Guest Post via @beachhist: Knowledge is the key …

Knowledge organisers.  The BIG new thing in education.  Suddenly they are cropping up everywhere and everyone is raving about them.  But I think there is a missed opportunity with these things.

Firstly, I am all for knowledge organisers.  When I first heard of them through the Twittersphere, I merely used them as a revision tool.  I printed out a series of them and told my students that if could remember these key dates and concepts, it would help them get a half decent grade.  Did they use them …. probably not.  But it was a start.

As the months have gone on, their role in education and developing a “knowledge-rich curriculum” (by the way, isn’t people’s curriculum already knowledge rich.  98% of my lessons is covering new knowledge) has increased.  So much so, we have now decided at my school to introduce them in Year 7 across all subjects.  Personally, I think we are missing a key group here, as KS4 students (Years 9-11) would benefit so much more from them.

I had started producing them for the new GCSE.  It involved me sitting down with the textbooks for each unit, ploughing through and essentially picking out key information from that chapter.  And what I produced was a simple effective design.  It was colour coded, words easy to read, with nothing to distract the reader from it.  Here is one:

KO

As you can see a simple design.

Now as other departments in the school started to produce them, we as a staff started talking about them.  In particular, Geography (that old nemesis of History) started to produce these amazing looking ones, full of bright colourful diagrams, that made ours look simple.  Now I know simple can be effective but this got me thinking.  (What I am about to say may be really obvious to some, just took me a little more time to cotton on to it).

Knowledge organisers are not supposed to just be a summary of a topic.  They should be considered a gateway document.  A document that is a starting point, not a finishing point for a topic.  If you give it out at the start, students should use this as a starting off point in learning more about a topic. So if that was the case, how could I improve them?  How could I keep the simplicity of design and ramp it up to 11?  How could I do better than Geography? (It’s not nice I know, and I think the Geography teacher is great and amazing, I just wanted to do better).

On my drive home, it dawned on me.  Hyperlinks.  When you are identifying key events, and giving a VERY brief summary, why not hyperlink it to a website that gives more information about it?  Well, these are designed to be printed out and given to students. Great, learn from a piece of paper, but that’s not 21st-century thinking.  If we also give a copy to students digitally, they can access it in many ways, and hopefully, use the links.  It was a simple idea, but one I hadn’t seen yet.  And here’s the end result.

KO 1

Key people and ideas with hyperlinks.  Expansion of the knowledge organisers.  A jumping off point for students.  But what about students who couldn’t read well. These documents would scare them, as they are text heavy, with keywords listed and events.  So, I decided to read the text for them.  For the key events box and keywords box, I dug out my microphone and read it, recorded it and uploaded so students can simply click on the link and follow as I read.

KO 2

So can it develop further?  Well possibly.  I am toying with the idea of a link for further reading, tied specifically to books in a school library and main library on the island.  But as it stands I’m very happy with it.  It keeps the simple but effective look.  It is not cluttered.  But it is interactive and does add those extra things that take it from being a knowledge organiser, to a gateway to knowledge document.

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