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The kitten starts school in January….

As a follow-up to our session with PGCE students (reported here), we have now been to two quite different schools – one a relatively new academy, another a specialist sports college with an interest in developing able pupils in all curriculum areas – to investigate the potential uses of linked data web applications in school science.

There were some elements common to the discussion both schools. Teachers noted the pupils’ enthusiasm for working on the school computers/tablets, but also a tendency for them to type the exact question into Google and report the first answer they found there. Developing better questions (i.e. ones less likely to be solved in this way) and an application which offered alternative search strategies were both proposed as solutions to this problem. A desire to encourage students to link their own work to secondary evidence and the wider field of scientific enquiry was also common to both schools, and both saw the potential of the video tools, and in particular Autokitty, for this purpose.

At School 1 (the academy), the teachers’ emphasis was on pupil engagement throughout the ability range in Years 7 & 8.  These discussions focussed on the potential of the tools to support a ‘paperless’ project in which students create videos based on their own work, provide their own annotations to the video, and link relevant resources to it, before passing it on to a teacher for feedback which is then returned electronically to the student. Teachers also commented on the potential to help pupils find useful online resources which may not appear through a straightforward search, and the possibilities for supporting the ‘flipped curriculum’ offered by these tools.  They are now working on identifying a suitable curriculum area to begin exploring these ideas in the new year.

In School 2 (the SSC) the teacher also saw possibilities for using the video-driven web pages to present learners with novel tasks – either based on the teacher’s slides, or on videos of practicals which are too dangerous for the pupils to try themselves. The teacher commented that the school VLE (Blackboard) was well-used and that, as students were confident in finding their way around it, this would be an ideal home for any technologies created by the project. Although the idea which emerged here was in some ways the opposite to the one proposed in School 1, the underlying technical challenge – a shareable ‘autokitty-like’ page which allows other users to add comments, annotations or their own responses – is very similar.

The teacher in School 2 also remarked on the possibilities offered by the RSS feed Exhibit, and the ways in which this could be used in the classroom. More on this to come………….

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