Monday, 12 August 2019

Choosing the best tool for the purpose

The Progress Outcomes for Designing and Developing Digital Outcomes include for students to learn about choosing the best tool for solving a technological problem:

Progress Outcome 2
In authentic contexts and taking account of end-users, students make decisions about creating, manipulating, storing, retrieving, sharing and testing digital content for a specific purpose, given particular parameters, tools, and techniques. They understand that digital devices impact on humans and society and that both the devices and their impact change over time. Students identify the specific role of components in a simple input-process-output system and how they work together, and they recognise the “control role” that humans have in the system. They can select from an increasing range of applications and file types to develop outcomes for particular purposes.

Progress Outcome 3
In authentic contexts, students follow a defined process to design, develop, store, test and evaluate digital content to address given contexts or issues, taking into account immediate social, ethical and end-user considerations. They identify the key features of selected software and choose the most appropriate software and file types to develop and combine digital content. Students understand the role of operating systems in managing digital devices, security, and application software and are able to apply file management conventions using a range of storage devices. They understand that with storing data comes responsibility for ensuring security and privacy.

For my Professional Inquiry during Term 2 I chose to focus on students choosing the best digital tool for a particular purpose, while keeping in mind that many teachers are time poor, often have limited access to digital technologies in their classrooms and some teachers lack confidence in their using Digital Technologies effectively in learning and teaching. How can I enable students to make such choices while showing their teachers that with some guidance you can students go beyond what the teachers know or feel confident in?

Here is the link to my Professional Inquiry Plan for anyone who is interested to see the full process I went through. This is a summary of what I found effective in the Raranga Matihiko programme:
  • Running a structured tutu session for the students where they can explore the different tools - encouraging the teachers & adults to have a turn also
  • Holding a conversation with them about how to choose the best tool for a particular purpose
  • Designing tasks in a way that allows students age-appropriate choices
  • Engaging the teachers in conversations about their students' choices, also how they can apply this in their own practice back in the classroom


As a teacher you might wonder what this could look like in your own classroom. Here are some ideas inspired by what I found during my inquiry:

  1. Think about your inquiry topic; what could be some digital creations your students could make to show their learning? How can you set up the task(s) so you students have age-appropriate choices?
  2. Research possible digital creation tools; some tools we enjoy using are Tinkercad (3D creation tool), Paint 3D (Windows 10 only; for images, photo manipulation, 3D objects, Mixed Reality creations), SculptGL (3D sculpting), Stop Motion Studio for stop motion animation, Scratch to code digital stories, Green Screen by Do Ink for green screened images and movies.
  3. Have a tutu yourself :) remember you don't have to be an expert, you just have to know the basics, your students will explore beyond that.
  4. Set up a structured tutu session for your students. I suggest you select a limited number of tools, set up some different stations in a way that students physically have to get up and move from one station to another - this seems to help some of them with remembering the names of the tool and what they did with these tools.
  5. Run your tutu session: Run through all of the tools you want them to explore with the whole group first; use online tutorials or demo a few functions for each programme. Split your students into manageable groups; just keep in mind how many people you can accommodate at each station. For example, if you have 5 stations, with 30 students you end up with 6 students per group. Depending on the personalities of your students and on the class culture, working in pairs can be really useful - in this case you need to set up 3 devices at each station. Use an audible timer to help with swapping from one station to the next, 5-8 minutes per station works well for us.
  6. After the tutu session, discuss the different tools and what they would best be used for, e.g. a stop motion animation needs inanimate objects (otherwise you might as well just video the action). SculptGL is great for creating carvings, but it is much harder to make a building. Go beyond the app or programme to the tools inside, e.g. within ScultGL, 'crease' is better for creating carvings than using 'paint'.
  7. Have a conversation about 'cool' versus 'best tool: In our context we usually talk about their transport to the Treaty Grounds - was this the coolest way to get here? What would be a cooler mode of transport (I think we've heard it all, from helicopters to limos to waka to unicorns to jetpacks and much more). In the end we usually agree the bus was the best, though not necessarily the coolest way.
  8. Give your students opportunity and permission to make their choices and get creating- sometimes the best learning comes from not making the best choice first, and then swapping to a more suitable tool.

I would love to hear from you how you enable your students to choose the best digital tool for the purpose.