Gwenneth Zucker 7th year AV CTE teacher at Gardner Betts, 1st year LP Transformative Technology student.
This post is about failures and successes implementing student led instruction virtually in a residential facility with high security and limited internet access. Through a lot of experimentation and frustration, we learned some ways to promote student led instruction that will work much better in person.
But it is also about the importance of standard instruction as a background, support and foundation for the student led work.
Our students have been living in groups of 4 to 5 students and going to class in those groups. They are in classrooms with desktop computers, staff and a laptop that connects them to their teachers who get beamed onto a life size monitor or at least it seems like that. I am horrified daily to see my enlarged face hovering over these poor students.
Students stay in the same classroom for all their classes, 5 periods of 30 minutes each. During that 30 minutes teachers log in to TEAMS and enter the classroom to engage, enrich and support students who haven’t seen their families or felt their touch in for 3 to 9 months for others a year.
Student led instruction is probably not the first thing on everyone’s mind. Simple connection is, and my colleagues have been inspirational in the way they have dug around for interesting content, sharing their own passions with their students, everything from primary sources in history to genetics. The predictable back and forth routines between teachers and students have been a bright spot in these students’ day.
Enter CTE class. The goal was to give these students an opportunity to produce an AV project of their choice for the Principles of Art Audio Video Technology and Communication Class and to move through that project based on their individual interests. One project was to do a school wide podcast on the one topic everyone has an interest in here, the food, another was to create a spoken word poem and slide show, another was to create music for either of these.
Our journey toward creative, student-generated digital products presented plenty of obstacles: frustration, experimentation, failure, try again, whew Is class over yet? Let’s get back to something predictable. The number of technical issues we had to overcome because of being virtual and in a unique high security set up at times seemed insurmountable. But by keeping a light tone, and only allowing myself to cry outside of class, I gave the students enough time and headspace to work out many of the issues on their own. This was probably the greatest asset of the class, but also the most difficult for all of us. I hope they remember how much they managed on their own.
Students chose their project and then chose the skills they wanted to focus on. Each project had a module, task out line page and individual assignments associated with each skill.Each task/skill had an individual assignment connected with it, that as much as possible could be done in multiple different orders. These were clearly identified, and allowed for multiple submissions.
Students filled out surveys to indicate preferences and could choose to determine the lesson plan for the day, based on their progress and sense of need. As students got better at the skills, they wanted to redo interviews or other aspects and could easily resubmit.
We also created a rubric together on a BLEND page for each project module. With more class time, and in person teaching, I think goal setting could actually become a bigger part of the lesson than it was, based around a class created rubric, but I was unable to fully capitalize on the rubric set up in this setting this time. Goal setting is a difficult skill to learn, and 30 minutes of remote time a day seemed too short for me to figure out how to do a better job.
We are finishing the projects for their final grades. Students are running into problems every day and now turning to each other for solutions. The teacher in the box on the wall is way too limited. Students have had to count on themselves and their peers. Their tone is much more confident now when a problem comes up and they are the first ones to come up with a suggested solution.