Well, we started a flash project several weeks ago, my honors students chose topics from World War II to research and present to their classmates. My goal was to take just a couple of days to do some quick research and explain it to the class. We could then move on and forward in time, hopefully making a leap as if using a Tardis or a wormhole.
Well, things did not go quite as planned and we had to make a number of adjustments. That being said, those adjustments led to a variety of learning experiences for both my students and myself. To make a long story short, the project took quite a bit longer that projected. Some of the issues were out of our control, such as my classroom laptop not quite dying, but let’s say performing at a pace of a snail covered in molasses and pine tar, heading uphill, over sharp glass, on a cold winter’s day…dragging about 400 pounds of weight, and an open parachute into the wind. Yet this only affected the project at the end, when my students were about to present their work to their classmates.
The project research and and presentation build was done in the computer lab; my new class set of iPads have a glitch, if students log in to Edmodo using a Google account, they can never be truly signed out. This is a bit problematic since the iPads are shared across six classes.
Anyway, the project build took a bit longer than expected, though research was quick. Since this was the first project build in class I wanted to make sure students were comfortable with the process. Most groups used either Prezi or Google Slides as their presentation medium, a select few ventured out into podcasts, Google MyMaps, and other formats. Of the Prezi and Google Slide crew I managed to convince a few groups to turn their presentations into screencasts using Touchcast and the class Padcaster. This process worked well overall and the extra time used for this project can be made up during the next project.
Some of the learning process for myself caught me by surprise. Not normally known for my patience outside of the classroom, I believed that I have used technology long enough that I was beyond frustration when it glitched, broke, or bogged down in the classroom. Well…I was greatly mistaken. I have to give MAJOR PROPS, to one of my students whose presentation was delayed several times because of the computer problems. He took the situation in stride, did not become frustrated and presented like a pro. I on the other hand became rattled and not so calm with the device in question.
Looking back at the issue, I believe my frustration arose because the problems directly affected the students, and no I am not saying this to look good. If a glitch affects me in the classroom, I have many ways to adapt and overcome the issue. I have been in the classroom for many years, there are many tricks up my sleeve to work around problems. This problem hit the students directly, they could not complete their presentations, thus lose out on a big chunk of their grade. I still do not know if it was stubbornness, myopia, or my minor OCD issues that prevented me from just trading rooms with a colleague to have the students present while the computer was down. For whatever the reason, I turned down a couple of offers and took a delay of a couple of days with presentations, students used the time to review vocabulary, review their presentations, and other such coursework.
Overall, I was pleased with the students’ projects and their effort in creating them. I am also very pleased with out technology department, they helped fix the computer issue and kept at it when the problem persisted for some unknown reason. The major issue I had with the project, outside of the time issue I discussed earlier is the large group of projects that were similar in format. I can change that rather easily moving forward, as the classroom teacher I have full control over that segment and it is an easy fix. i will discuss that shortly.
Moving forward there are some changes I will implement. For one, the time frame of the project and amount of class time will be scaled back. Since students have worked through the process with “training wheels” we can take them off and speed up the process. Also more work can be done on their own next time. In conjunction with those changes. My classroom door is always open for students who need help or a place to work, so scaling back class time can be made up before or after school and during study halls.
To address the homogeneity of the projects, here are several adaptations I have planned. I will institute a “Project Passport” where students cannot complete the same style of project until after they have completed a number of other project styles. This will expand their repertoire of knowledge, keep the class interesting, and continue to challenge all of us to expand our horizons. A limit on the number of similar styles of projects will be put in place, in a first come first served basis. This along with the passports will force the students to expand their horizons when it comes to projects.
The largest influence to the project homogeneity issue will come from my own personal changes. I need to expand how I present information to the classes, by adding to my own skill set, I can introduce and model the various projects to my classes. The additional styles should alleviate some fears on their part of the unknown and may even intrigue or pique their interest outright to expand horizons.
I plan to continue to update this blog and my other blog throughout the year, please check back to see how my efforts are progressing.
You can find the student projects posted on the class wiki by clicking here.