There are three parts to my final assignment for COETAIL: a presentation, a video and a rationale.
The presentation, seen below, is a set of relevant images that guided my 10 minute talk. As Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen fame would say, those images are useless without the rationale or notes, and even then they are likely hard to make sense of. But for those who can follow or were there for the ‘live’ version on May 12th, it might jog their memory.
“What is dRAFT?”, the video, is meant to ignite some curiosity about the nature of this experiment because this was, indeed, an experiment. Take a look and then read the summary (rationale/explanation) of the presentation below.
This presentation was based on meeting the 10 questions asked of all participants about how they integrated technology into curriculum. Here are the questions and my corresponding answers:
What were your goals for your lesson/project (Standards)?
My goal for this project was to somehow find a way to integrate digital technology into an English classroom, where to date I have had little to no interaction. Ultimately I was open to applying any of the NETS standards for students that would suitably apply to the Year 9 English curriculum.
What tools did you use? Why did you choose this/these tools for this/these task(s)?
There are really two answers to the first part of this question; the tools I used and the tools used by the students. As mentioned in the initial post of this project, I introduced this activity using a video (from YouTube) and provided a list of activities in a Google Doc. None of these tools were that innovative, but they served the purpose well.
The students, on the other hand, were encouraged to use any tool at their disposal to complete their task. As such, there were Prezi’s, search stories (using etherpads, SlideShare and other tools), videos, powerful image presentations, podcasts, and a host of others too numerous to mention. The goal was really to have the students test their abilities to find applications that would suit the format of their presentation. It was challenging for them, but the results were interesting and clever.
How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?
The beauty of this project is that I was not the only one responsible for introducing and supporting it. Kristen Raymond, the English teacher I worked with, was instrumental in getting the students on board and working towards completing their assignment digitally. Although I was the one who set up the initial lesson, Ms. Raymond was ultimately responsible for assessing the results (I did comment on all posted projects, but the criteria being met was hers). To my mind, this was a perfect example of how I would help support or ‘coach’ the students to complete their work successfully.
How did the students react?
Initially the students were keen to try something different and break from the routine of previous RAFT activities. But after seeing past the ‘cool’ aspect of some of the examples, they realized that they faced familiar challenges. That is, as always, they really had to think about the novel they had read BEFORE they undertook to present it digitally. Disappointment was felt when a Google Search story, an In Plain English video, or a podcast really didn’t work for them.
After they had done the dRAFT twice, I surveyed the classes. You can see the results in another post, but overall the conclusion is that the majority liked having the option of completing their work digitally instead of just in the written form.
Outcome? Did you meet your goals?
Unequivocally, yes, I met the goals I had set for this project. Depending on the student, there were numerous NETS standards that were met including: communication and collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity and innovation. NIST’s English curriculum includes a component for wider or independent reading. From this reading, students are meant to develop their understanding of different literary forms and how they are applied. RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, and Topic) has been developed to specifically address their understanding of the literature they read. The degree of understanding is part of this process.
Evidence of learning (student evidence required)?
As shown in the above video clip, the students really did push themselves to try something different. There is no doubt that this activity did took them out of their comfort zone – no ‘receive the outline, follow the format, hand it in’ for this assignment. The students had to decide how they were going to present their learning. As mentioned here (insert post link), the results were interesting as the students really took risks in their performances and presentations, though too often they were unclear about the subject matter and conclusions they were hoping to convey.
What would you do differently next time? What did you learn? (Reflection)
The reflection post goes into this in more detail, but briefly, I would try to make sure that there were more examples to be used as models for the students. These examples would be used to show some of the techniques used successfully, as well as those which needed tweaking. It became woefully evident that these students required some direct instruction in video, sound, and editing, to name but a few skills which would benefit them hugely.
Another area I would like to develop is the sharing of results with a greater audience. A push for all to comment on at least two other students’ work would be one step. Going beyond, I would like to connect with another school doing something similar and ask for feedback that our students would reciprocate.
How do/did you plan to share this with your colleagues?
Ms. Kristen has been great and she is keen to continue for the remainder of this year and into next. Now that the seed is planted, I would like to grow dRAFT into a staple activity with the other Year 9 (or even all the middle school) English teachers. I still need to develop this assignment before launching it more widely, but ultimately I hope my approach might be adopted in other English classrooms to support and develop independent reading with the students.
What was your greatest learning in this course?
Really there are so many big ideas that I take away from COETAIL. It is hard to limit myself to just one. From blogging teaching me how to think about my thinking, to reflecting upon the future of education as we know it, there is much that is profound.
However there are two things that have particularly struck me recently and that I will try and address in my role and my interactions with others at my school. The first is the naive idea that using digital technology will result in the faster completion of assignments or activities. For example, that ‘two minutes and change’ video you watched earlier (see above) took roughly 5 to 6 hours to complete: finding and editing the music, downloading or screen-casting the student projects, learning and creating the text animations in Keynote, and then editing all of it together in iMovie so that it fit the 2:31 time frame. Flippantly asking students to do a video for a simple task could really drive them over the edge. Strategies must be in place to address the time commitment such projects require.
The second major take-away I have is that this Digital Native Generation is not necessarily Digitally Literate. Some grand assumptions have been made about how our young students just know how to use technology because they have SmartPhones, a Facebook account, and use Skype incessantly. What the students know, they tend to know fairly well. But there is so much they don’t know and we, as teachers, have neglected to teach them. I am not sure if it is because many teachers are not that digitally literate themselves or if it is because we rely on the assumptions made about our current students, but the reason matters little. The point is we need to equip students with many tools to truly prepare them for the next stage in life and many of these tools just happen to be digital.
Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?
The answer to this question is really up for debate. It could be argued that dRAFT is just a modification of the old RAFT assignment. Obviously dRAFT is based on the old model, so the similarities are notable and inevitable.
But it could also be argued that this is, indeed, a redefinition of the old because now almost every aspect of the task takes on a new dimension and requires a different approach. It is no longer an assignment that is given on paper and then returned in a similar fashion, on paper. dRAFT provides dozens of new ways of presenting student ideas and that presentation is now viewable by a much larger audience via the blog or the site where their work is hosted. More simply, how would a student have made a Google Search story (student version) for a character in their book prior to doing this task digitally? How about an In Plain English (student version) video perspective about the main conflict in a novel? Or a Dan Brown style (student version) rant about how the author should have written the book from another perspective or considered writing a prequel? Students had the option of doing the safe activities (PowerPoint images uploaded to SlideShare or Prezi) but they also had the option to do something that none could have conceived of doing just 3 to 5 years ago. Even that PowerPoint is being viewed by many more than it was before – impossible without going digital.