Simplicity at its best

Students have very different experiences from their teachers and view life with different lenses than we perhaps do. So when you start a new topic, if you discuss or introduce a new concept, how far do you think students see what you see? The quest, as always, is to make the abstractions of our subjects more concrete so they understand.

Seeing things differently

When Johannes first came to the UK from Sweden many years ago he got a job as a Guest Porter in a fancy hotel in Cambridge. This was a real learning experience for him particularly when it came learning colloquial terms and phrases. For example colleagues would ask if he was ‘alright’. Now this may not seem like an odd question to most, however Johannes felt that although they may be concerned about his well-being, he certainly was ‘alright’ as there was nothing wrong with him, so he would reply: “Yes I’m ‘ALRIGHT, there’s nothing wrong with me'”. Today Johannes can see what they meant. Strangely enough he was never lynched.

In a similar vein, the 3 minute talk below deals with those simple issues that can very easily be misunderstood, although you wouldn’t think that asking for direction could be so different? Continue reading Simplicity at its best

Handheld Learning beyond the Classroom

If you are looking to use mobile phones in the classroom, in school or even for outdoor learning then QR codes could help. QR stands for ‘Quick Response’ as the inventor Denso-Wave intended to have the code decoded at high speed. For more information about QR its history and usage please read the Wiki entry here. You do not need to know any coding as there are several QR Code Generators online which will do they job for you – just do a quick search and pick one. Mobile Barcodes , for example, provides a good tool on their website. You need a mobile phone that has a camera + software that can decode QR codes (most barcode apps do a pretty good job) like for example Neo-Reader. Neo-Reader also has a page where you can check which phones it supports: click here. [update Feb 2011] Another one which is even quicker is i-nigma. Go to www.i-nigma.mobi on your mobile. I-nigma will automatically identify your handset type, download and install.

Most QR Generators allows you to create or ‘hide’ a number of different resources within the QR images, for example:

  • website url
  • vCard
  • 100 character text message
  • Phone number
  • SMS
  • Email address

How could it be used to enhance learning?

Although QR Code is still a new approach to encourage learning in the classroom, there are already many good examples online of how to use it at a basic level in your lessons (see this list of ideas and articles). We hope that the following examples will provide you with a wide range of engaging ways of using QR Codes with your students. Here follows a number of ideas of how this easy-to-use technology can be accessed to raise achievement and student participation in the classroom.

The Hook

Before students enter your room there tends to be a few minutes when they wait patiently (or not so…) outside. Why not get them involved in their learning even before the lesson begins? Visit one of the QR Code Generator websites that you found from your search earlier and create an image which hides a link to a Youtube video or image, quote or cryptic comment that relate directly to what they will be taught in the lesson. For example, a Year 10 History class waited outside Johannes’ classroom and could access this image:

Image shows clip from The Holy Grail (Monty Python)

The following image could be use in an ICT or Technology lesson which would entice students to consider technology around them and how simple solutions can solve complex problems:

Could you create an Interactive White Board?

These examples not only encourages students to take charge of their learning, but also provides an opportunity when they have to concentrate and ‘get into character’ even before the lesson starts, hopefully full of questions about the ‘hook’.

Dynamic Presentations

QR Readers have become very sophisticated so students can actually scan images from the back of the classroom. This means that your expositions and student presentations can now be more engaging than ever. For example, if you are teaching a group of A-Level students and you want them to become more actively involved in your presentation then try inserting QR images on particular slides containing links to further reading or a documentary you want them to watch on Teachers TV or Archive.org. Similarly, if you get used to adding a ‘Think about this…’ image in the bottom right-hand corner of a slide which takes students to a question you want them to answer, then this will help generate discussion and also allow them thinking time.

Using QR Code in PowerPoint slides

New Students

How often do new students ask how to find a building, a room or even what teacher is in which room? QR Code to the rescue! Place an image outside all classrooms which hides a message which contains:

  • The name of the building
  • Room number
  • Name of teachers
Info for new students

To make it even more specific and useful why not add an image of the room timetable?

Students Participation

Asking to students to use their mobile phones to get involved in the lesson is likely to be popular for some time. Here follows a few examples of how you can encourage students to get involved both during but also after the lesson has finished.

  • Discussion: provide a deep link to a specific forum on the Learning Platform where they hold a discussion around the key question of the lesson. Homework could be linked to this and participation could be followed up at the start of the next lesson.
  • QR Challenge: split class into a number of teams and get each one to create questions that the other teams have to answer (students create the code and share the images on the Learning Platform).
  • QR Debate: same as above but get teams from different sets/classes to have a running debate on a key topic over a half-term. Add QR images outside each others’ classrooms.

Jazzy Worksheets

These may not actually exist but you can make your current worksheets more useful and engaging by adding QR images to support students’ learning.

Idea 1: Say that your Year 7 students are investigating the development of castles in Norfolk, you can improve the traditional activity of matching images of castles with text by adding QR images that hides a set of statements or link to video clip about why a particular castle was too weak and students have to discuss which statement is likely to solve the problem.

Idea 2: Why not link a current activity to a set of MP3 files, for example, songs on Spotify which students have to use to answer the question, or a talk on TED.com that will enable them to explain the key question in a more sophisticated way?

Idea 3: If students are investigating a painting, grid or map, add QR codes next to particular elements which hide links to further reading, Youtube video which explains the painting or show a clip about one of the locations on the map. For example, the image below had been added to an old worksheet on coastal erosion and when the students scanned the image they could watch a video about coastal erosion in Cumbria.

Jazzing up worksheets - link to video about Coastal Erosion

Social Learning Games

Rarely do students have the opportunity to collaborate and work together as well as they do in Physical Education where team work really is important to winning a game. There are ways where this mentality and methods of working can be used in other subject areas by playing Social Learning Games. In such games students have to work in teams to find clues to a problem and they receive rewards if successful.  The most favorable social learning games involve careful planning so that students take them seriously, otherwise it is likely to fail. Here follows one example:

  • A middle ability Year 9 class were informed that they were to work in teams to solve a mystery and that it would be time limited (20 minutes). The mystery contained keys that were scattered around the school and they would unlock further keys and ultimately the solution to the mystery. Each key was worth 5 points. There were 10 keys in total but the mystery could be solved with a minimum of 7 keys. The winning team was the one that had solved the mystery, runners up was based on the number of points accumulated.
  • The mystery was to find a solution and to be able to explain and answer to the question: Why did Eric leave the classroom?
  • The question dealt with how children from the school were effected by World War II. ‘Eric’ was forced to leave the classroom together with his classmates to enter the bomb shelter when the air raid siren was set off. No one was hurt but Eric kept a diary so his reactions to the event could be used by our students.
  • Students were given 5 minutes to get into groups of 4. They were then asked to think of a good team name (5 minutes) – this was essential for motivation before the task. Each team were given a map of the school with four visible QR Code images displayed. They had to get to one of the images before the other groups as each image contained various levels of difficulty in decoding the message (you could differentiate this by giving them direction to the image you want them to look at first.) and would therefore take them to different areas of the school as the first QR Code would establish which patten they followed on the map. Groups now had 20 minutes (exact time was set) before they had to be back to the classroom. Failure to arrive before the set time would result in disqualification.
  • The four sets of 10 keys (QR Code images stuck onto walls, trees, windows, ceilings, doors etc) contained information from primary evidence: diary extracts, newspaper clippings, and video clips, MP3 tracks as well as messages typed up by their teachers, all of which linked to another location on the map where they could find the next key.
  • If groups were particularly sharp they would also realise that each ‘pattern’ on the map, the directions they walked,  resembled a shape of where Peter walked to i.e. the bomb shelter.

Dynamic Social Games

The other way of involving students in this type of Social Learning Games is to change the game according to what time students get to a key. This requires some effort and pre-planning on your behalf as well as technical know-how – but only some! This type of game could take a similar structure to the Social Learning Game above but will also involve a WordPress blog or using your Learning Platform’s hand-in tool.

  • When a student arrives at a key the content of that key will depend on what time they arrived to the location. So for example, they may have been informed to find a certain person to find out about something but when they arrive he’s out. The message they receive will inform them to come back 10 minutes later which means they will have to reconsider their original plan and rethink where to go next.
  • How do I create this time based system? Easy, create a ‘Page’ in WordPress and set it to ‘Publish’ at a certain time. Then when that time has passed change the content (or url) and re-publish. Alternatively you ‘Hide’ and ‘Unhide’ the pages from your Smart Phone or laptop at a given time. The other way of doing this is to create ‘Hand in’ folders in Fronter which opens and closes at certain times. All you have to do is to create the QR code images based on the internal Fronter link to that folder. Sounds more complicated than it actually is – try it and see for yourself!

Clever Textbooks

Textbooks are useful and although there are electronic versions available nowadays, most schools could not afford to equip all their students will laptops or enough computer suites for these to be effective. Therefore, we need to do our utmost to ensure that textbooks cater for our students needs and this can be achieved very easily. Simply create an image containing a deep link to a resource page on your Learning Platform (e.g. Moodle, Frog or Fronter) which can support students learning for example by adding learning games, quizzes as well as homework. If you took your time, perhaps in one of the department meetings, then you could also add QR images on individual pages which links to MP3 tracks, videos online, polls, forums, Wiki or other exciting resources that can make that dusty textbook just a little bit more interesting.

Revision

Getting some students to revise can be difficult at times and those that do want to spend time on their work may lose sight what they are doing or just run out of steam. The latter can be attributed to revision material and activities that essentially are note taking tasks and can therefore fail to engage even the most industrious of students. Here are a few ideas that work well to encourage revision and engagement:

  • The Revision Board: create a series of QR images that hide links to subject specific video clips students can download to their iPods to watch at their leisure, then place these images on the Department’s Revision Board in the corridor. You’d be surprised how often students come back to check on updated resources
  • Top-Tips: images containing revision tips, tools for learning or exam techniques you feel that they would benefit from looking at.
  • Revision QR Stickers: provide classes with stickers which contains a RSS Feed to the Department or Team’s blog. This ensures that the content is always updated. Stickers are very reasonably prices nowadays, alternatively buy Business cards with the image on them.

The ideas covered in this post only give you a starting-point to using QR-Codes in education but we will keep adding more ideas. Have you used this technology successfully in the classroom, why not add a comment and tell us about it?

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Show Creativity Like a 7 Year Old

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

Darya Zabelina and Michael Robinson of North Dakota State University conducted research based on this principle and showed that with the responsibilities and constraints of adulthood, the playfulness and curiosity of childhood can sometimes get lost and are instead replaced by conventional responses. In a recent paper, they took 76 undergraduates and assigned them to two random groups. The first group was given the following instructions:

“You are 7 years old. School is canceled, and you have the entire day to yourself. What would you do? Where would you go? Who would you see?”

The second group was given identical instructions but without the reference to being 7 years of age – they thought with their adult mindset. According to Zabelina and Robinson, the former group produced more creative work than the latter research group. Interestingly, they also discovered that undergraduates who were more introverted showed even greater sign of creativity of they were given the opportunity to work as a young child, without inhibitions and restrictions of being adults.

These are fascinating findings, but perhaps not completely surprising? Imagine working everyday without having to worry what other people thought; what would you do? Statement like the one above is also good to use as ice breakers in Department/Team Meetings and give you the possibility of starting discussions without worrying too much about the initial ideas.

We came across this slideshow on SlideShare recently which encapsulates not only the innocence of childhood but also what we could achieve with simple but creative ways of using text, images and post-its to communicate a message. The potential for using this format is immense and does not need to be very complicated. Whether one uses frame-by-frame animation in Adobe Flash or with a camcorder or digital camera, the results could be tremendous and the creative output for students very positive. This is something we will return to in our classrooms.

If you have a spare few moments please visit the creator’s website Betsy Streeter.

There has been a drive recently to use methods like the one just mentioned and companies like CommonCraft have started producing tutorials ‘in plain English’ using similar techniques to Betsy Streeter although the ones created by CommonCraft are likely to cost a few bob.

Using Stop Frame Animation in the classroom could have great potential not only for students’ learning but also for encouraging them to think about abstractions, concepts and to give them the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding in a practical way. The following two examples show how easily your classes could use Stop Frame Animation using post-it notes – mind you, you’d need quite a few…

Other ideas for using Stop Frame Animation in the classroom could be to:

  • make use LEGO to explain an event e.g. why William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings.
  • use stickies to create a conversation between two people as well as thought bubbles that explain how they really feel about each other’s comments.
  • encourage whole class participation by getting each student to add an element to a drawing or comic which creates the complete illustration.
  • similar to the one above but students only use photos and images to tell a story. This is recorded with each class so the story might change drastically depending on the group involved – great for discussions afterwards!

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Educational Mashups Part four: creativity boosts from the wise

In this fourth part of Educational Mashups (see Part 1Part 2Part 3) we’re looking at a range of ideas from a cross-section of industries which can encourage us to become even more creative, or if the worst case scenario has already kicked in, break that dreaded writer’s or thinking bloc.

Take a Mini Retirement?

The remarkable designer Stefan Sagmeister realised that his studio was coasting, lacked spark and innovative ideas – not good for a forward thinking design studio. To halt the continuation of a potentially dire future Stefan decided to take time off. In his view, we spend approximately 25 years of our lives learning, then there’s another 40 years for working and 15 for retirement. To combat this lack of creativity and drive, Sagmeister decided to take 5 of the 15 retirement years and intersperse them with the working years leaving 1 year sabbatical every seven years.

Take a look at his talk at the TED 2010 conference where he explains his ideas further:

Most of the design ideas Sagmeister produced over the next 7 years came from that sabbatical. Take a look at his website to discover his amazing work and inspiring book Things I have Learned in My Life. Sagmeister does not advocate that you ‘just take time off’ without planning your sabbatical. On the contrary, he tried that and it did not work. He produced a timetable for thinking and stuck to it and there is of course that tiny little detail of funding your time off…

Sagmeisters timetable

As teachers and educators isn’t it impossible to take time of from work to reflect? Isn’t that a luxury we can’t afford? In some respects it is impossible, well at least if you wish to take 12 months. However, the potential to use some of your holidays as reflection time and experience booster, is possible and should be encouarged. Humour us here, take out a pen and paper do this:

Write down three things you’d always wanted to do but never seem to have the time.

Many of us can probably agree that holidays seem to disappear once started. Time off is spent visiting friends, catching up speaking to people on the phone, drinking good wine and going on that well-deserved holiday to the French riviera. Work, Love and Play. That’s the way life goes? In March last year Johannes decided to refrain from doing any additional work as he had just completed two books and two interactive CD-ROMs together with Neal. It was time for a long break. As Johannes’ wife became pregnant and because he also started a new job in September of the same year, rest seemed to be the perfect thing. This was a very exciting time of course and much of the time was spent preparing for the new arrival (!) but there was also plenty of time to read, listen to talks, watch good films, reflect as well as visiting interesting locations in the UK and Sweden. This time away from writing really provided space for thinking and developing ideas. It was also during this time that the idea for a new book came up.

After eight months Neal and Johannes meet up to discuss the idea for a fifth book and they both agreed to start a blog to keep ‘brainstorming’ ideas, and in essence, write small chunks of the book online something which they did with Exam Class Toolkit (many of those core ideas can still be found on the old website). We had not discussed any writing projects for more than a year and it was that time away from writing that inspired us to start Take the Plunge (which is migrating soon). Moving forward and becoming more creative requires us to broaden our horizons just like Stefan Sagmeister so when you plan your break or holiday next time why not include moments of reflection and new experiences that are not neccessarily linked to work.

Making the ‘dull’ interesting

How often do we miss, skip or ignore some of the minor things that happen or appear during a normal working day? Read each statement below and immediately say/write down what you do:

  • when students enter your classroom?
  • during the first 5 minutes of your Department/Team Meetings?
  • if a student arrives late?

What do you do then – prep, hand out worksheets, wait? Chat to colleagues; go through the agenda? Tell off the student; ignore them; show them to a chair? What do you think students do outside your classroom while they wait for you; or what colleagues do whilst you talk them through the agenda and so on? If we consider that these seemingly insignificant issues can make a difference and try to use our imagination to make them matter then we are not only developing our own creative teaching repertoire but this process could, indirectly, lead us to encourage students to examine the details in the fabric in whatever they do. Sounds a bit far-fetched? Watch this brief clip to see what we mean:

Being creative about minor details could also make students’ learning experience more enjoyable. If you want to make students remember your lessons as something different and making them feel positive and engaged when they walk through your doors or get your colleagues inspired in meetings, then consider how you could make the dull more interesting.

Here are a few examples of using the smaller details to your advantage:

  • take photographs of the students as the walk in and then at the start of the lesson show a selection and ask them what they were thinking or felt as they walked in
  • use QR codes outside the classroom and get them excited about what they will learn (see this post on using QR Codes in your lessons) even before they walk through your door
  • if you have a new student to the class, and particularly if they arrive late, shake their hand and introduce yourself, then show them to where they should sit

Can we make a movie, Sir? Or, How to Get Students to Listen

Students enjoy producing their own mini movies, either by piecing together other people’s clips or by recording their own dramas. Some of these can be amazing movies particularly when they have gone out of their way for example by using Green Screen technology or used different locations to enhance the content of the production. Sometimes, however, without the guidance by the teacher, the movies students create can lack substance and are simply a ‘fun thing to watch’ – a wasted lesson. Next time one of your students ask if they can make a movie to answer the key question of the lesson why not challenge them to write a script and create an animation that illustrates the key messages of that script. A bit unclear? Watch the first 30-40 seconds of the movie below to see what we mean:

This brief animation was produced by The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) and uses Barbara Ehrenreich’s talk ‘Smile or Die’ to encapsulate key segments of her speech – great speech by the way. If students use this way of presenting their information and the script will have to be purposeful and the illustrations clear.

If you want students to really listen to an audio clip, understand a piece of text or make them watch that important documentary without having to play video bingo or fill-in-the-blanks-as-you-watch, then showing them examples of animated typography can inspire them to listen more carefully, particularly if they have to create one themselves. The following audio has been taken from the movie Snatch and the producer of the animated clip could quite easily have used a combination of Prezi and a standard video editor to create this effect – students could do a similar version on their own:

Using typography, even at a very basic level, can engage students more creatively in their work. This is worth exploring further. Here is a series of links if you would like to look into typography a bit more:

Design Notes
Typography tutorials
Best Typography Videos on Youtube

And to finish off – a brilliant example of using typography:

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Educational Mashups part three: creative ideas from the ‘Industry’

As teachers we strive to perfect our practice by observing colleagues, reading good literature as well as communicating with other enthusiasts at conferences, workshops and online. We also seek out new resources whenever the opportunity arise or wherever we may be in the world. We generally know what to look for because it tends to be within the boundaries of education, however, have you ever considered exploring ideas from ‘big business’ with your classes to get them to remember more and for a longer period of time?

Make it stick: can marketing strategies help teachers?

A Sixth Form student once told me a story he’d read in the Guardian:

A guy in the midlands, Sam Jones, had a 1957 Harley Davidson in his garage which he took out for a spin every summer. The rest of the year he’d polish and maintain the bike until the next summer. Last year Sam decided to buy a side cart so he could take his wife for a drive as well so he phoned Harley Davidson USA to try to get hold of an authentic 1950s version of the cart. They said that there were no such cart available but they could build one at a cost. Money wasn’t really an issue for this guy so he gave them the model number which they required to match the side cart to his model. Three days later a sales rep from Harley phones and asks for the model number again as it was incorrect. A few hours after the conversation there’s another phone call, this time it’s a different person from the company. The man introduces himself as Stan Hendriksen, CEO for Harley Davidson Inc. USA. He asked if Sam could check that the model number was correct and if he could read it out to him over the phone? Sam did so whereby the CEO asked if he could lift up the saddle and see if there was any text there. Sam found this to be a rather odd request but so was the whole phone call but he did what the man asked him. Sam lifted the saddle and inscripted into the metal at the back of the saddle read the message:

‘Happy 40th Birthday Elvis, from you friend Johnny Cash’.

Sam sold his Harley Davidson after much media interest for $4.7 million.

The question is of course whether this story us true? Maybe, perhaps not. I searched online for the story but I never found it. Yet, I remember the story almost word for word. Why did I remember this story so vividly? Think about it: why do we remember some facts and information and why do we quickly forget others? As teachers we know our syllabus inside-out, we know our audience well and we are great communicators. So, the goal is clear, the audience is identified and the format of our lessons is clear. Yet, the design of the messages we are trying to put across is far from obvious as not all students remember the core message, the ‘Golden Nugget’, of our lessons all the time. There are infinite ways to teach a topic but which one will stick and what skills will they take with them?

The brothers Chip and Dan Heath have explored the idea why some things stick and why some disappear in their brilliant book Made to Stick. They believe that the main reason why people, such as teachers, fail to create effective, memorable – ‘sticky’ – messages or lessons is because what they call ‘The Curse of Knowledge‘. This refers to the notion that educators and presenters of information sometimes fail to see that abstractions, the wealth of knowledge which they have and which makes sense to them, may not make sense to the students. In order to ensure that their their lesson become memorable and therefore ‘sticky’, according to the authors, we need to consider six simple principles which the Heath brothers call SUCCESs:

Simple: Stripping off everything so that only the core remains. Think of this as a sentence so profound that someone could spend a lifetime learning from it. Well, you get what we mean,

Unexpectedness: Get interest using surprise and get students to see that there is a gap in their knowledge. Fill that gap by providing insight.

Concreteness: Make it clear so that everyone, no matter who they are, understand what you mean.

Credibility: This will ensure students believe in what you have to say.

Emotions: Make sure students care and feel something about your idea, message, topic and about learning new or improving current skills.

Stories: By telling stories or embedding your ‘golden nugget’ in a story, students learn to remember them easier as the internal simulator kicks-in. Stories can also inspire students to act which helps them understand complex issues better.

Ok let’s see how these six principles can work in the context of the classroom.

Simple

Why have Flip video cameras become so popular recently? Sure, they’re fairly cheap and pretty portable but that’s not the reason why they sell so well. Their popularity lay in the simplicity of the camcorder itself : point, click and flip. That’s all you have to do to film and transfer to you PC ready to upload to Youtube. How does ‘simple’ translate to education and, more importantly, to your lesson? In order for students to understand, learn and remember what you teach them you must strip away the abstractions and provide a clear explanation. For example, in Business Studies all students understand the basics of the concept ”recession’ thanks to the credit crunch’ without you having to explain global economics. It’s simple, the country is not doing well, people are getting laid off and (!) Wollies closed down, enough said. Whatever you’re about to teach them think about what the core message is and what’s in the way of that core. It is a matter of breaking down those barriers to learning and teachers are very good at doing just that. However, we can learn to utilise ‘simple’ more often and directly in a day-to-day basis with students.

Unexpectedness

This is perhaps one of the most powerful aspect of ensuring that your teaching stick with students over a longer period of time. Now you could of course dash into the classroom screaming like a banshee and that would probably be unexpected behaviour from you (if it isn’t then you’re under a lot of pressure…). The best way of making something unexpected is to grab students’ attention and show them that there’s a gap in their knowledge. You essentially ‘tease’ them into wanting to find out more, but of course surprise doesn’t last so we must hold their interest and then finally fill the gap in their knowledge by providing them with insight. Let us look at a couple of examples of how a seemingly low impact story can reveal something completely unexpected.

The Car Park

I played this clip and students came into the classroom. It took awhile before they realised what actually was taking place. The video clip of a seemingly uninteresting car park suddenly change and students begin to infer what they already think they know but also asked questions about the clip. I used this video to discuss what makes something ‘significant’ in history.


Thinking Skills mysteries are also ideal. The ‘Paul Tibbets’ mystery below begins by asking students what they think about the man they see in the movie and then provides them with suprise and later insight whilst constantly asking them to reason what they believe and if/why they have changed their opinions of Tibbet.

Concreteness

Teaching skills can sometimes be a difficult task, especially if you want students to understand the core of the skill itself as this can sometimes be be perplexing and too abstract for young adults. An excellent way to get students understanding skills is to provide them with examples and activities that are not only relevant but show them that the skills actually matter in reality and not only in their exams. Take a look at the clip below. This example makes ‘inferencing’ source material more concrete and encourages students to consider the way they view photographs beyond the classroom.

[This selection of images were provided by Terry Haydn, Senior Reader at the University of East Anglia].

The Cafe Test

Another example of making students see that skills will be useful later in life is to set them a challenge that could potentially happen any day. In a nutshell:

You’re sitting in a cafe sipping on a nice cup of tea when suddenly Paul Tibbets walks in and sit by the table opposite you. You know Tibbets to be the pilot in charge of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in August 1945. You look over at Tibbets, he’s drinking an espresso so he’ll only stay in the cafe for a few minutes… here’s your chance to ask him a question! What will you ask him?

Of course, if you want to make it even more concrete then you do a brief role play where you get one student to be Tibbets, or even better get your Head Teacher to act wise and sophisticated 😉 It is always interesting to see how nervous they get when having to think on their feet!

Credibility

A great example of getting students to believe in your message is to discuss the importance of developing skills and so that they can understand and gauge the accuracy of information and then use content on the Internet as an example. Take a look at this video clip from a lecture by Alan November where he discusses ‘Who owns the websites your kids look at’:

Credible Statistics

Although using statistics is one way of making, let’s say, an argument more credible they can sometimes become vague and lack that important ingredient for student to make them believe in them. One way to make certain they believe in what you tell them is to explain the statistics you use in a more ‘sticky’ way. For example telling students that the UK  lost 1 million people at war over the last 100 years may seem staggering but if you instead say that if you divide that up across the century that would mean 1 person dying every 48 minutes.

Emotion

This may seem like the most straight forward principle to do as it deals with how we feel. However, it is not simply empathy we need to tap into but something more powerful, that is, challenging students to want to feel and understand what you are telling them – like becoming part of a story.

The Loan Photograph

The Loan Execution

This is an intriguing mage as it does not provide evidence about ‘guilt’, and students are left wondering about the story behind the photograph. As the truth behind the photograph still remains unclear i.e. why the man on the left was executed, issues dealing with war crimes or rules of engagement, it is an ideal enquiry activity and we can provide them with current discussions about the nature of the image.

Prize-winning photograph in Sudan

This shocking image of a little Sudanese toddler and vulture brings up many reactions with students. Initially they ask questions about where this happened, and what happened next but eventually the crucial question arise: Why did the photographer take this image?

Discussions can become rather heated when students begin to explore the background of the photograph and about Kevin Carter, the photographer who took this photo. Carter won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature photography in May 1994 the same year the photo was taken. Two months later he committed suicide.

Story

Stories are perhaps the most powerful tool we have as teachers as they bring together information and knowledge and makes sense of it all – if told well. Stories can open up complex and abstract ideas and concepts and provide students with something to hold on to which will help them remember and understand. Let’s look at an example of a story that does just that.

The Teszler Story

The following talk has been taken from Ted.com, one of our favorite websites. This story deals with several issues and can be used in many subjects and for different reasons and is truly remarkable. Perhaps the strength of the story lay with the notion of the powerful lone ‘individual’. Students love the story about Mr. Teszler.

The principles mentioned above are useful and they work to help students remember and understand. We are not saying that we must plan our lessons according to these ideas, not at all and in fact we are already using some of these naturally anyway. However, it’s worth exploring them further.

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