Monday, 14 May 2012

Do-As youwouldbedoneby

I’m very conscious that most of our Media Art and Design projects this year have been rather teacher-generated and led. So, when I was asked to develop a MAD project for our Year 7s and 8s during the Year 6 SATs week, I was keen to give them more choice and responsibilty. This, however, was going to be tricky with four other teachers, each teaching one of the two double lessons.

Some structure was needed to prevent chaos and over-ambitious schemes, but g
enerating a large range of project outlines myself was a no way to spend a weekend
. I decided I needed:
1. Some themes to choose from that would be likely to appeal to students.
2. Some activities that would be realistic given the resourcing and support constraints.
3. Some way the teachers on the initial session could clearly understand what students were hoping to do and a way for the second round of teachers to find out what projects students had been working on

I’m not sure when I realised that the first two items were Do-As problems. I first came across this idea a year or so ago via @johndavitt. I saw John speak at a conference a few years back and anyone that can entertain and inform whilst publicly editing a movie has to be OK with me. You can access his Learning Event Generator here. I also have his RAG on my phone. The main point of these tools is to challenge the way we think about responding to ideas. In its pure form, however, it could be just a bit much with 80 or so 13 year-olds. 

So I adapted his idea as two lists of 25 items. The 'Do' list being aimed at visually interesting themes which might appeal to the age group and the 'As' list a collection of (supportable) Media, Art and Design projects in roughly equal proportions. Any combinations of the two would be acceptable; giving a total of 625 possible activities - enough for even a hardened don't-know-what-to-doer.  My colleague Harriet suggested giving copies of the lists out on Friday, so that students could bring in any special resources today, and I certainly saw quite a few USB flash drives in use in Media, with photos of pets and families appearing on screens round the room.  Already we have someone doing "My favourite Meal" as a board game...

I wondered about the control mechanism I mentioned at 3. above. I realised that for teacher-led activities the teacher would plan materials, tools and skills to be used and also have a reasonably clear idea of what could be produced in the time allowed. So I felt it not unreasonable to expect the students to do this for themselves. To this end I designed a simple planning sheet which students were expected to complete and have approved before beginning their projects. It certainly avoided a headlong dash for resources and helped any still-sceptical staff feel more confident. Everyone seemed pretty deeply engaged. With a bit of luck I won't have to spend the remaining sessions sorting out network access problems.