Step 4: Design the activity

Having identified the learning objectives and established a list of existing resources, you will have what you need to design your activity by answering the following two questions:

  • Which work mode should be chosen?
  • Which pedagogical approach would work best?

Which work mode should be chosen?

Individual, collaborative, and collective modes work are potential solutions. If students are working in teams, there should be more collaboration than just taking turns to control the mouse. To deal with this issue, ask yourself the following question: “Are students able to accomplish this task alone?” If your answer is yes, there is a good chance that the students would not collaborate. In this case, either you should make the activity an individual task or you should add constraints that make the students feel that they need their group members. To encourage students to work in a collaborative way, you need to teach them how to do so by explaining that collaborative work is about sharing strategies and expertise, not just the keyboard and the mouse.

The individual mode: Tasks that lend themselves more to individual work are generally tasks that students are already familiar and can complete without assistance from their peers. Here are some examples:

  • Drawing
  • Keyboard exercises
  • Exercises that require manipulation of the mouse
  • Emailing

The collaborative mode: Tasks that lend themselves more to collaborative work are new tasks and a set of problem-solving tasks. Here are some tasks that are more amenable to collaborative work:

  • The transcription of text into a word processor (maybe a student types faster when a peer dictates the text)
  • Searching the internet (two students may use more diverse search strategies for better results)
  • Problem-solving games
  • Educational chat
  • New software exploration
  • New task exploration

The collective mode: The collective mode is much more interesting if the classroom is equipped with a multimedia projector or smart board. Here are some tasks that are taught more efficiently in a collective mode:

  • Shaping new ideas and showing complex examples
  • Working collectively with another class
  • Creating a story
  • Participating as a group, in a conference, or through an electronic discussion group
  • Brainstorming with another class

Which pedagogical approach would work best?

Whether you selected the individual, collaborative, or collective mode, you need to select a pedagogical approach to put into action for the learning activity. You can use different approaches, such as:

The workshop: A workshop is an independent learning activity that allows students to move at their own pace. The workshop can be inserted into a phased approach or used as an overall project. Before you start the workshop, review the learning objectives with your students so that they clearly understand its purpose and guidelines. Using a schedule for workshop periods and recording workshops completed by students would be helpful for tracking their progress.

The lecture: A lecture would could be effective when presenting new concepts, software or methods to students. To be most effective, the presentation portion should be short (about 5–15 minutes depending on the topic and class focus). Open dialogue with students should be encouraged, for example you could ask them for some examples of how they might use a the new software just introduced.

Modelling: Modelling consists of making your thought processes (cognitive and metacognitive strategies) clear and demonstrating to students how you would solve a problem or accomplish a task. For example, you could show students how to create a poster using software tools and say out loud all the questions and thoughts that go through your head. To be meaningful, modelling must be done spontaneously and independently. Modelling is not a dialogue with your students. If you aren’t familiar enough with a piece of software perhaps a colleague or a technology lead in the school could model how to use it for your class.

The mini-clinic: The mini-clinic focuses on teaching or reviewing a specific topic and is usually directed to a small group of students. You can plan a mini-clinic to help overcome some of the difficulties demonstrated by students (saving a file, organizing documents, or using voice to text for example). Participation in a mini-clinic can be mandatory or voluntary, depending on your objectives. When possible, you should announce a mini-clinic by specifying the topic and the time, especially when students enrol voluntarily.

Scaffolding: Scaffolding is a guided approach of cognitive learning support that leads to independent practice. You can guide students’ thinking processes by asking questions about implemented strategies and how they approach them. Gradually, try to have students do this independently or by using their personal notes. Support offered to students should be gradually withdrawn, increasing their independence and confidence as they are given additional responsibilities and are confronted with new challenges. Scaffolding and withdraw schedules will vary from student to student and day to day.

The conference: A conference is an exchange between peers, students and you. The aim of a conference is to enable students to express their views and help their peers. Conferences can include the planning, production, or evaluation of an activity or a project. These moments allow you to better understand your students, their level of thinking, and their strengths and weaknesses. A conference can also be an opportunity for alternative evaluation of learning.

Step 5: Design the classroom layout