Queensland Discovering Democracy Final Report

Description of professional workshops and information circulated

Outcomes achieved: No. 3: Further activities by SOSE Consortiums to create awareness of and disseminate information about civics and citizenship education programs, particularly those using the Discovering Democracy materials.

QSOSE conducted a one-day professional development workshop in Brisbane in mid April 1999 using some of the Discovering Democracy materials. QSOSE was particularly concerned with alerting teachers to the uses that could be made of the CD ROM "Stories of Democracy". This decision imposed some constraints on the conduct of the workshop. Access to a computer laboratory, and the amount of money available for teacher relief, restricted the number of teachers able to take part to four primary and four secondary teachers. The primary teachers were currently teaching classes from Years 4-7, and the secondary teachers came from a variety of discipline backgrounds (History, Geography and Economics) and integrated SOSE.

In addition, a decision was made to have students present for part of the day. Five Year 4 and four Year 10 students each sat with a teacher in the first session of the day to scan through the CD segments appropriate to their level. The ease with which the students moved around the screen was helpful to teachers who may have had limited experience with computers. The teachers were asked to gauge the level of student interest, and to ask the students about what they liked and disliked about each segment and what new information they had learned. They visited the games that accompany most segments so that the teachers understood the approach taken in each, but the games were not played at this stage.

In the second session the students tried out the games under the supervision of some visiting facilitators, who later reported student reactions to the teachers. Meanwhile the teachers moved away to discuss how the CD segments could be used, both for unit planning and in terms of access to computers. They also began documenting how they would use chosen segments in learning experiences and considered how the activities conformed to the draft Queensland SOSE outcomes.

The third session provided time for continued planning of learning experiences, which were then typed to a disk.

General Evaluation

Most of the teachers were invited to attend because of known interest in the area of civics, but some had no knowledge beforehand of the Discovering Democracy program or the kit of materials. A couple had difficulty locating the kit in their school.

In general, the teachers enjoyed the day and had positive remarks to make about the materials they encountered. They appreciated the opportunity to:

  • have the time to become familiar with the Discovering Democracy CD ROM and the prepared units
  • to discuss the materials with fellow teachers and share ideas about how to use the segments on the CD
  • watch the reactions of and hear the views of students on the materials
  • find a place for the materials in their current work program
  • link the Discovering Democracy materials to SOSE outcomes
  • appreciate the flexible use of the CD segments (i.e. as a springboard or as the focus of a unit)
  • become familiar with the materials in a non-threatening environment with people (including students) who were comfortable with using CDs
  • reach a point of confidence through hands-on experience to provide a basis for reporting to other staff or implementing the materials in the classroom.

However, even a full day’s program was insufficient to enable teachers to achieve both the outcomes of the day - i.e. to become familiar with the materials and to properly plan a learning experience. Time for the latter was also curtailed somewhat because an opportunity had been provided for visiting speakers to outline the support that would be forthcoming from (a) the Queensland Discovering Democracy Project activities and workshops and (b) the Queensland Law Society and its materials..

Other notable aspects

  • One primary teacher was thrilled to discover that Discovering Democracy was not a new course and that many of the CD segments dovetailed nicely with her current Social Studies program.
  • The discussion on access to computers showed up an interesting contrast between primary and secondary schools. Most of the primary teachers had more than one computer in their classroom and felt that they could easily provide access for all students by using the computers as learning centres (for individuals, pairs and groups) and rotating activities around them. Secondary teachers felt that they would need to book classes into a networked computer laboratory and ensure that all students were undergoing the same learning experience at the same time (usually with pairs at each terminal). They did feel that there would be limitations on how often they could use the computer facilities due to the demand on them in secondary schools.
  • Other suggestions for the use of the CD included:
  • to have a disk on-line in the library so that students could access it in their own time
  • to provide worksheets to accompany the CD activity
  • use it as another resource for assignment work
  • use segments, or games within segments, to motivate, reinforce understandings or to revise a topic
  • allow the game to be played as a reward for completing other tasks
  • use segments as a basis for writing activities
  • use in Jigsaw activities
  • teach the whole class directly using a data projector to project onto a large screen
  • Teachers said that they would use almost all of the segments at appropriate times. They were generally enthusiastic about the materials and the way they were presented.
  • Some points emerged about the games:
  • Some are not games at all, but written activities or possible assignment templates
  • Primary students especially liked those that allowed creativity, such as designing a bank note
  • The "games" with links to other information would require a focus and structure for the activities
  • Students were diverted if a student at the next computer was playing a different game
  • Tasks need to be well structured so that the students do not go immediately to the game
  • Games certainly capture the interest of students of all ages, especially those most like pinball games. It was evident that, when playing the games, some students often clicked indiscriminately until they got the correct answer, without thinking about the question asked, and without necessarily learning any information from the game. An explanation about the purpose of each game is needed and an expectation that answers will be required when the game is finished.

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