Peer Reviewing The Horizon Project

Over a Skype chat with Vicki Davis during the holidays, I agreed to help out on the Horizon wiki Project by helping out as a Sounding Board in the peer review of the project. My class became part of the official project and I became very unsure of how we were going to do justice to the whole enormous enterprise. I have to admit that when I introduced the whole idea to my class, they were completely puzzled and a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing. So, I became a touch concerned that once again, I had bitten off more than I could chew. But a couple more Skype chats sorted that and my class was assigned the job of peer reviewing the videos throughout the wiki project. That is no mean feat in itself because, as Vicki pointed out, there are other 50 videos embedded in the six emerging trends. I took this back to the class and they were keen to fulfil their role.

I tried to work out how this peer review process would work. My class of 10-11 year olds were too young to try and decipher this content effectively as individuals but as a collective group, it could be manageable and the group could feed from each others’ views and ideas. I thought about recording their thoughts as an audio file but after our first viewing on Friday I was glad we didn’t go down that route. My class find it hard to sit passively and are keen to be involved so navigating my iRiver around the classroom would have picked up a lot of noise and it may not have made a lot of sense to a listener unless it was heavily edited down.

I decided that we had to make a start and to see where it led us. Vicki had posted some preview videos on her blog, so I turned on the Activboard and let the embedded YouTube video upload, then sat the class down to view the first Mobile Phones video. Although we hadn’t settled on how we were going to feed the feedback back, we watched, then commented and I scribbled down their thoughts. It was very interesting how they approached that task. As you might expect from reading Marc Prensky, this generation of kids expect their visual media to be of a certain standard, and knowing that this work was produced by students just five or six years their senior didn’t dull their sharp observations. Voices that were too fast, subtitles that were too small, background music that didn’t fade to the background, hosts looking down at scripts instead of the camera were all noticed and noted. It’s true. There are no harder critics than your own peers.

But they weren’t just critical – they noticed things they liked as well. Acted sequences that showed the future were praised, screen grabs of relevant technology appreciated, sections that were well paced earned acclaim. So, after reviewing four videos on Friday afternoon, I formulated an easy format for gathering the feedback. A common format for getting kids thinking about concepts is P,M,I (plus, minus, interesting). By using that today as the starting point, one student was chosen as the feedback agent for the particular video to be viewed. We watched, and the feedback agent wrote down a point or two for each P,M or I, then recorded the class’s general feedback into their PMI sheet. If every child does that over the space of this week, then each child can type up a paragraph or so of peer review comment that can be pasted into the wiki comments for the video creators. The process seemed to work fine today but it won’t happen in a day because of the need to find time for the video viewing without carving out huge chunks from the rest of the school curriculum. But writing reviews is an important English skill, so doing so for a real and purposeful venture like the Horizon Project is an ideal situation and as I keep telling the students, a real privilege as well.

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