#kidsmeetpompey – What happens when kids are invited to hack the curriculum?

HMS WarriorLast week we hosted our first local kidsmeet’ the child version of a teachmeet. The original plan for the day can be found here. In essence, the idea was to have children from a range of secondary schools take part in a collaborative effort to hack and subvert the new curriculum and make suggestions for how to improve their learning. There was also a side focus of how to incorporate technology / ‘naughty learning’ in their lessons for the benefit of engagement and achievement.

Priory School’s Digital Leaders were involved with leading the day in a sense, sharing some of their experiences of the mobile@priory policy and the use of technology. The day was facilitated by the eminent Alan Parkinson who blogs his own thoughts here . I am hugely grateful to Alan for his hard work in leading this day, one which was a bit of a gamble and which had unknown parameters and outcomes in some senses – I believe the phrase could be ‘planned chaos’? By its very nature (as in being led by students and in their own hands) the day was difficult to plan for. Thanks also to Neil Ford and Jonathan Parrott (our PGCE student) for lending a hand. And to the teaching staff from each school who supported.

Kidsmeet took place on the HMS Warrior, a case of old tech meets new tech. It was hoped that the surroundings would be inspirational in a way – although it was a freezing March day and the wifi was unreliable so that was a difficulty (having said that, the kids (I am told) didn’t complain and worked steadfastly throughout). Alan introduced the day by discussing the absence of student voice in the creation of national curriculum policy, and within schools themselves. He explained the concept of co-construction and some aspects of investigative / creative learning through means such as Mission:Explore and mobile devices. Students then worked in groups to pull apart the new Key Stage 3 National Curriculum guidance and to identify areas of learning they felt were missing.

Those who can: teach

There was, naturally, a Geography focus, but the idea was to look not just at the content but also skills / learning styles / fieldwork / etc., that might be missing in the work of Her Majesty’s finest. After all, those who can;teach, those who can’t; make policy 😉

The day involved a crowd of 50+ students aged 13-15, from five local secondary schools, with their staff. This made logistics problematic in terms of crowding, and next time we need to think more about venue for practicality. The students worked independently in their groups with minimal teacher/professional input, the idea being to generate topics they would like to study and suggesting how to go about it. Basically planning out potential schemes of work.  Ideas were tweeted out and blogged to the school website as part of the BBC School Report day as well. During the day, students were able to record their progress and feelings through video reports and blogging, they also conducted interviews with the professionals there to gauge their reactions to proposed curriculum changes, the use of technology, and student voice. You can see some of their reports here . It was interesting how our students made the link between the activity and our involvement in being a Rights Respecting School – that co-construction, access to media, etc, are all part of the Unicef Rights of the Child, particularly Articles 12 (views of the child), 13 (freedom of expression) & 17 (access to media) – full details in the charter.

Alan’s blog shows the full list of kidsmeet suggestions, I’ll just pick out a few of my favourites here:

  • Creating ‘Applas’ – an atlas app to think, find, learn (a future topic for our future kids hack day I think)
  • The Wonderful World we Live In – accentuating the positives of Geography (students identified that sometimes the topics we teach can be a bit doom and gloom, the world is going down kind of thing and that we need a positive enthusiastic approach to celebrate what is wonderful)
  • Game-ography – games based learning, incorporating games such as Minecraft / Fifa / Kodu to look into climate, biomes, migration, development, etc,.
  • Iconic Places – virtual visits through Skype and Celebrity Geographers

I’m definitely keen to look more into these topics. The essential thing with a student voice / co-construction activity is for it to not be a one-off token gesture at inclusion. So each school that took part has a responsibility to provide follow-up sessions in school with their group, and to trial the lessons suggested and then seek feedback from students and adapt as necessary. It is a process of evolution that must rely on student involvement and scaling up to include whole year groups. For us in @priorygeography, we will be working to recruit KS3 Curriculum Hackers in the summer term and then develop their ideas.

In summary then:

What went well: kids were well behaved and focused even in difficult circumstances, in their words “we were happy because we felt empowered”, there were some great ideas that can be more tightly focused and explored in school to trial lessons, skills such as teamwork / collaboration / investigation, etc., were developed.  

Next time: would be better to share expectations / conduct prep work in advance in every school, arrange for mixed school groups from the start to encourage more sharing of skills and experiences, provide some ‘student friendly speak’ curriculum guidelines / SoWs / lesson plans to help students to access the terminology, have better access to wifi!

This was the first, but will not be the last kidsmeet. Next time will be better 🙂 Thanks to Sam and David for putting up with me that week, I probably owe a few cakes.

I’ll finish with the kind words of Alan :

“This was yet another excellent event conceived and organised by Priory Geography. If Carlsberg made Geography departments….”

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