What goes on in Room 7

November 2011

 

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DEBBIE CURRIE shares her experience of embedding e-learning into her classroom teaching.

E-learning (learning supported by or facilitated by ICT) is a fundamental teaching strategy in today’s classroom. Technology is a natural part of my students’ lives. They socialise, communicate, create and play within their virtual world, but the challenge to me, as their teacher, is to use e-learning in a purposeful way to increase student achievement. Technology, in our school, is for learning. One of the biggest issues of embedding ICT into the learning of intermediate-aged students is the feeling that they often know more about the technology than I do. So with this in mind, I attempt to create my classroom programme collaboratively with the students, using e-learning in four main ways: delivering the programme, formative assessment, activities to support new learning, and the sharing of outcomes.

A key to student engagement is in collaboration with planning and timetabling. Discussing specific learning outcomes, and together coming up with the success criteria and what the task outcome will be, gives students ownership of their learning, and allows them to be creative in all stages of the task. We use a wiki to share the planning, making it available to parents and students at any time. The discussion tabs within the wiki allow students to ask questions, share findings and have some in-depth online conversations with each other. It never ceases to amaze me how often students are using the wiki, outside of school hours, to extend their thinking and learning. Giving students their own login, and permission to make changes on specific wiki pages, allows me to ‘track’ the students who are actively involved, and those who are not. Using ICT tools in this way allows our classroom environment and timetable to be flexible, students select what they want to be working on within a range of learning areas in the class, including tables for group work, beanbags, computer stations, and coffee tables. Some students who have travelled overseas during the year have continued working on their learning from locations all over the world!

Clear success criteria and use of online assessment tasks, such as e-asTTLe, help my students to identify their own learning needs. Once we have created our task outcome, and the knowledge needed to complete the task, students then select teaching workshops they need to attend, based on their next steps. Most of these workshops are undertaken in class, with the support of ICT tools and software including interactive whiteboards and PowerPoints, but sometimes the good old scrapbook is still the best recording tool. We then use a wide range of interactive ICT tools to reinforce the workshop learning. These include digistore, web games, Google Apps, reading post and task-specific software.

The fun comes when we are ready to share our outcomes. There are some fantastic web2.0 tools and software we have discovered. If you were to ask the students which they enjoy using, their responses would include voice threads, digital photos/video, collaborative text pages (that show everyone’s responses at any given time, such as wallwisher, typewithme), blogs and wiki pages. Some have been hugely successful and others an experiment not worth repeating, but in all cases the highlight of online sharing is the response and feedback. Students feel a sense of achievement and continued motivation when someone else comments on their learning.

Although there is no doubt that students are motivated by the use of ICT tools, I believe the main source of engagement comes from the evidence of progress in their learning. E-learning is integrated into each stage of our classroom programme, in purposeful and logical ways, allowing students to clearly see and share this progress.

Students are always teaching me new ways of embedding ICT into our class programme and so I guess they are not the only ones benefiting from our e-learning environment.

 

Debbie Currie is assistant principal at Matamata Intermediate School (and Room 7’s teacher). Room 7’s wiki: www.mrscandrm7.wikispaces.com