Sunday, November 20, 2011

If only...

I'm back teaching Science this term and it's quite an eye opener having spent three years teaching Project Based Learning (PBL). PBL was very ICT intensive, all students in year 7 where given their own netbook and where expected to use it most session. Now obviously a lot of time could be wasted with games etc. but a well managed lesson was a joy to behold. How different it is in Science. Our idea of ICT is to show a PowerPoint presentation or the odd video and getting the data loggers out. Lessons have structure and timings and generally, the teacher is in control. I teach a couple of groups I had last year and It is interesting to watch how the students behave. Generally, there is less time for being off task and students like the structure and knowing what they have to do but they lose out on some of the skills they where using in PBL. This is most obvious when it comes to report writing time. At my school, we use Attitude's to Learning (AtL's) as part of the report. We have 4 R's, Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reflectiveness and Reciprocity (based on Guy Claxton's Building Learning Power). When teaching PBL it was fairly easy to assign grades for these as they where built into the projects with plenty of scope to demonstrate them. In Science, we set the work so Resourcefulness is less easy to grade as little opportunity is given for students to be resourceful. Ditto with Reflectiveness so my task this year is to work on how to integrate more student guided learning into Science thus giving students opportunity to demonstrate Resourcefulness and Reflectiveness.

Off course, this would be an easy task if we weren't subject to quite large budget cuts in education here in the UK. We no longer have the money to supply all students with their own netbook. All that work on our Learning Platform and uploading resources, setting projects that require ICT etc. all for nothing. It's even worse when I think of how well my year 8 groups can integrate the use of their laptops into Science lessons. They will happily sit with a worksheet in front of them and use the netbook to look up words or complex processes like the Rock Cycle to help them answer questions. They will research uses of rocks for a mini project (we are doing rocks and weathering and I set the question " why are rocks so special" to run alongside the work in class) and share their research with me on Google docs as if it's second nature.

So what a shame then that the UK government have decided that a good way to cut the deficit is to slash education spending and cut ICT from the core curriculum. What happened to education being important for not only the individual but also the country?

Education, if only...

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