When recently developing a unit for my Year 9 - Build Your Own Apps class I wanted to provide my students with an authentic audience for their work. I know that as a learner myself, two key elements for motivating me is to ensure my work has purpose through knowing someone may appreciate or benefit from my work and has some level of accountability. We all know that Year 9 students are notoriously disengaged and could do with a bit of accountability to keep them on track! To only access coding/computer programming as the curriculum focus would have been a missed opportunity. Whilst ensuring that the Learning Intentions explicitly linked to the AusVELS curriculum, I also wanted to extend my student's to think critically, innovate, create and challenge their abilities in working as 21st Century Learners.
The Task: Build Your First App
Microsoft OneNote: Each student kept a digital portfolio of their learning which included scaffolded pages for each individual student to work through. They were required to systematically work through the phases of the Design & Technology Process (AusVELS) as well as self-regulate with a focus on managing their time, setting short and long-term goals and reflecting on their achievements. Having access to each of my students' work through OneNote I was also able to monitor progress and collaborate with students to provide timely feedback.
Touch Develop: Was the platform used for purpose of adhering to AusVELS curriculum standards, ICT for creating. With a combination of old fashioned explore and play, working through Touch Develop tutorials/walk throughs, as well as teacher lead instruction, students successfully created their first App or Game. Student just needed a Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID) to access the online Touch Develop portable which can be used on any connected device with a web browser. Microsoft also have a fantastic online modules that students can self-pace through to learn the fundamentals.
Skype: Was used as a platform to connect to the authentic audience to survey interest and to get to know their target audience. In this case a group of younger Grade 5 primary school students from another school. We used this tool to leverage discussions about appropriate behaviour in a web conference and different communication skills required for online interaction. We were also extremely excited when @skypeclassroom retweeted our images on twitter.
KidBlog: As we were two separate schools, we needed an the outward facing platform that we could make private for students to connect beyond the Skype meetings. Each Year 9 student wrote a blog within this space about their App with links to their web based prototypes, allowing the Grade 5 students to act as 'game testers' and access the App prototypes through shared links. Through this tool the collaborating teacher was also able shape a learning activity for his students where the writing of constructive feedback become part of his classes literacy rotation.
Some comments from the students:
"I liked that real kids got to play my game" Year 9 Student
"It was good to be able to work at my own pace and choose from a couple of options for how I learnt how to code" Year 9 Student
"It was fun to play games at school and know the person who made it" Grade 5 Student
So, how does this learning activity weigh up against something like the popular SAMR Model?
A technology tool, such as Touch Develop, OneNote, Skype or KidBlog in its own right will usually fall into the early stages of the SAMR model. They all enhance the learning experience. It isn't until you layer the design of a task, combine technology tools or evaluate how a teacher or student has integrated the tool in a learning context, that you will notice movement towards the idea of Redefinition in the SAMR model, intern seeing innovation of curriculum.
Within this unit of work there are were many layers and opportunities for a variety of skills to be developed. Not only did many of my student's successfully meed the AusVELS standard of ICT for Creating at Level 8. They also experienced and developed an ability to skilfully communicate via technology, collaborate informally with younger learners, build knowledge of coding platforms, independently problem-solved and managing to self-regulate through a series of design stages in OneNote.
I believe the best time to pull out the SAMR model is during coaching conversations. It's a nonthreatening approach for reflective discussions to challenge an educators understanding of the impact classroom technologies can have on learning, with a focus on evaluating a task rather than a colleagues capacity in using a specific technology tool.