There is much that has been published about ‘Authentic Learning.’ I think the idea of grounding learning in a real world context is a good idea. It makes sense to help students make links between the skills and knowledge they acquire with their own contexts. I’ve always believed teaching something out of context and without helping students make connections between what they learn and their world, to be somewhat futile. We all need a point at which we can connect with what we read. I believe that our own experiences are central to helping us understand new and challenging concepts. For example, I wasn’t a particularly great Science student at school, but after leaving school, I found that narratives about scientists and the work they had undertaken, really helped me to understand a range of concepts that were so foreign to me at school. Michio Kaku’s “Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100” was a great book to read about how Physics plays such an important role in our lives. The grounded, authentic experiences allowed me to understand the very difficult and complex science behind a whole range of innovations, from driverless cars, to talking walls and clothes detecting changes to heart rates, breathing etc.
There are many such books about science and innovation that I have read, that have grounded the theory into practice and have in essence opened up these worlds to me. Granted, not everyone learns this way, but I have learnt through the process, that sometimes you need an expert to ‘connect the dots’ so that people who don’t necessarily think a certain way, can still access the information.
With this in mind, I have been working with my year 7 class, on creating documentaries. We’ve just spent the term focusing on the power of persuasion. We’ve looked at what makes an effective piece of persuasive writing. My students have spent the better part of three weeks, creating documentaries designed to present factual information, to inform and persuade their audiences about a local issue of importance to them.
Initially, I have asked them to research the documentary form. They presented this information in slideshows to the class. They shared these on the class’ Edmodo page. I have structured the planning stages whereby they have used mind-mapping tools (bubbl.us) and a PMI to decide on the topic they will research for their documentary.
They are also using Google Forms to create surveys. This is a fantastic tool as I was able to teach them about the different kinds of questions you can ask people and how thinking about questioning can allow for a range of responses. We were able to discuss when and how we would use short answer, multiple choice, longer answer responses.
Today they have reflected on the process thus far. I look forward to reading their journal entries and commenting on each of them. They have created all of this in a Google doc (as our school uses the Google platform) and this is shared with me. I’ve also taught them about how to select different sources and to ascertain the credibility and validity of an article or other piece of research they have found.
So far I can say that they have really engaged in the process. There hasn’t been a question about when they can start to “create the documentary in iMovie” which is great. It means they are thinking about the process. I have also told them we will spend a week on editing the films in class and then we will share them with the class.
Their audience will grow from the class, to include their parents and other people in our school community. It is really interesting to facilitate this process in the classroom. They have shown me that they are much more aware of the issues in their local area than we would give credit. They have shown me, that when given the opportunity to think, plan, research and reflect and to teach these skills, they can certainly imagine and create bigger and better documentaries. I may even extend an invitation to the local Mayor, to come and watch a selection of the films.