18 January 2013

Reflection: Multimedia Rotation Model Results

It's the end of the semester here and I asked my students to take a survey concerning how much fun they had and how much they felt like they learned. I'll post the results and reflect on what to do better.

Before I move into the results, one change I can and should make is to fix these unit problems earlier. I waited until the end of the term because of grading issues, but I might be fixing that to make for a more flexible curriculum. (Rotational units are inherently inflexible.)

Fun: 0=hated it, 1=disliked it, 2=indifferent, 3=liked it, 4=loved it
Learn: 0=absolutely nothing, 1=very little,  2=some stuff, 3=decent amount, 4=tons of stuff
3D Modeling (Sketchup)
First things first: I need to change how I plan and name the units. This time around, I chose the tool and wrapped the unit around it. I should pick the objectives, then find a tool that lets me reach those objectives as well as possible.

Due to the results, some comments, and Teach Like a Champion, I want to focus on getting students really 3D literate. Sketchup is the tool because it's free and it's simple enough to work on our computers, but their learning should be about 3D modeling.

Animation (new tool needed)
Some kids really got into the animation unit and did some great work. Others didn't try very hard. The tool was also a problem. It was free, it did the job alright, but had too many glitches to be reliable enough. I don't have any other specific changes to make. I just need to give them more background and terms and the good knowledge stuff besides just simple experience.

Regardless of the score, I was very disappointed with students' lack of retention, knowledge, and/or application of cinematography techniques. Most of them could name the different kinds of shots, but few—if any—used them in their mini project. This is a huge problem, one I intend to change the next time around.

As it's a rotation model, the students were forced to be fairly independent, and I never got a chance to explicitly teach it. I taught it through a short video and some text online. This is one of the major reasons next semester I'm going to take a week at the beginning of the term, and one day per week to teach principles, and then give weekly or bi-weekly quizzes to encourage some retention.

Sound Design (Audacity)
The scores here didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. The project in this unit was to add sound to a silent clip. I felt like doing foley, dialogue, and music would be too complicated, so they simply did the dialogue, but that should change. I think they're capable of doing the full dialogue, sound effects, and music if they're given the tools and knowledge.

Logistically, it's a pretty hairy process. From recording to turning in a compressed A/V file takes far more steps than are easily independently done. We'll see if the aforementioned principles lessons and quizzes will aid. Maybe just giving them another week to work would help.

Movie Making (Adobe Premiere Elements)
I'm glad to see that students generally enjoyed this project and felt like they learned things. This semester we spent two weeks on it. Next semester, however, I intend to spend three weeks on it. One week of pre-production: writing (in proper screenplay format), scouting, learning the tools; one week of production: filming; and one week of post-production: editing, scoring (music). I keep trying to emphasize writing more but students complain so much, I wimp out. No more. And rather than react with drill sergeant sensitivity, maybe I'll try to imbue them with the same love for writing I have.

Code (Codecademy)
My favorite part of the survey results for this unit was how the fun is practically inverse of the learning. Students found it dreadful, for the most part, but admit that they felt like they learned a lot. A lot of students told me to eliminate Codecademy in their comments. I'm not going to oblige that request, but rather attempt to make it more fun. Codecademy is technically independent work but it appears they need help recognizing the fun of coding. I think if they didn't get stuck as often, they wouldn't feel so much disdain for it. And if, rather than just having them do Codecademy, I figured out ways for doing creative things with what they learn, it would be more fun overall.

But that is Codecademy's downfall (and any online course's downfall). Students can complete simple exercises (guided practice) but it doesn't necessarily lead to an ability to create their own stuff (independent practice). However, that is the strength of having a live teacher. I just need to learn code better...

Robotics (Lego Mindstorms)
Even though it appears quite positive, those few people that didn't like it, really didn't like it. I've already concluded that four people are too many for Lego Mindstorms, so I've adjusted next semester to make sure only two work on it at a time. This will allow students more say in solving the problems.

Another change I plan on making is more time giving feedback. I was pretty busy just keeping the curriculum alive, I didn't have much opportunity to give good feedback. Some students sped ahead before actually solving any problem, other students got stuck and spun their wheels for an entire class period without making any progress. Next semester I should have the course set up better to free me up to give feedback all around, including with the Lego Mindstorms.

Video Game Design (Gamestar Mechanic)
Once again, I'm pleased that several of my students are apparently being honest. They loved the unit, but admitted it may not have been the best learning experience. One student even commented that it should have been more challenging.

Originally I intended to use Game Maker for the video game unit, but it just refused to stay installed on our computers. That is a much more powerful tool, but therefore also harder to be creative. There are several tutorials for making a few kinds of games, but I am adamantly against tutorials that guide you through an entire project. Well, if you know what you're doing, sometimes tutorials can help you discover new tools or tricks, but if you don't know what you're doing, you just copy what you see and have no clue what you're doing or why.

Anyway, now that I've seen Gamestar Mechanic in action among classes of students, maybe I can create better challenges.

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