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.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Supporting the limitations of a web 2.0 tool- A Wrapper activity

Etherpad is probably the best web 2.0 tool for the classroom, with the addition of the Time slider function. This allows a skillful teacher to debrief the process taking place afore their very eyes. Most Web 2.0 tools do not have this essential focus on the process, and are merely presentation tools for content. Infact it may be argued that they make new content to distract from the process of learning.

For years teachers have sent students off to work as groups, "work together to make a poster" and provided that the students got the job done have assumed that collaboration has taken place. In fact the product has been such a focus that it has over riden the collaboration. In the real world the fact that some students can produce a poster is not useful or remotely interesting, but if they can genuinely support each other in a learning community, then they can head off and be successful anywhere.

So how can a teacher go beyond just debriefing the process and hand over some control of this metcognition to students? . Metacognition is vitally important, unfortunately overlooked component of learning, too often masked by content or the medium. Effective learning involves planning and goal-setting, monitoring one's progress, and adapting as needed. All of these activities are metacognitive in nature. By teaching students these skills - all of which can be learned - we can improve student learning.This is an example of a "wrapper" activity that is issued at the start of the activity and returned to at the end.

I had put the key questions of the lessons onto an etherpad document, and set up a wallwisher to run concurrently with it. The Wallwisher was focussed purely on the process, while the etherpad was solely content.

The focus of the Wallwisher was collaboration, which I broke down into the following categories to help the students define how they collaborated. The students were challenged to provide examples of how they helped others learn, using these categories.

1. Where they corrected someones work.

2.Where they questioned someones ideas.

3.Where they contributed an idea.

4. Where they have built upon or expanded upon someone thinking.

5. Where they have supported someone elses idea.

After the completion of the task the students returned to the wallwisher and added their examples and classified them under the correct catogory. They found this difficult and spent most time trying to figure out who they had supported during the lesson, so at the very least they did relflect on the process and not just the content. By doing this before using the Time lIne function the students were able to respond to this with things like " What I was trying to say here was" and "yeah, I couldn't think of the right word, until you typed it in!"

Next time I think I'll make a conscious effort to ensure that the Wallwisher is genuinely concurrent, so that the process is more to the fore.

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