Dozens of classroom that I’ve been in have community computers that often are turned off, and neglected because there aren’t any Internet activities or games to be played on that particular day. It’s a pity really, becauseI had a thought this weekend about a great way (at least in my mind) of getting students to work co-operatively on a project using three, two, or just one classroom computers without needing much technical ability or educational games.
Many teachers assign PowerPoint presentations today in lieu of the traditional report. While it may be daunting for some students, others take to the digital presentations with great relish (having played with the software in another class or at home). I saw both types of students when I taught in a computer lab, so I thought about grouping students using a typical jigsaw strategy. What I got wasn’t perfect. However, after explaining that each student was responsible for actually typing up and editing their own slide and they could still receive input as to the general layout or editing process from their group, many students dropped their apprehensiveness. I encouraged each group to find their best working arrangements and helped a few others with their situation, but many found a nice mix of group and individual work time to complete their communal project.
What does this mean for other classrooms? It would be possible, and quite easy to assign a group of students parts of a larger vocabulary list and have each of them create a few slides quizzing the reader on each word. They could work whenever the computer was available, adding their slides where necessary, and create something that could be of benefit to the rest of the class. Student generated quizzes could be created, and saved, for use later in the unit or in subsequent years, improving the assessments as each years’ students try to outdo themselves. Even as students work on the assessment or review tool for the first time they’ll be able to look back on work done by others in their group and “polish” their own questions to achieve higher levels of thinking or create more challenging problems. I have yet to find a student that isn’t willing to try and “one up” another student when it comes to creating difficult problems. Not only would this play well into natural competitiveness or co-operation, depending on the assignment, but the need for those inflexible, and time consuming, online assessments would be greatly reduced.