It’s time we made it public!

Teaching in a Sixth Form that has no study leave allows me the whole summer term to engage the students in meaningful learning. I used to begin the A2 unit for the January exam, however as there is now no such thing, beginning a new unit seemed pointless. This left me in a quandary and with six weeks of empty curriculum time. I was unwilling to fill this time with meaningless busy work, and therefore I designed three linked projects with public outcomes that introduces students to the Crime and Deviance topic, but also engages them in skills acquisition, furthering the embedding ICT agenda that I began earlier this year.

It was important to me to ensure that the projects had clear public outcomes, as this would guarantee a higher level of effort and focus as they know people other than their teacher will be reading it. This also emphasises the need for high literacy skills, and encouraging positive work behaviours such as proof reading before their work reaches a wider audience.

The first project my students will be undertaking is based on their own research of self report crime studies. They will be carrying out primary research, writing a self report crime survey and analysing the data with reference to limitations and previous methodological research by theorists. They have then been asked to write this data up using Hackasaurus (www.hackasaurus.org), modifying the BBC Crime page to share their findings with a public audience and the modified URL will then be posted online so that others can comment on their work. The first time I encountered this website was at TMPompey and I saw its applications for Primary age learners, however I felt that the novelty of the site and the ICT skills that it requires makes it a perfect project for post-compulsory learners. I introduced my class to the website before half term, thoroughly convincing them I had managed to hack the FBI Most Wanted website – they were really concerned I might be in prison for their A2 year! Once I had explained what Hackasaurus is, they immediately saw the potential and were excited to produce high quality, professional looking work by modifying the BBC website.

Following on from this the second part of the project is based on Victim surveys, where they will again complete their own research and reference previous sociological research. This will then be written up in the form of a blog post, and the class will be grouped to form a blog- circle. The purpose of this is to reinforce work done earlier in the year on giving FiSH (Friendly, Specific and Helpful) feedback. My classes have completed a lot of successful work using this principle, and I want them to have the chance to modify and amend their work, appreciating that the value of learning is in the process, not the end product. If appropriate, the links to these blogs will published online, and I will seek Sociology teachers who might have classes who could also provide feedback. This should again ensure consistency of standards and the continued drive to see to project through to the end. These blogs will then be kept to utilise in the A2 year- as I plan to do more of this kind of work.

The final stage of the transitions projects is to create an app using AppShed that reflects their findings about crime statistics in Southampton. This is a huge undertaking as they will be dealing will masses of quantitative data, as well as having to evaluate and analyse it in order to detect patterns and trends in offences and localities. Obviously using this type of website isn’t the same as publishing an app via the App Store, however, for many of my learners this is an extremely exciting concept and, in allowing them freedom of content and design, I am totally handing over the learning to the students. These apps can be downloaded and shared by not just my class, but by anyone.

These projects will take five weeks in total, and the impact should be felt in terms of retention to A2 and also achievement due to the acquisition of transferable skills. The work undertaken in the summer term will be an introduction not only to the key ideas around Crime Statistics, but also encouraging ICT skills and the continued importance of literacy being embedded across subject areas. Students will have ownership of the research process, and the way in which this is presented. I am also hoping that by making the outcomes public, the work will be of the highest quality, preparing them for the challenges of A2, University and beyond.

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