Module :

Desktop Publishing

Action Research Diary

 What Worked and Why..

The pupils were thrilled at the suggestion of making a newsletter and produced an abundance of ideas for inclusion.  They navigated the introduction of Microsoft Publisher with great ease, but learned best when given the opportunity to click on the tools in the tool bar.  Ideally, more free time experimenting with the package is advised.  Time was very limited in this project.

Pupils were asked to search for and bring in attractive newsletters and magazines in any language.  This helped to point out the need to fill empty space, vary font style and size, create dramatic interest etc.

The pupils responded avidly to the new vocabulary because there was a greater sense of purpose attached to learning the words.

Group work was extremely effective in this module.  As the groups were self-chosen friendship groups at the start of the year, the groups have had considerable opportunity to work together at this stage and all have reached a comfortable level of co-operation and industry.  The word processing skills were previously taught and it was wonderful to see them remember, practise and use their knowledge.

The size of four in a group worked particularly well with this activity because of the division and variety of activities including in the last sheets.  One or two members of the group could be preparing work away from the groups PC, composing, correcting and editing articles, checking spellings using the dictionary, sourcing graphics on another PC etc., while the other two members could be typing in articles.  They could alternate in this way thus ensuring every member was actively involved in all the skills (decision making, typing).

What is Not Helping and Why..

Initially the pupils were somewhat daunted by the amount of tools available and the workload given.  The pupils had a lot of activities to complete and as expected, needed more time.

Ideally the module would benefit from a minimum of six lessons.  Time was a huge factor during this module.  After introducing the idea in lesson one, there should have been two lessons devoted to teaching the foreign language, composing and correcting the pupils material and compiling articles for the newsletter. If this were followed by two lessons preparing the document on the computer, a final lesson could have been devoted to refining the presentation of the publications, printing and displaying in class and in the school, presenting the material to the class, reading each others, exchanging language and ideas.  As a teacher, I could see enormous benefits of spending at least two more 30-40 minute classes at desktop publishing but unfortunately had to accept that the Module was over.  Both the teacher and the pupils felt the Module was unfinished.

At this particular time in the school year, the fifth and the sixth class have an extremely busy schedule in our school.  The sixth class made their Confirmation, having had a few disrupted weeks of practice and preparation for the confirmation, followed by a week’s midterm break.  Similarly, the timetable for the fifth was disrupted with choir practice and the Confirmation Ceremony itself.  They also had other visitors to the school such as the Science Works Road Show, an environmentalist project leader etc.  As a result the Modern Foreign Language and ICT lessons had to be cancelled  and postponed many times.  The fifth class particularly suffered, because of a two-week gap between lesson 3 and lesson 4.

Despite searching in the computer stores and ordering by telephone, colour printer cartridges were  impossible to find.  Apparently, a typhoon in Japan had affected supplies of Lexmark colour cartridges.  A black and white version was printed.  Having been distracted by other events, the pupils felt quite removed from the work, lost motivation and momentum and were not terribly interested when they finally saw their printouts. They didn’t feel enough ownership of the newsletter because they didn’t have enough time to put their own unique stamp on their work.  They showed a lot less interest in the printed version than I had hoped.

As the pupils may not have a realistic concept of the level of foreign language knowledge required, their ideas may be too ambitious.  The teacher should have a workable theme in mind with which to guide (and influence!) the pupils’ decision making.

Ownership of the newsletter should rest with the pupils, however it is difficult to strike a balance between their limited knowledge of the language and their ideas.  The level of foreign language at this stage requires help and support from the language teacher, especially for those in their first year of the pilot project.  Given the time constraints in this project, the teacher felt it necessary to write the majority of the content of the articles for the children based on their oral contributions in class.

It was difficult to know whether to guide them into using a template of a newsletter or into creating their own newsletter from scratch.  It was felt that they would gain more insight into the creation of a newsletter and the use of space by formulating their own frames and adjusting pictures to suite.  However, in hindsight, it may have been easier to present them with a pre-formatted structure with which to fill.

Other Observations (benefits, integration..)

The pupils knew they were under time pressure and they worked quickly and creatively.  It was quite amazing how much they achieved in the time given.  However, they couldn’t improve their work or satisfy the aesthetic aspect of designing a newsletter.  The teacher printed out the work at a later stage, as there was no time in the lesson.

Prior to the lesson the teacher should ascertain the general theme being considered by the class in order to have a list of appropriate vocabulary to hand.  This can be done through informal chat during break/lunch/yard duty, or pupils can be asked to submit written ideas after lesson one.

Alternatively, the teacher can dictate the theme to be covered and have supporting material already prepared and chosen. However, the class will participate and enjoy the activities more fully and creatively if they feel the ideas are their own. 

Photographs and images using the digital camera and scanner can be incorporated such as the school crest and logo, a picture of the class etc.  Pupils could be given an opportunity to handle the peripheral ICT equipment and shown how to alter images when downloaded.

The newsletter could be sent to other partner schools and other schools in Ireland learning the foreign language.   It would be wonderful to have the time to continue this module for another month and produce another edition, with other material, perhaps in Irish etc.

This activity has tremendous potential for language reinforcement, communication and exchange as well as creativity and fund.

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