The availability of I Pads has helped to transform learning in my classroom this year. In September’s blog, I outlined how I had introduced a year eight group to a new method of study – and following some particularly encouraging results, I decided to provide them with another opportunity to show off their talents this term.
We began the unit by exploring the meaning of the term ‘heritage’, and then studied some examples of World Heritage sites, focusing on what makes them so special, and also the different threats that they face.
Following this, we homed in on the Jurassic Coast – part of which is within our own county, and only a couple of hours drive away. Using maps and Google Earth, we examined the complete coastal park, and paused to focus on the key landscape features like Old Harry, Durdle Door, Chesil Beach and Lulworth Cove- and also the geology and fossils.
As before, I framed the investigation with an open question – and discussed with the class how they might present their findings. They had previous experience of using ‘Explain Everything’, and many chose to use this again. However, I also introduced them to ‘Book Creator’, and showed them what it can do. Interestingly, over half the class opted to use this app for their work this time.
It is always a dilemma trying to strike a balance between offering some structure for the learners while not restricting their outcomes to a certain formula. I decided this time to experiment with a ‘must, should, could’ structure to guide learning. This included suggestions of apps that could be used in their work – the students already being familiar with my ‘app mash’ principles.
All learners had access to a range to a ‘mini library’ of geography textbooks , photocopies, and reference books in the classroom to support their research – but I used this investigation to introduce them to the idea of QR codes. Many learners were, of course, already familiar with these – but still enjoyed using the QR Reader app on the I Pads to access a selection of web sites to search for information on their chosen topics. I favour this method, as it still allows the learners to make their own selections and choices of information to use, but at the same time, reduces the inordinate amount of time wasted with fruitless searches of the vast array of web resources available.
As the students become more familiar with working with I Pads on investigations like this, I will be able to pull further and further away from a supporting structure. Ultimately, they will make entirely their own choices of methodology and also their own choices of appropriate apps to incorporate. I think next time, this group might have reached this point.
We are currently in the middle of this investigation, and I have already been impressed by the creativity students have adopted in order to present their findings. Some have selected a ‘target market’ – for instance, aiming their work at young children, or for adults to study in an information centre. They have all made good use of the range of tools available in the 2 ‘go-to’ apps, and particularly enjoy using the camera to make short films in the style of ’an expert guide’ or as a visiting tourist. Sound recordings have been popular with students who are less-keen to write, and this tool has opened up a whole new world for some learners to display their understanding really well, when previously they would have struggled to express themselves.
I provided the class with tubs of Play Doh, and many have already created their own versions of specific landscape features to photograph and later annotate. One group has formed with the intention of using the Play Doh alongside an animation app to try to produce some short ‘time-lapse’ films.
I am looking forward to the end productions, and know I will be impressed by the depth and creativity that will result from me taking a step to the side to let the learning flourish. I have already been taught a few things about Mary Anning I did not previously know!
As the students’ work progresses, I pop in my ongoing assessment comments and advice using the recording tools. This is much easier than writing, and can include a lot more praise, constructive criticism and suggestions for future direction than I could ever hope to offer through written notes.
The completed results will be stored in our Dropbox account for final assessment, and will also then be available to use to model the task for future groups.
As ever, a new approach to a work unit will be modified as it progresses, and next time I intend to continue to cover our work on the Jurassic Coast in regular lessons and through homework. This will then allow me to reframe the investigation question to something like: “Could the North Devon Coast put forward a bid for World Heritage status?”. I think this might squeeze just a little bit more thought and creativity from the students.