Monthly Archives: May 2010
Image by Kirk Lau on flickr
After a successful first year, the popularity and usage of my class space took a dent. What went wrong?
It’s that time of year to start reviewing what I’ve been doing.It is the second year of me running a space on our school VLE (RM’s Kaleidos) for one of my classes. It has been used for the usual announcements, deadlines, a place to find links to useful web resources, copies of documents and presentations used in class and discussion spaces.
The responses to a survey on usage have been disappointing though – but not unexpected. Traffic has been lighter than last year and there has been a noticeable sense of ‘disaffection’ from students this year. In Year 10 they were excited by the idea, where as now they seem to associate it with ‘problems’. That reputation is hard to shift.
There was a 3 month period in which individual students lost access following an upgrade. Because they tried to get back in but were repeatedly unsuccessful they came to assume it wouldn’t work and simply didn’t come back. In their minds, the whole thing was ‘useless’, ‘maddening’ and worse.
Reliability is essential, isn’t it? Lose this, lose visitors, lose momentum – that ‘energy’ that drives the whole thing forward. Discussions dwindled and the site looked out of date because it was not attracting new content.
So what are the lessons to be learned?
Have an alternative site for when things go wrong (one of those ultra reliable Posterous blogs for example!)
Nag the heck out of technical support when it is not working.
Constantly check that students can see what you can see.
Create content that makes regular visits to the site a productive habit.
Image from Patrick Hoesly Flickr
(An account of the research time from the 22nd February 2010 Training Day)
I started by planning my day with the Accelerated Learning (AL) framework and allocated the time available:
- Connection: What I know and don’t know about Bloom’s Taxonomy. What are the problems I’m having and what are the opportunities?
- Activation: time to read some of the material being sent my way: a quick review of the VLE resources, The Trigger Verbs document by Ron Roody (as appeared on Doug Belshaw’s Blog) and longest of all on Harpaz and Leftstein ‘Communities of Thinking’ article.
- Demonstration: Create a resource to help me improve questioning techniques.
- Consolidation: Think about how I might use this. Produce a summary of what I feel I have learned today.
Teachers ask questions and students answer them, right? That’s the way we do things. But am I asking the right questions? And are the right students answering them? And if questions are useful – what happens if I’m not there to ask them?
Harpaz and Leftstein argue that the comfortable answering pedagogy teachers use doesn’t challenge or undermine our thinking. They argue that we need to ‘upset the cognitive equilibrium to which we aspire – a state in which experience may be assimilated by mental schemes without difficulty’ (my italics).
As Geoff Hancock argues in ‘What makes an outstanding lesson’, learners need to be guided to assess work for themselves. Quoting the Ofsted lesson observation criterion he reminds us that there needs to be ‘thorough and accurate assessment that informs learners how to improve’ (again, my italics)
So shouldn’t we be thinking about how to equip the students with a version of Bloom’s Taxonomy to enable them to develop their cognitive processes rather than just the teachers?
That made the focus for the session a little clearer. I wanted a create a resource for students to use to help prompt their thinking.
I found Ron Rooney’s ‘Learning Objectives: Trigger Verbs’ a very helpful starting point for my own questioning, so I thought I might be able to adapt it in to a series of generic prompts for students.
So what is it to have ‘Knowledge’? To me it seems to be the basic nuts and bolts – the bits I remember which may not necessarily be related. As is often the case when I am thinking, I drew these onto my chart to help remember them. Once I’d started drawing I felt obliged to continue so ‘Understanding’ had little cartoon of a though bubble making sense of the bits or ‘What does this knowledge tell me? What do these things mean?’
As the questions came together, I started to look for a narrative to help organise and remember the sequence of the hierarchy. That’s when I started trying to find an analogy which would appeal to students and came up with the Top Gear Guide to Bloom’s Taxonomy. More on this soon.