Two quantitative surveys and 12 qualitative case studies will be conducted in four different subjects in the research project ARK&APP (2013–2015). The present study is the first of three case studies in one of the subjects, social science (history, geography and social science). Three research questions guide this case study:
- How are educational resources used in teaching practices?
- How do various educational resources function in interactions between students and teachers?
- How do educational resources foster engagement and learning among students?
The study was conducted in spring 2013 in a lower secondary school in Norway. The teaching topics focused on history subjects in the national curriculum. Due to practical issues, the case was carried out in the optional course ‘Research in practice’, which has several competence goals that correspond to social studies. The course comprised 16 students (11 boys and 5 girls) from different grade 8 classes at the same school). The case is a collaborative project that involves an upper secondary school and a timber-floating museum. The main aim of the project was to engage students in the topic of timber floating and increase their insight by working on digital stories about timber floating. A digital story is an audiovisual story consisting of still pictures, voiceover, and music/sound that are composed on the basis of the storymaker’s narrative storyline.
The fieldwork was carried out over a period of two months. Most of the students’ work was carried out in school, except a school trip to the timber-floating museum. The data constitutes pre- and post-test field notes, video-recordings of student and teacher activities/interactions, interviews with students and teachers and different student productions. Field notes were written using a scripted coding scheme that focused on students’ ways of working and the teacher’s activity. Methods from case studies in previous research were used in the analysis, i.e., discussions from research groups and memo writing constituting inductive and deductive movements between datasets and within datasets. The analysis of recordings has been guided by key issues found during observations.
Most of the students’ work was organised as group work. During the project, there was not much whole-class teaching. The learning resources that the students used in the museum and in school can be categorised as (1) primary sources, such as old documents and statistics and (2) illustration charts, images, and artefacts that were used in the practice of timber floating. These resources were used by the students mainly in two ways. First, they functioned as resources for writing the manuscript for their digital stories. Secondly, the students used images of artefacts and old photography that they captured themselves as visual objects in the digital story.
The findings indicate that students are engaged and motivated though this method of learning about a curricular topic in school. They use multiple resources for learning, are enabled to use resources from their own youth culture and are given a different role as learners compared to more traditional teaching methods in which the textbook has a central role. In addition, the findings also show that students gained a more subtle yet deeper understanding of some of the common technical terms in the discourse of timber floating.
However, the findings also document a discrepancy between the school’s and students’ own digital technology. The findings also show that students found it difficult to work with primary sources, such as old documents and statistics. The most important challenge was for the students to recontextualise primary sources as resources that could be used to create a digital story manuscript. Thus, the success of this method in working on school topics is dependent on teachers’ experience with this method so that activities can be framed in a supportive way.