Apps · digital technologies · innovation · teaching and learning

Into the woods with first and second graders:150 innovations ranked by the Decoding Learning report

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I am currently working on my unit plan and reading the Moodle book Decoding Learning.

I thought that I would take the advice in the chapter and review the ICT learning experiences within the spreadsheet of 150 innovations ranked by the Decoding Learning report. I selected an example connected to my context of early childhood titled Into the Woods with First and Second Grade Scientists.

Essentially the students focused their attention to the changes taking place within the forest that surround their school. The students completed this task monthly, throughout the year, beginning in Autumn, through Winter and into Spring taking observation tools such as binoculars, magnifying glasses and digital cameras into the forest to closely investigate and capture changes observed on their assigned tree. Before visiting the forest, students recalled previous knowledge and shared and communicated ideas and hypothesised about what they might see. Students worked in pairs with each group having a chosen plant such as a pine tree, berry bush (not identified in the video) or honeysuckle.

Teachers uploaded photos into a photo program.  In computer lab, students developed a script and added text and audio to their captured images. The students recorded their script using Garage Band adding music and audio, creating Blog posts documenting their findings.  Later in the year the student’s photos were used in Kid Pix, making slideshows of their learning. Parents were invited to a celebration of learning and students received a DVD of their work. The act of working in pairs naturally prompts students to reason and discuss and plan their work and to organise and represent their work in creative ways. The duration of the project allows multiple opportunities for students to behave scientifically, observing, hypothesising wonder, reason and discuss their work.

In a similar method to the 5E’s pedagogical Framework of which I am using to underpin by unit plan the teachers do not address the student’s misconceptions directly, rather talk through these out in the field as the child is revisiting and observing the new-found changes observed. This encourages the child to make connections themselves between predictions and observations.

An interesting and relevant addition to the project was students using the Journey North website and learning about the migration of the monarch butterfly which directed discussion to how the seasons influence the migration of the butterflies.  Students also learned about, measured and discussed the lengthening of the days as the seasons changed and the teacher elegantly connected these changes and prompted the students to consider these changes in relation to their own plant. Children were encouraged to share what they think they might see when they next visit their plant.

The ICT component of the lesson gave students a framework of observations from which to review and reflect upon, drawing them back to a previous time and giving them a concrete link back to this previous work and a platform from which to extend their learning.

I think the Decoding Learning Tool is a very useful resource for pre-service teachers to use to create a solid understanding of the ways ICT can innovate learning. If you haven’t already done so, take a look.




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