This is a fantastic online resource created by the BBC which puts players in the heart of the newsroom to explore sources and make journalistic decisions and attempt to discover what is real and what is fake news.
You are a new reporter for the BBC social media team, and you have to meet your bulletin deadlines through the course of a day.
I tested this out this morning and was impressed by the very slick format full of interactive technology and immediate results. Players gain points for accuracy, impact, and speed – all of which are crucial in any real news setting.
Links to the New Zealand Curriculum:
This activity meets all elements of the key competencies – the capabilities for living and lifelong learning (which is what we’re all about in the school library business!)
Thinking – critically, creatively, and metacognitively thinking while making sense of information, experiences, and ideas to become active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge
Using language, symbols, and texts – understanding visual, oral, aural and written language cues to make swift decisions
Managing self – being resourceful and resilient while employing strategies to meet challenges under time constraints
Relating to others – interacting effectively online while coming up with new ways of thinking and becoming informed decision makers
Participating and contributing – in a digital, global environment while understanding the balance between rights, roles, and responsibilities to contributing to online communities
It also contributes to digital citizenship, information and digital literacy skills programmes, and is particularly relevant to Social Studies, English and Media studies teachers
A big thank you to UK teacher and editor of UKEd Magazine, Martin Burrett for posting about this excellent, interactive tool, with potential to have high student engagement.
Here comes part four in our inquiry series. Leon shares his concerns about the process, how students reacted to the new learning structure and what he learned because of it. If you’d like to you can catch up here, here and here.
As I’ve already alluded to, there were definitely some stumbling blocks along the way with our guided inquiry. There were many times when I felt like I needed to intervene as I became concerned about the amount of work the boys were producing. I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and let them take ownership of their learning process, which was the hardest thing for me to do as it goes against every fibre of my being!
There were two students who constantly missed deadlines and never seemed to be on task. I had conversations with them around the importance of meeting deadlines, self management strategies and how this work would make up a large part of their final assessment for the year. Following each conversation they would “pick up their game” for a short period of time but seemed unable to sustain it.
I asked myself why. What was I missing? They told me they were enjoying the topic and found it interesting but I was worried they were they just telling me what I wanted to hear. Was it because this new way of learning was taking more time to settle into it? Were my expectations of them too high? Was it the lack of perceived structure to the lessons and my approach to teaching? Was the work beyond them? I spent considerable time locked with my thoughts, trying to make sense of my questions, while wrestling with whether I should punish them for failing to meet deadlines and failure to submit work.
In the midst of grappling with this I finally snapped! I took them both aside and gave them a right grilling about their work ethic and how little they had achieved in two terms. I continued by pointing out they appeared to have learned nothing and wasted almost half a year.
Hold on to your hats, this is the awesome part! Their response to this was that they had learned something and they then proceeded to tell me about what happens when you ingest unhealthy amounts of sugar and the effects this has on the body.
The light went on for me and I started probing them further for more information. They could describe what happens when sugar enters the blood stream, how it affects our organs, and the difference between eating whole fruit and just drinking juice and that we need the fibre from the fruit to help get rid of the glucose. Both talked about having sugar highs and lows and how it impacts your thinking. The discussion was awesome!
This led me to an epiphany of sorts around my pedagogy. These boys may not have followed “the rules” we had set out as a class at the beginning of the process but they had definitely absorbed the information, synthesised it and had even formed more questions to continue the investigation. Was this not the point of what we were doing? Not all students research and process information the same way and here was the evidence.
Yes there were a lot of times along the way where I felt like I wasn’t really ‘teaching’, rather standing back and letting them go. To begin with this felt lazy to me. I worried every time someone walked into my room they would be judging me for what looked like lack of control and sometimes utter chaos.
However, this job of teaching isn’t about me and how I look. It isn’t about having total control over students. To a certain degree, it isn’t even about the content of what they learn. To me, teaching is about the HOW they learn. Sure, I can impart knowledge and go over and over facts, figures and strategies, hoping that it sticks, but I have done this to death. The big thing I have come to realise is that it’s all about the skills they learn to become self-regulated learners. How I can motivate and give them the tools to become life-long learners.
The other great thing I realised is the importance of collaboration. I’m very lucky to be working in a big school where so many were willing to help us on our journey. This would never have been possible without the input of other staff. I have to say a massive thank you to Senga, our Research & Learning Coordinator who showed us how to research, record and present our findings and thinking along the way. I’m that guy who never really spent much time in a library because for me, it was never cool to be there when I was at school. So it’s only now I fully appreciate the massive resource it has become for me.
As teachers it is easy to get so wrapped up in our own classroom with our own students and exist in our bubble, doing what we do and protecting our realm, hidden away from others.
Through this I have learned that opening up and asking for help is not a bad thing. In fact it’s actually a wonderful thing! I have learned more in the past two terms about how learners learn than I have in the previous eight years. Now I welcome anyone into my classroom to help, share or critique my professional practise. I do not view this as criticism. I see it as a chance for me to grow as a teacher and provide extra opportunities for my students as they benefit from the perspective of others.
I am still only in the beginnings of my inquiry journey but see the massive benefits this approach has on learning. I am determined to continue on this path. I will allow myself to feel okay about the mistakes I have made along the way as we have all learned because of them and they’ve allowed me to move forward.
Next week Leon will share some of the students reflections about their inquiry journey this year.
Here is part three of our guided inquiry journey. Leon expands on what direction their inquiry took and sets out the process he trialled with his class. If you want to catch up on the first two instalments you can do that here for part 1 and here for part 2.
In term 1 this year we had completed a unit on healthy eating. This prompted a lot of discussion about food, what was healthy and what was not. There had also been lots published in the media about sugar and its ill effects on our health. The class decided they wanted to investigate this further.
An in-depth discussion ensued about some of the choices of food and drink that was available in our canteen and from that it was decided to see if we could affect what was offered for sale. We decided to look at other healthy alternatives and whether or not it would be cost effective to serve meals that had no highly processed foods. Our next step was to backwards map how we might make all this happen.
In groups we brainstormed ideas about all the things we would need to do to make this happen and put together a timeline so everyone knew what and when different tasks had to happen.
Note: (I believe this step is crucial to any inquiry. You need to have a timeline and establish some parameters, including a goal otherwise, as we discovered, it is very easy to get off task or have ideas spiral into something massive that will go on forever and ever!)
The first thing we had to do was gain the permission of our rector to investigate foods our canteen was selling. A team of students put together a simple power point presentation and invited him to come and listen to their proposal. Students had to back up their suggestions themselves with relevant information as we knew Mr Baldwin would be asking some tough questions. This meant that every student had to do their own research to learn about the effects of highly processed food and sugar on the body both physically and mentally. Our researching skills really paid off at this time (thanks again Senga).
Students also made appointments with other teachers in the Science and Health departments to gather further information to strengthen their argument.
During this process it became clear that the students were all doing different things at different times. This was where I had to let go of my inner control freak! As a class we talked constantly about self-management and being able to work to a deadline. I had to trust that students would complete set tasks without me constantly looking over their shoulder.
I deliberately gave the boys a lot of freedom to come and go from the classroom and work how they needed to work. For some this meant taking regular breaks, listening to devices, working in groups or individually as well as having regular catch ups with each other. It was amazing to see them becoming “experts” in particular fields and all feeding off each other for information.
As a class we designed a cookbook made from healthy recipes we had researched and students had to show their learning in some way, shape or form. This could be anything from a mock news interview to a power point presentation to a poster or simply submitting their inquiry journal. Documenting our journey in this way would prove invaluable.
Students designed the criteria for our final assessment and came up with a list of ways that we could measure each other’s learning. Having them co-construct the criteria for assessment meant they had real ownership of the task.
So it sounds like all is coming up roses and I am now an expert on inquiry and my class is perfect aye! WRONG! Not all my students responded well to the less structured approach we took with our learning. Two students in particular really struggled with this concept, choosing to be completely off task and “abusing” the system. In the next posting I will continue to outline both the successes and the stumbling blocks along the way to successful guided inquiry ………
Here is instalment two of our inquiry journey where Leon describes the approaches taken. If you want to know why we began this journey, you can read about it here.
Before throwing myself into the unknown, I had to learn about the process of inquiry. I had previously had many conversations with our librarian, Senga about Inquiry Learning but had always made excuses that I was too busy to make this happen in my room. Looking back, I now realise I was scared to give away power and too proud to acknowledge that I didn’t have all the answers. (Told you I was a control freak!)
I knew that if this was to work I would have to acquire help from others. This would also mean opening up my classroom and putting my practise under scrutiny.
Two books I read which were to become my bibles were: Creating a Learner-centred Primary Classroom by Kath Murdoch & Jeni Wilson andGuided Inquiry Design: a Framework for Inquiry in Your School by Carol Kahlyhau, Leslie Maniotes & Ann Caspari.
These gave me some foundation and ideas to move forward.
I realised that I really did not understand what good research looked like, nor did I have the skills to teach them to my students. This is where our school Research & Learning Coordinator Senga became the first big piece of putting this puzzle together. My students and I met with her for several sessions where we learned how to research in books and online, how to synthesise important information and take notes, and reference our sources of information.
My students had never gone through the Inquiry process before so we decided to all explore the same topic. We had already worked on a unit around healthy eating and so decided to look at sugar in foods and whether all the hype in the media had any substance.
Our literacy sessions involved in-depth analysis of research we had found and we also watched movies such as Supersize Me, The 200kg Kid, That Sugar Film, and Fed Up.
I quickly realised this was becoming massive! There were millions of questions that we were losing track of and we would need help from experts to find answers.
We decided we would brainstorm a list of people we may need to call on for help and the “Wonderwall” was born!
The Wonderwall is our dumping ground for questions that that arise during research. We had sticky notes available at all times to write questions. Everyone answered each other’s questions as they came across relevant information.
We approached staff members as experts to work with us and a great group of people got on board, prepared to help at any time. We already had access to a great research person from our library, who was also very good giving us ideas and resources for documenting our journey. She was joined by a scientist, a P.E. specialist, a leader of learning, an English major with exceptional skill in photography and video, an Alternative Pathways teacher who the students have great respect for and a Mathematician & Physics teacher with a passion for teaching. This would become a great starting group to get things rolling.
Goodreads have great Halloween treats all week for those who are into a good horror to tingle the spine. However, it’s the two sentence horror story that has my mind turning towards writing activities for classes.
Wouldn’t this be a great idea to share with your English teaching colleagues? I know our boys would relish the opportunity to gross each other out by suitably horrific premises, and what an excellent opportunity to encourage them to investigate wonderfully descriptive words to convey their message. It also will teach them to be succinct in their choice of sentences and why each word matters.
Once the students have crafted their sentences they could each create a slide through Google Slides, such as the ones shown here (just love Justin Cronin’s work!), to publish their short horror story. Teachers could create a class presentation with each of the slides to share with everyone. Power-point would be an equally good presentation option for teachers who didn’t want to use and online option.
PS: This is a great Spine Poem with the horror theme supplied by Jan Cothier at Karamu High School in Hastings, which I just had to share
Great list of apps to consider using in your BYOD classroom
Edutopia blogger Vicki Davis shares a wealth of apps and platforms that can facilitate teaching and maximize learning within a BYOD classroom and school environment. She counts 51, and these are just her favorites!
I had some comments at the SLANZA Conference last month that my blog has been a bit quiet. This is true. But it hasn’t been due to lack of material. It has more to do with timing and the size of the undertakings. Good things take time!
For example, it has taken me the better part of 10 months to be in a position to share about the new and improved Tertiary Prep Programme.
Another significant piece of work I’ve been involved in this year has been supporting and working alongside of one of my teachers as he embarked on a huge mind shift towards guided inquiry learning in his classroom.
It has been a roller-coaster year for both of us so I’ve asked Leon to share, in his own words, how this journey has been.
This will be the first in a series of blogs over the next few weeks outlining:
why undertake this journey
what approaches were taken
the outcomes for the students
reflection of the process from the teacher’s perspective
the benefits of collaboration
I am absolutely thrilled to be introducing you to Mr Leon Dunn. Not only is he a pleasure to work with, he has shown himself to be brave in launching into a new direction in his classroom practice, generous in sharing and discussing ideas with myself and others, and genuine in his caring connection with every student who enters his sphere. Here, Leon shares about why he began this journey:
This year I decided to step out of my comfort zone and look at teaching through inquiry in my class. This was a relatively new concept to me and I had only touched on inquiry in a school I had previously worked at.
For the past three years I felt I have been just going through the motions in terms of my classroom teaching. There are some great systems put in place in our school for curriculum delivery, but I felt like neither I nor my class had any control over what happened in our room.
An example of this is our school reading programme. A folder was given to me on arrival at the school and we were instructed to only use the resources that were in it! The same applied to writing, where the unit and resources would be given to us and we taught from that. No collaboration with other staff or students about what and how curriculum would be delivered in the classroom. I felt restricted in terms of planning and resourcing and after gathering student voice data I knew it was time for things to change. I was tired of filling my students heads with “just in case” knowledge with a didactic teaching approach that was boring for all of us.
I teach a Year 9 Homeroom / Alternative Pathways class in an all boys school. There is a roll of 15 students in my class, with numbers this low because our homerooms are made up of very low academic and high pastoral needs students. For some of my students it is a win just getting to school on time!
Teaching through inquiry was a scary thought because I would be “flying blind” having no idea how it would work or how the boys would respond. This is my first year trialling this so am by no means an expert on the subject. I am also a self-confessed control freak so letting go and stepping into the unknown is very stressful. But over the course of the next few weeks I would like to share my journey warts and all!
Leon is a primary, bilingual trained teacher in his ninth year of teaching. After completing his degree he spent almost five years in London teaching all ages groups from Nursery to Year 6. Upon returning to New Zealand he worked for a year in Alternative Education before teaching a Year 6-8 class in a small primary school. He has been teaching at Southland Boys’ High School for the past three years with Year 7 and Year 9 classes.
Every now and again you come across something so simple that you wondered why you never knew about it before!
Google timer is just that for me. I thought I was a pretty savvy user of Google. I can use it as a calculator and as a converter but this is perfect for using in many classroom situations.
Just google – timer – and the amount of time you want to count down.
Select full screen and project it onto your whiteboard. Voilà! Countdown for assessments, group work, discussions, debates and anything else you can think of!
Big thanks to HOD English at John McGlashan College, David Schaumann for sharing this on the TKI Secondary English listserve. It’s another great example of why sharing is so important, even if you think it is obvious or widely known. It just might not be! You can read more about what I think about this: What’s Obvious To Me is Amazing To You
So, do you have any simple but amazing little tips or tricks you could share with others? Yes? Use the comments field below.
What an amazing effort and commitment! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your little vignettes.
I totally love Sally’s concept for using Afterliff: The New Dictionary of Things There Should Be Words for by John Lloyd and Jon Canter to inspire creative writing. As a result of Sally sharing her idea I have purchased a copy of this dictionary for the school library and have shared the concept with our HOF English in the hope this might be a technique the English Department employs in engaging and encouraging boys to think creatively about words and language.
I think there are a number of ways this book could be used:
Word of the Week 1 – choose a different word each week, display it in the library and invite students to come up with a meaning for it.
Word of the Week 2 – alternatively, choose a word, display it with its meaning and invite students to write the funniest, cleverest, or most imaginative sentence.
Library Week – either of these could work as a “word for the day” competition during library week celebrations.
Class activity – Matching game: Select 50-60 words and type them on playing card-size cards. Then type the corresponding meanings on another set of cards and put them into sets of 10. When you have a class booked into the library, you could suggest teachers might like to group their class into teams of 3 or 4, give them a set of cards and challenge them to match the word with the meaning. If it’s an English class or a junior school class their teacher could then have them write a 100 word short story using one of the words, just like Sally did – 100 times!
I reckon there’s probably other ideas as well. If you think of one, why not add to this list in the comments below?
I am becoming increasingly aware of myself as a visual learner. This blog post from the wonderful Sally Pewhairangi is a great reminder of this for me.
This had a dual effect on me.
Firstly, I immediately saw the potential for English teachers to use this as an analysis tool for their class novel studies. The students could create their own key as to how to analyse the text, maybe as a plot summary or maybe as a way of charting use of language, or possibly even plotting a character’s movement or development during the novel. I’m sure there are other ways to use it too.
Secondly, it reminded me of why it’s so important to share your ideas with others, and how exciting it is to have new ideas sparked by others sharing their experiences.