and student involvement:
Michael Fenton, M.Sc., Dip.Tchg.
EnviroPower Technical Advisor, Ministry of
Education eLearning Fellow, Microsoft Innovative Teacher
How did Inglewood High
School engage it's students in the Enviropower energy
conservation pilot project?
Teaching and learning
have been described as a means to create a “knowledge
economy” (Bolstad and Gilbert, 2006) yet from my experience in
industry and outside the classroom “understanding” is much
more important. Understanding is the pre-cursor to solving authentic
problems and innovation later in life or in the work place.
Piaget and other psychologists believe that the learner must be active
to be engaged in real learning (Piaget, 1954, 1974).
The EnviroPower project used three main
strategies to actively engage students and raise their awareness of
the EnviroPower priorities (Education, Conservation, Generation).
1) The first strategy involved a teacher
directed focus on the EnviroPower project whenever a unit or
achievement standard had elements that could be taught using the
EnviroPower project as a context for teaching, learning and/or
assessment. Students also managed to gain NZQA credits from activities
based around the EnviroPower project.
Informal surveys of staff and students indicated
that the students could engage with the class topic better if linked to
EnviroPower as it had some relevance to something real (eg, Level 1
Maths students discussing budgeting power costs and calculating %
increases). It was also noticed that many senior students will become
bill payers in the very near future so a recent exposure to
conservation concepts should translate into changed attitudes and
2) The second strategy was
involved a student centered approach based on authentic learning (Webster's
Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1998).
If learning is authentic, then students should be
engaged in genuine learning problems that foster the opportunity for
them to make direct connections between the new material that is being
learned and their prior knowledge. This kind of experience will
increase student motivation. In fact, an “absence of meaning
breeds low engagement in schoolwork and inhibits [learning]
transfer” (Newmann, Secada, & Wehlage, 1995).
Examples of authentic learning from
- Student EnviroPower
committee members presenting to Venture Taranaki and talking of how the
project has impacted on their beliefs and attitudes.
- Art work being created for
the front gate sign
- EnviroPower name and logo
created by various students
- ICT and technology problem
solving to build an interactive real time display of energy generation
at the school (involving electronics engineering and computer
- School competitions
encourage creativity and authentic activities
3) The third strategy involved ICT and
e-learning to communicate EnvioPower ideas to the local, national
and international community via dedicated pages on the Inglewood High
School website. Opportunities to carry out home, school or workplace
energy audits, as well as debate different energy generation options
were available. Material for both Primary and Secondary age students is
Overall, many students and staff are only
just getting to see how they could get more involved with the
EnviroPower issues. Due to the innovative and experimental nature of
the project, there has been a significant time lag of about 6 months
before technology such as the solar panels and wind turbine were
installed, and 12 months lag before data logging of the school energy
use is available for analysis. The data and technology now available
would lead to more authentic and relevant learning activities if the
EnviroPower project could be extended. Legitimate data encourages
students to engage in their own investigations and in particular the
new RIGEL pocket data loggers are ideal for use in homes (Fenton, 2008).
I believe from a literature review of over
100 papers that a blended approach of both a teacher directed and
student centered learning was appropriate. High school age students are
more likely to remember and implement the EnviroPower messages since
they are likely to be living on their own the near future as opposed to
primary age students.
Bolstad, R. and Gilbert, J. New
Zealand Council for Educational Research, (2006). Creating digital age learners through
school ICT projects: What can the Tech Angels project teach us?
Donovan, M. S., Bransford, J. D., &
Pellegrino, J. W. (Eds.). (1999). How people learn: Bridging
research and practice. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Fenton, M. (2008). RIGEL data logger and games unit.
Fenton, M. (2007). Interactive ICT tools for
Mathematics, Science and Robotics - getting the most from Game
Maker. New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers conference.
Newmann, F., Secada, W., & Wehlage, G.
(1995). A guide to authentic instruction and assessment:
Vision, standards and scoring. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Piaget, J.
(1954). The construction of reality in the child. New York:
Basic Books. Piaget, J. (1974). To understand is to invent:
The future of education. New York: Grossman.