Monday, October 01, 2007

autobiographical comics

I put this autobiographical comic together in one day (yesterday) and thought I would share it and the making of it with you....

Why do it?

I was browsing for interesting art curriculum and came across a great site which uses exemplary work of artists working with students.

An autobiographical comic project by Heather McAdams caught my interest. It is based on encouraging students to write autobiographies about particular moments, events, emotions. She has a list of questions to get them thinking of a range of stories and they then choose a particular story. They then look at what images might go with their story and how to exagerate emotions and events - emphasising emotional highs and lows, and using metaphor and symbols to make the imagery more intense. They then look at creating a comic (1 or 2 pages) using 8 to 16 panels - they don't need to be uniform. Good drawing is not required. The website has a thorough descriptor of her process, her questions to invite stories and tips for comic making.

I am a real fan of autobiographical writing methods - it was one of my own research methods in my PhD. It can be extended by looking at the cultures which might be embedded in the story and which shape the moment. So personal stories can be value added by some navel gazing.

Anyway, as with all new things I thought I would have a go and see how easy it would be. I admit to already being a cartoonist - have a book published - and was a cartoonist for a publishing company. My style is very different to McAdams. Clean lines. Single or triple panels. But the multi-panel A4 page requires a different look. Needs a lot more variety - and McAdams suggests using hatching and dots to create different shades, textures and lighting effects.

The process

OK, so what story do I have? Well one comes to mind - it was my graduation day on Saturday ... which I missed. Could there be a story in that? It was pretty easy to write some lines, putting myself into the present moment. It is interesting that when thinking of text for the purpose of a comic it does shape the rhythm and linking of sentences. As you write images start suggesting themselves. I needed think time between doing it - this added extra depth and enabled me to reflect on the deeper meaning, and during all stages of the process this think time was important.

Now it is time to draw a mockup on paper. Modify, improve, refine and minimise text, maximise the ability of the images to tell the story, can I use a metaphor? Now do a proper copy on bleedproof paper with black felt tip pens.

So now I have two comic A4 pages. Pretty good.

But because I have been playing with moviemaker I wondered how successful using static pictures might be in a movie. Digital Storytelling techniques suggest using autobiographical stories and voice overs to go with photos - but can it apply to comics as well? The voice overs connect directly to the uniqueness and the emotions of the person and their experience and helps the story connect with the audience - creating a sense of empathy and causing them to reflect on their own stories.

My husband has been playing around with crazytalk which takes static pictures of people and enables you to animate the face and put in lip synch as you do a voice over. So I drew a cartoon especially to try that. And then I put all the comic pics and the crazytalk movie into movie maker for editting and voice over.

I can just imagine student potraiture art work animated to tell their stories.

I really enjoyed the process, and it helped me reflect on my whole experience of my missed graduation day. So it was useful as personal therapy but does it have a wider audience? Can telling our personal stories in such a way touch others? You decide....

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Become an instant film-maker with Machinima!

I played my first real computer game last weekend and I admit to becoming addicted. I had to get to my goal, to master what I was doing.... running, running.... meeting my mission...

I had several goals:

1. to immerse myself into a game world(Neverwinter Nights - which is a platform for students to make their own games) and understand what it is all about and get familiar with the controls and options

2. start deconstructing it in terms of its story narrative, and game writing techniques (such as creating plot lines, working out the story spine, understanding how they used "breadcrumbs" and "funnelling" to keep me on track) - all terms I have discovered in my reading of game writing techniques

3. start deconstructing it from an archetypal heroic journey point of view and see the potential for student learning

And of course, as usual one's goals get sidetracked, because then my husband showed me some machinima (movies made from video games). These ones were made using Neverwinter Nights - called Neverending Nights .... and I wanted to make my own movie. So I did.

It took me 3 hours to capture all the shots I wanted from my game using FRAPPS (overcoming serious co-ordination problems - managing camera and trying to play at the same time), and then I put them in Movie Maker for editing.

I didn't really have an idea for a story when I started, I just experimented with how I could move my camera and film the real live action. I was able to get close ups, and pull the camera back with the character as she was running (without needing the railway track that real cameras use). I could do great camera twirling shots around the character. So very quickly I had access to some great cinematography tools.

I went into one room in the game again and again, taking shots of the dramatic action from different angles, getting killed again and again. I worked out that it would help if I saved the game just before I opened this door. Using Movie Maker I could then split and trim scenes, cutting from one angle to another. It taught me so much about visual aspects of movie making. And my character didn't complain about her multiple deaths... and in fact I decided to make this the story.

I learnt so much from doing this...

Not just technical aspects which I am still trying to master... turning off the menus on the screen and how to do audio with voice and sound.... and how to use several characters.

But what I really learnt was the excitement from creating your own product... the thinking and problem solving that goes into it... the fact that the story can emerge... that this platform is an easy entrance into film making.... and students will then be able to progress into creating their own worlds for their own stories... but first let them play and see what is possible before moving into project management and storyboarding and game programming.

Want to see my movies? I have to admit to dragging all my relatives over so they could see them!
The movies:

Never Dying Nights - Episode 1 - I Hate Mondays
Never Dying Nights - Episode 2 - Deja Vu

If I have time I would like to continue the evolving story, each time adding a new skill - eg. music, multiple characters, and documenting what it is like doing this. Hmmm.

Meanwhile, I have worked out my psychology based on how I play games - definately a manager and also a participant... not much of a wanderer once I have been given a mission - too task oriented!

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Writing Game Narrative - a path to self awareness?

After reading Game Narrative Writing Skills for Video Games, I am excited at the potential for student learning...

Not only does game writing introduce students to understanding player psychology and developing self-awareness of themselves as a player, it can help them deconstruct popular culture - movies as well as games, and how they might be manipulated. This is not just something for IT teachers to do in their electromagnetically pulsating computer labs - it could be a way of assisting boys in exploring literacy through a culture which has 75% of them engaged.

So now, think Hollywood. Game writers use the "story arc" notion as the "spine" of the game - the "high level" story, which moves the plot forward. The player creates their own experience or story in playing the game - the "intermediate story". (Some game genres don't have stories).

The heroic journey is an archetypal game genre which follows along the line of Joseph Campbell's notion of the hero's journey. These games use archetypes such as the hero, the threshold demon, the mentor, the herald, the trickster, the shapeshifter and the shadow/nemesis.

Game writers choose main characters which have qualities that appeal to their audience - noble, mulit-dimensional, intriguing... or even anti-heroic. Missions (and often killing) are justified to save others.

A dramatic tension is set up by asking the question "Will the hero get the goal?" and rising tension mounts as conflicts arise, the hero has to develop abilities, suffer plot reversals, before the major climax of hero vs nemesis. Then there is the resolution...

The game narrative book does a great analysis of Stars Wars Ep IV and how it follows this story arc.

Educational researcher, Keiran Egan, suggests that a key into learning for 7 to 15 year olds is through a Romantic way of learning - using story, heroes and villains, transformational journeys, looking at the edges of what is possible, enabling depth.

It seems that many game genres are using these learning tools in engaging students. We see it in how they immerse themselves into a game world and come to know everything about it. As educators how can we value add this experience, and help students deconstruct it?

Perhaps by getting in and becoming a game writer these things can be revealed... you are no longer a game player being played by the writers, but rather thinking about how you might engage others as players.

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Writing game stories - who is the audience?

In the last two weeks I have been on a huge learning curve....

It all started when my husband asked me if I could work with some students on developing narratives for games. He is currently teaching 2 Year 11/12 classes where students are developing games.

I'm a journalist teacher, right. I know how to tell a story. But do game stories follow the same sort of ideas? Well I started reading a couple of books:

And they were fascinating. First, game writing depends on who the audience is. And the games industry really know their audience... they have worked out there are four distinct Myer-Briggs categories which describe the different temperaments of players -

the conqueror - competitive, real time action, focussed on plot events (missions), wants rapid advancement - level ups, fiero, winning

the manager -
strategy, game process - improvement in capacity to play the game, finesse, intrigued by plot issues - political/socio issues, time to think

the participant -
role playing, narrative, characters - their relationships and perpsectives, multi-player, empathic, diplomatic, wants to interact with story and change it

the wanderer -
mimics, explores, wants new toys and fun things to do, unsettled by conflict - turned off if too hard, flat worlds, interested in characters and wants to identify with them

The aim of game design is to help the player find the flow state... not too challenging and not too boring... and it is different for each temperament. Different game genres target the different temperaments with different emphasis on story, characters, open or closed plot lines.
Hmmm. Next post I will talk about game narrative....

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Looking for opportunities in topics for the tools for self-understanding

I have just gone through a couple of weeks where students have been debriefing their experience and learning of an authentic task - the making of the college yearbook. Now we are onto to the next task... the launch of the yearbook.

So let's come up with an advertising campaign. What things could we do, what teasers could we use, what slogans for posters? We have a lesson of brainstorming. Then it is the weekend and I sleep on it. I begin to unpack the sort of excitable responses the students have made. I realise that I could now give them a little theory on advertising - look at the ploys used and ask them whether it is ethical. Usually I would do this at the beginning of the year, but producing an on-line magazine hasn't really required this.

I email my students a teaser for the following lesson... what ploys do you think you were using in coming up with advertising strategies (I give them a list to look at) and do you think it is ethical to use them?

Then I sleep on it. I remember their earlier debriefing where they unpacked what they learnt or who they felt they had become as a result of the yearbook project. Self-reflection is limited by the conceptual frameworks we are using. Perhaps my role is to help expand these frameworks... to help students build up their meta-language, to enable them to better unpack their behaviours and barriers. Perhaps I can also help them name some of the barriers they experienced which prevented them from participating in the project more effectively - so many of them have self-esteem issues, deeper fears or inhibitions and are struggling to self-actualize.

Hmmm. I now look again at my approach to advertising. Really, I have just been looking at the surface, but can I link this more deeply to ourselves, our development and our own needs? Can I help students develop a meta-language to explain their own self-science?

I now create a worksheet where I introduce Maslow's Needs Heirarchy and summarize Stage Development. On the back are a list of advertising ploys and I have added "cost benefit selling" - which is about selling how the product meets a person's need rather than selling the features of the product.

So it is time for class. We discuss emotional manipulation and what manipulation techniques (advertising ploys) they use with friends, family or teachers. Yes, using guilt is a preferred modus operandus! We brainstorm all the McDonald ads curently on TV - about 10 different ones - and unpack which of Maslow's needs they are targetting - and it becomes evident McDonalds are targetting every need!!! Students are a little astonished.

Later in the class, one girl wants people to go do something for her, she uses sighs, "you don't really care for me... if you did you would do this for me..." It is her standard way of manipulating people in the class. But no one is buying this time. I say cheerily, "Are you trying to use guilt, to make me do this? Now, is that ethical?" She looks at me a little taken aback.

So perhaps it starts... we have a language now to start naming behaviours and start discussing where we might be stuck. But I have only three more lessons to go until the end of the year. A bit too late really. Who might follow this up with these students?

It occurs to me that there is now room to make this more explicit in our development of the new curriculum framework of four learning elements. Perhaps in the learning element which relates to student development/personal pathways/wellbeing we should be asking what meta-languages might help students examine self, their self-development and their behaviours? There are a number of models. If we teachers could knowingly (and perhaps consistently) draw on them, and look for how they might tie in with particular topics or activities then we can build this into our courses, rather than seeing it as something separate.

For all my students, this was their first time that they were exposed to the Maslow's needs heirarchy or a theory of stage development... or even challenged to name behaviours. Don't we really care about emotional intelligence? If we did, we would be strategically incorporating its development into our teaching goals. (and am I now the one playing the guilt card?)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The transformative yearbook

I am continuing to debrief the making of an integral, soulful yearbook (see previous posts)... now I wish to unpeel the metpahors behind what we are doing...

When we are located in the curriculum metaphor - curriculum as content to be delivered - then the yearbook is likely to reflect achievement of gaining that content or skills.

When we are situated in the curriculum metaphor - curriculum as experience or currere - then the yearbook is an opportunity to reflect on where we have come from and where we are going - a more personal as well as collective journey.... with more emphasis on process rather than product... and a greater emphasis on who we have become as a result of that process, rather than what we have done.

So what are the transformational aspects and opportunities of the yearbook? Transformation can refer to changes in cognitive frameworks or changes in ego or other development lines. Kegan (The Evolving Self: Problems and Process in Human Development, 1982) suggests that as we move from one ego stage to another, what owns us in the previous stage becomes something that we can see and name and disengage from. We are able to play with it and thus try on new roles in moving to the next ego stage.

So an example for our students in a socialised ego stage is that of mindlessly buying into student sub-cultures and being subject to peer pressure. Perhaps in moving out of this stage to more self-authoring one, where there is a sense of self-confidence in one's individuality, one needs to be able to name what has been "owning" one.

So part of a rite of passage is telling the stories of who we are/were, dis-identifying with them and thus being able to move on.

So the creation of the yearbook can be an opportunity for the participants to engage in this process, as well as something which might create praxis in others - help them be more playful about who they are and what they might be buying into. It could be something which allows students to both celebrate their journeys as well as shed some aspects of the self which took those journeys. It becomes then for the reader a cultural snapshot of that time when I "believed this" and "was this".

We produced a comic page called LOST which is all about identity crisis ... Who am I? Where do I belong? The main character tries on the different roles of student subcultures - nerds, jocks, musos, tenny-boopper plastics, goths... only to decide to be herself, realising that it might take a lifetime to work out what that is.

Was the very collaborative process of visioning this, photographing it and then coming up with the words a process of a transformation for my class? We had certainly talked about sub-cultures previously but I suspect that creating this product/performance about them embodies the learning... starts to speak to the deeper unconscious. It is more than just a critical analysis.

Will the readers experience something as well... will it sow seeds? Will they shrug it off because they have already been there, done that? Who knows, but hey it is fun thinking about the deeper potential of what we are doing as teachers.

And what could be in a yearbook that might illuminate the process of moving from the self-authoring stage to the next one which is more about plurality, care and meaning? Perhaps we already have exemplified this in the very process of creating it? Is it invisible to the reader and do we need to make it visible? Perhaps there is a role for The making of the yearbook which unpacks the dilemmas my students had to face and helps the reader to take this journey as well... but in our debriefing we are not quite there yet... perhaps part of transformation is not trying to take students through stages too quickly. We need to sit and live with what we have learnt for a while.

The soulful yearbook

Continuing my debriefing of the production of an integral yearbook...

When I took over the journalism class in April this year, I didn't know that it had been a tradition that the class was responsible for doing the yearbook. I had been there and done that! I was hoping to take the students on a different journey. When I looked at the College's massive yearbooks of the last few years (80 to 100 pages) I felt the energy drain out of me. I felt mindless. A suppression of my soul. It looked so tedious. I wondered where the learning was for the students in collecting all the material... where was the journalism?

Not that many of my students were interested in being journalists. Why were they in this class then? What sort of experiences would help and support their own growth... help lighten the dark spaces...? (and believe me many of them had major issues - soul suppression, no sense of passion, depression, insecurity, drugs). I sat down and wondered about the potential of the yearbook for supporting healthy human development - there's and mine!

Hendersson and Kesson suggest when looking at curriculum that one should bring seven modes of inquiry into play:
  1. Techne – craft reflection – how do we do it?
  2. Poesis – soulful attunement of the creative process – what is whole and beautiful in what we do?
  3. Praxis – critical inquiry – what are the underlying power structures? Whose needs are being served?
  4. Dialogos – multi-perspectival inquiry – different voices, enabling dialogue.
  5. Phronesis – practical, deliberate wisdom - unpacking the reasons behind things.
  6. Polis – public moral inquiry - what are the underpinning values and ethics?
  7. Theoria – contemplative wisdom – what is the purpose of education, what does it mean to vision?

One of the first things that struck me was the concern of poesis. How is this project beautiful? How is it creative? When I first showed students past yearbooks, they like me wilted. I realised that they too needed to do something that was inherently creative - that enabled them to vision... something that might capture their imaginations ... enable them to be revolutionary (most of my students see themselves as 'alternatives' and like to be pushing the edges (though not necessarily their own.) Why put so much time and effort into something if your soul can not be inspired?

My next concern was one of praxis. Whose agendas were we being subject to? What were the power plays going on in the school? Who did a traditional yearbook serve? And as you can imagine, behind the scenes there was the usual political game playing. And I took the students on this journey as well ... helping them see that it just wasn't about creating a magazine based on their own ideas, it had to meet a variety of needs and we were jugglers as well as sellers of our vision.

And then there is dialogus - the dialogue which enables disparate views to come together... to leapfrog off each other, to listen carefully and pull out an essence in what people are saying - to capture that and build on it. We wished to allow student voice in the yearbook - through interviews focussing on students as well as quick vox pops. Every interview gave us new perspectives about the story and the culture of the College - so our initial themes for the yearbook morphed and grew. For example, the pages on "hanging out around college" turned into the theme of friendship - what does friendship mean to you? Pages looking at individual student stories became a theme of following your passion - What is your passion?

So my students are learning how to be ethnographers. For some, this entering into the essence of the 'other' was a key in helping them move away from ego-centricity (from being concerned with the 'I' to being more concerned with the collective). It also helped them become more self-reflective - what were their own values and why and how were they different to others? I saw a growth in ethical sensitivity - Can we really say this? Can we put words into someone's mouth?

When I ask my students what they gained out of this project the first overwhelming feeling is a sense of pride - of being part of something new which they birthed. And then there is the sense of belonging, the people skills, the confidence. I now have only a few weeks until the end of year and I feel that for many of the students this project has opened a door where they are only now ready to learn.... I wish I had another 6 months with them to build on the gains we have made.

For example, one boy wanted to be in control of the graphic design of the book but despite the opportunities I gave him to train in a new publishing program INDESIGN, he preferred to stay safely with what he knew (Photoshop). He and I have subsequently unpacked this - what is it that stops him from learning something new and what are things he hangs back from? How can he name his fears and start to move on? So although he missed out on some aspects of the yearbook, he is now tentatively moving out onto his learning edge in other areas rather than staying safe.

I could have moved on from the task of the yearbook into the next task but I have spent several weeks in various modes of debriefing. I think this is where the learning happens. So perhaps this is the purpose of education - to help students be integral beings, to have integral experiences - to learn to be and to become. To be comfortable in reflecting on themselves and their experiences - to celebrate who they are and to vision where they might want to go. Yes, we have a created a physical product but to see that as all that has been achieved is missing the entire point of education.

But the beauty with a heartfelt project of this kind (one which expresses the soul of the participants) is that it not only works at many different personal levels but also at different layers of the education holon... hopefully it will be sending out ripples beyond our classroom. We hope it might help the students and teachers really see themselves. I hope that it might spark debate about what the purpose of education really is!

Beyond a modernist and postmodernist yearbook?

The space that I have been in the last 8 weeks has been mad headless chicken mode. Yes, I have been project managing the production of a revolutionary concept of the yearbook for our College. Luckily, before (and now after) that mode I had time to do a little reflecting, or what might have happened would have been less than revolutionary.

Our brief was to bring the yearbook concept into the 21st century and the first response to that
might be looking at the technology ... make it digital... and yes there is a multi-media DVD to go with a print format. But what is different about the 21st century is the sensitivity we now bring - our culture has moved from modernism well and truly into postmodernism and possibly into the beginnings of a more integral view.

Perhaps a modernist yearbook might document student achievement (academic and sport) and have subject reports about what the class did that year. But a postmodernist yearbook is more interested in capturing the essence of experience, giving voice to the participants and celebrating the learning and growth... more interested in the being and becoming, rather than the doing. It captures the mood and the culture. It uses metaphor to tell the story. Through highlighting individual stories it tries to speak to the reader in helping them remember a way of being in order to re-tell their own stories to themselves and each other.

So we have a printed full colour 24 page magazine (instead of the usual 80 - 100 primarily black and white pages) which brings in some of the postmodern sensitivities - consisting of themes and metaphors - the notion of college as a movie, a game, following your passion, meeting challenges, going deep into the heart of you and identity crisis.

Where is the usual stuff? Well some of it is on the DVD... but now the DVD represents far more students and their work with music video clips, videos of the snow trip and the major production, dynamic photostories of classes, events, video class products, podcasts of poetry, radio plays as well as an extensive photo album .... and only a few text based subject stories.

Together they perhaps make an integral yearbook... the doing and the being, the individual and the group. And perhaps in the space in between the soul is to be found!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Assessment - unpacking what lies underneath

So far I have been reflecting about assessment from a very pragmatic point of view - e.g. how can I help students connect better to the process of assessment and the standards. In doing so I have seen that the assessment standards are not entirely consistent with student development...

So when we write standards are we thinking in terms of a student's natural development? Are we thinking in terms of development lines or intelligences? (ego, psycho-social, multiple intelligences, moral, perspectival, spiritual... there are over 80 different lines listed in Wilber's Integral Psychology!) Or are we thinking in terms of how a task might get harder? And what is the difference?

But wait, there is more. From a spiral dynamic point of view we can see how approaches to assessment might fit into particular cultural worldviews or perspectives...

Blue meme - authority based culture
The teacher gives a final mark based on a system which is largely invisible to the student. It comes out of a culture where truth and objectivity is valued and there is an expectation that truth can be delivered by an authority.

Although in many ways this assessment culture is the least transparent of the ones I am outlining, within this paradigm there is a false belief that assessment is something that can be known.

Orange meme - enterprise based culture
There are some standards and goals which are transparent to both students and teachers - a student can be rated against these fixed standards by themselves, the teacher or their peers.

However while the standards might seem explicit, within them are implicit values - e.g. valuing autonomy, discernment, initiative... Whose values are these and do we agree with them?
And how subjective are the interpretation of these? E.g. discernment could be seen as intelligence and critical thinking when interpreted from an enterprising worldview, or could be interpreted as wisdom (heart/mind/soul) and insight when interpreted from a spiritual point of view.

So although these standards might seem to enable "objective" measurement, they are actually problematic.

Green meme - postmodern/relativistic/inclusive based culture
In this culture one would question the role of assessment - what and who does it serve? What is the point of setting generic goals and standards in the first place?

Here there is an awareness that each student is a unique evolving and unfolding human being and that trying to fit their learning into subject criteria and standards might be partial, misleading (being subject to interpretation) and detrimental to student self-esteem. In this cultural meme, assessment is likely to be designed with the student to fit their own personal goals and experience, being flexible and reflexive as students reflect on their learning and themselves, past, present and future...being and becoming. It may not involve rating against standards but rather involve personal folios and telling one's story in deeply reflective ways leading to self-realisation and transformation.

The problem with this system is how do employers or further training institutions interpret such highly personal forms of assessment.

Integral meme - including and transcending what has gone before - (yellow)

In an integral assessment system it is recognised that all memes have something of value - they each contribute a partial "truth" - they are appropriate at different times and places, each with limitations. So in an integral assessment system, one would be looking at a multi-layered system that could meet the different needs of students, employers, parents and teachers. An integral system would make the limitations of each cultural assessment mode transparent. It would recognize the problematic and unsolvable nature and keep the tensions alive.

Students would be aware of their own very complex development as a human being, as well as their learning of skills, knowledge and attitudes. They would be able to manipulate various "assessment" processes to help them make sense of this journey.

What do you think? What system do you think you are using or would want to use?

Friday, August 04, 2006

How can you help students self-assess across 5 stages?

We just had the mid-year assessment task for journalism. Students came in to work on a self-assessment. They had to

  • put together either a digital folder or a paper one,
  • complete a summary page of what they have done (or is in progress - or which was canned) - products and media reflections, with hyperlinks
  • answer questions related to each criteria (eg Critieria 1 : Take an example of where you have been involved in communicating with others (team meeting, editing, explaining, interviewing) and discuss what you have done well, not so well and where you could improve for the future.)
  • rate themseleves for each criteria based on stage level and award of A, B, C - using the huge book of standards as well as my "Journalism - the video game" as guides.

The purpose was to help them reflect on what they had done and learnt in order to act as a leaping off point for the rest of the year. So rather than providing examples which might have "demonstrated" understanding, I was looking at them taking examples of what they had done and through their reflection demonstrating understanding.

I was extremely pleased with what resulted. I think the summary sheet was an excellent way of student's realising how much they had done. The criteria reflection yielded many insights and greater commitment to what they need to achieve for the rest of the year. I assisted some students to unpack things which I felt were significant learning moments.

Some student reflections:

Working in teams: "I think that Jescador hasn't quite got it together as a team yet. As we know, computers are taking over the world and we are rapidly replacing face to face communication. There is a lot of communication amongst the students but not all is appropriate....
My role in the team is being sub-editor, and I have decided that I need to get off my butt and get more involved with Management of Jescador and helping to organize other students in the class."

Solving Problems: "One of the biggest problems I have faced in journalism this year was the time I took to complete one of my articles and it was long overdue. I solved this problem by sending it home via email so I could work on it at home giving myself a firm deadline. From that experience I learnt that I work a lot harder when I am pressed for time and deadlines are due."

Critically appraising work: "I think that for this criterion I need to be more factual and less opiniated to produce a succesful article."

Although there are 10 criteria in the course I gave students the option of how many to reflect on... if they thought they were Stage 3 they could reflect on only 4 criteria, 7 for Stage 4 and all 10 for Stage 5. I did this because I felt that as one increased in stages we would expect a greater reflectivity and ability to articulate.

Then after reflecting on the criteria students rated themselves for each criteria against the standards. Some just guessed and some tried to do it carefully. Most were in the ball park of what I might determine for them... some I worked with them in helping them to rate themselves.

However, I have one boy whose reflection does not come up to the standard he has given himself. I am thinking that I need to go back to him now and give him an opportunity orally to justify his understanding.... he is in the class as a photojournalist. I gave the students the option of writing their reflections or recording it, and I think in future I will suggest this might be the better option for him. As with another boy, I also imagine that he can reflect well if interviewed. So does self-authoring self-reflection indicate a higher standard, or just a particular skill that I need to help students to build?

Another interesting thing... Rather than saying "I am at this stage and I am assesing myself only at one stage level" when students rated themselves for each criteria they moved across stages - so they might give themselves a stage 3 B for teamwork but stage 4 B in producing products. With the online stuff we are doing - most are operating at Stage 4/5 in the technology criteria. Given the breadth of the criteria and the implicit learning styles or multiple intelligences which underpin each criteria I think it is not unusual that students might be spread out across the stages. I also think that giving them a multiple stage profile is far more productive for them in seeing where exactly they need to go to improve rather than just rating them at one stage.

I also believe that the Journalism as a video game metaphor that I have used to explain the nature of the stages was very useful in helping them to see the stages in a way that makes sense, rather than trying to understand the very confusing standards book. I know that it has helped me in freeing myself to percieve the criteria and standards in a new way.

So in summary I am really pleased with how this went - this really was assessment as learning as well as assessment for learning (diagnosis) and assessment of learning (summative). The bummer now is chasing up those students who didn't turn up and ensuring they too go through the process.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Just in time teaching

I was reading an article about how a school might look like with personalised learning and a time-table suited to match. To support student independent learning they use a lot of on-line learning and make time for teachers to design resources. Students then access these in their own time, when they need it. It made me think about how I have been using just-in-time learning in journalism and the role of technology. How might it change from teacher in control of the learning to student in control?

One aspect of Holisitic Education is the notion of learning for the present as well as for a distant future. So enterprises, like producing a magazine, are wonderful for creating reasons for students to learn just now - either just-in-time skills to help them do a task, or just-too-late when they might have made mistakes - they have debriefing, learn from that what to do next time and/or discover the need for training.

So if some students were wanting to get advertisers I might suggest a training session which I run beforehand to learn the principles of cost-benefit selling and to do some role plays... or they might want to be gung ho and go out there without training, and very likely come back with no advertisers. After such "failure" or meeting obstacles they are ripe for learning and realise that they need it. I find often that a few experiences of just-too-late are far better in helping students be independent learners - they begin to look for the training they need, rather than me pre-empting and dishing it out for them.

So here I am - the trainer in the classroom... but with the availability of on-line tutorials, screen casts and training CDs now, the student has access to a more diverse and more readily available training resources.

But how do they know where to look and what to ask for? So I am still working on how to give them an expectation to look for something themselves and know where to look.... and to learn to ask people in the class who might have done it before. And googling might not be the most efficient option.

We have a journalism portal with quite a few connections to websites and some on-line training courses - eg BBC journalist site - how to do interviews etc. But the students don't really use this as a resource. I think part of the problem is the lack of graphics which the portal software doesn't allow for - so there is just a list of websites. So I need to find some time to create something with pictures that indicate what the websites can provide and create a culture of going to look here if you need something.

But then students need to experience finding what they need here to keep coming back. So I need to do quite a bit of work vetting potential websites, ensuring they load on our system, and provide quality learning experiences. But I also need to realise that this is just a stepping stone - an exemplar of what they should expect of quality on-line training to help them be more discerning when they google for themselves.

Another issue with the screen casts and tutorials is that students really need ear phones. So I am wondering whether requiring students to have their own ear phones to take to class (and not leave at home) might be part of the new learning culture.... and not seen as not participating in class!

Meanwhile, my new editor Lewis, the game master, asked the IT help services if there was a training CD for Frontpage (so he can edit the on-line magazine and learn new tricks) and organized his own training without any indication to me. He knew what he needed and where to get it.

My students will soon be doing a midyear reflection on the journalism criteria - and working out what level of the journalism game they want to be assessed at. I think it is a good opportunity to ask them where they think they need more training - in journalism skills, using technology, management....

How can I do this much sooner in this course?