flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Teaching intervention raises many opportunities that aren’t always as possible in a normal classroom, such as the use of Lego to represent Mathematical concepts (although Mark Anderson provides a solution for this, suggesting that each student gets a small bag). Another opportunity that has arisen has been the use of technology.

From my experience there are a range of reasons why students end up in intervention. For some it is the support, while others it is about confidence and encouragement. However, there is a group who sometimes just don’t necessarily care (see both Tom Barrett and Dave Cormier for discussions on this matter). Although limited as to how much I can modify the tasks at hand, I have instead focused on modifying the product that students produce.

Here then are some examples of the ways I have used technology to improve student outcomes:

Interactive Vocabulary

Vocabulary has been a particular focus this term. At the start of a session on persuasive language, students worked collaboratively to make a word web, where each word had to be connected with another word. This forced students to not just brainstorm words, but look closely at the words that were already there. They ended up with roughly twenty words. I then used an iPad to capture the finished product and added it to Book Creator and gave students the challenge of not only writing definitions for the various words, but recording them as well. Using small whiteboards, students wrote their definitions and before recording did a practice run. Just about every student rewrote their definition after the initial run-through, not because anyone told them that they were wrong, but rather as they read it out loud they found things that they wanted to change. After recording, we were left with an interactive page full of definitions.

Multiple Representations

Students were exploring the representation of fractions and were given the challenge to show a fraction in different ways. They were then required to provide a short explanation of what they created which would be recorded using Adobe Voice. The intent was to support students with the appropriate use of language. This was also a useful activity for identifying various misconceptions in regards to fractions.

A Current Affair

One of my groups was working on recording their own episodes of A Current Affair. Having recently purchased Touchcast’s Studio in a Box, a collection of resources designed to help make any space a studio. I set up the green screen on the board in our classroom and students used the TouchCast app to record the different episodes. To do this they emailed their scripts to me which were then copied into the teleprompter. After some trial runs, students ran through their presentations. What was interesting was that although all were willing to sit in front of the class to present, the addition of video forced many to reconsider how they spoke. This added a level of feedback and self-critique was something that was previously absent from the activity.

It can be so difficult to find experiences which allow students to develop their speaking skills, especiallying in regards to fluency and intonation. Here are a few things that I have found, but what about you? What are some of the things that you have done? As always, comments welcome.

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creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by William M Ferriter:

The other day I was perusing Youtube, as one does, when I came upon a clip by Yeasayer. It was Take Away Show produced by La Blogotheque, a live performance recorded on the fly on the streets of France. Instead of the plethora of instruments that usually fill out their sound – guitars, drums, synthesisers, samplers – it was cut back to basics: voices, a few beer bottles and some simple woodwind. Although this was a step away from the original, it was interesting what remained. The melody, the rhythm, the form, the feel, the essential essence of the song. There was something raw, intimate and real about it that grabbed your attention.

This all got me thinking, imagine if education were like this. No schools, no classrooms, no fancy touchscreens, no scripts, just pop up installations, with a basic plan, at the point of need. Learning and support for the problem at hand. Similar to what Mel Cashen posed with her question, what if food vans were schools? Of course they are not and education seems inextricably linked to classrooms, but there is something in the question. Something about capturing the essence of learning. What is important right now in the context I am in. This thought of capturing the moment reminded me a little of what I have been doing with numeracy intervention this semester.

I started this year using Marian Smalls ‘Gap Closing’ program to support students flagged as struggling with numeracy. The basis of this was a diagnostic tool which then identified areas for growth. Once completed, students would work through various activities to fill in the gaps. Although the program works in theory, it was hampered in practise by two limitations: student absences and the time allocated. After one semester, students had only managed to work through an eighth of the program. In addition to this, they were becoming progressively restless and disengaged with the tasks. Something had to change.

After some reflection and feedback from the students, it was suggested that one of the issues was that what was occurring in intervention often had little connection with what was actually happening back in the classroom. They still felt like they were struggling. In addition to this, although the diagnostics provided areas for improvement, they did not encourage student self-reflection and empowerment within the process. I therefore decided to change tact and focused on creating an environment where students reflected on their learning as a group and worked together to identify problems and errors. For as John Hattie has suggested, one of the key reasons for success is that teachers know every lesson and every day where a student starts.

An issue with this change was that there were no pre-defined tasks. As I focused on the students who were present, this limited my ability of predictive planning. Instead I entered each session armed with a tub of random resources, paper, a whiteboard and my iPad. After beginning with a starter designed to get students engaged into learning and open to risk, I would then pose two questions in a T-chart: what have you learnt and what have you found difficult? Although I had a fair idea where the students were at, different classes were always at different stages, so ‘going off the planner’ was always difficult. After working together to brainstorm ideas, these ideas would then be organised into clear topics and students would place themselves based on their own point of need. For each topic I would come up with a learning intention and discuss who as a small group we would work through the problem.

Some groups would talk together and work on identifying what the problem actually was, others would grapple a task I had designated for them. More often than not though, we would reflect by actually recording our findings. Using Adobe Voice, students would verbalise their learning. For example, one week one group came up with different strategies for working out 24-hour time, while another week a group went through and defined the different angles. The powerful action in all of this was that these videos were then shared back to the class and celebrated on the big screen. Not only were they recognised by their peers, but their work was being celebrated. Not only was there a significant increase student engagement with numeracy, but they were also excited by learning. On a side, it is an important reminder that even one device in a room can make a different.

So what about you, have you ever run an intervention program? What did you do? How did you focus on each student each week? I would love to know, for together we are always made better.

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