Sunday, December 8, 2013

Giving students more voice and choice - part 1

We are trying something new in Grade 4 over the next couple of weeks - we are trying to give students more tech tools that they can choose to use in preparation for their next unit of inquiry.  We have talked many times about the authentic use of technology, how we all learn in different ways and how we all have different ways of expressing what we understand.  The teachers and TAs were keen to give the students more choices, but also wanted to be confident that they could support the choices that the students made.  This is what we decided to do:

In Grade 4 there are 3 classes, each has a teacher and a TA.  We discussed 6 new technologies that students might like to use, and then each teacher or assistant became an expert in one of these.  I met with some of them to give them suggestions, others went out and tried out the tools themselves and some decided to watch some tutorials on YouTube.   These were the 6 new tools they decided to learn:

  • Stop-motion on a mobile device
  • Green-screening
  • Collaborative video editing using WeVideo
  • Website design using Weebly
  • Paper slides
  • PowToon
The students were then given choices - they could sign up to learn 3 of these new tools.  Last week they had the opportunity to have 3 sessions with the teacher or assistant who was an expert in their top choice.  Over the next 2 weeks they will rotate to other groups to learn 2 more tools.  After the Christmas break they will come back into their class groupings again - within each class there will be a mix of students who have experience with all the new tools that the teachers explored with them and they can choose which of these to use for their summative assessment.  Even though the class teacher or TA may not have any knowledge about some of these tools, the hope is that the students who decide to use them will be knowledgeable about their chosen tool and will possibly be able to help others in the class to use it too.  They will always have the option of going to the expert teacher if they have a problem that they can't figure out.

I wasn't sure how this would work out, so I spent quite a bit of time last week checking in with the 4th Grade team and floating between the different groups to support them.  I saw students who were motivated and very engaged with what they were doing and I saw teachers who were excited to have learned something new and who were confident in sharing this out with their groups.  By Day 2 I noticed that several students had gone ahead and practiced using the new tool at home and were keen to share their creations with the other students.  I saw that some had discovered more functions of the tools and they were keen to share these too.  

I'm curious to find out which of these tools will be the most popular choices for the upcoming summative assessment - I'll be posting more about this after the holidays.

Photo Credit: Jason Nicholls via Compfight cc

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