Module :

Databases

Action Research Diary

What Activities Work And Why?

Group work is most effective in instructing this module.    The pupils actually needed to collaborate and co-operate to navigate this package which initially appears quite “adult” and quite complex.  There were a considerable number of activities to be carried out both with and aside from the package e.g. creating the database, entering the data, gathering information, verifying information, checking  spelling etc.   All members of all groups were kept busy throughout this module.  For this module, it was felt that more work was covered in a group than would have been possible if each individual worked separately.

 The use of task sheet to present a structure of activities to groups was successful.  The task sheets included a variety of challenges as well as guidance, freeing up the teacher to offer practical help to each group, rather than instructing the class through the package.  Each group could work at their own pace.  They followed instructions without difficulty and were able to answer questions.

After the difficult tasks were performed, it was essential to offer the pupils an opportunity to “play” with their work i.e. refine the presentation of their database by adding colour, changing font style etc.  In a fun and creative way, they revised their word processing skills, gained more confidence using tools, felt rewarded for their patience and problem-solving and took more pride in their final product by making it their own, unique to their group.

 What Is Not Helping And Why?

With all the pupils working in groups of four, the area around each PC was crowded and uncomfortable.  The congested computer room quickly got hot and stuffy.  Ideally if the pupils could have been divided into smaller groups of two or three maximum, the working situation could have been more comfortable for them.

 As the ICT aspect got underway it was difficult for the pupils to speak in the foreign language.  They did not get as much practice asking questions and using sentence structure, as the teacher would have liked.  While they learned language willingly and quickly, the language acquired consisted mostly of nouns used in isolation.  However the constant repetition of certain nouns helped with their spelling and pronunciation in a very real way.  Another language lesson preceding or succeeding the database exercise would have helped to consolidate the vocabulary learned.

Pupils were slow to type in data however the concentration required gave them a natural opportunity to study the foreign language vocabulary.

 The colour cartridges are extremely expensive and seem to use up very quickly.  Unfortunately they didn’t get a colour printout of their labour because the cartridge had run dry.  This particular brand is not always available in common computer stores and took some time to order.  The pupils were happy with a black and white version. 

Other Observations (Benefits, Integration.)

Pupils love to talk about pets and were quick to learn vocabulary.  In lesson one, they enjoyed questioning each other and recording information when they realised it would lead to a computer-based activity.

 Some groups took time to establish their own ground rules such as working out a system of sharing they keyboard, mouse, reading aloud, writing answers etc.  However they relished the opportunity to share the workload and the freedom to discuss their work.  By lesson two some of the groups had devised strategies to share the equipment and workload e.g. timing two minutes each at the keyboard.

One group (a self-chosen friendship group) realised that the group dynamics were not complimentary to their performance.  They asked to be sub-divided into two smaller groups of two.  Fortunately this was possible and indeed worked very well.

None of the pupils had ever used Microsoft Access before.  However while the topic of databases was new to all, a small number of pupils have used computers before and are more comfortable clicking around and experimenting.  Those less experienced and weaker pupils benefited enormously from the group approach as they quickly learned from their peers through observation and collaboration.  The combined effort of the group saw the tasks to completion.  There was no individual pressure on any one pupil to produce a database.

(Other Observations Continued)
Possibilities for integration are plentiful.  The class database could be sent to the partner school via email attachment.  They could be invited to ask/answer the same or similar question.  Another database could be set up with the information received from them.  Many other topics could be covered e.g. favourite foods, hobbies, bands, clothes, sports etc.

 Each email group could compile a table of their corresponding email group.  Pupils in one language class could question the pupils in another language class in the school.  Other languages such as Irish, English could be used.  Results could be graphed and analysed, incorporation mathematical skills such as calculating percentages, drawing graphs etc .

 A database of all the pupils in the school could be compiled.  Each group could take a different class and enter fields such as their surnames, first names, ages, room number, teacher’s name, gender PC allocation etc.   All tables could be compiled to produce one database on the school.

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