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.
Coming up with a list of possible activities for a computer lab of 4 or fewer computers is an interesting idea and this would certainly fit into that. I like the computer being there as a kind of bulletin board, ready for students when they are ready for it.
I do see this as something that would work better at the lower grade levels, though. I can see my high school students shrugging at the proposition of trying to “one up” the previous year’s students.
This is related to the Amazing Flash Card Machine work, isn’t it?
You’re right about the competition among learners being a bigger motivator for younger students. I hadn’t given that much thought as my sixth graders still have a tendency to want to “out do” the other class or group. Most secondary learners would need something a bit more intrinsic for this type of activity to work. Perhaps a literature to life approach in which they create vocabulary slides and include antecdotes or images that help relate the word to their own individual worlds.
And yes, this would probably serve in much the same capacity as the Amazing Flash Card Machine. While the slides wouldn’t be as searchable as the database of flashcards, it would still be a nice way to have assessment pieces, or study pieces, that the students have created easily accessible. That and it helps out those classrooms that might not yet have Internet access for all of their computers.
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