ZML Didaktik / Innovative Learning Scenarios

School footprints

Posted on: May 23, 2016

Today I carried out a workshop in the school “Rainergymnasium” in Vienna, with 68 school students between 14-15 years and from three different classes. Their teacher Vera Kadlec invited me to support the students to reflect their experiences in an IMST project with special regard to the subject informatics.


The workshop was planned for two school hours. I started with a short introduction to emergent learning and the footprints of emergence. Then each student drew his or her individual footprint using a sheet with further information; the sheet contains a question for each factor and a picture which visualizes the factor.


As the weather was beautiful most of the groups worked in the open. Vera, her colleague Jochen Reichert and I observed the students drawing their footprints and helped them if necessary. During the process of drawing the footprints the students asked a few questions about specific factors. One student felt that the questions in the sheet need a “yes” or “no” contrary to the footprint template where there is a continuum for each factor.

After the first school hour many students had finished their drawings. In the second hour I started to discuss the footprints with groups of students whereas Vera and Jochen supported the others to finish their footprints as well.


Some observations of the footprints

Cluster Open/structure:

  • A student put the factor risk in the sharp emergent zone. She said that despite of learning a lot for the exam there are questions she cannot answer. Therefore she feels a lot of risk to fail.
  • Another student loved the possibility to learn in other places than in school (lim).
  • Many of them positioned the ambiguity factor in the sharp emergent zone or at the edge of chaos (amb). In the analysis of the footprints Vera will check if this result is related to the specific school class.
  • One student created a footprint with rather high factors of disruption and self-correction. He told me that in class he often cannot finish his work (high disruption factor) and he hates it. Then he has to solve the problem by himself after class (high self-correction) and he likes it. This was an interesting learning experience for the group, that sometimes we like to be challenged and sometimes not.
  • Many students spoke in a positive manner about different learning paths.


Cluster Interactive Environment

  • Many students gave the factor experiential a high value. With respect to this factor they reflected mostly their experience in the subject chemistry.

Cluster Agency

  • Many students were stressed because they often had to organize themselves and be autonomous. Some of them didn’t like this at all and put the factor self-orgainsation and autonomy into chaos.
  • In the discussions I was not sure if the students understood the factor identity. They see very clear and fixed roles of being students or teachers (alas a factor in the prescribed zone) whereas some of them put the factor identity into the (sharp) emergent zone.


Cluster: Presence / Writing

  • We discussed the factor solitude and contemplation (S&C) which was sometimes in the sharp emergent zone. The students said that if they do not succeed in finishing their work in class the professor allows them to finish it at home. But they find it hard and difficult to work alone at home.

After the workshop Vera and I discussed our impressions of the interaction with the students.


Altogether the students said that they are happy to learn within a structured learning environment and that they didn’t want more freedom in learning. Furthermore they stated that during the first semester the design of their learning space was more open and more closed in the second semester.

With respect to the workshop 68 school students were too much to deal with. Next time we will do a workshop with every class again.

5 Responses to "School footprints"

Hi Jutta – Well done. 68 school students! That must have been hard work but fascinating.

I was interested that one student wanted to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. I know you have translated the factors. I wonder now if the wording invites a ‘Yes/No’ answer. On the original sheet the factors not only came with the question, but also with the continuum from prescribed to emergent explained. Did the students see this continuum?

The other interesting question you raise is whether the students understand the identity factor. Do you intend to interview any of the students? It would be so interesting to follow up these questions.

I would have loved to have been there. It looks like a very successful workshop 🙂

Dear Jenny!
Our questions are very open – in my opinion. Therefore I found the comment interesting.
The project is Vera’s project and she has a lot of different tools for investigation. I will ask her about identity. In this workshop we saw that it is not easy to draw the footprints only with regard to one subject – informatics in this case. The students also reflected other subjects, their whole experience in school.
Did you think about how much your footprints depend from you as person and how much they depend from the subject? Bye, Jutta

> Did you think about how much your footprints depend from you as person and how much they depend from the subject?

That’s an interesting question and something I have thought about in the past in a slightly different context. In the past when running workshops we have said, think about your course / learning experience either from the design perspective, or from your learning experience perspective, but try not to confuse them. There will of course be some overlap, but starting out with a specific perspective helps to separate them out.

In relation to your students I think it all depends on what they were asked to consider at the start. And I’m sure you did this. So, for example they could be asked to draw a footprint about:
– the teaching of ‘informatics’
– their learning of informatics
– their whole school experience
– etc.
I think they should be asked to focus on one area, otherwise it would be difficult to compare the footprints and look for patterns across them that could inform future practice.

Of course this is quite a disciplined way of thinking that might be difficult for 14-15 year olds. I think that’s why the footprints have to be drawn on a regular basis. Reflection is a learning process in its own right. But ultimately it is their reflection – very personal and individual to each of them. There’s no right or wrong way to do this – just a learning process.

What do you think? You were there – I wasn’t 🙂

They were asked to think about their learning experience in informatics. Nevertheless they mixed it up with other learning experiences.
It needs practice to remain focussed on one aspect. I remember when I reflected my learning designs and at the beginning mixed it with my fantasy about learners experiences in my learning designs.
The workshop was interesting today. The students are exciting people in an interesting age.

Yes – I wish I could have been there 🙂

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