France Cycle 3 – PD 1

iTEC Participatory design session report – cycle 3 CNDP/France

Date and time:
26.1.2012, 14.15 – 16.25
Two secondary school teachers, one primary school teacher and one educational advisor (who collaborates with our team in the organization of iTEC pre-pilots). The first secondary school teacher has 15 years of experience, teaches Biology and Geology from 6th to 9th grades and uses a dedicated science class with 7 computers and simulation software on a daily basis. The second secondary teacher has 23 years of experience, teaches Electrical engineering in a vocational school and is the ict-coordinator of his school, in charge of a Moodle VLE and the development of online resources. The primary teacher has 7 years of experience, teaches in a rural school to a class of 22 pupils from 4th to 5th grades, with seven computers (Win98/XP, high-speed Internet connexion), a videoprojector and a printer.
Researchers / Designers:
Mônica, Karine
Scenarios discussed:
Homework and Schoolwork Flip,Virtual Engines, Digitally Mapping Local Biodiversity

Main points:

Illustration by participants

  1. Homework and Schoolwork Flip

Teachers considered this scenario unrealistic. First, they said most pupils do not do homework, only the better-achieving students work at home. Moreover, they said “pure” lectures are rare. Most frequently, their whole class teaching includes asking questions, gathering feedback from students, and giving students tasks to work on. Only a small amount of time is dedicated to pure information delivery. Therefore, the idea of using video lectures to deliver learning content at home seems inefficient.

One teacher said: “Students need to interact with the teacher, ask questions and get answers, while they are exposed to content”. Simply watching a lesson is not sufficient to build deep comprehension of the subject.

Another teacher showed an example of what he does in class. He asks his students to build concept maps (see pictures), by working collaboratively in small groups. At the end of the lesson, the groups present their results to the whole class and, as a next step, the teacher builds on the representations given by students to develop his own lesson.

Thay also raised other concerns, such as “who is going to check that students really watch the videos at home?”, “online resources would have to be tailored to my students’ needs, but developing resources is very time consuming”, “online videos require high-speed connexion and not all students have access to it”. Using other media such as CDROMs was mentioned as a way to provide access to video materials for all students, but the cost and time for burning CDROMs several times per year is not acceptable.

Teachers were also aware that this scenario might be perceived differently in other countries. They noted that France has long school days, running from around 8.30am to 16.30pm, five days a week. The practice of giving homework is limited and students do not spend much time with assignements outside school. Additionnally, at the primary school level, homework is “not allowed” (the curriculum states that students should not have written homework), although most teachers give reading and revision assignments to their students.

  1. Virtual engines

The secondary teachers said they use simulation software regularly in class. They expressed a concern about how simulation is presented in the scenario, because as they said “simulation is not reality”. “When using simulation we often obtain a different result from what we expected”, one teacher said. Therefore, the idea that the virtual prototype “behaves reallistically” and “does not take off when picking up speed” did not correspond to their own representations and experience of simulations.

Teachers also think that starting the scenario with a lesson on basic content knowledge is not the best way to motivate students. They prefer to begin with a brainstorming session (“do you know what a rocket-propelled racing car is?”, “what do you think will happen if I do so and so…”?) and present mathematical equations later in the sequence. They also noted that simulating how an engine works involves more than the laws of physics and mathematics. Other subject matters should be an integral part of the activity.

According to the teachers, the simulation should come at later stage in the scenario. “It is  important to make students observe before they put their hands on simulation”, one teacher noted. This can be done via demonstrations and other resources. Students can “see the moves” and a start a discussion on the basis of these first observations.

The primary teacher did not consider this scenario suitable for his class.

All  teachers considered it important to include a “concrete” product (real object) as an outcome of the scenario. In their view, manipulating a real object (e.g. a racing car mock-up) is important when working with school students (primary as well as secondary grades). Virtual prototypes can enrich the experience, but students need more concrete objects.

  1. Digitally Mapping Local Biodiversity

This scenario was considered the most interesting by all teachers. They said the scenario was “centered in the project, not in the means”, “linked to the local reality”, and “involving different subjects”. The scenario gave birth to several ideas for implementation. One secondary teacher said he could conduct a multi-year project, in which students would progressively describe several aspects of the local eco-system to build a final multimedia product. Another teacher said a simple way for exploring digital mapping resources was to upload pictures to Google maps. The primary school teachers saw a potential for promoting the scenario at the local level (contacts with local government, etc.). The educational advisor informed us of a recent French learning scenario using the same ideas and available via “PrimTICE” database:

–  (text)

–  (video)

One important characteristic of the scenario is that it is open and rich in ideas and possibilities of implementation.

Some limits were identified: (a) implementing the project can be expensive because mobile tools such as smartphones and other GIS/GPS tools are not readily available, (b) digital mapping is not included in the primary school or vocational school programs (though it can be attached to the national ICT standards “B2i” at the primary school level); however it is perfectly identified in the Geology program.

Participants also emphasized that this scenario can be used to build a bridge between primary and secondary education, by involving teachers from different schools and keep students working on mapping the environment in different school years.

  1. Final remarks and ideas for iTEC technologies

Teachers identified the idea of building an online library of learning objects behind iTEC. They find it interesting, but emphasize that usable learning objects should be fine-grained and adptable to their needs (e.g. short videos of no more than 5 minutes). Complete scenarios are not usable objects in their view.

One concern is the time required to find good learning objects. There is so much information online that it is hard to choose the most appropriate resources. Teachers would value an easy-to-handle, user-friendly and familiar interface to search for resources.

Finally, teachers said they would be willing to share their learning objects in open-source not-for-profit platforms, but expressed a concern with possible commercial use of these objects.


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