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EDU617

Learning and Teaching with ICT

Assignment 3: Authentic Task Description

Unit of Work: Authentic Learning Environment (Bullying Wiki)

Authentic Task Description

Title: Bullying Wiki
Web Address: www.bullyingwiki.wikispaces.com

The Bullying Wiki Activity reflects many elements of an authentic task. It has been created using the Wikispaces wiki website as the features offered are particularly suited to classroom use. Wikis for educational purposes attract no cost and allow for private or public functionality. Bullying is prevalent across all schools in varying degrees and is usually a covert act that is consistently upheld over time. Bullying is often overt as well and is perpetuated mainly by the power of the perpetrator being supported by others, known as bystanders. There are many forms of bullying (such as verbal, physical and cyber) bullying and students need strong educational programs to develop an understanding of the factors that constitute bullying, why people bully, strategies to use if you are getting bullied, strategies to use if you see or are aware that others are getting bullied and what help you can receive if you know you are using bullying behaviours towards others. Bullying is absolutely unacceptable under any circumstance. The task requires students to access the wiki as a central collaborative space where their work is created and scaffolded. Students are asked to create a document including at least three different digital technologies (such as a podcast, Power Point slideshow, a Wordle or a Voice Thread presentation) that will educate others about bullying including what it is, how to counteract it and anything else they wish to add. The target audience will be Primary School aged students and the specific audience for me will be our Junior (Years 1-3) and Senior (Years 4-7) classes at my school. The task is designed for my Senior Class but could be used with Upper Primary or Lower Secondary School students.

There are many frameworks that attempt to encapsulate the characteristics of an authentic task and these contain many similarities. Herrington, Reeves and Oliver (2010) outline nine elements in relation to e-learning where activities need to include an authentic context, an authentic task, expert performance, multiple perspectives, collaboration, articulation, reflection, scaffolding and authentic assessment. I will attempt to connect the Bullying Wiki task to these elements in the next few paragraphs.

1. Authentic Context
The concept of bullying is extremely important to understand and is contextually relevant to students in all schools at it definitely exists, though in varying degrees. This wiki provides students with an opportunity to develop their understanding of this concept and devise strategies to assist others in dealing with bullying. Devising such strategies reflects how this task can be applied to real life situations and in presenting the finished product to students within the school provides a very motivating element and strong purpose. The fact that the task requires students to create a polished product that integrates a variety of digital media and that the concept of bullying is multifaceted means the engagement in the task is sustained for an extended period of time for 5-10 weeks. This means that it can be explored at length. This task goes well beyond students developing a simplified product that is overprescribed as students need to make many decisions with their group including the format of their presentation, what they will need to find out about the topic, where they will collect their information from, who will collect which information, which digital media they will include and how they will communicate within their group. Students will need to also decide upon the steps required for completing the task.

2. Authentic Task
The wiki contains an ill-defined task that has relevance to real life and is very open ended and allows students to make a plethora of decisions about what they will include and how they will present their finished product. Although the task is ill defined, it is well designed so that students are able to define the steps and sub-steps required and so that opportunities exist for determining useful as opposed to irrelevant information that will be used to complete the product that will be presented to other school students. The task is integrated across a number of learning areas including English, Health Education, Technology Education and Society and Environment and this extends learning outcomes beyond the confines of one specific subject area. The fact that this bullying task is a single complex activity that will be completed over a period of 5-10 weeks further reflects the authenticity of its design.

3. Expert Performance
To enhance the levels of expertise to which the students have access, there are a variety of reliable sources that can be visited on the Internet. Included in the wiki are a number of hyperlinked websites as well as videos that students can access but they will also be able to find additional material via a Google search. By accessing such material, students are provided with windows into practice from expert points of views and perspectives that they would not otherwise have if they were simply completing a task in class and without the assistance of technologies. It also gives students opportunities to compare their ideas and work to experts as well as the ability to see the level of professionalism that they are able to reach with their product.

4. Multiple Perspectives
To enable students to view a problem or issue in different ways, it is important that a multiplicity of perspectives and viewpoints are integrated into completion of the task. In the Bullying Wiki task, students are facilitated with opportunities to tap into the variety of reliable websites and videos that provide different perspectives about bullying and strategies to deal with it. Students are able to move beyond the teacher’s single but valid perspective and it also allows them to revisit other perspectives on a number of occasions to enhance their understanding and further develop and adjust their ideas. Students are also provided with opportunities to share perspectives from their peers either from within their immediate group or across the class.

5. Collaboration
An integral component of authentic tasks is the element of collaboration and the Bullying Wiki is no exception. All tasks are completed in small groups of 3-4 and I have specifically chosen members of each group in my class for a number of reasons. Firstly, I would like students to have an opportunity to work with others they may not normally team up with. Secondly, I have tried to structure groups so that varying English ability levels are present within each group and thirdly, I know which students do and do not work well together. The groups are labeled on the wiki as Blue Group, Green Group, Red Group etc. though each group is able to rename their group if they wish. There is a strong incentive for each group member to perform well as they will have the chance to present their finished product to other students in the school as well as the fact that the product will be much more effectively completed with the wisdom of the whole group. As students within each group are able to share the risks involved, there is less fear about not completing the task well. This can be particularly important for the lower achieving students as this provides them with an opportunity to experience success. Students within each group will need to establish appropriate forms of communication and this will need to be decided from the beginning so that both the synchronous and asynchronous collaboration works well for the group. As well as group collaboration, cooperation is an area that research has shown to be improved through use of ICT and this is a major aim of the Bullying Wiki.

6. Reflection
It is important that students are provided with opportunities to reflect upon their learning and while this is implicit most of the time, opportunities for explicit reflection are also extremely important. This is so that a conscious level of awareness is considered. To support this element within the Bullying Wiki task, students will be asked to post messages using the Discussion Functions on the wiki pages. I intend to set aside some class time after the first 2-3 sessions and get students to participate in a ‘Think, Pair, Share’ activity related to what their group has done so far and what they will do next. This social aspect of reflection is really important so that students can learn from one another and articulate their thinking. The students will be provided with some sticky notes to write down ideas during the ‘Think’ time and will not necessarily need to be working with their group members for this task. Next, I intend to have students meet with their group members to discuss feedback received and decide 'where they will need to go from here' with their work. I also plan to facilitate a similar ‘Think, Pair, Share’ with the class when they are nearing the end of the task. Once the groups have completed the task at the end of the unit of work, students will participate in a reflection/sharing task using a ‘Tuning Protocol’. This allows each student to talk about the finished group product and receive ‘warm’ and ‘cool’ feedback from their peers. Informal opportunities such as ‘Walk Arounds’ will also be provided to students so that they can share their work with others in the class as everyone will be at different stages.

7. Articulation
Articulation is another important element of authentic tasks as students need opportunities to verbalise and document their understandings. Embedded into the Bullying Wiki are structured opportunities for reflection where students are required to support their ideas orally through ‘Think, Pair, Share’ tasks, a ‘Tuning Protocol’ task at the end of the unit of work and in the presentation of their completed product to others in the school. Written opportunities exist where students will use the Discussion functions within the wiki. Such articulation enables students to put their thoughts into words and this provides a deeper level of thinking about learning as well as metacognitive awareness.

8. Scaffolding
It is vital that student learning is scaffolded for a large proportion of the time and particularly when and where it is required. The notion of the teacher as a facilitator of learning is at the core of scaffolding rather than as a disseminator of knowledge. The Bullying Wiki fully supports this notion and learning is scaffolded through a variety of supports including quality website and video links and videos that can assist students in developing their product. Opportunities for reflection are also built into the task so that more able students can scaffold and support their peers from within their own group and across groups. The Discussion function on each page of the wiki is highly beneficial in students receiving support from their peers and teacher so that problems can be addressed as they arise. As wikis are asynchronous, students are able to seek support outside of normal school hours, thus extending learning beyond the classroom. The wiki also includes pages such as ‘Group Skills’, ‘How to Use the Wiki’, ‘Tips to Get Started’ and ‘Problems’ as supports to the students. All of the scaffolds included in this wiki assist in extending learning beyond what is normally possible and so that students experience success.

9. Authentic Assessment
The Bullying Wiki takes an integrated approach to assessment. Students will be provided with a ‘walk through’ of the Student Group Work Reflection Rubric and Teacher Evaluation rubrics at the start of the unit of work which allows students to understand what is expected. The Student Group Work Reflection focuses on group processing skills and is directly linked to those which the students will be using with their peers. This reflection will also provide multiple indicators of skills used. The Teacher Evaluation is also indicative of skills students will demonstrate and provides a clear indication of the level of polish required in their products.

 

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