Case study: Using website templates in Science lessons
By Matthew Broderick on Wednesday, 02 September 2015
What’s a good way to teach independence and sustainability in the Science classroom? Matthew Broderick, a British teacher based at an international school in the Middle East, discusses how he did just this with website-creation activities.
As I approached the fourth year in which I had delivered a sustainability-based project for my secondary school students, there was one issue that troubled me; how could I make the project itself more sustainable? Why do I use so much paper in making my students more aware of the issue of sustainability? This year, the project was to research, design, and build, a sustainable home suitable for the Finnish Tundra. The students were all in Y8 (or Grade 7) and have the benefit of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy at our school.
“I initially encouraged students to use any of the recommended sites for their website templates and all seemed to be equally user-friendly.”
My attention was caught by Wix, and subsequently, Weebly and Google Sites. What better way to engage and promote sustainability than to produce a permanent, paper-free record of the students’ projects while allowing them access to a new skill? These sites allow students to show off their ideas and it is as simple as writing text directly into a template, or uploading a photograph into a box. I initially encouraged students to use any of the recommended sites for their website templates and all seemed to be equally user-friendly. Some students struggled with the brief initially, but guidance towards help tutorials helped embed further independent learning skills, rather than simply asking me to show them. I am sure that there are metacognitive gains in this process that could be further explored. Students were allowed five ninety-minute lessons to plan, research, and build a home, as well as completing a website and preparing a presentation.
My primary aim was for students to document their work for assessment purposes but without using any paper (I am immensely proud of my paper-free curriculum, but that is another article entirely!). Previous projects produced very little research or documentation as students, quite predictably, focused on building models and painting. However, they were suddenly allocating duties for blogging and website development to describe in much greater depth about sustainability, biomes, and the environment. It seemed to me that students wanted their websites to have ‘depth’, and this led to informative, well-organised pages about the very thing I wanted to teach.
I expected students to produce pages within their websites that simply explained the facts behind their biomes, homes and the project. To my delight and wonderment, I saw the following:
- Online ‘shops’ where customers could buy helipads, water desalination plants and energy-saving lightbulbs to name but a few.
- Regular blogs that explained what had been learned and how they felt along the way.
- Links to the IB learner profile and a lovely piece about how I was a risk-taker for rolling out the project (you have to love a child who is so keen to please).
- Video interviews, news reports, commercials and mini-dramas.
- Competitions to encourage higher visitor numbers for their sites.
- Multiple pages to layout their work clearly.
see the full article at