Producing and Creating

Thing 14 has asked me to look at using Web 2.0 tools and apps in a transformational way. I think this fits in quite nicely with what I’ve been trying this year, both in using iPads as tools to enhance learning (rather than substitutes for pen and paper) and in the aims of my flipped classroom.

I see creation, the final step on Bloom’s Taxonomy, as a really useful way to communicate to students that it isn’t enough just to regurgitate information; they need to be able to do something with it. We talked through the different steps at the beginning of the year and many were surprised that remembering wasn’t the hardest one! I tried to sell my flipped approach to them by explaining that they were doing the remembering and understanding bit at home, and we’d try to reach creation level in the classroom. I’ve had mixed success with this, but I’ve learned a few useful things along the way.

When giving students a task that involves producing their own content, I’ve found that I really need to design it in such a way that they have to use their knowledge in a new context. If I get them to make an article/video/presentation about a topic, I tend to be given information which looks suspiciously copied and pasted. However if I specify the purpose of their creation, or the target audience, they have to think a bit more carefully about how to make sense of that information and how to communicate it.

One of my favourite apps for creation is Adobe Spark Video, formerly known as Adobe Voice. It’s a beautifully simple app that enables the students to create short videos with icons or images and a voiceover. I’ve had a lot of success using Adobe Spark Video in a range of classes and like it because the students can produce something of a relatively high standard quite quickly and easily. A lot of the formatting and aesthetic bits are done for them, so they don’t get distracted from the content! I’ve mainly used it with junior classes (both French and Latin, in different languages) and the boys picked it up really easily. I also tried it earlier this year with my Y12 Classics class, who needed to explain the siege of Dyrrachium and Battle of Pharsalus to a Y9 Social Studies class. Here is one of my favourites, with images drawn using Paper by 53 (and a voiceover by one of the student’s friends – he liked his English accent…).

A challenge I have faced in trying to get students to create their own content is getting older students to be creative. While the juniors are quite happy to try new things and take risks, the seniors prefer to reproduce information using word processing or presentation apps. Many of them are really talented artists, designers, musicians and actors, so I would love to see them apply these skills to Classics, but when given the choice they are reluctant to do so! I think the pressure of high-stakes assessment does make them stick to ‘safer’ options wherever possible, but it will be interesting to see what my current juniors are like in a few years time.

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to encourage older students to make their own creative content?

Reflections on 2016

I’ve now been flipping my Classical Studies classroom for two years, and both Thing 13 and my inquiry project at school are prompting me to reflect on my progress. Here’s a little video I made to outline my thoughts (note how my digital drawings are improving!):​

Over the remaining weeks of term, I really want to focus on three main things:

  1. Finding a solution to the not-doing-the-prep problem. Any suggestions are welcome! I need to do some serious research and try pick others’ brains, as both I and my students have identified this as a real problem area.
  2. Come up with creative and engaging ideas for activities to do in lessons. With the seniors on exam leave, I’ve got lots of time to create resources if necessary.
  3. Look into differentiation and flipped mastery. With mixed-ability classes, this would be a good way for individual students to get more out of lessons. 

Thing 12: Create an Online Resource

My holidays ended up being more about relaxing than working, but I had a chance to play around with Google Sites and have a go at creating an online resource about Greek mythology. It was interesting to use a different format to what I’m used to – I found it very tricky to use Google Sites on my iPad but it was a bit more straightforward on my laptop.

I liked the look of the different gadgets and apps which you can integrate into the Google Site, and it was quite straightforward to set up once I got the hang of it (and used my laptop). It was also easy to navigate on both my laptop and my iPad once it was created, so I think Google Sites could be a very useful resource in a BYOD context. I used the different Google Apps quite a lot in my first year of teaching, where I was working in a BYOD school. They were an ideal fall-back when the students had all different types of technology – the closest thing I could find to a one-size-fits-all solution!

My resource turned out very similar to a series of lessons I’d done with my Y11 class earlier this year, a coincidence I didn’t intend! Here is a screenshot of the activity on iTunes U for reference. You can also access my public course on Roman Religion to get a better idea of how it all fits together.

After having a brief play with Google Sites, I think it’s safe to say I’m an Apple girl at heart – I love the clarity of iTunes U and the way that I can present activities in a simple and logical way, combining different resources. It has worked really well with iPads and in my current school, I wouldn’t shift to Google Sites. However it was very useful to learn more about another resource which would really suit a BYOD context.