Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting to work- Communicating What We Know

What a great day today. Students were tasked with analyzing an advertisement for a lawn company that might be one that was found in an old version Yellow Pages. It is a terrible advertisement. I 'borrowed' the image from the web. The only caveat was that their analysis had to include why the advertisement did not follow many of the principles and elements of design.

Many thought this was a piece of cake. I wasn't going to let them off that easily.

The preface to the activity was about most of them had completely forgotten about the elements and principles of design. I told students that it was OK. Why they had forgotten was another issue. I hadn't given them context. Telling me that that colours "don't look good" wasn't going to cut it.

Redesigning the old ad is not really about the ad. It's about learning to communicate their learning. I wandered today asking them to tell me about why the ad 'sucked'. The difference was that they had to tell me which element or principle they were addressing. Some of them weren't too happy with hearing that I'd come back when they were prepared to talk elements and principles using the language they had learned.

Today we also started to learn Aviary's photo-shop style app called Pheonix. Students essentially 'played' to learn the program and some tried to start their advertisement redo.

Tomorrow we'll hone our skills with some online tutorials for Phoenix and students will start to create their new advertisements.

Evaluation of their advertisements will come from their own communication of learning. They will put the old and new ads side by side on a larger sheet of paper. From there they will annotate where I should observe how they used their knowledge of the elements and principles of design, what really shines about their new ad. Basically they need to defend their choices using the language we are using in the class. These products will go up around the class as reference for future ads they will be creating.

How can I add to this? Is there a peer activity we can do this week to provide deeper understanding?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Student Involvement In Planning- Next Steps

This post is selfish. It's meant to share my next steps but also to help wrap my brain around the 'big picture' of what my multimedia class is going to do for our Multimedia Foundations course.

So far it's been awesome, but messy. I've had to regroup this weekend and take a step back to approach things differently.

I've combined 2 modules into this Multimedia Foundations course. Students are on board that they need to know some basic things and demonstrate basic skills before they move on. The premise of my class is that after a student takes an introductory course they are free to put their efforts into specializing in areas that are of interest to them.

From this there are a few BIG IDEAS/UNDERSTANDINGS that need to exist for students to be successful. These are nothing new, but have been a part of my planning.

Understanding 1: Students need to be aware of the curriculum, and be able to communicate how what they are doing at any given moment is contributing to their learning.

Understanding 2: Involving students in the planning process and having students customize their own learning is a way to engage them in the learning process.

Understanding 3: Providing real world context/connections for students is very important. It answers every high school student's question, "So why do we have to learn about this?"

Wow. I've summed up what I'm trying to do into 3 statements. Hmmm. Let's not forget this is talk. Talk is cheap. Have you taken a look at the last outcome of most modules in the CTS curriculum that is new this year? It's at the bottom for a reason, because it's not seen as important to those who designed it. It reads:

"Make personal connections to the cluster content and processes to inform possible pathway choices"

Compare that with my Understanding #3. Interesting.

So as Will Richardson said, "Yeah, so, what you going to do about it?"

The plan has now changed, and still involves students heavily in the planning of this unit. Combining COM 1005 and COM 1015 has allowed me to create context for the students from outome #2 of the latter module:

"Students will explore the impact of media has on society..."

This statement has become our 'theme' for our foundations course. It is a great platform from which to scaffold up to the deeper outcomes that we are working towards. I asked students to share all the ways that they are involved in the media. The list was huge.

I then asked them to identify how we can get a message out. Again the list was huge. To tie in the 'real world' I asked them if they were going to get the word out about a new sport or club in the school how would they do it. Most answered posters, web pages, radio, video commericals, the TV screens in the school, etc. The focus of the unit was right in front of me. Our Multimedia Foundations course is going to be about the world of media, and more specifically- advertising.

Let's put plan C into effect. Or is it D. Here is it. I'm sure it will change again.

1. Students will learn about the elements and principles of design and typography. In context we watched the 'riveting' film Helvetica about typesetters and font creators. Kids who didn't fall asleep say how passionate people are about their craft. Students will also use 'Google' to start their own learning about the principles of design.

2. In context, students this week will use the principles of design and typography to create posters promoting the multimedia class. Essentials understandings from this will be how layout and font selection can convey different messages.

3. Students will learn about designing an advertising campaign from experts in the field. Our first contact is James Schutz from Transcend Coffee in Edmonton. He is their marketing director, and has previously owned an advertising agency before joining the Transcend team. Darn good coffee as well! They will even mail it to you! I'm still looking for others to connect to as well, so if you know anyone, email me! coolpoolteacher(at)gmail.com

3. Students will seek out 'clients' in the school to design advertising for. This could be any number of clubs, sports groups, one student even said that he'd like to design a PR campaign for our new principal! I hope my principal takes him up on that offer to see what the students can do!

4. Students will design their advertising campaigns starting with print. The COM 1015- Media module specifies that students will develop fundamental skills to relay a message is a variety of forms including photography, print, web or audio and video. The extension of this will be to create radio and video commercials for an audience. The culminating activity will be to put it all together and create PSA style videos for our local MD of Bonnyville Peace Officers to use in their resource officer work in elementary schools.

5. Along the way the students and I will develop the class 'standards' for presenting their products. From 'the verbs' will come the presentations criteria. Students will be "preparing and delivering" and 'discussing and critiquing'.

How will students know what they know? How will students communicate their learning? Good questions. Another post perhaps? I'm looking for advice in combining checklists, student self awareness of their competencies, blogging, and developing rubrics for my assessment.

What pieces am I missing? Where would you go with an opportunity like this in front of you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Student Involvement- Great news, Not so Great News

As outlined before I truly believe that students need a say in their learning. I was and still am prepared to make that happen. There has been a small hiccup that I'm going to share with you. This is not going to stop me from achieving our class goals.
Here's what we've done so far.

1. Students are talking the talk. Starting last week we began looking at the curriculum for the first time. The curriculum for my area of interest is brand new this year. The foundation course called COM 1005- Visual Composition (PDF link) is a very general and flighty document. Students began the day by looking at the outcomes in bold and telling me which ones they thought were the most important and why.

Clues to the importance of the outcomes were in keywords, I told them. Students discovered these words were produce, present, and participate.

I asked them why these words gave them the impression that the outcomes were important, to which they said, "Because we're actually doing something". Following this they identified the major outcomes from the second module that we will be weaving together with COM 1005. There were 3 outcomes there as well and the keywords identified were explore, analyze and "prepare & deliver".

2. Students then made a T chart of the outcomes. On one side they put down the outcomes that were knowledge based outcomes and on the other the outcomes that were verbs (because writing them all out again would be just silly, I was told).

3. I asked them to create a list of the types of things we could do to achieve these outcomes. I got TONS of different responses. By the end of this conversation the block 1 class had a grand plan to weave all the projects into a HUGE television variety style program incorporating all the different student projects. WOW! I was blown away.

The afternoon class was different and they all had different ideas from film noir to commercials that were parodies and everything in between. They were restless. They were tired of writing ideas down on paper. They were sliding into a passive aggressive mutiny of the process I was taking them through and were not 'feeling' it like block 1 was.

It's amazing how the dynamics of one class are different than another. They were voting with their behaviour.

Crap. My utopian bubble has indeed been burst. Why oh why wouldn't EVERY single student want to be a part of dissecting the curriculum? Silly Mr. Nichol.

We had bitten off more than we could chew in those few days. I was so busy getting them to analyze the meanings of word in the curriculum that I had neglected one simple fact. All these words didn't mean a darn thing without context. Students needed examples.

I had a nice chat later in the afternoon with Neil Stephenson who is one of my go-to assessment gurus. I told him I only needed a minute and our conversation ended up being 40 minutes. I owe you a beer Neil. He commented that what was important was partly the verbs (present, deliver, analyze, etc), but students still needed to know about the essential understandings of the fundamentals. How they share these understandings in context is where the verbs come from.

I was going at it from a completely different angle, and in the process may have done a disservice to my students. I think guiding students through the outcomes is still very important, but it should have happened after a few other things. Thankfully there is still time to regroup!

It's time to change gears a bit, and focus on the skills found in the curriculum. From these skills I can scaffold up to the analyzing, presenting, sharing of student work.

There may be some further clarity of this process later on. For now, enjoy the ride!