My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Do the Project First- Olympics Style.

This video is not intended for you to watch, you can if you want, but it serves merely as evidence that I have indeed followed the advice of Jeff Robin at High Tech High and I have done the project first.

My year 8 students have just began a Science Project on the Science of the Olympics, where they had to choose an Olympic sport, research the Forces that are employed in the sport along with the antagonistic muscles that create them. So just simple Physics and naming of a few muscles are expected as the content. But in the one lesson that I have had with these classes I have already noticed a benefit to this paired down content. That the students have began to unlock the content that belongs to them and is allowing for genuine co-construction to take place. So amongst some of the notable queries and discussions we have had are:-

1. "Sir, it says that people who go on a Skeleton for the first time have a 50% of dying! I wonder how they worked out the probability?" which left me ruing that this is not a maths and science project.

2. "Sir, what do you call the shape of the pattern that an Arrow flies in...you know that curve thing?" "A parabola. " So how does that work then ?". This conversation has taken place in three out of the four lessons, and not always with the top end of the KS3 levelling hierarchy that we use to determine intelligence and success in this country. One of the students had just scraped a level 5 in the last topic test. (Irony).

3. "Sir is it OK if I video myself Ice Skating, Swimming, Running, Playing Basketball....I have not done it for ages!"

4. Two girls jumping up and down flailing their arms about who said " Sorry sir we were just trying to work out if your arms help pull you up when jumping!"

5. "Sir, can we make the music, the scenery, do stop gap animation as homework?"

6. Three boys who had chosen Table tennis and then regretted it as it had became boring. Responded to my request of "can you finding a way of making it interesting for you?" Found out that it was banned in Russia for 53 years, if memory serves as they thought it could make you blind!" They were skeptical (great scientific thinking I'd say) but are now in love with Table Tennis again.

But perhaps my favourite so far has been one from a student who I have struggled to engage. Who asked today " So Forces and Energy are different aren't they?" I felt like Mark Moorhouse (@MarkMoorhouseMM) !

The point I'm trying to make is by allowing students to find and define some of their own learning can take students to deeper and more interesting learning, by developing a true engagement as opposed to a learning compliance. I know I am going to have my work cut out but will endeavour to teach to the requests.

None of this would have happened if I had said "research and Olympic sport and make a video". I imagine that I would get a load of pilfered images, pixelated , inappropriate and compiled in an uncreative way. Do the project first!

The video above is not perfect but took me 9 hours to make. So imagine my joy when one class even gave a spontaneous round of applause. All the others sat perfectly through it, often glancing and smiling at me when I appeared on screen. I think my applause was for the error ridden guitar playing, which is my first public performance! I think they saw that I had taken a risk and was a learner too. I tweeted this and received a great response from Mr Moorhouse that simply said " Great Learning commons!" I love this notion that students and teachers are in this together! Read more in the latest Learning futures pamphlet here.

As I have said and not just as a disclaimer, the video is far from perfect. However it serves an important role in this project, and that is to set the minimum standard, I expect my students can and will produce better. I think I could have made a better one but did it on my own and with no critique, not an excuse but stating the power in the critiquing process. I will use this as model so that the students and I can define together and success criteria.

Another reason to do the project first.

I also manage to model a few techniques and strategies. that my students could use to avoid the pilfering of low quality images. It also has work of varying quality from me in that shows that I have learned too. My presentation with a box on my head is very self conscious but by the end hearing my voice in some of the voice overs I am more confident and clear. (Well if you are fluent in my native tongue!). I have learn to edit moving pictures in Movie maker and to edit sound files using Audacity. These skills are transferable and teachable now.

Another good reason to do the project first.

It also allowed me to figure out what I thought the minimum content should be, and what was difficult in the content and the process too. I'm now more prepared for differentiation, to support my students and design groups that will work. I have also been able to assess how long my students need to do this and plan a schedule that is appropriate.Deadlines were shared at the beginning of the project to allow my students can plan ahead. Or at least have the opportunity too. This is what used to happen when I worked outside of education, it is one way of "Making Learning Whole" as David Perkins fine book encourages, it helps make this a real experience.

So I will finally state in true Jeff Robin fashion that none of this would have been learned and applied if I had not DONE THE PROJECT FIRST.