End of term reflections

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
– Attributed to Confucius

The EduFunding storm generated as a result of the leaked green paper, which I wrote about in yesterday’s article, continues on unabated. Yet it is also prudent, as pointed out by Corinne Campbell, to consider the now, especially when considering our students. My reading of Corinne’s article is that she was intending it to be taken as a factor in regards to our students; lives overall. My intention in today’s article is to to consider what I can do now, at the end of term, to strengthen my program from this term, in order to make flow smoother, be easier to implement, to be more beneficial for the students, and requires them to be more active in the learning process.

I was asked a few weeks ago how the program was going, and the first reply that came top mind was that there were lots of things I would change if I was to deliver the program again. Things that did not quite work out as I had planned, technical issues that I was required to surmount, lessons that upon attempting to enact, I discovered that I had not thought through as well as I had thought and was left having to think on the fly.

The barriers about which I could do nothing included the lost two weeks at the beginning of the term due to the horrendous storms which battered the region, and left significant damage to my school, the annual NAPLAN testing as well as having significant disruptions to my Stage Three classes due to a Year Five week-long camp midway through the term, and the Year Six Canberra excursion this week. These disruptions led to a loss of a fairly significant amount of learning time in their own right.

As to things things that are within my providence, there are many. The most obvious thing is that I overestimated the current skill level and the time that it would take to get through the Fundamental Computer Skills (FCS) unit. My initial plan of working with small groups of students on their FCS quickly fell to the wayside. The videos that I had created were, generally speaking, above what the students was capable of doing on their own in the time frame I had allotted for each question, and I discovered that not all classroom’s had functioning computers. I was able to counter this by utilising the school bank of laptops, however there was only a sufficient number of those to allow one laptop between two students. This allowed me to work through the unit, however I had underestimated the rate of skill uptake. Each session would begin with a brief review of what we had learned the previous week, but I was finding that students were still struggling with some skills, or were going about things the ‘long way’ rather than using the more efficient method that I had explicitly taught.

This realisation leads me to believe that I had only been imparting a surface level of understanding as opposed to a deep embedding of skills, which, as someone who has high self-expectations, is disappointing. Some of the fundamental computer skills that I have been working on include the basics of logging in, which is a genuine challenge for my kindergarten students, how to open and close programs, and practice typing. These are fairly basic skills and I am not sure what else I could have my students do, other than practicing the skills, that would embed these skills in my students.

 Beyond that, I have already written about my dissatisfaction with the lessons I ran discussing copyright and pirating, and I would very much like to hear from anyone with suggestions for rigorous,  relevant and authentic lessons discussing those two concepts. I was happier with the lessons that I ran around digital citizenship that dealt with strong and weak passwords, cyber bullying and online privacy, once I worked out a few issues. I utilised an online game called RU a cyber detective, and  initially, I asked my students in a combined year three and four class to work their way through the game in pairs on laptops.

This brought up a range of issues, including some students not being able to navigate to the game in order to play it,  the game not being particularly clear on what to do in order to begin it, which was fine for my Stage Three students, however my Stage Two students are not particularly adventurous and were worried about breaking it. Ultimately, the biggest issue I found was that I did not have the opportunity to spend the time talking to the students about the concepts, which is what I wanted. I ended up changing the way I used the game after I discovered that my Stage Three students were unable to complete a critical portion of the game on their iPads. I had the Stage Two and Three classews join me on the floor in front of the whiteboard / projector image / interactive whiteboard and  we played through the game as a class. This worked fantastically well. The students were not anxious about the actual operation of the game, and we were able to have some very robust conversations about the different concepts that arose, including passwords and online privacy and cyber bullying, including a lengthy discussion about the hows and whys of dealing with cyber bullying and why protecting your privacy online is so important.

There were other areas of my pedagogy that, upon reflection, need to be improved, within the FCS. It did not occur to me that as someone who regularly uses technology, that I needed to make the distinction clear when having kindergarten student type the old favourite the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dogs to account for the fact that I had typed it as normal in Microsoft Word, but that the letters on the keyboard were all in capital letters. It was not until near the very end of the lesson that I realised what the issue was. The students were correctly naming the the (lower case) letters on the whiteboard, and they were correctly name the (upper case) letters on the keyboard, but they were not linking the two types of letter as being the same letter in a different format. The next lesson, I was able to get access to alphabet strips, which showed the upper and lower case letters next to each other, and this immediately made a big difference.

I commented to the classroom teacher when she returned from her break what had happened, and she indicated she had the same issue at the start of the year when she attempted to have the students do some typing on the computers. Currently, Year Six are away on the annual Canberra excursion, and I have been able to commandeer one of the Year Six classrooms, which has an interactive whiteboard. I utilised this when I had a kindergarten class this morning, and had each student name and type one of the letters using the on-screen keyboard.

It is, I keep finding, the little things that make the difference. As always, thank you for reading, and I would like to hear from anybody who has realised things that they need to change in their pedagogy when teaching ICT skills, to any age group. Please pass this onto any pre-service teachers or newly graduated teachers that you know. I would rather they learn from my mistakes, than have to make the same mistakes themselves.