Over the last few weeks I have repeatedly tried my best to build in more choice and flexibility into the day-to-day assignments in all my Junior Info Tech courses. My colleague (Nicole) and I in the IT department are attempting to engage our students and their learning in more meaningful and relevant ways. When I say relevant and meaningful, I mean trying to give students as much choice and control over their learning as possible. I still believe that some commonality or base background knowledge is warranted, but why can’t all assignments be designed in a way that recognizes individual learning strengths? That is why I have been going through the process of trying to add choices to almost all the assignments I have been asking my students to complete over the past month. As students in my classes begin to get use to the idea that there is more than one way to display their knowledge (and the choice can be theirs), anxiety seems to be decreasing. To date, balance appears to be the key with students requesting that they have choices with regards to the finished products or final stages or summary’s of learning, but not the entire assignment as a whole. A good analogy might be that of a pyramid where the base is all the same or similar, with the focus getting more narrow or personalized as a knowledge base advances and different aspects of particular content peak certain interests.
Friday, 18 November 2011
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to take in a Digital Learning workshop after school hosted by the Surrey School district on Personalized/Digital Learning. So naturally, right after the workshop I went home and attempted to design a personalized Wiki project for my students to work on. I did my best to structure the assignment in a way that allowed for some basic requirements for all the students, but built in plenty of flexibility and choice for all the different learners in my class. For example, all students were asked to complete a timeline but what type of web 2.0 tool they wanted to use was their choice, they needed to gather 10 links to websites that supported their research but again theses sites were up to them, and finally I had asked them to present their learning at the end of the project in any way they thought would best fit with their learning style. They could do a Power Point, a Prezi, an essay, a play, or create a movie. The thing I found so interesting is that, students first reactions to this type of flexibility and choice was not excitement but rather frustration that I would not just tell them exactly what to do. Some students just wanted a list of things to work through and hand in while others appeared to really enjoy the freedom and choice within the assignment. By the end of the project many students appeared to be very engaged and I did receive some very impressive projects, but nonetheless the majority of my class still seemed to prefer the more traditional teacher directed assignments and projects (I had the students complete a feedback sheet). It is important to remember though that this was the first attempt and this is still very much new to students and teachers, so I will keep at it and keep you posted.