Monthly Archives: August 2011

Skype – taking learning beyond the 4 walls of the classroom


I have plans for my Year Eight class (13-14 year olds) for the rest of this term, but this looks like too good an opportunity to resist.

Follow the link – check it out – I’m not going to say too much except … WHAT an OPPORTUNITY to broaden my students’ lives! Making learning real.

Now – how can I fit this in? Or, perhaps I should ask myself, “How can I NOT fit this in?” 🙂

Authentic Learning-making it high stakes Part2


A quick follow up to the film night.

Simply put, it went well. The students ran the entire night (including the OHS&W announcements) with everyone mingling as we hoped during the interval.The variety of “flms” allowed parents to observe the diversity of modalities that can be used and allowed the different students to showcase their learning accordingly. What I have been most impressed by, has been the way a high stakes task combined with a collaborative learning approach, resulted in students who were determined to overcome difficulties/challenges. Of the groups involved, only two were unable to show their films. One because the film could not be read and another because one member of the group forgot to bring in the necessary pieces to complete filming.

In class the next day, students wrote reflective pieces based on their experience of the night before. They used a partner approach to edit their work (everyone had to provide one piece of constructive criticism) and then shared selected pieces from their film night reflection. Students had to rate their involvement, enjoyment and “learning value” in relation to the task in its entirety. They also compared these ratings to an earlier task. This was an interesting and informative exercise for both the students and myself. The next piece of reflection will be an individual reflection on how their group functioned over the duration of the task.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the results with me (I know, I know!). I will add to this post with figures from the rating activity along with quotes. 🙂

So … anecdotally; yes, it achieved my aims. The readng I have done, by Jensen and others has been confirmed by this activity. 🙂 This activity = Happy teacher – Happy students – Happy parents – Everyone learns

Authentic learning – making it high stakes


Tonight is my class’ film night!! They have just finished making their films using skills they have developed from their English film study of “Cool Runnings” as well as their recent Geography topic, “Humans & the Environment”. They have also just finished making Science films and will be sharing these too. Our school has a Middle School approach whereby, middle school classes, apart from their choice subjects, have two key teachers for their core learning areas. This means we can develop consistent teaching approaches, discuss student/class concerns and adapt approaches accordingly, all of which has many benefits for our students. Back to tonight …

Some details about tonight:
1. Parents/caregivers are invited
2. The night is run by students
3. It is a fundraiser, raising money for a charity of the students’ own choice (Make a Wish Foundation).
4. We have a “red carpet” effect, an intermission, popcorn, drinks (water in wine glasses with slices of lemon!)ushers, announcers, fundraisers and technicians.
5. Other student work examples will be showcased around the room.

Our rationale for this film night:
1. Making learning meaningful and high stakes will move students from compliance to commitment. (It did!)
2. Using a collaborative learning approach enhances all students’ learning outcomes.
3.Differentiating aspects of the task (modality of the “film”) catered for all students’ previous experience with ICT, giving them “permission” to create a film using the modality of their choice.(Common criteria applied)
4. Students learn a variety of skills beyond the “content” of a particular subject area.

So … wish us luck! The premier of Pill/Rizz’ inaugural film night is on tonight! Am I nervous? Yes! Am I confident in the students’ abilities and commitment? Yes! Am I nervous? Yes! 🙂

Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognition: A three-level model of cognitive processing.


The abstract itself (before one even reads the journal)serves as an interesting “checklist” (easily understood) for evaluating how my students are moving through the different stages of cognitive processing.

Cognition, metacognition, and epistemic cognition: A three-level model of cognitive processing.
Kitchener, Karen S. Human Development, Vol 26(4), Jul-Aug 1983, 222-232. doi: 10.1159/000272885 <

Proposes a 3-level model of cognitive processing to account for complex monitoring when individuals are faced with ill-structured problems (i.e., problems on which opposing or contradictory evidence and opinion exists). At the 1st level—cognition—individuals compute, memorize, read, perceive, and solve problems. At the 2nd level—metacognition—individuals monitor their own progress when they are engaged in these 1st-order tasks. At the 3rd level—epistemic cognition—individuals reflect on the limits of knowing, the certainty of knowing, and criteria of knowing. Epistemic assumptions influence how individuals understand the nature of problems and decide what types of strategies are appropriate for solving them. While cognitive and metacognitive processes appear to develop in childhood and are used throughout the life span, research on adult reasoning suggests that epistemic cognitive monitoring develops in the late adolescent and adult years. (37 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

OECD – “The Nature of Learning” (recommend this text)


Today I  presented a prezi to my Senior English class. The prezi was designed to increase their understanding of the  next task; understanding communication texts by analysing one, and then creating their own with a ‘writer’s statement’ to accompany this piece of communication. This prezi is one that I was quite proud of (still am although it needs a bit of rejigging!). I had invested a lot of thought and time on what visual texts to use and how to best engage my audience (17-18 yr olds) with thought given to key questions ( hmm … a bit repetitive!). All the usual ideas I suppose. However, whilst I spent a lot of time on the construction of this learning tool I did not spend enough time on what the students were going to do. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel, based upon student responses, that their understanding of the task was improved and, that I had managed to demistify the task for them. However, did they really get as much out of this as they could have? No; my sense after the lesson was that it was too directed by me and not enough by the students. Whilst they were responding to questions with appropriate answers, this was actually part of the problem. It was all about me and what I had created instead of how my prezi was going to facilitate what they were going to create. Quite simply, they needed to be more actively enagaged and responsible for the learning. Anyway, I came home and it was whilst I was sitting on the couch reading a book my Principal had lent me, that my reflections were further crystallised.

This quote gets to the point quite nicely (thank you Phil, aforementioned Principal!):

The learning environment is founded on the social nature of learning and actively encourages well-organised cooperative learning. [The teacher must shift from] the “sage on the stage” to the “guide on the side”.

(Taken from, The Nature of Learning: Using Research to Inspire Practice, edited by Hanna Dumont, David Istance and Francesco Benavides. Published by the OECD. )     I want this book for myself 🙂

Perhaps if I had not been so personally invested with the need to ‘get the information across’, my students may have been able to become more actively engaged with creating the knowledge they needed in order to understand the task.

Looking at the language used in the second sentence of this Post goes some way to identifying the issue, I wrote … “designed to increase their understanding”, when it should have been, “facilitate their understanding”.

Anyway, enough reflection. Time for the Friday night movie!