The students were tasked with creating an app for newly arrived Italian immigrants in Sydney that could be used to help with all their basic living needs. Students had to engage with the community to first understand their needs then decide on what
elements to include in the app. The plan involved inviting the members of the
community to the school to test the app and provide feedback, and students in return students would host a day to help the newly arrived immigrants with the English language skills relating to aspects of the app (for example, running mock job interviews
in English or providing them with useful phrases for enquiring about an apartment to rent).
Context: Yr 9/10 Accelerated Italian class
Time: 19 weeks
Learning objectives: To engage students of different ages, abilities and levels of language acquisition; to learn for a real purpose; to create something for a real audience; to teach life skills (opening bank account, writing CV, getting visas, finding an apartment to rend, medical insurance etc); to teach useful technological skills; to make students aware of the Italian community around them; to make students realise that there is a real purpose to their language learning; to use Italian for a real purpose now; to teach students how to learn independently; to teach students how to locate, analyse and evaluate (access for credibility) information and facts; to teach students how to present information in a clear, concise and engaging manner; to teach how to adapt and manipulate language structures to create authentic language (as opposed to literally translated; to work collaboratively; to explore what makes a good app; to explore what makes an effective and engaging explainer video.
Product: The class creates an app for newly arrived Italian Immigrants in Sydney that can be used to help with all their needs. Students engage with the community to first understand what their needs are, then decide on what elements should be included in the app. Members of the community return to the school to try elements of the app and provide feedback. In return, students host a day to help newly arrived immigrants with the English language skills relating to aspects of the app (for example, running mock job interviews in English or providing them with useful phrases for enquiring about an apartment to rent).
Hurdle Task: Create an audiovisual “how to” video for one area of the app (eg. How to get an Opal Card; How to open a bank account). The video will be posted on “Il Faro” Facebook page for Italian Immigrants in Sydney.
Exhibition: Launch of app at school with Italian Immigrants as guests during day hosted by students (see above).
Co-constructed Assessment Rubric:
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Adapting to Other Projects and Contexts
All the suggestions, as well as the original project, can be multi-disciplinary. For example, Design and Technology can focus on the technical aspects of app creation (rather than content); Commerce can focus on the section relating to bank accounts; Careers can focus on the section relating to CV, job application and interviewing skills; Geography can focus on the section relating to suburbs and renting.
Other ideas: as long as your app has a purpose and a potential real audience in your reach, you could adapt this to various subjects and topics:
STEM: create an app for the School Canteen which includes the current menu and the various health ratings and nutritional values of each menu item.
Personal Development, Health & Physical Education: Create a fitness app which includes fitness routines for different days of the week. Each student or group can focus on one style of fitness, based on their interests (eg. pilates, strength, cardio, sport, yoga, barre) and must include a video for each routine, as well as important information such as target muscle area, calories burnt, how to avoid injury, variation to routine (different strength levels), etc. Students must have their section of the app peer-critiqued before final submission.
Do you have any other ideas teachers could find helpful? Click here to add them to the comments section.
This was my first project at the school. I designed the project for a Yr 9/10 Accelerated class. According to the existing program, the first unit had to be on immigration. I struggled to engage with the topic and wondered how to make it more relevant to the students. I knew there was a new wave of immigration in Sydney of young Italians from Italy, so I decided to focus on that as it was relevant and current. I joined a Facebook group for Italian immigrants in Sydney and began following the posts quite closely to understand the group of people. I began to notice that many of their posts were questions about finding jobs, getting visas, opening bank accounts, getting medical help, rent, etc. That’s when I got the idea for the project.
I thought the idea of an app to address their needs was perfect for Yr 9/10 students, as it was the time many would start looking for part-time jobs, get their Learners driving permits and start being more independent in various other aspects of their life. Unfortunately, after I had spent the Summer planning the project, I finally met the class in February and found out that they were actually Yr 7 and Yr 8 students, a lot younger than I was expecting. I soon realised that this project was not going to be relevant to them and would have to be modified. Also, I noticed they struggled with student-centred work, had poor researching skills, and were slow workers in general. It was taking far too long and the slow progress was making me nervous.
I cut short the project (1 term instead of 2) and turned the hurdle task (creating an explainer video for one area of the app) into the final product. We examined other explainer videos, critiqued them and co-constructed an assessment rubric for our video. Of course, I had to explain to the class why we were no longer making an exciting new app. They were disappointed but understood.
I was also challenged by technology policies at the new school. In order to start the project, I asked students to visit the Facebook group for Italian immigrants to identify their needs. I did not realise that Facebook was a blocked site at the school. There was another website for immigrants that I had located in my research, but unfortunately that was blocked too. Luckily, we had a newly arrived Italian immigrant on the staff, so students interviewed him instead.
By turning the explainer video into the final product, I had to give it more weight and importance, so I decided we were going to post the students’ videos on the Facebook group so they could have an authentic audience and be motivated to produce quality work. Unfortunately, I discovered that the school policy prohibited students from appearing on social media, so I had to tell students that their faces and bodies were not allowed to appear in their explainer video. This worried me as I struggled to imagine how such young students would create their videos with this restriction. I was actually blown away by the quality of the videos and recognised how true it is that constraints fuel, rather than hinder, creativity. In fact, had they been allowed to appear in the shots, most students would have simply talked in front of the camera instead of finding creative alternatives.
Have you experienced similar challenges with social media and internet policies in your school? How did you overcome them? Click here to share your story in the comments section.