How We Played During Online Classes?

Online teaching cannot replace regular, but it can provide things that regular teaching cannot. Through the Android game, we searched for the answer to the question "Do we really need nuclear power plants?

“School of the Future” Project

Two years ago, my school formed another in a series of numerous school teams. This time it was the European Development Plan Team. The team had an extremely simple task: to use the Erasmus+ call and train teachers to work with new teaching methods.

Personally, I think it was brave to admit their own shortcomings and try to correct them.

Our project was approved and it started in the fall with the realization called "School of the Future" and the number 2019-1-RS01-KA101-000635. 

ERP Team meeting

At that time, no one had known what would happen in the world that spring and how much we would actually benefit from this project.

I firmly believe that online and regular classes are two completely different approaches and that the biggest mistake is to try to copy regular classes to the online model.

When we are face to face in the classroom, we talk, discuss, change our approach during the class depending on the reaction - in a word, we lead our class. But online teaching is different. The camera and microphone cannot replace live matches no matter how advanced the technique. 

Knowledge transfer is not the biggest problem in online teaching. We can learn a lot from documentary shows, books, simulations, games, articles… Well, when most of us have a question, we first turn to Google. So facts and information are all around us. It is not a problem.

The biggest problem with online teaching is convincing students not to take shortcuts. 

What did I learn during our project?

I believe that each project teaching can be presented in three steps: an introductory part with a challenging question, a working part, and finally - the final product. 

From the PBL training in Florence organized by Europass

Motivating students is probably the hardest part of any teaching. I'm not saying that it's easy to motivate some teachers, but most of us understand how important education is.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of project teaching lies in the very first hour when we all pose a problem together and look for solutions. Then the students realize that everything they will learn in the next period will have an application and that the products of their work will be tangible and real.

The work itself during the project teaching can be in any form. Everything is allowed. Will the students research on their own, listen to lectures, read, experiment, think in a storm of ideas… There are no limits!

And finally: the product. Debate, something tangible, a book, a report… Once again, there are no boundaries.

But the beginning is important.

What did I learn during online classes?

Already in the first week of online classes, I completely gave up the tests. Instead, I gave research assignments and materials to prepare the tests. Fortunately, for physics, there are a large number of online simulations (primarily PHETthat can replace experiments. With a little effort and a few questions, simulation becomes a great way to learn.

Online teaching cannot replace regular, but it can provide things that regular cannot. I suddenly became free to organize the class in a new and different way. Until now, PHET simulations were demonstrative, or assigned for homework, and have now become part of student research.

I still find online teaching a much harder way to teach.

How We Played During Online Classes?

I have written before about the importance of playing in the classroom. This time I was lucky enough to find the phenomenal android game Nuclear INC 2 in which the player manages a nuclear power plant trying to produce as much energy as possible, with as few accidents as possible (preferably with none).

We started the activity not with a question but with a situation. 

Situation: An international energy company wants to build a nuclear power plant near our city. A public hearing was organized. In your opinion, what position should our school take?

Nuclear INC 2 screen layout

With this question alone, the lesson becomes personal. It is no longer a word on the board, but a question that has an impact on your future. My next question was: What do we need to know before we vote for or against the construction of a nuclear power plant?

This whole activity took place in the Google classroom. During the following weeks, the students received lessons, articles, but also summaries of alpha and beta decay, as well as chain reactions. All this in order to investigate for themselves what radiation is, what are the dangers and what are the applications…

In the last week, the students were given a link to the game Nuclear INC 2. They were also given questions to answer in order for the task to remain in the domain of physics.

They were crossing levels all week. Instead of telling them about the role of control rods, replacing used uranium fuel, disposing of radioactive waste and how to control the chain reaction, the students learned it themselves, through play.

I just followed, answered questions, and of course waited for them to submit reports. 

Unfortunately, we could not organize a debate, but we had a public vote using the tool

I enjoyed reading most of the reports. The students researched themselves, discovered new types of reactors and became more aware of the pollution that has come with the energy production so far.

And all this through the game.

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