Activities in the VCAL classroom at Preston Reservoir ACE

(VCAL is the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning)
Read more about this 2007 Access ACE project over on the PRACE wiki .

1) Use of data projector

Having a big overhead screen in class has enlivened discussion and led to more engaging sessions. For example one session where Google Earth was up on the big screen, and nearly all of the learner group came up to the front of the room to explore the local area (of their own volition). This led to comparisons between Google Earth and the Melways.
When working on themes, I would collect a range of images on the theme, via Peter Shanks' Creative Commons Flickr search; and run these images on slideshow to gain interest, and introduce the theme. Giving people something to look at seemed to work.

2) Other activities in class

Activity: Leisure activities for teenagers

Students were asked to survey each other, and then convert this information into charts and graphs. One student requested to do the graph / chart on computer (using excel, on his own mac book).

Web Quest Activities:

a) Australia's biggest morning tea (BMT)

biggest_morning_tea_website_.jpg Students were organising the morning tea for our community centre. This was about Work Related and Personal Development skills. In the numeracy class, students engaged in a web quest, searching the BMT website and brochure. Had a mixed response to this one, with some students enthusiastically following up the information, and others saying, "Ugh, we had to do web quests at school."

b) Different speeds

I'd asked people to find out certain speeds, eg normal human walking pace, land speed records etc.
One student searched for a long time, tracking down each question from a range of websites. The other student keyed in the exact question, and found the wikipedia page where I'd got the questions from.

Activity: Dream car assignment

For this assignment, students had the choice of working on paper, or on disk/ screen, after several students requested a copy on disk.

Games on screen

Activity: intro to computer games

addemup_3.jpg I wanted to introduce students to a range of computer games. It was not so easy to introduce into the curriculum however. Students who enjoy games are used to the high graphics, multi-user kind of game. Others need to know which part of the certificate is involved before they'll engage with an activity ("What's in it for me!")
One student was prepared to have a go at a game called "Addemup". She said she really enjoyed it and played for at least twenty minutes. I'd recommended the game because it's really good for strengthening mental addition and numerical problem-solving.

Fish market

Two students engaged with a game from RedAnt and the Learning Federation, called "Fish Market". They seemed to enjoy its colourful interaction and low-level numeracy. I discussed the game with them both, and they said they had noticed the way that prices kept changing with the market. They made plenty of cash, and their status went up. However, they soon reached a point where there was no more challenge.

Activity: 3D modelling

This wasn't a set activity, as much as a student demonstration. One student turns out to be a genius at 3D modeling; this student spends time showing the teacher how to use Wings open source 3D modelling software. A brilliant example of when the student's real-world skills are more complex than the curriculum on offer. This student had participated in forums, and sold his artwork around the world.

Activity: Create a budget

.. for the melbourne show, a day trip. Most students worked on paper, consulting the web for prices and other information; however three students worked completely on screen together to locate websites, find information and reorganise this information in a word processor table.

3) Online spaces

Activity: City excursion: wikispace

For this session, we negotiated a wiki space with the group, finding a name that people would accept. Students were going on an excursion around the city. Many activities had been planned. First we brainstormed numeracy questions on the city theme, then students went on a web quest for information to answer their own questions. Students were asked to add their discoveries to wikispaces. This was one area where I felt we didn't quite get it right. Could have been better to use the discussion feature for this activity, and set a larger project for students to design a page around a theme.

Assorted extra things across the vcal program

  • Group gets a myspace in their literacy / english class; leading to late-night writing, communication and subsequent discussion of the issues of late-night communication;
  • Several students use web2 tools, eg, myspace, as well as instant messaging;
  • Teachers ask for instant messaging to be turned off, because students refuse to focus on classwork;
  • Survey in math group around who uses web2 tools.


Staff are eager to investigate using Second Life for work-related skills in 2008, following the Gipps Tafe research project.
Suggestions that Certificate ii in IT be more closely integrated into the curriculum, eg using writing and presentations from literacy sessions, or even people's myspace to demonstrate competencies.

photo credit: (creative commons at flickr) Thanks: Guano for "takin it to the Banksy" .