Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Creative Catastrophe – reflections on a digital unit for Year 8

Over the past few weeks a colleague and I have been working on a collaborative project with our Year 8 English classes that involved teaching persuasive language through a topic on copyright, plagiarism and Creative Commons.

We perceived a need among our students to develop their understanding of what it actually means to create their own original piece of work, and what the limitations are on their use of other people’s ideas and works for their own purposes. The idea for the unit lent itself brilliantly to teaching about digital citizenship and what their rights and responsibilities are as both consumers and creators of content in both the digital and the physical world.

After hearing Selena Woodward speak at the South Australian English Teachers Association conference in May of this year, we were excited and inspired to begin the project. And so were our students when we explained it to them – it’s main selling point for  them being that they got to create a video at the end.

I have made videos with classes before. I should have known how exhausting it would be. I was so excited about the concept that I forgot.

We started by posing the following question to the students in the form of a video stimulus: “What can we do to draw upon other people’s work but avoid plagiarism?” We then went through a process of building persuasive language skills and understanding of copyright laws and Creative Commons. Students used this learning to work in groups and create a persuasive video response to the original problem that had been posed to them.

Some of the challenges of this somewhat-inquiry based project included the anxiety of relinquishing some control to the students in terms of where they went with their suggested solutions to the problem and how their product developed. Yet this was also an opportunity in that the onus was on them to work together effectively and solve problems, hence helping to build the resilience I am aiming for with my class. There was also the challenge of getting students out of their comfort zones. Many of them have used Windows Movie Maker before, but they were reluctant to try new programs such as Powtoon or other animation based software. And then there was the degree of trust in the students required to do the right thing as they moved around the school to film.

There were many opportunities though, which outweighed the challenges. It was great to see students who wouldn’t normally work together so enthusiastic about their shared ideas and work. Unlike the last time I had students create videos, this task was far more structured in terms of a step-by-step process and the language structures students were required to use. The accessibility of students’ smartphones and tablets also made  the facilitation of the filming and editing much easier as they simply had to plug in and go, rather than sharing the school’s limited video cameras among many groups.

Click here to see the students’ reflections on the project and some of the final products. To be honest, they were a little more amateurish than I had envisioned. But when I think about it, they are Year 8s, and the concepts they are talking about are actually quite complex. So I’m very proud. We may need to work on some editing skills though…

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Creative Catastrophe – reflections on a digital unit for Year 8 by Melissa Phillips is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at 8 Faulkner’s Class Blog.
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A well-being resolution for the new term

I’ve been pretty quiet on here for the past few weeks, and I’d like to think there’s a pretty good reason for it. Usually the two week break provides me with a lot of time for catching up on my blog, burying myself in study or school work and coming up with new ideas for my classroom. I usually spend a lot of time on my computer during this period.

But these holidays have been a bit different. I started to realise, that my devices – as much as I love them – had become almost an extension of my physical self. I was constantly clicking, tapping, typing and swiping. And it was exhausting.

So it was clear that it was time to take some action with a self-imposed social experiment. I banned myself from my technology. Not entirely (baby steps…Rome wasn’t built in a day, people!) but with significant limitations. I have opened my laptop on four occasions only – to do my tax, to work with a colleague for a day on English and EAL planning and programming, for my final day of my Grad Cert, and to write this blog post. I also switched off my ipad and put it away for three entire days (this is a big deal for me).

When  I say I didn’t disconnect entirely, I did maintain my social media interactions, but only on my phone. And let’s face it, who can read off of that size of screen for too long.

By switching off from work and the constant updates of friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances in Adelaide, interstate and overseas, I actually found myself with a lot more time on my hands to do things like this:

photo (8)

and this…

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Some more of this…


which, if I’m honest, probably looked more like this…


I also got a far better quality of what I find I lack most during the term…


So, as we enter the new term, I have set myself a resolution. I am going to disconnect more often. My ipad and laptop will be switched off from 9pm on weeknights. I will not respond to emails post 9pm. I figure if I am working past that time on a regular basis, I am probably not working effectively and therefore doing myself and my students a disservice. Of course, there may be the very RARE occasion where I have to work late – that happens in all jobs sometimes – but I will make more time to prioritise myself and my friends and family.

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