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Reflective Summary - Using e-learning to enhance student motivation in Written Language

School Type
Winchester Rural School is a growing rural school 5 minutes north of Temuka catering for New Entrant to Year 6 students. We have had 5 multi-level classrooms throughout 2011 and have just expanded into a sixth classroom for Term 4. Our current roll is approximately 132.

Cluster
Winchester Rural School is a part of the Aoraki Rural Cluster which includes 10 other schools from South Canterbury. We are finishing our third year on the contract. Every school in the cluster has identified a “Teaching as Inquiry” focus for 2011. This inquiry question and focus has been closely developed with our peers and colleagues.
Each school’s Inquiry focus has been on how ICT Tools, strategies and thinking can be used in teaching and learning to improve student achievement in a selected aspect of learning.
The lead teachers have modeled this focus and action plan to staff, and they in turn have developed their own units of inquiry.

Intentions
Our school wide focus was aimed at improving student attitudes and enthusiasm towards written language experiences though the use of ICT and associated strategies as motivational tools. This focus was chosen due to reflection and feedback from teachers to lift student engagement and in turn achievement. A whole school survey was conducted in Term 1 to obtain raw data on student attitudes and beliefs and an identical survey is to be carried out in Term 4 to measure any movement or trends.

So a focus in the inquiry planning last term was to try and capture student engagement and motivation towards specific writing tasks through the use of particular tools/applications/programmes in order to widen the students definition of what could be involved in a writing task. The emphasis developed through the inquiry in my class was to create original narrative storylines with the end product being a published digital picture/audio book.

We began by brainstorming potential narrative themes/storylines and created data banks of descriptive vocabulary appropriate to each students chosen theme and to the genre of a picture book. The students followed this up in groups of 3 by using web searches to support/build on this brainstorm. We also spent some time developing a rubric defining what criteria made an effective narrative. From these drafts, in their group of 3 the students made decisions about which idea they would develop into a final product. After which they were given the option of using Movie Maker or Powerpoint to create the moving picture/audio book of this narrative story.

Several modelling sessions were provided for students to familiarise them with the technical process involved in this form of publication. Those students who displayed a confidence or previous knowledge in Movie Maker or Powerpoint were established as individual “experts” (technical tutors) to work with others who needed follow up/clarification.

They imported or scanned a mix of their own and Google images to build up the illustrations in their digital picture book and also imported the oral dialogue of the written text via an easy speak. They finished the technical side of this part of the process by adding appropriate background music to the story as an additional audio track. Finally the finished products were uploaded onto our classroom Wiki and some shared at a whole school assembly. The success of the final products largely depended on a peer assessment where different picture book groups assessed each other’s work according to the narrative criteria established at the beginning of the inquiry.

Impact on Students
As a class we analysed what criteria made up a narrative text and trialled 2 or 3 ideas following this format. Each child then chose one of these to develop into an entire text. The students were all able to produce a narrative text following the discussed criteria, but I felt this stage was a little mechanical and the richness of description or vocabulary used was not as developed as it could have been. The students then broke into groups of 3 where they chose one of their finished texts to base a digital picture book on. The outcomes at this point in the inquiry were very technical and procedural and required the implementation of scanning, screenshooting, Movie Maker and Powerpoint applications, recording verbal text and downloading background sound. We broke up the tasks within each group so different students became “experts” at different parts of the process, who then could work as a tutor with other groups needing help in that particular skill. This part of the task was very time consuming and required a lot of ‘backwarding’ and ‘forwarding’ / making errors and correcting through the process until satisfactory finished products were achieved.

Next Steps
An obvious first next step I think would be to continue to develop the mechanical skills required throughout the above process but in smaller chunks – simpler projects or output. Also focusing more on fewer students at a time becoming more confident users of the tools needed would help in their maintenance of these skills (i.e. one group at a time). Furthermore, making a greater use of “expert” students as tutors would be advantageous.