As an extended literacy unit this has worked extremely well, and the students have been completely captured by the process. The use of ICT has been limited to the development and presentation of text for their DT project and as a literacy tool has acted to scaffold paired text review and editing by supporting the talk for writing process. The children were encouraged to use the wordprocessor to help review their work and revise stories developed over the drafting period against agreed success criteria. The key benefits of using wordprocessors in this way are that work does not need to be constantly rewritten, it can be revisited and text altered without the resulting outcomes needing to be continually rewritten. I also use a cascade saving process with my students so we can track changes in a document over time, and if we should lose something we later decide we want to keep, we can go back to previous versions of the file and copy/paste it back in.
During the writing process I have introduced the students formally for the first time to use of the spell checker. There is a tendency for students left to use this tool without specific teaching to spot the red zigzag, drop the spell check menu and then choose the first word that appears. It is important for students to realise the contingency of these devices, and that the same spelling strategies they use when they write by hand apply when we write on the computer. A wordprocessor is not the font of all knowledge and they need to take an active part in the decisions they make when using tools such as this. The students have been encouraged to use the spell checker alongside a host of other classroom tools, including dry wipe whiteboards and provided spelling banks as well as to draw on their own and their learning buddy's reading experiences to check the "look" of the words they are selecting. A real challenge was that in our success criteria we had included the use of invented words and obviously these did not appear in the dictionary. This did however lead to the challenge of how we actually spell these? Whether we have used the correct phonology? Does this word say what I want it to and will my reader be able to understand and pronounce what I have written?
Since we have been using Word to work on our stories I also asked the children to think about what the green grammar checker might be telling us about what we have written. Have we written in full sentences? Can we hear why Word may have highlighted this as an error. Sometimes even this tool makes mistakes, as anyone constantly reminded to insert semicolons, remove then, rearrange a sentence or add a comma will no doubt confirm. The tools allowed some challenge to student thinking in support of recent thinking around homophones, and the appearence of Fragment suggestions prompting suggestions to think about whether what was presented was actually a full sentence, or serving as a reminder about the inclusion of appropriate punctuation.
Within the evealuation stages of the DT Process the children did a great deal of prototyping, and were encouraged to use recycled materials to develop these. Some children decided to recycle their prototypes too or extended their work at home hence the use of lined paper for some of the illustrations. What does not appear here, but I want to add later perhaps as a Flickr slide show, is the range mechanisms used. My favourites include a rocker mechanism developed to show the Iron Man emerging and decending into the waves, that set out to give the sea its rough feel, and another that tried to illustrate and simulate the swimming/bobbing motion of the Iron man heading for shore.
As a class the opening lines and "where did he come from? Nobody knows," No longer applies. From
- crash landings caused by asteroid or meteorite collisions
- encounters with chocolate eating candy monsters
- attacks from intergalactic space termites
- being shot down during orbital battles
- being distracted by our ring-a-mones, boiling kettles
- or taking turns too tightly during space based drag races