Learning by Making

This post is not about Integrating Technology Within the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching. This post is about making a film about Integrating Technology Within the Communicative Approach to Language Teaching.

I started by researching and making fairly extensive, referenced notes about my research project. Next, I broke into the Darling Husband’s stash of story boarding Moleskines and began the process of planning out my film. This part was exciting! It’s been a long time since I wrote a creative piece and I found it interesting to be able to exercise my creative muscle.

Even after storyboarding, I wasn’t really sure what the final project would look like and had to spend a few evenings brainstorming what kind of figure I could use to easily move around and create the action. I had a couple of simple rules for myself: it had to be something that wouldn’t normally move on its own (which would kind of be negating the purpose of stop-motion animation in my opinion) and it had to be simple (no need to have to add the complicating factor of facial expressions to an already difficult assignment).

A quick stop at Colours Art Supply delivered what I was looking for: art figurines!

I started filming using NFBStopMo, which unfortunately, I have to say is ultimately a do not recommend. (Edited to add that the good people in charge over at the NFB took the time to respond to my tweet asking for help, which I thought was pretty impressive).

I spent a great deal of time in the planning stages, ensuring that my shots were well-aligned and focussed. I ensured that the photos I took within the app were also saving to the iPad’s camera roll, I did a small test video and exported it to the photo roll easily.

Imagine my frustration after 6 hours of filming when I attempted to export one minute of film and the app wouldn’t do it! I knew after about a minute that my film was getting long and I didn’t want it to crash the app. My plan was to export my video in several small chunks and stitch them together using another program.

No luck…

I tried for about an hour to get the video off the iPad to no avail. Knowing that I was kind of stuck with what I had or would have to start over and re-create the many hours of work, I carried on with the app and planned to simply film the screen with another camera. Kind of bush league…

Time to start film making!
In the end, I was happy enough with the video that I created and I see value in making something to share learning, thus embodying the “constructionist” theory of learning that students learn by doing and actively engaging in their learning. I feel that the theory was thoroughly understood by me by 9 am after having made notes and story boarded my video, but I ended up not completing the project until well after midnight.

Some frame-rate calculations… Real-world math!
The “Studio”

Some wins on the project: I wanted to quit and didn’t. I wanted to ask for an extension and didn’t. I most definitely learned what NOT to do. I would do it again, but now I know I can do better the next time around!

The more I reflect on the project the stronger I feel about it as a way for students to express learning. I have spoken with many people about the ups and downs of making and have also discussed the academic content. I have an artifact in the end their I am proud of and have returned to watch several times (many more than I would re-read an essay). And I have definitely retained the learning and used it in subsequent learning. 

The wonder wall

The wonder wall came about quite by accident one day. To be honest, open house was coming up so I hastily threw a hand-made “tableau de découvertes” poster up on the blank bulletin board, not knowing really what I had in mind but knowing that I wanted it to be an organic place for students to ask questions and share answers.

Then after parent night, the board was left alone until we went outside to observe the soundscape around our school. When we came back in we discussed what we had observed with all of our senses. One of the students remarked that she had seen pussy willows. My teaching partner noted that it was impossible for pussy willows to be out because it was the wrong season.

This was the question that constructivists seek: that moment where a learner’s understanding is challenged and the paradigm is forced to shift. I was just so happy to see the moment come so organically.

If it was impossible, how had our student made such an observation? The next time we went outside we looked for pussy willows… And sure enough they were there. Not because they were ripe and had opened on their own but because students had stripped them off the branches and had dropped them on the ground. We took one of the stripped branches and stuck it up on our bulletin board. Next, the questions started to come fast and furious: what would happen to the plant if all of the pussy willows were stripped off? Would birds eat them? Immediately, we needed a place to organize our questions. I stuck up three large sheets of paper for “my questions”, “what I think I know”, things I have learned” and the side of the board was reserved for “ideas that turned out to be mistaken”.

As the weeks passed, students were welcome to add questions and to add answers they thought they already knew. The wonder wall has been quiet over the last few days, but we are ready to give it another boost next week when we begin some student-lead research. My assistant principal @shafinad has shared the brilliant app aurasma with me and I’m so excited to have the students start creating videos that link directly from the wonder wall to videos of their learning! In the past I have created similar “off the wall” projects that linked from QR codes, but I think the Aurasma will be much more dynamic and students will be more inclined to scan one another’s work.

I would love to guide students to linking their work from last year on animals to their research this year. I think it would show them that the work they do never has to be entirely left in the past. In addition, it takes the work out of the four walls of the classroom and into the up-and-coming-learning-commons.

More to come!