01 July 2003
Posted in Reports
Elmwood Schools' Kids Congress won a Tuanz Innovation Award in 2002 for the best example of a telecommunications educational product or application in action.
For more information about past Congresses and future ones visit www.elmwood.school.nz/congress/index.htm
Find out more about the award from the Apple website: www.apple.co.nz/success/tuanz_winner.htm
NZ Macguide Issue 10
When students at Elmwood Normal School in Christchurch were excluded from the Knowledge Wave Conference three years ago, they launched their own event aimed at 9-12 year olds.
The award-winning Kids' Congress, which was held this year in amongst the old airplanes and displays at the Air Force Museum in Wigram, gives students the opportunity to learn new computer skills as well as developing co-operative learning and thinking, and for some students skills for organising and presenting at events.
|Students from Broadgreen Intermediate School in Nelson turned their talents to making the Congress known to a wider audience. (Photo: Broadgreen Intermediate School)|
A group of nine and ten-year-olds, with teacher input, organised the venue and chose the theme for the congress: 'no problems, only solutions'. They also dreamt up the wind-up extravaganza with its rock 'n' roll theme, invited the Prime Minister to visit, and handled the media interviews to publicise the event. They even dressed up in Air Force uniforms to welcome visitors and students.
More than 300 Year five to nine students came from 22 schools from as far away as Hawkes Bay and Auckland to the north, and Oxford Area School and Glenorchy in the South. The biggest group came from Elmwood - nearly a third of the participants - but as word travels about the Congress, numbers from other schools keep growing. Nelson's Broadgreen Intermediate School sent 38 students to the Congress.
What they had mainly signed up for were the activities - or 'breakout sessions' - with abbreviated names ending in PROB, such as PANOPROB for Panorama Problem. Participants chose four different activities from a list of 20 items to do over the two days, although they did not always get their first choice, with some sessions proving very popular. These included making QTVR panoramas, telling stories in iMovie with still photographs, producing publicity materials about Kids Congress or the Air Force Museum, making and editing movies, creating claymation movies with plasticine models, masking photographs in Photoshop, and composing music with Sibelius. Not all activities involved computers; solar-powered Lego toys, programmable roamers, blowing bubbles and cooking up rations were among those that did not.
All these activities had to be explained, organised, finished and reviewed within a two-hour slot, with the exception of the master class in Flash animation led by Jim Ferguson from Apple NZ, which ran for two days.
|The Prime Minister checks out student work at the Congress. When Prime Minister Helen Clark was at school, the height of technology was a tape recorder. She toured the breakout sessions on the afternoon of the first day, asking questions and praising student achievements.|
It was impossible to keep track of all the computers at the Congress, but there were close to 200: iBooks and PowerBooks and coloured iMacs were provided by schools in Elmwood's ICT (Information and Communications Technology) cluster, all running Mac OS 9. Thanks to an on site technician, Blake Richardson, they all ran smoothly. Blake works for Infovision Technology Ltd, the Christchurch education reseller, which helped sponsor the Congress along with Cookie Time, LJ Hooker and Apple. Memory problems were the main difficulty he had to deal with, particularly when ordinary school computers did not have enough grunt to carry out the stitching of the 360-degree panoramas.
There were also numerous digital cameras, and some sessions had their own datashows instead of a whiteboard.
Presenters included teachers, ICT consultants, Apple NZ employees, and even a group of 10-year-olds. Visitors to the 'Storytelling with iMovie' session watched while four students from Frimley Primary School organised others into groups, and explained what they needed to do in the short time in which they had to take the photographs and edit them in iMovie. Organising teacher, Wayne Codyre (see boxed item), was there at the side watching quietly. "Kids teaching kids is a really neat idea." It was clear they could present just about as well as adults. What they may have missed by not joining in the other breakout sessions they made up for in increased presentation skills, and insight into the teaching process. "They've been making observations about things that teachers know."
The event culminated in a rock 'n' roll extravaganza with a prize giving of certificates, singling out students who had achieved excellence or exhibited the spirit of co-operation that is a hallmark of this event. Another Kids' Congress will be held again at another large educational venue similar to Air Force World or Ferrymead next year.
Elmwood's Acting Principal, Paul Dolan, talked about 'just in time' learning, and the importance of creating authentic learning experiences. Much learning in the past may have been just in case but, in learning how to use a computer program while doing activities such as these, students were learning just what they needed and just in time. Asked about the involvement of computers in learning, he said that students still have to be able to read books and do research.
|Using Sibelius or music notation software, students compose the ending for a piece of music|
Teachers at the Congress were mostly very positive. Broadgreen Intermediate teacher Kerryn Penny was typical. "It was a fantastic experience for the students. They were all bubbly." Broadgreen bussed 38 students and sent five teachers all the way from Nelson. "It was the first year we had been at the Congress, and we wanted as many of our students to be involved as possible. The students learnt heaps."
What appealed to the teachers was the way the Congress integrated learning experiences across different curriculum areas, offered hands-on activities and gave the opportunity to develop thinking skills and problem solving skills as much as computer skills.
The co-operative team approach operated in most of the sessions, and opportunities to interact with students from other schools were encouraged. With the aid of tools such as Directed Thinking students were encouraged to really think about what they were going to do, to plan it and to carry it out, and then reflect on what they did through rubrics as to what worked and what did not.
The event was not solely aimed at the students. As a school with a long association with teacher training, and currently as lead school in its ICT cluster, Elmwood encouraged teachers to accompany students to pick up new ideas for the classroom. A small group of trainee teachers, armed with video cameras and asking questions, spent an afternoon viewing the problem-solving activities.
Students attending the event will be surveyed shortly, but from what Paul Dolan had heard the responses were extremely positive. Elmwood children are already reaping the benefits of their teachers being at the Congress. The programmable roamers, for example, had been brought to the school and were fully booked out for classroom use. Broadgreen Intermediate students have been making good use of iMovie in classroom activities since their return home.
As one of two keynote speakers, Wayne Codyre, a teacher at Frimley Primary School, showed projects he had been involved with at several central North Island Schools: a children's radio station (KidsFM), a television station (TV5), and a full-length video feature (The Way Home).
While in Christchurch Frimley students were also shooting some background footage for a combined video and stage show called Final Cut, about a struggling film company. Where to next: Wayne is off this term to another central North Island school, and no doubt another multimedia project.
© Parkside Media 2003