Inside my Virtual Classroom: New Approaches to Fieldwork

At about this time of their GCSE course, my Year 10 students start their first encounter with fieldwork. As part of their work on Economic Activity and Energy, the course asks us to explore people’s views on the use of renewable energy. In their groups, students would ordinarily design some questionnaires around a table on paper, type them up and photocopy them, and get a few respondents each, to analyse. With relatively few ICT facilities at the moment, and a culture where students don’t normally bring their own devices, we’d have to work really hard to do data analysis, typing up, and presenting and evaluating our results. 

This time, it’s been different. We’ve presented the ideas and discussion of the theory as part of our live lessons, before using breakout rooms to get groups creating ideas and working together to draft a document. This has been converted to a questionnaire on Forms, which has been distributed by email, parent bulletin, and social media to gain as many results as possible. I have been able to see a quick overview of key results because of Forms’ fabulous output ability, and steer group analysis in the direction of results I think might be of interest. We’ve been able to use everyone working on their own devices, sharing a common spreadsheet to do the exported Excel analysis, and speeding up this process!

Students have engaged effectively with this new model of work, and we’ve been able to get significantly more data (nearly a hundred responses within a few days) and have students analyse responses much more quickly. Rather than codifying and inputting their data, they are starting analysis immediately, and showing more confidence in interrogating the question, rather than hard work of processing!

We have also managed to get some expert input, which normally would be very hard to arrange, and have been able to hear from a renewable energy expert who gave broader overviews, and then took individual questions from the students. 

There have been some challenges. We have an interesting level of technical competence, as I think everyone is discovering, and this is sharply brought in to focus when you start using specific tools like Excel and chart plotting. Some students are really competent, others need walk through from the basics!

We have yet to take in the student write ups, so we will see how all of this has actually been understood and engaged with in due course, but this has been a really positive shift in the virtual classroom.

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