(d)RAFT Reflection

Finishing an activity is often filled with coulda, woulda, shoulda and this (d)RAFT activity was no different. Simple things can make all the difference. For instance, of the two classes that completed this activity, one was initially far more successful at posting their work; the group that was given time in class to complete their posts.  cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by FotoRita [Allstar maniac]

As for the activity itself, much of what I predicted in an earlier post came true. The digital technology didn’t fail the students, but their true understanding of the assignment did. Too often they were describing their activity in a rationale that didn’t match what they presented in their final project. This was consistent with the English teacher’s findings in their non-digital RAFTs: the struggle and learning occurs when the students were challenged to think about the book from another perspective instead of merely describing what happened in the book.

Not to say that the digital tools were not problematic for some. To reiterate an observation made by Ms. Raymond in a previous post, “these students are avid consumers of digital technology, but not very adept at applying its uses”. We need to be less impressed by what they can do and more focused on those skills that are lacking.

For example, the simple statement made by Jason Ohler that “music trumps image” is something that became very clear as I watched audio-less ‘Google-chat’ style screen-casts. Although clever and well-done, having music would have provided the umph and emotion needed to captivate the audience. cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by photosteve101

Similarly, recording people speaking was often an issue. Hearing, ‘the 360 degree sense’, is so important that much more attention needs to be given to it while recording. Frequently students, of all ages, rush to take video without much concern for the audio. BIG mistake.

Consideration for other basic frame composition concepts like the rule of thirds, light, and attention to the background environment would also improve the final aesthetic. Visual literacy is becoming more important in our digital world and knowing how to use visuals and present them properly is vital.

To my mind, it is the above areas where we are failing our students. You will notice that none of them really are specific issues with the digital technology, just how it is used. It should also be noted that a teacher does not need to be computer or digitally savvy to recognize when the sound is unclear, the background is distracting, or the images are blurry or uninteresting. We wouldn’t hesitate to correct when words are misspelled (as is evident in the video below) or simple math is done wrong, so why are we often accepting work that is really sub-par just because it is in the digital form? It is our job to model good examples of smart uses of digital technology and to highlight when something is unacceptable.

Despite all these ‘picky’ criticisms, I was proud of the students’ work. So many students put themselves out there by taking risks with the technology, their method of communication, volunteering to assist with other projects, and with their acting. It isn’t easy to sit, by yourself, in front of a camera and hit record. From the powerful images in SlideShare to the dual role acting (in both genders) to the simple yet incredibly effective holding up pieces of paper with sentences on them (as shown below), the students dared to be different.

I learned a great deal from this activity but perhaps the biggest take-away was that these student are still developing their skills as both effective literary critics, but also as effective users of digital technology. We often forget that these students are young and still need a lot of nurturing and guidance to get things done. Assuming that they can provide succinct insight because they are good at voicing their opinion is as naive as assuming that they can edit and make a video because they use a SmartPhone to watch YouTube. They might be exposed to these tools regularly, but that doesn’t mean they know how to use them effectively.

A point from the blog post the Top 10 Things NOT to do in a 1:1 iPad Initiative can be broadly applied to our experience with dRAFT: Do NOT expect (the activity) to go perfectly on the first attempt. I take heart in the fact that  completing an activity is part of a bigger process and it is comforting to know that others are experiencing similar issues with other activities and technology.

Any thoughts from others launching a ‘digital only’ option for a class? How was it received? Did the students thrive or flounder? Were the results of attempting a new activity any different to doing an activity off-line? Curious to hear other experiences.


Avatar of Ivan Beeckmans

About Ivan Beeckmans

Currently a Digital Learning Coach at the NIST International School (formerly the New International School of Thailand) in Bangkok, Thailand
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