Engaging our students and teaching RE

I have been to a few faculty meetings and have heard about students not focusing on the task, being engaged with the required work and that there is too much “copying and pasting” into the word documents they are to submit for correction. In one meeting the brilliant idea was to go back to kids using exercise books instead of their laptop computers, to force them to “do their own work”. As I am a visitor to the faculty I restrained myself from banging my head on the desk or jumping up and exclaiming that we should be asking why the kids are so disengaged not simply bleating/moaning about it. Here’s another question, why are we asking them to complete tasks that allow them to just cut and paste?

In Religious Education, one unit of work asks the year 7 students to investigate a character from the Old Testament. We have a lot of varied resources in the library and on-line databases selected sites for the students to use.

There have been a few teachers who have tried some different approaches to a straight research task, done in word, on this character. These have included:

  • Creating a pamphlet “selling” this character to an audience. The students were given some children’s story books about different stories from the bible, they then used some research materials from the RE library, their bibles and some recommended websites to find information about the character they chose. The classroom teacher and I spent time explaining and reminding the students about note-taking skills. As they were preparing pamphlets it was important to get essential information down in brief points, which suited note-taking, and to decide on the images that could supplement the text. The students learnt to use Publisher (for the format) and Corel (to capture and prepare images) and were totally engrossed in the task the whole time. Even on a Friday afternoon we had to remind them to start packing up so they could get out in time to catch their buses. This was very simple task but they learnt about the character and their feats as well as some new technology skills,  but/and they enjoyed what they were doing.
  • Creating a video. After the introductory reading of the bible stories, the students created a dramatised version of the most famous exploit. They wrote a script, enacted it and used a digital video camera to capture their performance, put in effects and other sound and created their own short movie using VideoStudio( Ulead) and Audacity. This was then shown to the class and later at a staff meeting, with the students introducing their movie and commenting on the task that they had undertaken. The results were impressive.
  • Another approach I have been thinking about is asking the students to create a facebook page for their Old Testament character. This is not my idea but adapted after reading about one such task based around famous scientists. The idea came from Dale Baseler’s site when he had his students describe Einstein by creating a facebook profile for him. You don’t have to have access to facebook at your school, you can create your own template for the students to fill in (or they could design one themselves). He used Publisher to design his and put it up for you to access. He also listed the requirements that he gave his students and an example profile. This is a great way to make an educational task more like a real life activity and would provide a learning tool to teach students about facebook and how they can guard their safety. I also thought that this could be used in so many areas/faculties.

In those above the issue has not been about finding the information but how to organise the information found, analyse what is important and then explain that to an audience.

Those above are just a few we have thought of at our school.None are earth shattering but all have been engaging for the students but they still learnt about the same things as before we used technology.

I know that there are many others, teacher librarians and teachers, out there using the technology in all sorts of ways to make learning interesting, authentic and relevant. Many of these teachers are also sharing and then becoming even more enthusiastic. I just need to get some of the teachers in our school there!

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3 Responses

  1. MySpace would actually be better than Facebook for the OT character because you can customize the way it looks. Lots of the Facebook applications are not relevant, eg. games or gifts. MySpace allows things like customising your background, and more writing space. If you’re looking for a profile for the character, MySpace might be better. Great idea, Rhonda.

  2. Hi Tania,
    The MySpace or Facebook option for the above wouldn’t matter because the students going to the actual site in the example.
    The idea was introduced into a school that could not get on to either site so the teacher made up his own template for a mock/pseudo page. You can put onto your own template what you consider useful.
    If you could use either of the sites then I would agree that MySpace is probably the best.

  3. […] of the characters in the play and Shakespeare’s contemporaries for the second. I have posted before about “creating” a facebook site about a famous person, the idea came from a post by Dean Baseler. This could be taken further by […]

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