An authentic learning experience…

Plan: An inquiry into web 2.0 presentation tools. An exciting afternoon of inquiry-based learning for a hundred Year 6 students

Rationale: In preparation for expressing  their learning for a literature unit through digital presentations, we would expose them to a variety of possible tools, then allow them to explore on their own, discover which they like and decide which will be most suitable for their needs. 

Skills: Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking.

Task: Experiment with the tools of your choice and figure out how to use them. Create a simple experimental presentation relating to the big idea of your unit, as a trailer for what’s to come.

Tools: Glogster, Voicethread, Photopeach, Toondoo, Capzles, Blabberize and Prezi. 

Venue: All the Year 6 classrooms, the open space between them and the open-plan learning resource centre.

Intention: To ‘let go’, allow students choice as to which tools to explore and who they want to work with.

Considerations: The school agreed to pay to increase our bandwidth for the day. We organised volunteers willing to be on-line as backup support for students to call on Skype if they needed help and no teacher was available.

21st century backup

The session encompassed so many things that we value and try to work towards in our school. Collaboration, both by teachers and by students. Meaningful implementation of technology. Student centred learning through personal inquiry. Engaging, purposeful learning. Student choice. Natural differentiation for different abilities and interests. Teachers willing to take risks and explore new possibilities. Opportunities for creativity and higher order thinking. Flattening of classroom walls to include outside experts. Flexible use of the physical environment.

What could possibly go wrong?

  • Monday (Take 1): The whole school network crashed earlier in the day and we had to cancel before we even started.
  • Wednesday (Take 2): A long and frustrating delay during which nothing got done, while everyone tried to log in at once.

What did we learn?

  • 100 students logging into the school network simultaneously is not such a great idea.
  • Most kids persist way beyond the point where adults give up.
  • You need to have big ideas and be willing to experiment, or you will never know…
Over-all, in spite of the problems, it was definitely worthwhile. Here’s a student reflection to prove the point:
I have always relied on Powerpoint because it felt safe. Now I have tried Prezi and looked at other tools and found some tutorials that help you. I found out that there are other ways than Powerpoint to show my learning.


4 thoughts on “An authentic learning experience…

  1. The idea is excellent and was worth a try. I was a bit late getting home but logged in to skype through my iphone and saw one class was online. It was actually a bit surreal to be on the back of a motorbike in Bangkok, logged on to skype through my phone, waiting for a call from Melbourne. Let me know if you need a hand again, if you try it again! 🙂


  2. Oh! You could take this EXACT same story and put it in the context of our school! We did something similar with our Year 5 students as a preparation for exhibition and the Tech Specialists stood back and watched it seemingly go down in flames each day they tried the lesson over the course of three days. Alas, just when we thought it was hopeless and gave up, our students similarly found value (STILL!) in what they were doing.

    I firmly believe that although nothing really was “produced” they realised that there is more than one way to express themselves on the internet and using technology. It was rewarding…once we let go of our goals and let the students find their way to their own meaning. Thanks for making us feel not so alone out there on the technology “bleeding edge!”


  3. With that one student comment, it was a success!

    However, I still believe that in the year 2011 with our goals of preparing students to be digitally savvy global citizens, flattening walls of the classroom and encouraging students to take charge of their learning, a school MUST be able to support every student if they want to log on at the same time!
    Yes a lot of learning takes place at school such as patience and tollerance, but how many times does a person really need to practice patience with the technology. If you can’t log on, or the internet access in blocked or out of action enough times a student or teacher will begin to choose other less stressful and at times less technologically creative ways to express their learning.

    Technology is an integral part of all our lives. That barrier between school and the ‘real world’ should be coming down, not being built up, because we all know that when you come to school don’t expect the technology to work like it does in the real world.

    What I think is wonderful, is that you refuse to be sucked into that black-hole of frustration with school technology. You see the huge possibilities and you plug away until it happens.


  4. It’s so true!
    We do all come to school expecting that the technology will not work!
    Really useful tools are blocked.
    As a visiting teacher ,supporting classroom teachers to differentiate curriculum choices to cater for students with disabilities and learning differences, I find this a daily frustration.
    We need to prepare the students for what tomorrow needs.


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