Haram Upper Secondary School
We were first introduced to the Storyline method at a conference in Aalesund on the PILOT project. The municipality of Haram shortly after gave a course on Storyline to its primary school teachers. The course was held at our auditorium, and Haram Upper Secondary School was invited to attend. The course was arranged by teachers from Ringstadbekk School in Baerum. The method was at this time mostly used in primary schools.
We became involved in the PILOT project (Project: Innovation in Learning, Organisation and Technology) in the autumn of 1999, when two of our first-year classes in general and administrative subjects were included in the project. Work started at once to used PILOT in relation to the goals in the curriculum.
Further we were planning to enter into cooperation with the local business community to form what we call an extended learning arena. The teachers in the project group went about trying to implement PILOT in their own subjects. Jan Magne Helland was responsible for the projects, but he was not involved as a teacher. As he had previously been working with a number of local business, he was given the task of promoting cooperation between the school and business.
A reference group was set up in January 2000. Most of the members had taken part in the competence group which had been set up as a part of the Haram-model. However, there was one exception. The leader of the competence group, who was also responsible for the contact between the group and the business community, had left for another job. Instead the community relation officer at Aker Brattvaag became part of the group, bringing the number up to five again. This group proved to be very useful in our contacts with industry.
We tried from the start to find an efficient method/model where the goals of the curriculum could be reached through learning by experience. After some deliberations, we decided that Economy and Information Processing were the subjects we would start up with, and later include more subjects as we went along.
We decided to use Storyline, because it allows the student to enter into different roles within practical economy. For instance we let them use it as a method of finding out about the problems you are faced with as a consumer. The students were set tasks relating to applying for a loan, investing money, being a social client, applying for social benefits, contacting an insurance company after an accident, having your money refunded if you were dissatisfied with a purchase you had made, buying a house or a flat in cooperation with a consultant at a bank etc. Along the road there might be changes in their social status. Some chose to marry, move in with someone without getting married, and to have children. Thus they could find out what these changes meant for the person or persons they had created.
The photo is taken from one of the student presentations in connection with the extended learning arena and Storyline
We had five meetings in the reference group before we finally set about putting our plans into practice in week 45 in 2000. We exchanged a lot of information via e-mail. The dialogue was continuous even between the meetings. We also shared material that we found on the Internet to get better acquainted with the theoretical aspects of the method, but at the end of the day, the way we used the Storyline method, was our own.
School year 2000/2001
Round 1. Autumn 2000
The ideas of the reference group were presented at the school, both to the controlling group of PILOT and to the classes that were going to be involved in Storyline the following school year.
The reference group and the representatives from business advised that more than 50 letters were sent to prospective external partners informing them about the concept and letting them know that we might get in contact with them if needed.
The students were then allowed to choose what business or public institution they would prefer to visit. As far as possible their stated preferences were respected. Some firms were more popular than others. If the firm was located far from the school, and there was some problem about transport, we had to use taxis. If their first choice could not be granted, an alternative was found after discussions with the student. In all the firms or institutions a contact person or persons were found. We preferred one with an e-mail address. Our goal was that as much as possible of the communication was done by e-mail, both for easy communication and documentation.
Reflections on Round 1
Looking back it might be said that sending a letter of information first was a wise step. Most of them had read the letter, and were expecting to be contacted when the coordinators got in contact on the telephone. Some of those who had got the letter had not read it and asked to be contacted some 10 minutes later so that they could have some time studying the letter. In some places the contact person had not got the letter at all, and we faxed it to them immediately.
When contact was established, a direct link was set up between the student and the contact person. The Internet was used to make appointments, collecting material from the firms and institutions and for exchanging information or getting feedback on the pupils had solved. In addition the students sent copies of the communication with their partners to their teachers, so they might help them if a practical problem arose.
Most businesses/institutions were very professional and the students felt that they were welcome and taken seriously. In some cases though, the students were a bit disappointed and felt they were not welcome or were given the assistance they had hoped for. In some of these cases, their e-mails were not answered, and they had to use the telephone several times before they were invited to come. Some reported that the contact person had not understood what it was all about, and was badly prepared or did not meet them as fictitious persons. The result of this was frustration and extra work for some of the groups.
Student teaches student
The first-year students were asked to present their roles using PowerPoint. The groups (13 in all) were given their resource person (second-year student) who became a member of the group. These students helped and taught them picture editing, scanning and getting material from the Internet and making their own presentations. They gave the presentations their own personal touch. The performance was evaluated by their fellow students.
The concept has been widely published and written about in a number of educational journals. The students were therefore invited to hold their presentations on a number of occasions. The students were thus well trained in speaking in front of large audiences and answering questions about something they felt responsible for.
Round 2 Spring 2001
Week 12 was set aside as a project week. Information letters were sent to companies and firms. This project was a co-operation between two classes and the subjects Norwegian and Economy and Information Processing were involved. The classes now defined themselves as consultancies. They defined their roles within the teams of consultants. The companies sent them tasks based on the different goals in the curriculum about which the teachers had informed them.
Most of the groups were given tasks that were suited to their level of knowledge and which it was felt the consultancies were able to solve. Some of the tasks were very big and demanding, involving among other things carrying out extensive surveys. The groups had to be briefed several times before the tasks were fully understood and they could carry them out successfully. When the assignment was completed to our satisfaction, the solution was presented to the company that had set the task. They were also presented to fellow students and people from industry. Also presentations were given to delegations visiting the school and the municipality.
The photos are taken from the student presentations in connection with the extended learning arena and Storyline
The ITU which is part of an international research project carried out by Stanford University (USA) carried out a survey about our project along with similar projects in 28 countries.
Six students sat for an alternative examination in the spring of 2001. The tasks were given as Storyline/case and they could involve the local community and companies in solving the written part. Each group handed in a report (3 students per group). They presented the report in the form of a PowerPoint-presentation, and answered orally questions on an individual basis. Most of them were positive about this form of examination.
Reflections on Round 2
What we did this term with Storyline was much more demanding than what we had previously attempted. Some students liked Round 1 better, whereas many felt that Round 2 was best and indicated that they had learnt a lot through the tasks given to them by the firms and companies.
Some felt that they had been too involved emotionally in Round I when they were dealing with people in difficult economic situations. In Round 2 they were given more personal freedom and there was more room for creativity and the students chose to use more humour in their roles.
School year 2001/2002
Round 3 Autumn 2001
This term we chose to have more subjects involved. The project was carried out as part of International Week and Operation A Day’s Work. Now English, Norwegian Science, Economy and Information Processing were involved.
The photos are taken from the student presentations in connection with IV and Storyline
Before we started, the teachers and our partners in industry went on a tour to Glasgow in early autumn. We visited Steve Bell who is one of the founders of Storyline. The idea was to get input that we could use in our work. Eleven teachers went on this tour along with five from industry. Our stay in Glasgow was very useful and rewarding. Steve Bell has referred to our project in a positive way on his website. We carried out Storyline based on Mr. Bell`s method during International Week and O.D.W. We used it in the two first-year classes – general subjects. The students carried out projects based on themes from I.W. and O.D.W. Second and third-year students gave instructions in PowerPoint and picture editing. Each group had its “student-teacher”. In this project there was no evaluation; no grades were given. In spite of this, it seems that Storyline gave the students an inner motivation to enter into their roles, questions and problems in a way that gave new insight into the problems.
A visit in Glasgow and training in Storyline by Steve Bell
Reflections on Round 3
The feedback from the students was very positive. However, they felt that the coordination between the subjects and the teachers could have been better. They felt that a coordinator in over-all charge of the work, would have eliminated some of the frustration that conflicting signals had caused. The teachers would then have a freer role as tutors.
Round 4. Spring 2002
During the spring of 2002 we had a similar set-up to that of the autumn of 2001. Since Storyline was now well known, the students were allowed more freedom in their roles and in the choice of roles and ways of presenting the result. The project this time involved the subjects Economy, Information Processing and Norwegian. The theme was household economy, where the students created their own persons and families, and solved the challenges they met throughout the Story. The class was now smaller and nine pupils took part.
Reflections on Round 4
By now some of the teachers had become quite familiar with the method. Many of the pit-falls that one earlier had fallen into were now avoided, and as only four teachers took part, the problems of coordination were smaller. The teachers in Norwegian were both principal teachers in their respective classes. It took 14 days to complete the project. We had anticipated that time would have to be borrowed from other subjects than those that were involved and this proved to be the case.
The students were now well trained in using the method and they used computers for documentation, communication and presentation. They were therefore to a greater extent able to focus closely on the subjects and contents in this part of Storyline. The students reported favourably on the cooperation with the local business as a way of mastering the goals set in the curriculum.
Round 5. Autumn 2002
Storyline was used this term on the second-year level (general subjects). One and a half classes were involved. The method was used to take the students 1000 years back in time to get in close contact with the conditions of life at that time.
The project involved the subjects Geography, History (Viking Age) and Norwegian. The Internet was used to find material, but PowerPoint was not used in the presentations in order to stimulate to greater variation. How they were going to make their presentations, was left to the students themselves. As it was up to the students to decide, many chose a form of dramatisation, dressing up and performing plays. Some chose poetry as a form of presentation. They also used sound effects. Some made drawings and paintings.
The photos are picked from a previous Island project 2000/2001, when PowerPoint was used
Reflections on Round 5
The opinions were somewhat mixed. Some felt that everything went well, but some were not so enthusiastic and were against using Storyline in future. Even though the feedback from the students varied, the teachers think that the less positive response is due to the fact that there was less practical work in this project, except in the presentation stage. They did not feel the same need to work hard, when the extended learning arena including local industry was not used.
The teachers however were very pleased with the result, and that it will only take a few adjustments to make it even better. They all wanted to try it out again next year. It will then be necessary to have more cooperation between the teachers and to put more pressure on the students to work efficiently. PowerPoint will again be used.
Round 6. Spring 2003
During this period Storyline was used in a project involving cooperation between Norwegian and the vocational subject at the Health and Care line. This was the first time Storyline was used in teaching vocational subjects. Grethe Berg from Volda Polytechnic (Høgskulen i Volda) carried out a study on this project.
The students, ten in all, were somewhat sceptical about Storyline. They had been in contact with students that had been through a project before, and they did not like what they heard. Moreover, they did not like the idea of performing in front of an audience of people from outside the class. As it was only the teacher in Norwegian who had previous experience with Storyline, two more teachers were brought in to assist in the process.
Much time and effort went into the planning and motivation of the students and deciding on a framework for the project. One goal was to create a story with a lot of action and activity, forcing them to think about alternatives from the start. We were informed by the class teachers that the class had had problems working well together throughout the school year.
Ina Angelica and alcohol Training in making use of PowerPoint and preparation of the presentation. Student teaches student.
The students were divided into groups, which were defined as Red Cross teams. They were given tasks that made it necessary to make full use of their knowledge from the start. As the story progressed they had to take on new roles, and to tackle tasks that were given as they went along. Three times they had to present their solutions in drama form. In the first presentation they had to use PowerPoint which they were not too familiar with. Second year students gave instruction and help in this work. In their final presentation, the groups had cooperated in making a video showing what they felt was a realistic ending to the story. Some problems were then suggested to them, and they showed how they would solve them by going into their adopted roles. Encouraged by the favourable reception they got, they invited pupils from the local primary school (about 100) and performed the story for them.
After one month the students, who had previously hardly been able to stand in front of their own class, had developed their confidence and self-assurance to a degree where they dared perform in front of an audience something they had themselves made and answer questions from the auditorium.
Reflections on Round 6
This was the first time students from general subjects had been used to teach students from another line. Despite of the fact that these students had previously acted as teachers to seniors (old age pensioners), we were not entirely confident about the outcome. The students from Health and Care had little experience with computers. But as far as we are concerned, it went pretty well.
Although they had been thoroughly informed about the chain of action in the story, some misunderstandings and difficulties of coordination among the teachers arouse as the work progressed. At least once this caused problems as the students disagreed with the instructions they were given. They felt that it was unrealistic that everything should have a happy ending. The frustration they felt led to a stop in the progress and it also made teachers lose heart and feel like giving up. However, one of the teachers made a special effort, and managed to change the mood of despondency. In addition, the others were very active in changing things and managed to save the project. The students were very positive at the end. Some pointed to certain side-effects as the most positive aspect. They had learnt to master computers and the class that had been very divided at the outset, now were able to cooperate in a positive way. They now got along much better and the positive effects were lasting.
Some practical things could easily have gone wrong if teachers and resource persons had not checked and double-checked during critical phases of the project. We learnt that everything must be in place before you start, and that the teachers in some stages of the story, must have made certain arrangements for the students. If, for instance, the students have been told that some assignment has been placed in an envelope in a certain place, the envelope must actually be there. Where external partners from industry or the local community are involved, one needs to be extra careful to avoid wasting time and resources.
Round 7. The future
During the school year 2003/2004 Storyline will be used as an in-depth study of Norwegian. Furthermore, Storyline will be used in the founding course in Administrative and general subjects (AA) as an integral part of the new subject we are offering – International Business Development. Here even more resources will be used to develop further the use of the local business community as an extended learning arena. For the second-year-students the Story will again be a journey in time (Ancient History, Norwegian, Geography), but there will be some changes to create greater efficiency, more student activity, dedication and commitment. In Health and Care we will build on last year’s project.
We think it is also possible to use Storyline at the vocational lines, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics and Technical and General Subjects. As more teachers have been actively involved in Storyline now, we have more experience to draw on. Storyline as a method at our school, has been introduced through PILOT and we have been given the funding to develop the method further through a project of differentiation. We feel that the introduction of this method in cooperation with the local community, has been a success. We think it will be exciting to see how this method will develop in the future.
Brattvåg, August 22nd 2003
Jan Magne Helland Ingunn Hellevik Hilde Aasgaarden