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Creating classroom materials with modern technology

Roberta Abell and Brian Doig
Phillip Institute of Technology

An essential feature of recent developments in primary school organisation is the emphasis on the implementation of locally generated curricula. This may provide increasing opportunities for the school community to generate teaching/learning materials with greater impact potential than those commercially available. One approach to systematise this process utilises the basic office technology found in most schools. Central to the system is the photocopier. This workshop deals with the implementation of a "skills management" program. In particular, the workshop will focus on developing confidence in ones ability to produce top quality teaching materials utilising a "hands on" approach. All materials produced by the participants are for them to take away, use and keep.

The implementation of locally developed curricula has created an increased demand for more teacher produced learning materials. This may be due, in part, to an increase in the community expectation of greater learning and cost effectiveness. The localising of content and objectives often renders commercially produced materials wither obsolete or inefficient. They are often adapted or modified to better reflect the local program. This can be a very time consuming process. In many content areas, there are few commercial produces with an Australian focus. In some instances, the reorganisation of the current curriculum may make existing materials ineffective.

We have been developing a different system for organising the maths program in the primary school. The focus is on process rather than specific content objectives. There are three divisions to the schema we have proposed: Concepts - Skills - Applications. Each is further analysed in terms of the processes utilised in the specific teaching/learning milieu. A major focus is the analysis of specified factors and their implications for the development of classroom activities.

Within the "skills" area, we are developing some strategies for skill maintenance and its management. One of the strategies has board games as its central focus. Our task was to design a system that met the following criteria:

  1. teacher control of content
  2. student choice of context
  3. maximum size - student desk top
  4. short duration (most commercial games are too long)
  5. maximum time on task
  6. suited to easily accessible filing systems
  7. inexpensive and easy to produce
The result is a series of double A4 game boards with decks of cards. The "tracks" are photocopied and mounted onto two pieces of A4 cover card which are then taped together to form an A3 sheet.

This has the advantage over one single sheet of A3 card of easily folding to A4 for storage. The production technique is sequential and easy to follow. The only equipment necessary is a photocopier. Access to a laminator is advisable, but, other covering techniques may be substituted. An attractive feature is that everything but the designation of the content for the cards, may be completed by someone other than the classroom teacher. This frees the professional to focus attention on the content rather than the production. The steps in production are:

  1. Select a completed game board or track and graphics from the master set
  2. photocopy and assemble if necessary
  3. trim to the designated size
  4. colour
  5. paste onto two sheets of A4 cover paper
  6. tape cover paper together (this allows for a hinge and for the board to fold to A4 for storage)
  7. laminate or cover with clear contact
A collection of game boards forms the nucleus of a system which, when combined with a collection of card sets, provides a means of establishing a "skills maintenance" system. The production techniques are such that many groups may be involved (parents, teacher aides, students, etc.) The selection of the content is left to the teacher. This is written on blank playing cards. The decks consist of 18-20 cards. The small quantity of cards is deliberate as each may be selected many times during a game. A major objective is maintenance of skills, hence the repetition. The cards contain: a question; the answer; the move (1, 2, 3). There are standard rules: 2 players; youngest first; alternate drawing a card and ask your partner the question; if correct, move the number of spaces indicated; put card on the bottom of deck. The system is easy to produce and use. The classroom management aspects include:
  1. a standard set of instructions
  2. answers specified on the question
  3. teacher control of content
  4. short duration
  5. fits standard student desk top
  6. designed for two (ideal for early finishers)
  7. randomising of moves - allows for differing abilities
  8. student participation via the selection of the board to be used with the teacher designated card sets
  9. minimum storage - boards will fit in a standard file - cards may be stored elsewhere - no extra pieces (anything may be used as a marker)
One intent of our program is to develop programs and/or packages for practicing teachers which capitalise on the technology available in most schools. Where they are available, data banks could be used to generate specific sets of questions. These could then be pasted onto the cards or where computers are readily accessible to the student replace the card sets. Few primary schools have the necessary hardware and they might better be utilised for higher level learning activities.

Roberta Abell is a Lecturer in Curriculum Materials Development at the Phillip Institute of Technology, and Brian Doig is a Lecturer in the Department of Science, Mathematics and Technology, also at the Phillip Institute of Technology.

Please cite as: Abell, R. and Doig, B. (1988). Creating classroom materials with modern technology. In J. Steele and J. G. Hedberg (Eds), Designing for Learning in Industry and Education, 206-207. Proceedings of EdTech'88. Canberra: AJET Publications.

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