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Habits of Mind

19 Jul

The school where I teach has recently introduced a cognitive skills programme called Habits of Mind. The programme is based on the idea that students can learn to be more effective if they explicitly think about the dispositions of thought, or habits that successful thinkers possess and try to develop them in themselves. The following video gives a rough idea what it is all about.

What I wanted to discuss, however, was not the programme itself, but how we went about implementing it on Moodle. All our grade 8 and 9 students did an introductory series of lessons on the Habits of Mind, but the teachers were drawn from across the staff. For example, I taught about five lessons in total, but not necessarily to the same class, and not necessarily in sequence. We needed a way to ensure that all the classes were being given the same material, which included videos, even though the teachers were different every time. Moodle was the perfect solution for this because you can post any type of file on the interface, embed or link to videos, and create assignment upload links.

What worked very well in addition was the fact that hidden files, such as class lists and lesson plans could be posted to Moodle, and then made invisible to students. This would allow teachers teaching the course to access the information they needed ahead of the lesson and gave an opportunity for students to view and review the videos after the class, and check what the homework was. A number of students were absent on a Choir tour when the first lessons were given. These students were able to use the Moodle page to view the videos, and work that they had missed.

The reflections uploaded by students were accessible to all teachers in the course, giving some continuity. The main area where Moodle (version 1.7x) let us down, was the lack of a suitable questionnaire module which we would have liked to have used to conduct a survey at the end of the introductory programme.

However, it worked really well in the 21st Century classrooms where most of the lessons were taught. On a few occassions, however, we were scheduled to teach in classrooms which did not have access to an electronic whiteboard or computer! We realised then how thoroughly we had relied on access to the more technologically advanced parts of our campus when designing the lessons. Roedean is an old school, and it is listed, and there are classrooms on the campus which are quaint, eccentric and certainly not 21st Century! The classroom where I ended up had a video player and a TV screen so it was not as archaic as I am making out, but the videos we had for the lessons were in digital not analog formats!

What it brought home to me most clearly was that technological decisions are actually pedagogical decisions, and that we need to ensure that the design of our school environments takes the changing paradigms of teaching into consideration.

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