Learning story B: Working with outside experts

Based on these scenarios:

Inspiration for these learning activity packages:

Preparation before the course starts

The environmental school weeks are approaching. You would like your class to learn about environmental issues in different countries. You would also like them to work with outside experts and to practice their foreign language skills. The learners should come up with topics and connect each topic to an expert. Since you would like each learner to be in contact with all the experts and to learn about all the topics, you are planning to apply the ‘learning cafe’ method, where learners move from topic to topic and work in numerous groups.

As you already have a few interesting topics in mind you search online the local university research for appropriate scholars that the learners in your class could contact and learn from. You contact four scholars working in four different areas dealing with environmental issues via email and they agree to support the learners in your class. You ask the experts for lightweight and visual information material that describes their area of expertise. You will then review, simplify, and present to the learners in your class to introduce the topic and to inspire the learners.

You decide that the learners and the experts can agree on additional interaction, but should hold at least one videoconference and one email correspondence. Because the experts are located in different cities across Europe, it is impossible to arrange a meeting with them at their office for further inquiry about the topics. Depending on when the experts are available, this kind of visit would be great, so you keep it in mind for the next time.

One by one, you add your learners’ names and pictures to TeamUP by letting all learners line up in front of your computer. As you already know most of the learners, you enter some mental notes about each learner into TeamUP. You add the bonfire and scissors icons to Juan’s profile. You do this because you feel that these icons represent Juan’s interest in outdoors activities and his ambition to use his hands to create objects.

As you will have rotating teams, you decide that each topic will be documented on an online blog. You also decide that each learner will be required to review, to give feedback, and to react to the feedback that the experts provided on the work done by their team and the other teams. This way, once team formations change, the learners will be ready to pick up a project that was started by another team. You decide that the review and feedback tasks for the first rotation will be homework for the learners, and that for the other rotations the review will happen during class time.

  • Working with outside experts – preparation
  • Teamwork – preparation
  • Peer feedback – preparation
  • Mental notes about learners – preparation and introduction

Introduction (1-2 lessons)

You present the topic and the goal of the course to the learners, and show them the information material that the experts and you have compiled. In the computer classroom, you open the TeamUP application with your teacher computer that is connected to the video projector. You gather topics that the learners are interested in and enter them into the TeamUP tool. As you fill in the topics to TeamUP, you modify them slightly and add one or two of your own as well. After you collected ten topics, you ask the learners to vote for three topics of their interest. You share the address of TeamUP, so learners can access it on their own computers and vote. After voting it is clear that five topics achieved most of the votes. As the other topics did not receive any votes, you delete them, and form the first round of 4-5 person teams using TeamUP.

Juan is teamed up with Maria-Elena, Pablo, and Sarah. Their team topic is to investigate and analyse different recycling practices in countries across Europe. They agree to specifically compare practices in countries that speak languages they have been learning at school. They discuss their goals, and decide that their project will give recommendations on recycling improvements for their own locality and country. They set up a blog where they will report the project outputs and recommendations back to the other teams, as well as the local expert they will work with. This way, the outputs and recommendations can be easily accessed. They present their plan to you, and you help them improve it. At the end of the lesson you introduce the way teams can record newsflashes and let them practice for a while.

Homework: After the practice round, you instruct the teams to each record a 1 minute newsflash in TeamUP, explaining their project plan, what they will do next and the problems they foresee. All team newsflashes and blogs should be viewed and commented before the next lesson. At this point you also remind the learners that the teams will change soon, and that it is important to follow up on what has been done by the other teams. Before the next lesson, you look at the newsflashes and blog entries created by the teams, and take notes on what advice each team should get before contacting an expert.

  • Working with outside experts – introduction
  • Teamwork – introduction + activity
  • Team newsflashes – introduction + activity
  • Peer feedback – introduction + activity

Scheduling a video conference (1-2 lessons)

In the beginning of the lesson, you ask each team to listen to their own newsflashes to refresh their memory on where they left of last, and what their planned next steps were. As they already know the expert they will work with, you offer each team to also review the information material of the expert that they will contact today, before asking them to compose a message to the expert asking about scheduling at least one video conference, their available time to communicate with the team via emails and blog comments. You are there to help them compose their messages and to send it to the expert, for example via email or a phone call. Juan’s team cannot reach the expert by phone, so they decide to email their expert. After the lesson, you again ask the learners to record a newsflash about what they did, including the status of their expert feedback, their planned future actions, and the possible issues they encountered.

Homework: Each team is required to review the newsflashes of the other teams and their additional blog posts. You remind the teams that it is especially important to review and comment this time, because in the next lesson the team formations will change. As Juan’s team has not received an answer from the expert after the end of the lesson, their team is required to update their blog with the comments of the expert as homework before the next lesson starts. You are using the newsflashes and the comments to revise your mental notes about the learners.

  • Working with outside experts – introduction and activity
  • Teamwork – activity
  • Team newsflashes – activity
  • Peer feedback – activity
  • Mental notes – activity

Video conference (1 or more lessons)

In the beginning of the lesson, one learner of each team is chosen to stay with their old topic. You arrange new teams with the remaining learners based on the existing topics by dragging and dropping learners from one topic circle to another using the team view in TeamUP. Juan, Maria-Elena, Pablo and Sarah are now teamed up with different learners, but Juan stays with the same topic. During the last lesson, a videoconference was scheduled with the professor/expert who is conducting international research in the area of recycling. With your help, Juan and his teammates prepare questions for the videoconference. The team contacts the university professor and discuss the questions via videoconference. You decide to get advice from ICT support on how to use synchronous communication effectively.

After the videoconference, Juan and his teammates are excited to share all of the information they learned from the expert on the topic’s blog. With respect to the copyright laws, they collect images on the Internet from pages such as Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Creative Commons search to visually supplement their findings. You help them to write a very detailed summary for the other groups of learners. You also show them how to credit the photographers of the pictures they are using.

Homework: At the end of the lesson, you require each team to record a one-minute team newsflash that describes what happened during the session, the planned future steps, and possible difficulties they encountered. You also remind the teams to look at each other’s blog posts to stay updated about the activities of the other teams, because the teams will rotate again during the next lesson. Again, you are viewing the newsflashes, the blog posts and comments by other teams and revise your mental notes.

  • Working with outside experts – activity
  • Teamwork – activity
  • Team newsflashes – activity
  • Peer feedback – activity
  • Mental notes – activity

Follow up correspondence (1 or more lessons, or after-school activity)

Again, the teams will rotate, while one learner stays with the topic. Using the TeamUP tool you rearrange the teams as you did before. Juan is excited, because this time he is teamed up with learners who are working on a project that deals with the electricity consumption in public spaces, a project he had enjoyed following a lot. The team discusses about what information they would need in order to make their outputs and recommendations more valuable. You help them create a list of information they still need to gather. Using instant messaging and videoconferencing tools, the team interviews their experts over the course of a week, both in class and in their own free time in school. The experts also share documents and resources with the team through email and document-sharing services such as Dropbox. In addition to the environmental experts, the teams communicate by instant messaging or videoconferencing with language teachers who you connected them with. This is a good way for the learners to clarify confusing information in foreign languages.

Homework: You request the teams to post daily updates of their progress for the experts and teachers to see as well as daily newsflashes for their later reflection. Also, everyday the learners are required to read the blog posts of the other teams to stay updated for the next team rotation. You update your mental notes based on newsflashes, blog posts and comments.

  • Working with outside experts – activity
  • Teamwork – activity
  • Team newsflashes – activity
  • Peer feedback – activity
  • Mental notes – activity

Output and recommendations (2 or more lessons)

Once the research and interviews have been completed, the teams change again. This time, all learners change their topics. You try to arrange the teams so that each learner works with a topic they had not worked with before. The teams analyse the information and create a report of their findings, including recommendations on local and national improvements. They can choose to present their information through different multimedia formats. The report, including the multimedia files, is posted to the blogs. The teams contact the experts, who were supporting and advising the work on the topics and ask them to use the online commenting function to give feedback on their reports.

Homework: At the end of the lesson you remind the learners to record a newsflash about their work, the possible future steps and the problems they encountered during this lesson. You use the newsflashes to update your mental notes using TeamUP. The learners are also required to view and comment the reports of the other teams.

  • Working with outside experts – activity
  • Teamwork – activity
  • Team newsflash – activity
  • Peer feedback – activity
  • Mental notes – activity

Reflection

Using the comments of the other teams as well as the newsflashes that were created during the project work, the teams reflect on the progression of the project and on what they could improve next time. You support them to access all the data that they need to view. In the end of the lesson, each team records a newsflash summarizing the insights of their reflection.

  • Teamwork – activity
  • Team newsflash – activity
  • Mental notes – activity

Assessment

You assess the project work by using the original project guidelines and the feedback from you, the peers and the experts the teams shared the information with. You look at the final newsflashes of the teams and compare with the first one the teams made. As necessary, you look at the intervening newsflashes as well. You consider each team’s process, their end results, the peer feedback they received and gave, and estimate the individual effort each team member gave, and give out the grades. You use your mental notes to guide your assessment of the individual learners.

  • Working with outside experts – assessment
  • Teamwork – assessment
  • Team newsflash – assessment
  • Peer feedback – assessment
  • Mental notes – assessment
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This post is also available in: Turkish

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