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Demonstrating Understanding through Pixton

-by Dave Scott, Grade 8 Humanities

This term the Grade 8 Humanities team has been experimenting with creative ways for students to demonstrate their comprehension of key concepts and ideas surrounding the Italian Renaissance.

Informed by Wiggins and McTighe's Understanding by Design, we are interested in shifting the focus of learning from students memorizing isolated bits of information to designing tasks that require performances of learning that show deep understanding of concepts and big ideas encountered over the course of a unit.

For Wiggins and McTighe understanding can be divided into six facets including:
  • explanation
  • interpretation
  • application
  • perspective
  • empathy
  • self knowledge
Searching for mediums that would allow students to explain their understanding of events and developments that make up the Italian Renaissance, recently we have been exploring the potential of the digital story-telling medium Pixton to achieve this end. (Another project using Pixton to create graphic novels based on short stories can be found here.)

We felt Pixton had significant potential for gives students the freedom to design their own comic characters and add real life backgrounds, we felt this would be an ideal medium for students to be both creative while also showing deep understanding of events and developments associated with the Renaissance.

As we set out on our study of the Renaissance we wanted to highlight for students that the Renaissance can not be reduced to one simple definition; in fact it can be understood as a whole series of developments and changes that occurred over a long period of time.

After supplying our students with a series of resources to draw from, the task we devised for this performance of understanding was as follows:

Within a group of five choose one of the developments associated with the Italian Renaissance. To show your understanding of this development, using the program Pixton create a one page comic explaining how your topic responds to the question: What was the Italian Renaissance?

Your Renaissance comic will be evaluated on how clearly and concisely you are able to communicate the most important elements of your topic, your ability to bring in supporting details from your research including quotes and other specific facts and information, and how free of errors your comic is in terms of spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

The topic areas are as follows:
  • A period of rebuilding and renewal after the devastation and destruction of the 14th century
  • A period of rebirth of Greek and Roman thought and styles that provided a model for all aspects of life including art, writing, architecture, and politics
  • A spirit of Humanism that put man and his potential at the centre of life and learning
  • A time of great artistic activity and innovation
  • A spirit of discovery and scientific inquiry into the inner workings of nature and the world
Here are some examples of student work that followed from this task:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I appreciate how you make reference to Wiggins and McTighe as a framework to demonstrate the efficacy of digital storytelling. The student work in presenting their understanding of the complex nature of the Renaissance is very impressive! Clearly, there is huge potential in what you are doing to make your students' learning experiences authentic and engaging. Garry McKinnon

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