Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Power of Play

Today was the first day of a two-week laptop and tablet trial in my classroom. I completely changed my learning objectives for the week to cater for these new devices...and to see what magic my students come up with themselves.


In my Year 9 Science class, we are learning about doing Fair Tests ("Scientific Method(s)") and "writing" lab reports. So, today I asked them to use the laptops/tablets to identify the things a lab report should have. Why do we bother putting time and effort into them at all? Discuss....

Then, I gave them a Fair Test to do this week. It is easy: here is a spring, here is a ruler, here are some masses. What happens when you put different masses on the spring? I am being ambiguous on purpose, by the way.

You have one week to do the investigation and create a lab report. I was very deliberate about using the word "create:, not "write". I want to see what happens.

Play and Learn

I made another tactical decision: I would not show the students how to use the devices. I let them choose which device to use (although we only have 10 of each). Some students still used their own devices, of course...until I told them they could download any apps they wanted/needed etc.

Very little traditional Science followed in this lesson. Real learning happened, though! Students worked out how to film, photograph, type, draw, research...then lost everything when they realised they didn't know how to store their work!!

Again, I was tactical with this. I want to see how they want to store things. A few have cottoned onto SkyDrive. Some others want to upload directly to our class blog. The students are problem-solving because they want to save their "play"/work.


I have allowed a complete week for my students to do a task which should take two lessons. This time is to allow real learning to happen, not just with finding their own "Scientific Method", but also to work out how they want to use the technology. I want their feedback so they need time to explore the technology without a draconian deadline over their heads.

What a day!!! I am still buzzing despite a delayed international flight depriving me of any sleep last night. I am more excited about the tablets and laptops than my students, albeit for intrinsically different reasons. I cannot wait to see what these lab reports will look like. How many will be videos? How many will be hybrids of text and graphs and static images and videos? How many will be completely unexpected? Buzzing...

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