After watching the Mitra TED talk together (http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_build_a_school_in_the_cloud.html), and discussing the future of learning for today’s teenagers, 12-13 year olds in a Music class were asked to get into groups, devise their own “Big Question” to do with music, and come up with a researched presentation. Grouping was flexible, and open to change. Each group had to appoint a ‘granny’ for encouragement. Presentation format was up to each group.
“Who first invented music?”
“How do people respond to different genres of music?”
“How do disabled people experience music?”
“How has music changed over the last 100 years?”
“How is music education different across the globe?”
After half an hour, any student who was without a group (and therefore without a big question) was teacher-guided to collect photos of unusual instruments to present to the class.
Only a few students took the ‘unusual instrument’ approach. Two students found a superficial answer to their question in 5 minutes and settled on it. The rest worked collaboratively and enthusiastically – even those students who avoid practical music making, which was pleasing!
4 lessons were given for the task – 3 of which were in a computer lab. The level of working noise was greater than normal, but very productive. Most students were on task for the vast majority of the time. Excitement was evident in most students. Collaborative work was predominant, with all students voicing their opinions at various times. Weaker students often found themselves working with stronger peers. Groups changed a little throughout the 4 sessions, finding a better balance. Questions of the teacher were few and far between, having encouraged students to seek answers from their group.
Presentations were predominantly in PowerPoint, with students taking turns to read from the screen. This Project-Based Learning (PBL) or SOLE (Student-Oriented Learning Environment) task formed one of six assessment tasks for the year, under the title of “Self Nominated Project”.
The teacher found the sessions lively and entertaining, having the rare chance to sit back and observe active learning as an interested spectator. From a teaching point of view, the SOLE experiment was fun, energising, painless, and surprisingly easy – students did as much thinking as the teacher, which is my new goal for classroom teaching!