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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bring the Noise

Categories: s1 and s2, Geography General
This is just a short review of a lesson with s1 today, and the idea was very much inspired by Richard Byrne. I sometimes think that when a class watches a video, it can either be on for too long and some individuals lose their interest and focus, or else too stop start- I know that I am probably guilty of stopping video and talking too much at times. I also feel that when I do that, I set the agenda for the discussion too much. I wanted to try something which would give the group more ownership over the direction of the lesson and its content, while removing the video dilemma. After much frustration at the hands of inadequate browsers and websense, I finally came across BackNoise, a very simple little web tool, which allows students to have a discussion in tandem with the lesson. It integrates with twitter, but this can easily be taken out of the discussion. I think it also requires a high degree of trust between the teachers and the students, and clear guidelines of use are essential.
We were watching a video looking at Rocinha favela, and after the video started, students watched with BackNoise open on their computer screen. It didn't take long for students to start commenting, and I was pleased that the first stream of comments referred to how the favela was different from expectations - the class did not expect to see TV, schools, market stalls, satelites etc. When they started asking questions, they were confident and relevant, even from those in the class who are normally reluctant to volunteer. Some of the comments are shown above. The experience had some negatives. I would have preferred that the option was to turn the twitter feed on rather than off for school purposes. There is also a buzzkill button. Don't touch it, it wipes all of the previous conversation. Unfortunately, when someone tried to refresh the page, we lost some of the conversation due to accidentally hitting this. It would be nice if the platform allowed a controller for the conversation, but I can also see why it doesn't.
This is a refreshing way to let students learn what they want to learn within the boundaries of the topic you are studying in class. I think it's best used sparingly for impact, but I'll definitely use this or a similar tool in the future.


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