Thursday, March 22, 2012

Google Presentations for Visual Learners

This is my first year teaching Strategies 2-3-4 and my first time teaching Alberta’s natural regions. I wanted my students to communicate what they had learned, but did not want them to write a test or struggle through another writing assignment. After hearing a presentation on visually learning and thinking about how well my students learn visually, I decided to attempt my first Google Presentation project.I told them that the project would let them show me what they know, but it was an open-internet and open-book test. (and eventually this became a very collaborative project - because why shouldn’t they learn from each other as well???) 

On day one I showed them what the project would look like by the end of that day’s work time by putting up my pre-made example on the Smartboard, and then created a new presentation so I could model the process step by step

.I had them start by going through Schoolzone to Google Docs. They then clicked Create and selected "Presentation". They could choose any of the pre-made themes that appealed to them, and this initial chance to personalize it helped to spark their interest and enthusiasm for the project.They then created the “bare-bones” of the project - a title page and 6 subsequent pages with titles that match the 6 natural regions of Alberta. As students completed each step they would then help the students around them. (Creating presentation, adding titles to the pages, giving the presentation a title, and sharing it with me was plenty for the first day!

In the days and weeks that followed my students would add information to the pages by using text OR pictures. They researched using Google (though there are more kid-friendly search engines that I need to learn about and have my students utilize), added information they knew from their personal experiences, and gleaned information from the research of their friends (especially the ones who could read and comprehend Wikipedia). At this point, the research process and collaborative skills were obviously the most important skills being taught (in my mind) but the knowledge-based curricular objectives were also being covered.I did whole group or individual mini-lessons as needed. (How to insert an image, how to add an image by copying an URL, how to add a text box, etc.) This kept my students from feeling frustrated or overwhelmed.One reluctant writer came up to me and asked “Do I need to write anything?”. My response to him was “Can you show me everything you know about that region using pictures?” He had a big smile when he said “yes” and realized what this meant for him.

 My group of visual learners LOVE being able to research online and choose pictures; I have never seen them more motivated. They are also learning to collaborate effectively and to communicate their knowledge in a new way. I am still learning a ton as I go through this process, but I think it is well worth the growing pains because my students are excited about their learning and are developing skills that they will use throughout their lives.