Whilst most of the northern hemisphere schools are winding down for the long end of school year break, down here in Oz we are now about to take our shorter mid year break. As a result there is much tidying up and finishing up to be done and no sense of urgency to initiate any new activities. This has meant also that I was freed up from the strictures of the timetable and have been able to chase down a number of issues with individual or smaller groups of students.
This week it was our classes’ turn to do the podcast. The two students who were charged with recording the personality interview had done a fabulous job though in the end they had 13 minutes of audio for just their own segment. Normally we aim for the whole podcast to be no more than 15 minutes so a 13 minute segment was going to cause a big problem. In the end we decided to edit the interview to the more standard 3-5 minutes by taking the 2-3 best Q&A’s and then turn the whole of the interview a stand alone podcast special.
We had already shown the class some of the basics of Audacity so it was no surprise when the girls involved suggested that they could do the production edits themselves. Given that they had completed all of the rest of their other scheduled work, I was only too pleased to let them work on a task that up until then I had taken home to complete. Thirty minutes later they were most pleased to report that the interview was ready. Having listened to it later I knew that I couldn’t have done any better myself.
An indirect side benefit of this situation was that I was now in the fortunate position to have a couple of Audacity “experts” within the room. As all of the other podcast segments had been recorded I then decided to ask each of the girls to tutor a couple of other students in getting their podcast segment edited. A couple of hours later I had just about all of the segments ready for uploading. I had also upskilled most of the class and indirectly cut my workload out of school in half if not more.
With the end of term free time I was also able to investigate more of the “Passion Project” blogs. Seeing a ‘Googled’ image on one of the boys blogs about basketball we had another of the ‘copyright chats’. Straight away the student harked back to the FlickrStorm discussion and asked whether he would be able to find basketball pics on Flickr. I suggested checking and sure enough there were some available. After a quick discussion on Creative Commons and attribution Fraser had a digital image of his choice on his blog complete with source attribution and I had a couple more ‘experts’ capable of ‘tutoring’ others in the procedure.
As a result of our request for students to complete another student’s SurveyMonkey survey, another one of our students came forward wanting to include surveys in her project. After setting her up, another four more students came wandering over wishing to set up similar data gathering exercises. Again I successfully left the original student in charge of teaching the next student who taught the next and so on until they each had their survey set up complete with an embedded link on their blog.
All of this begs the question though as to what really does constitute mainstream classroom work. It also asks how the tyranny of the timetable can be adjusted to enable students to take multiple directions and cover a range of applications. When the standard timetable is in operation I usually don’t have the flexibility to take one or two students aside to show them how to use these apps or tools. Teaching the whole class or group these apps is generally counter-productive as most of the students won’t be wishing to use them. In addition I would prefer to enable the students to be aware of as wide a range of these tools as possible so that they can make informed choices that best suit their purpose.
With so many Web 2.0 opportunities available, (and increasing daily), it really isn’t good enough to simply be able to write to or read a blog. This is now the new entry level behaviour, (pity help that majority of students that have yet to be introduced to even this level within the school context). Now that students can communicate their meaning and developing understandings, (and conversely connect with and interpret the same from others), in a range of literacies ranging from simple text based formats through to ever more complex multi-media, perhaps we should be placing the teaching of these into a much more prominent, (should it be pre-eminent), place in the timetable. It will be interesting to ponder these thoughts more over the break and consider how to re-work the timetable.