced, with settings constructed in Sketchup, Paint, Minecraft and the source engine of the game Counter-Strike.

Sketchup

Student’s setting made using Sketchup

Bringing the learning together

The final aspect of this task involved students recording a short video, or audio recording that would allow them to clearly the author’s purpose, specifically regarding the setting they had designed. The challenge we now faced was what is the best way to tie all this great work together in a way that was accessible for a larger audience. Our original idea was to use the augmented reality App Aurasma, which has been used with some success in the Preparatory School. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that the use of this App, with this particular group, was going to be problematic as although the class all had their own laptops, not all had a compatible smartphone.

The obvious solution was to host students’ videos on You Tube and create the links with QR codes instead. This proved to be a great decision as all students were able to create and link their codes effectively and quickly. The other pleasing aspect of this success was that it further consolidated my belief that, in a classroom setting, it is usually much more effective to use an easy to use tool, that a more complicated substitute that may, in fact, have any tangible value added.

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

The 3D printer creating the Minecraft setting created by a student

With many students choosing to create their setting in Minecraft, Ms Yuill Proctor and I were really conscious that it might be difficult for the audience of the story to get a full appreciation of the complexity of a Minecraft setting design from a 1D picture. Resultantly we decided to print these designs on the school’s 3D printer. The knowledge of Joshua Harrison, a member of the IT team, was instrumental at this stage, and I acknowledge his important contribution.

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Printed Example of a 3D setting

Reflections on a job well done

I was particularly pleased with the fact that this, very successful, unit is a great example of a teacher challenging herself, and her students, with an activity that is clearly modification on the SAMR scale.

Ms Yuill Proctor was also very pleased with the results of the unit; especially the fact that it “fully integrated all aspects of the English Curriculum.” The creating meaning and the making meaning Curriculum Strands were both clearly addressed and the structured nature of the unit allowed student agency to come to the fore.

Example of Student Work

The following story is based around a setting created in the source engine of the game Counter-Strike. Use the QR code to see a video of the setting, or click here!

Continue reading

Exploring Film Settings Through Google Earth

An example tour created by Year 10 students

Last week I was invited into the Year 10 English class of Ms Tam Yuill Proctor to observe her students creating virtual tours within Google Earth of the key settings in the film Karate Kid they were studying. Creating these tours is something I’ve blogged about before, however this is one of the first times I’ve seen it being used in English to specifically map out the locations of a film or novel.

I sat down today with Ms Yuill Proctor to learn more about the process and find out what worked well and what could be improved on for next time.

SETUP & GOAL:

The goal of this exercise was very simple: for students to arrange themselves into groups of three, of which one student must have knowledge of how to use Google Earth (and ideally, how to create tours in them). Fortunately, many of these students had done a similar exercise in Religious Education the previous year and were able to draw on prior knowledge to help.

Once in their groups, they had to identify around ten scene locations from the film that they considered important. The criteria included:

  • Why the group thought the location was important within the context of the film
  • How the location is significant to the country itself

Once they had identified these locations, they were to record a guided tour through Google Earth, highlighting their rationale for their choice of locations and then share it with the class via the collaboration section of the class OneNote Notebook.

GROUP WORK & TIME FRAMES:

The students were only given 1.5 lessons to complete this task and it was interesting to observe the efficiencies that various groups gained through their approach to managing the task requirements.

Students researching and operating Google Earth

Students researching and operating Google Earth

One of these was finding a website called Movie Locations that listed off the key scenes from the film. This allowed them to immediately locate the scenes within Google Earth quite accurately and narrow down their selections. The groups also largely assigned different roles for the members, typically:

  1. A researcher
  2. A Google Earth “operator” for identifying the various locations and creating markers for the tour
  3. A script writer – who would narrate the voiceover with relevant information for each location.

Whilst many groups chose to all use their laptops at the same time, others preferred to gather around a single device and share their ideas more directly with each other. Due to the short time allowed for this activity, Ms Yuill Proctor was quite explicit in encouraging students to manage themselves when it came to sharing the workload and ensuring all tasks were completed (Key Competencies – Managing Self) Amongst the students it was decided that one would need to allocate some homework time to meet the deadline.

Students recording their tours in quieter spaces outside the classroom

SHARING THE TOURS:

One student setup a new section in the class collaboration area in OneNote and then each group created a sub-page where they shared their tour. This did create some problems as students had often found third party recording tools to make their tours in, resulting in some file formats that did not work on all devices.

Reflecting on this Ms Yuill Proctor and I agreed that having a student submit their work via a YouTube link or Office Mix recording would probably be best in future.

Despite these problems, it provided an opportunity for problem solving amongst the groups in terms of how best to record the tour, with many finding different solutions to this. Interestingly, the boys that are into gaming on their devices tended to be quicker at finding solutions in this area, again perhaps based on their prior knowledge they possessed.

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook - note each page on the right represents a group

The collaboration space in the MS OneNote Class Notebook – note each page on the right represents a group

REFLECTIONS:

Students working groups

Students working groups

The overall engagement levels from the students was very high – when I was in the classroom observing there was a quiet hum as students worked in groups to achieve the various tasks and there was no one clearly off task. Given it was quite a different way to explore film settings than they had previously been exposed to, students enthusiastically approached the work. Ms Yuill Proctor noted:

The students now have a visual picture of the settings and locations of the film – this is easier for them to remember than simply writing or typing the locations as a list in their NoteBooks.

However, she was quick to point out that she continually asks herself “do students need to be using technology for this particular task, or can they do it in a different way?” She is conscious that often our students in Years 9 and 10 are using their laptops for most lessons each day, and so will often use more practical activities (such as using scissors to cut out paper SOLO hexagons) .

Students using SOLO hexagons in class

The final step for the students is to individually choose a scene they feel is important and to write a paragraph on that location, linking it back to the overall themes of the film itself.

It’s remarkable that students were able to come up with these tours in under two lessons of class time and reflects their growing competencies with their devices (having used them in many classes throughout 2014). It also highlights how an engaging activity can hook students in and set them for strong involvement for the rest of the film study.

Using Google Earth – An Exercise In Creativity

Image

Overview of Google Earth Lessons in Moodle

Towards the end of 2013 our Head of Social Studies (Ms Kerry Larby) approached me to discuss an idea we had been chatting about for a while – using Google Earth in class for students to create and share their own tours. It was post-exams for the Yr9 students and there was a need for some engaging activities that still retained educational merit in the classes.

We sat down and thrashed around various ideas for what this mini-unit might look like and you can see the results of that here:

Google Earth Mini-Unit Planning Overview

Ms Larby converted this rough planning into an activity task sheet for the students, which was then uploaded to Moodle and the students introduced to this mini-unit during the ensuing lesson:

Google Earth Task Sheet For Students

Google Earth Marking Schedule Based on SOLO Rubric

What excited me about this activity was the tight integration into the key competencies in the NZ Curriculum, the elements of eLearning, along with the recognition we live in a global community that is getting smaller because of technology (for more of my thoughts on this, check this post from 2013).

In my view, technology should reinforce all the key ideas of literacy and numeracy, along with proofing your work, citing sources and producing “print quality” work. The fact that the medium being used might be electronic, still requires the teacher to be actively involved in helping students improve their work and deliver quality final copies.

Examples of Student Work:

These are a small sample of the work from the various Yr9 Social Studies classes.

Classic example of a student who can technically use the software quite well, but has overlooked key components of the task (in this case, inserting the notes/comments at each location as to why they chose that particular place in Google Earth as part of their tour).

A good tour, good comments at each location, but the need to go and proof read before publishing.

Another good tour, with a lot of detail at each location … possibly too good, with the suspicion the student has simply cut/paste the content from a website.

Sharing the Work:

When students had completed their work, they were required to share their tours with their classmates by uploading them into a forum on their class Moodle site. In true Participating & Contributing style, it was not enough for students to simply upload their work – they were also required to comment or ask questions about other student’s tours.

ImageThis allowed students to celebrate their work and enjoy the creativity of their peers. Some of the topics that students chose to create their tours about included:

  • Haunted Places
  • Top 10 Beaches In the World
  • Dream Holidays
  • Premiere League Football Stadiums
  • My 2019 OE Tour
  • Justin Bieber 2013 Tour Locations

Talking with Ms Larby, she described the students as

“fully engaged … they loved the activity and could see the relevance for other subjects as well”

As students start to bring laptops to class each lesson, the requirement to go to a computer lab to produce this type of work diminishes. Additionally, students’ fluency and competency in integrating technology such as Google Earth authentically into their learning increases. Whilst for some students the sheer novelty factor of an activity like this may have resulted in them focusing on the “how” rather than the “why”, the opportunity for the core learning skills, along with the key competencies, to be actively taught and practiced in activities such as these is very real.

Ultimately, this is what excites me about the possibilities inherent within eLearning – the ability to create engaging, ‘real-world’ activities, with the use of technology seamlessly integrated into the different components of the lesson. However, the core learning remains paramount and at the heart of the teacher’s planning and classroom activities.