Getting the chance to put together cross-curricular, cross-disciplinary tasks is something which happens far too infrequently in our schools. Too often we remain isolated in our classrooms, intent on finishing our syllabi. Despite the lip-service we might pay to collaboration and cross-curricular project-based learning, the very real difficulties of finding the time to put such projects together, often leads to it being side-lined for “another day”.
This makes it all the more exciting when the opportunity does come along. The opportunity was the end of year, post-exam period, when teachers are busy preparing reports and no-one quite knows what to do with the kids! This part of the year often depends on teachers volunteering and putting projects together to occupy the students. The project we put together for our grade 8s was to get the girls to research, design and author a digital version of the TV series, The Amazing Race.
The girls had used PowerPoint previously to compile a quiz using the action buttons to hyperlink responses to correct or incorrect multiple choice quiz questions, so we felt it would not be too difficult for them to use PowerPoint to design a stage of an Amazing Race, with sites, clues or questions. Each group would design a single stage of the race, complete with route markers, clues and details on how to get to the next route marker. We encouraged them to use photos, video inserts and to design their own logos and markers for the route. One of the major concerns was that the girls use the opportunity to do genuine research to design clues and questions. To this end it was decided to offer a prize for the best designed stage of the race.
What seemed a little different in this task, and what excited me about it was the measure of integration of the digital authoring task. In the past, the digital task has often felt a little tagged on, a nod to the IT guy rather than an acknowledgement that what has really changed in the 21st Century is that the IT component is no longer just a matter of, oh, and let’s get them to do a PowerPoint for when they present their findings. The application itself, and the affordances it offered for interactivity itself shaped the form that the task took. And as an ICT teacher that is exciting, because it affords a glimpse of the future, well, the present really, where technology is the medium of learning and not just another way of presenting it.
I am perhaps gushing too much about this task, but I had begun to see PowerPoint as an enemy of education, and this has re-affirmed my belief that it is a useful teaching tool.