So next week sees me actively engage in a bit of teaching through leading small episodes that form part of my mentor teachers’ existing plans. In another week or two that will expand into complete lessons. One of the interesting parts of this activity has been the necessity to fit within the existing plans and approaches used by my mentor teachers. Approaches that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought of and which place some constraints on what I can do.
On the plus side, the topics I’ve been allocated both initially and for the complete lessons have some connection. All focused around measurement, perimeter, area, volume…., though at two different grade levels (Year 8 and Year 10). For the year 8s I’ve been asked to find some computer-based activities that engage the students around these topics. I’m also hoping to find some similar work for the Year 10s. So, the aim of this post is to document my exploration for computer-based activities/learning objects for this content area.
To some extent, it’s turned into a battle between cathedral (formal learning object repositories) and the bazaar (the open Internet), and the bazaar seems to be winning.
The Learning Federation
The standard place to look for these resources for Australian educators seems to be The Learning Federation and its many guises. For example, the folk at my first school talk about using Scootle which seems to be the “interface” used by non-Government schools. As a student teacher at an Australian university my fellow students and I get access. Yes, access is restricted in someway. My access is via this site.
As expected there is a browse by subject area and ability to search. The advanced search feature is, at first glance, quite useful with the ability to limit to years of schooling (which says something about the school system, but still remains useful within that system).
What am I looking for?
The initial class will cover units of length (measuring and converting) and perimeter. The plan when introducing this topic is to rotate the students through three separate activity groupings. I’ll be taking the one using the computers, hence the search for LOs.
Okay, so I’ve found an object. A flash application that uses a “space” context to get students doing conversions. It has its limitations, but is a start. The question I have now, is how do I get access to this object in class? Can I download it or do I have to point to the external URL in class?.
Ahh, downloading can be done with a bit of playing around. And going by the terms and conditions this seems allowed, as long as the resulting file is only used within an educational institution that has a connection with The Learning Federation. Though this doesn’t work with all apps.
I’m also unsure that I can actually give the readers of this post a link so you can take a look. I have added it to my “learning paths”, even though I’m not sure what that actually means yet. Am assuming it makes it easier to find it again.
It is interesting to note that while there is a “rate & suggest” feature in this repository, all of the resources I’ve looked at so far don’t have any ratings or suggestions. The detail on the learning object does point to there being a script writer, a subject matter expert, an external validator and a technical implementer (external company) and a publisher (Education Services Australia) involved in the production of this. This is striking me as a heavy weight approach to producing learning objects.
Okay, there’s another one with area and perimeter. Another flash app, basically to compare and contrast area and perimeter of the same rectangle. This one has a PDF with some lesson ideas.
That’s it, I’m a little disappointed with that. The addition of flash apps offers some advantages, but not a lot and the pseudo-context of it all is something I find a touch sad. Especially given the amount of money that would have been spent on producing these objects.
A quick google on the same topic brings up this page which has a collection of “sheets” with ideas for teaching measurement. While not exactly the grade level, there’s a bit of creativity in these with much simpler technology and more of them..
That same google search revealed this journal article, while not directly related, it does raise the question of how many of the above objects and teachers using those objects have been informed by, or even aware of, research into the teaching area. There seems a gulf there.
Whilst in the midst of browsing the Learning Federation Alice Leung tweeted
When thinking about this topic area, Google earth was what sprang to mind first. I think a comparison between the closed world of the Learning Federation versus the open net and Google Earth might be interesting. Some criteria for comparison might be
- Ease of finding resources.
- Quality of resources.
A simple Google search “perimeter google earth” gets quite a few resources back. Including a blog post from a teacher that explains exactly the sort of thing I had in mind. Then there is the Google Earth Lessons site and I imagine there are many similar sites.
And of course a site I found previously.
Some misc “mind dump” ideas
- Before starting Google earth, have the students estimate the following distances (as in all cases, encourage them to specify the appropriate unit of measurement and then convert it to some silly unit)
- Distance from their locker to the classroom (reminding them that a typical human walks about 4.3km/h)
- Where they will sleep tonight (some of the students are boarders).
- The diameter of Lords Cricket Ground in London.
The point here is to get the creative juices flowing for the next one.
- Think of someplace you’ve always wanted to visit, think of a measurement associated with it (e.g. diameter of Lords Cricket Ground, the distance between your place and Rockhampton, how long is one of the sides of the Pentagon in Washington DC etc).
- Have them find the school on Google Earth.
- Get them to check their answers to the above measurements using Google earth.
Questions about using Google earth
- Is it installed on the school laptops?
- Is the school bandwidth sufficient to support ~18 Google earth connections + other data?
- How many of the students have used Google Earth before?
- How long will it take to get the students comfortable with using Google earth?
I’m guessing minimal.
- What are the gotchas about Google Earth which my ad hoc usage hasn’t revealed, but which having a collection of students playing will almost certainly reveal?