Do you want the good news or bad news first?
Due to swimming and various other school timetable disturbances, most students are only just now reaching the end of phase 1 – choosing their app. Bit sad that its week 4 of the project and only 15% are actually using their chosen app, but I’m not so worried – because the point of this unit is not time on the device that will magically solve everything, but instead is about teaching critical thinking, problem solving, independent learning. I’m happy that this is embedded thru our whole unit so that the unit itself ‘works’ even if the phase 1 of evaluating their weaknesses and choosing a corresponding app does take a while.
What’s happened since the last journal is that students have been searching the app store, saving screenshots of likely apps, then completing T-charts of pro’s and con’s (yes there is a free ‘T-chart’ app for that! -opens iTunes). They then email this chart to me from the iPod touch which initiates a conversation around how suitable the app is. Then I download the app ready for students to try.
How’s this- the very first student who went to use his newly downloaded app found – it was terrible! Didn’t do what he needed after all. Failure? No – this was a great learning moment where we could discuss with the whole group what happened, and how to make a better decision next time. The student has now written his own short review and submitted it – and how real life is that? Also, as other students with his same chosen focus area have found other apps, he’s finding he can now rely on the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ aka personal learning network around him to choose his next app.
Also this week I introduced a new innovation where on the day of the week when I am engaged in regional support duties I record a talking head video of myself giving instructions to the kids. The replacement teacher just plugs in an iPod directly to our data projector with an AV cable (we have the Belkin one) and students can still get their challenge for the day in person. The replacement teacher can even display images of our progress mindmap etc to the students this way. Now I can take my laptop with me for the day knowing that our digital resources are still available to the group.
I’ve also been able to work it such that the school wifi now is usable from within our classroom space – going and sitting outside the office was great for showing off to passerby’s that we were doing an interesting project, but not so great for other reasons. I’m also really happy that we got email setup on the iPod’s now (all using the one generic account, Mr iPod) so students can send records (via screenshots) of their work to me and even to their classroom teachers.
OK! So my learning and teaching environment is starting to feel different most of the time – actually like how I imagine 21st century, student-focused learning maybe should. BUT you know, sometimes I’m still my own worst enemy – because I start teaching again every now and then. Yes, teaching, when I should be sticking to the idea of ‘less me, more them’. I still jump in instead of giving ‘wait’ time, or thinking time where students can develop their own understandings…
Next step is students have 1-2 weeks using their app before another evaluation kicks in – is it helping me improve? If not, students will need to decide to switch to another app, or perhaps access podcasts or other resources instead. Will write another journal then. Just wanted to also add how great it is to be finishing up the year with such a great project, instead of the usual countdown, how long until holidays feeling!