Massachusetts district boosts peer learning with student 'how-to' videos
- Writing for eSchool News, Dover Sherborn Public Schools (MA) District Instructional Technology Specialist Dianne Pappafotopoulos details how video technology was used to embolden peer learning among students.
- Under the MA Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards, lessons are required to give students an opportunity to showcase “critical thinking and problem solving skills," and Pappafotopoulos writes that this presented educators with a challenge when it came to keeping students motivated to use those skills beyond flashy curricular presentations and when assignments proved particularly difficult.
- Providing a sample assignment, she details students would be tasked with identifying, say, a line of code they had trouble with, documenting steps to a solution, and then creating a "how-to" video to explain to their peers how to solve the problem.
Peer learning approaches have grown in popularity as K-12 schools and districts work to move away from the industrialized model of the last century and toward a concept of "School 2.0." Preparing students for the modern workforce has rendered the "sage on a stage" approach, in which an educator lectures to a room full of students organized in rows of desks, largely obsolete. New open work environments are more encouraging of creative collaboration between employees to solve problems rather than an environment of strict compliance to a superior.
Pappafotopoulos' approach of having students create "how-to" videos to explain and guide their peers through tasks they found particularly difficult accomplishes that task in a manner that also gives them a technical skill to cite in the future. The educator in this instance becomes more of a guide to student learning than a lecturer, helping students along the way as they figure out the best way to lead their peers through a process they've already solved and mastered. This can, in turn, raise outcomes, because some students may feel less of an intimidation factor or fear of failure when having a concept reinforced by a peer rather than an adult.
It's important to note, however, that these approaches don't negate the importance of the educator in the learning process. There's still a place for content to be lectured, but it doesn't dominate class time as more focus is placed on taking a step back and giving students more agency in their learning. And, as an added bonus, approaches like the one described by Pappafotopoulos can be easily replicated at a variety of schools at a fairly low cost.
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