Lessons from the media: Philae’s Rosetta mission

This is a guest post from Hélène Fyffe, an undergraduate starting her final year at Edinburgh Napier University, having spent a year on placement with Microsoft UK Education as part of her course.

Our last 'Lesson from the media' blog gave students a fun challenge to practice their research skills by exploring the science behind the proving of dough, an example beautifully plated up by Mary Berry's Great British Bake Off.

Today is going to suggest an example that could help students improve their reading skills with a 'case study' from a topic that has received much coverage in the news, Philae's comet exploration mission. I'll show teachers how they could use OneNote Class Notebook as a tool to bring the exercise to life.

Everyone needs to read

As we all know, reading is one of the most important skills for young people to develop during their schooling and one of the most fundamental business skills for later on in life. Primary school is a crucial stage of development for literacy as it provides a safe environment for learners to develop a strong foundation of skills, ready to tackle secondary school and eventually national assessments. Much like all skills, it is important for primary teachers to nurture their students with fun and exciting associations around reading so that they will be motivated to improve their skills and develop into capable students, so using exciting examples such as Philae's comet mission are great opportunities for teachers to turn into exercises.

Challenges for teachers

A big challenge for many teachers in the UK is having to teach young students for whom English is an additional language (EAL learners) to learn to read. With learners at varying levels of aptitude, how can teachers adapt their lessons to help everyone flourish? The Guardian has highlighted examples from teachers who support EAL learners with visual aids, student discussions and showing translated key words and writing frames.

Additionally, there is a prominent school of thought imparting that learning to read via online mediums is motivating and relevant for young learners. With computer skills increasingly being regarded as important as literacy and numeracy skills, it comes as no surprise that the Government and academics are suggesting IT-centric strategies to literacy development such as reading articles and blogs.

Philae's Rosetta Mission

The Guardian - artist's impression of Philae fastening itself to the comet
Photograph: Esa/PA

Having felt scientists' white-knuckled hands gripping their seats in apprehension as to whether Philae would firstly succeed in landing safely and secondly, be able to send data back to scientists regarding 57 hours of experiments, on Saturday 15th November the media welcomed in the news that Philae achieved her aims just before losing power, with a charming Tweet: @Philae2014 “I’m feeling a bit tired, did you get all my data? I might take a nap …”

With dozens of articles on the Rosetta Mission, teachers have a great opportunity to turn this into a reading example.

OneNote Class Notebook Creator

With the OneNote Class Notebook Creator app , teachers can create a Philae reading exercise in the class Notebook by copying one or two of the many online articles about the Rosetta Mission into the 'Content Library' which all students have access to, and accompanying that with questions. Acknowledging the challenge of helping EAL students to understand, the following video could be shared along with photos to convey Philae's journey and outcome.

For teachers who haven't already used the app, it's simply the case of downloading the app and creating a OneNote Class Notebook and sharing it with the entire class who can access it individually with PC's or tablets.

Previous blogs have outlined that the notebooks are split into three areas, one of them being 'Student Notebooks' where teachers can access each student's work and assignments and give feedback. This section would be where each student would complete the exercise and locate the answers to the questions. I can see a great little opportunity for teachers to use this feature to provide additional instructions and aid to EAL learners with the article, such as grammatical translations for tricky words.

Ultimately, the OneNote Class Notebook Creator would provide an engaging fun platform for the learners to read about Philae and complete the exercise. The articles provide great case studies for teachers to craft questions tailored towards getting their class to pick out the main points of the articles, and fathom the challenges and successes.

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