I’ve written before of my strange relationship with my overhead projector. I found it in a cupboard a few years ago, blew the dust off and haven’t looked back since. In my English classroom I use it almost daily to write with kids, to annotate articles and passages and analyse poetry. Modelling writing is the best way to share what you know; the teacher struggling over a sentence here, a word there, develops a culture where everyone is entitled to be messy and change and develop their own work. It’s okay to make mistakes as long as you go back and think about them and correct them.
A few years back, however, I purchased a small Point-to-View camera for the purposes of taking photos of sections of written work and placing them on the class blog; a good example of an essay introduction or some clever analysis or the perfect answer to an exam question. It worked well for a while then I drifted away from it and it ended up in a cupboard. Another piece of tech bites the dust. But perhaps not. I recently stumbled across it and thought I’d give it another go. This time, if it doesn’t take, I’ll get rid of it.
This week I’ve been using it as a visualiser, connected to my macbook. I spent most of a lesson talking my way through a practice exam paper, sharing every thought as I went through the passage and questions. I talked about the things I should highlight, the order in which I should address parts of the paper – for example, I always advise having a quick scan of the questions before even reading the passage – and helpful ways to uses codes or marks to highlight key language points. All the time, I’m using a pencil to point things out and underline.
And while was a bit wary of how it would be received by this particular class, as I had a glance up I noticed that they were scribbling away furiously. They were noting down my thoughts; they were hanging on to every word. Even when I moved over to the trusted OHP to begin to structure answers for them, they continued to focus on the mental process and what they should be thinking about as they answer, rather than the answers themselves. It’s still way too earlier to judge but, from a learning point of view, I’m hugely impressed. It seems to have had an immediate impact.
What I’d like to do, over the next week or two perhaps, is to use it to share examples of excellent work during the lesson. I realise that this is not particularly original – many have done it – but I’m keen to see how the pupils react to that. I don’t know how they’d feel about their work going live but I’d hope that it would help build a more collaborative culture in some of my classes. For now, though, I’m reasonably happy that I’m finally getting my money’s worth.