We also demonstrated Kahoot to our staff members at this time, and many teachers have subsequently reported using it as a fun tool to engage students and provide timely feedback about students’ understanding of simple concepts.
Ravinder Sahota has been working on a blended learning approach in her Math 9 classes, regularly providing her students with the opportunity to strengthen their numeracy skills through the use of IXL (http://ca.ixl.com), a math practice website/app that her students love using. Ravinder is also working closely with our school’s home economics teacher, Lori McConnell, to create a unit plan where students will use technology to create an instructional video where they execute a recipe from start to finish, similar to what is seen on popular TV cooking shows.
Joanie Proske has been helping colleagues and students to become more familiar with our library’s access to databases. In addition, she recently completed a project with English 11 teacher, Tyler Vaillancourt, where students created a Macbeth alphabet book through the use of technology. It was quite shocking to see that students lacked many basic skills when working with technology, as outlined in Joanie’s reflection below.
Never Assume That Teenagers are Skilled at Technology!
One of the new literacies for the information generation is Technological Literacy. “Technological literacy includes: (1) A complex/comprehensive set of effective and efficient search skills, computer software/hardware and a full range of Web 2.0 social software applications; (2) Navigating, browsing and “reading the landscape” of Internet sites; (3) Word processing skills fully integrated into the writing process; (4)Communication skill using e-mail, text messaging, blogs, and on-line social networks; and (5) Integrating other media formats such as slide shows, mash-ups, wikis, video clips, sound bites and emerging digital formats into their writing and publishing activities.” (Asselin and Doiran)
“Instruction is powerful only when it is sufficiently precise and focused to build directly on what students already know and to take them to the next level.” (Michael Fullan)
The Macbeth Alphabet Book Project
They created a line of verse that introduced their word and selected a Macbeth quotation to support the connection their chosen word has to the play as a whole. Finally, students wrote a literary paragraph that explained the significance of their chosen word in greater detail. The plan was for all the pages to be edited, compiled and published through a self-publishing website called Lulu.com. Students could purchase copies of the finished book with a copy available in the school library. The project seemed fairly straightforward, with the quality of the draft products the students created reflecting a good comprehension of Macbeth’s underlying themes. There was keen interest in completing a class book and many students put considerable effort into creating original illustrations to accompany their alphabet letter page.
Each class booked two sessions on the PC computers in the WGSS Library. However, as students began to transfer their draft work into a word document, difficulties began to emerge. It was soon apparent that many of the teens lacked basic technology skills that we "assumed" they would know. The focus of these lessons changed as we used this feedback to shift gears and provide the necessary instruction to help all students complete the project. Through mini-lessons and individual support from their English teacher, Tyler Vaillancourt, the students learned to set up their documents, and explore ways to create a personalized page. Meanwhile, teacher librarian, Joanie Proske, helped individual students learn to use the scanner, save and embed their images. By carefully respecting and building on their existing knowledge, we found ways to fill in the missing gaps and help the students be successful. The project provided an opportunity for just-in-time technology instruction and a chance for discussion, not just with the students but also between the WGSS Digital Literacy Coaches and other school colleagues.
Copyright - Students created original designs due to copyright infringement when an image found online. They learned that it is permissible to use an image as a guide when drawing, but that any already created images used, especially in a published book, must have copyright or Creative Commons approval.
Logging In - A few students had difficulty logging into the computers because they had never used their account on the school’s server. One boy said his account didn't work in Grade 8 so he never tried again and throughout the years had always used his friend's account!
Saving - A surprising number of students finally learned to save to their H drive on the school server. They had never been taught how to do this and had always simply clicked the save button - leaving their work to be lost on the Common drive!
Scanning - Students learned to use a scanner to transfer their original image into a .pdf file that they could then insert into their ABC Macbeth page. Students have since returned to use the scanner independently for other school projects and even taught their friends.
Text Boxes – Many students had no idea how to create or insert text boxes. Most students were required to use text boxes to have more control over the layout of the page. Not only did they learn how to create and position text boxes with precision, but they also learned how to make the borders invisible and how to make the background clear which allows their image to show through.
Final Thoughts- Overall, the students were able to develop their facility in using the computers including Microsoft Word and formatting - all transfer-orientated skills that can only enhance future projects. There were also great opportunities for peer teaching, and class engagement was very evident throughout. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the assignment, publishing has been postponed because we can only move forward at the speed of the slowest student. A future approach might be to adapt the assignment by letting the students work in small groups on their own book.