Teeth? Hmmm…how do you make this topic interesting to children? As far as I am aware, the most interesting thing about teeth for children is the tooth fairy! So let’s be frank, the topic is dry – really dry! When we sat down, as a year group, to discuss this topic there was a definite feeling of apathy and very little enthusiasm from anybody to teach the topic. After studying our plan for the unit, it seemed like the plan included a series of lessons where we showed the children various PowerPoints related to teeth. We would then discuss these PowerPoints together in class and the lesson would finish with the children completing a series of worksheets (after all we need something for the books).
As I walked out of the meeting with an inner sense of dread at the thought of having to teach such an uninspiring set of lessons, I suddenly realised that I had the perfect opportunity to create something completely diiferent. I could create a new plan for the topic that would really allow the children to lead their learning. The new unit plan would combine collaboration, networking and group research into a project driven by the student’s own desires to ask questions they wanted to find the answers to. The plan would also provide the children with an opportunity to build on previous work that they had already done using search engines and Prezi.
Conclusions at this moment!
At this moment, we are currently halfway through session 5. The process has certainly been an interesting experience for both myself and the students. The first thing I would say is that the students have enjoyed the process and that they have developed a more thorough understanding of teeth and their importance to the body.
With regards to their ability to collaborate and work in teams, I would say that this is still very much a work in progress. Something that was particularly interesting was the fact that the initial use of Prezi to collaborate really seemed to excite them. However, what was also quite revealing, was they way this excitement soon turned to frustration as Prezi kept slowing down and losing connection. It was also interesting to see the feelings of frustration that some of the students had when other members of the group accidentally or intentionally changed their work on the different slides they had been working on.
Overall, I would definitely say that using the backwards approach of starting with an initial question was a success. This idea of having an initial question also led to the students creating some really excellent follow-up questions that they wanted to find the answers to. It was nice to see that these questions were well thought-out and displayed their growing ability to use HOTS to move beyond the initial questions and ideas they had been given.
However, although their follow-up questions were excellent, the student’s ability to get the best answers to their questions by researching them online was not as good as I thought it would be. In the future, I am definitely going to make more time to talk to the students about the questions we need to ask to find the best answers when carrying out research online.
So, where are we now?
Well I would say that the unit, up to this point, has been a success. However there is no doubt that this unit plan will need to be tweaked and modified for it to truly give the students an opportunity to become more collaborative, more connected and more integrated with their learning!
One Extra Thought!
Now at our school we don’t have a 1:1 electronic device program for any year group except Year Six; and they use iPads. One of the many new details that I have become more aware of, as I have begun to experiment with different programs and Apps, is the fact that students should have exposure to different hardware i.e. the students should be comfortable using tablets, laptops, chromebooks or desktops. Ultimately, this is a good thing as it allows the children to become more versatile in the choices they are making when deciding on the format or design a project should take. I really wanted the students in my class to see that a tablet device could work alongside a laptop when it came to using programs like Blendspace or Prezi. However, I also wanted them to become more aware of the fact that there are differences between these devices. I really wanted them to think about the program or application they would be using and then make decisions about the type of device they were going to use.
So, what were the results of using laptops and iPads on the same project?
Well, towards the end of sessions three and four, I realised that they had started to make decisions about their preferred choice of device. One of the choices they made clear to me was that they were much happier using the Laptops when using Prezi. They explained to me that it was easier to collaborate online when using Prezi on a laptop as they could see exactly what the other people in their group were doing. However, they were also quick to mention that the iPads were often easier to use as they were more familiar; this meant that they felt more comfortable when they were working on their iPads in an individual capacity.