During my last 3-week practical experience I had the opportunity to teach a Year 12 Information Processing & Technology (IPT) class. I was lucky to have a great mentor that allowed me almost full-control of teaching the Relational Databases topic.
I decided to create a website that would ideally do the following:
- hold all related topic information as well as provide access to in-class work and homework – accessible by students at anytime & anywhere as long as they had an Internet connection (this was identified to be the case through the online survey that students took in the first lesson)
- promote an inquiry-based learning strategy by allowing students to comment replies and access readings/videos for further/extra learning (encouraging learning outside of specific curriculum requirements)
- allow for the potential of a flipped-classroom style of learning – where the theory is learned at home, on the bus etc which then gives more time for practical work during class time
The website was well-received by the students and my mentor teacher. Unfortunately there was only 7 lessons scheduled for the Relational Databases topic which really limited the possibility of an inquiry-based learning strategy. The Relational Databases topic involved understanding how to design a database using ORM diagrams and following specific design rules; a complex topic! Here are some important things I learned during these 7 lessons (over a 3 week period):
- An assignment that walked through all the NIAM steps, including ORM diagrams and then the creation of a database would be an ideal assessment piece. Potentially a good assessment piece for group work. I would also include individual student blogging as part of the assessment to encourage critical thinking of their own learning.
- A 3-week period is simply not long enough for such a complex topic and ideally I would aim for 5 weeks with an assignment assessment piece (see point #1).
- Personally I would teach Entity Relationship (ER) diagrams or the Unified Modeling Language (UML) instead of ORM – there are more ER diagram resources online and I simply prefer UML
- Students had some MS Access database teaching/learning BEFORE I started teaching them and I think this was a learning disadvantage. It could be argued that seeing/creating the end product first is a good way to understand the eventual goal BUT in this case I think it hampered my efforts. Students did not understand why they couldn’t just skip all of the steps and jump right into creating the database, oh my! 🙂 I had plenty of opportunities to discuss my past work experience as an Information Analyst at EDS and how my personal attempts at “skipping” things sometimes resulted in a lot of re-work, time & money.
- I learned a LOT about how to deal with Internet BLOCKS! Originally I had created my website using WordPress but guess what? It was blocked! I had great ideas for using Wikispaces, SlideShare, Twitter, Glogster and other awesome ICT tools but they were all BLOCKED! Oh well.
- I really wanted to include a Wiki section for group collaboration and since I couldn’t access Wikispaces we used the Edublogs Wiki functionality – yuck! It was slow and buggy; not nice.
- I had to teach ORM notation (a database diagram technique). The best way to learn how to draw these diagrams (assuming no access to diagram/modeling software) is to use paper & pencil……..oh the horror!!!! We did this and it was painful for some students who really just wanted to use their computers. So with guidance from my mentor I created MS Word documents which already had the diagrams (painful exercise for me personally, lol) and then all the students had to concentrate on was how to label them correctly. This helped a lot and gave students the option to either use their computers or draw on paper.
- The online survey and quiz was very helpful
- The students enjoyed the online crossword puzzle so much that I decided to create a revision crossword homework activity (listen to students; they’ll tell you how they like to learn!)
- Flipped Classroom – I knew that this was unlikely due to the limited time. I think for a flipped classroom to work you need to be teaching the same group of students for a while so you know their habits and they know the expectations. Also, I’m skeptical whether ALL high school students would be willing to “study” the lesson theory before a class…..and a good question is whether we really WANT this from our students? I’d rather know that my students spent the previous night at soccer practice, hanging out with family, learning how to use new web2.0 tools or maybe advancing their online gaming status/levels