Monday, September 15, 2014

PBL and Google 20% Time........In My Classroom

Better late than never!       This blog post was actually first drafted back in June...........

I know in my last post I promised to talk about Padlet.    However, my son ended up getting sick the week my students worked on it, so I can't directly comment much on how the students found it to use, so that post will have to wait until next school year..........

So, in my final blog post reflecting on technology in my classroom from this past year I thought I would share my observations on using Google's 20% in my classroom.........

The concept of 20% time comes from Google allowing their employees to spend one day of each work week developing a project that they feel has merit for the company.    From this investment came Gmail and Google Maps.

At the beginning of the school year, my PLC decided to give the concept of 20% time a shot.     For the most part we just "jumped in "......taking a risk......something that is encouraged by our administration.

When the final products were submitted at the end of the first semester, I think it was safe to say that both the students and the teachers were underwhelmed.

Believing in the concept, but wanting to see higher quality finished products, I sat down and reflected on what needed to be done to "fix" our project.

I felt that the following errors were made:
  1. To much time was given to the students.
  2. Too few check points were required throughout the semester
  3. There was not enough framework provided in order to ensure student success

I decided to try to design a project that addressed all of these perceived shortcomings that at the same time combined many of the skills that we had been working on throughout the course of the year.

I started by deciding that all students will create a webpage using Google Sites.    To try and create additional "buy in" I created a scenario to guide the project, which can be found HERE.

Throughout the course of the year, we had spent a lot of time focusing on skills.    The skills ranged from writing (thesis statements and argument development) to 21st Century Technology Skills (Padlet, Dipity, Thinglink, YouTube Editor, etc) to developing the skills of a historian (making inferences, point of view).    

I was hoping that I could create a project that encompassed all of these skills.  To achieve this, I created a list of requirements.   Among the requirements were.......

  1. Students had to choose a historical question to study.   (I had final approval for the question)
  2. Students had to write a thesis statement to answer their question per class requirements.
  3. Students would create a webpage using Google Sites that they could design as they saw fit as long as it contained all of the requirements of the project.
  4. To show their understanding of point-of-view, students had to present at least two different interpretations of their topic.
  5. To show the skill of inferencing, each website had to contain at least five links to resources that related to their topic that they felt someone who enjoyed their website may want to visit.
  6. To show their mastery of 21st Century Skills, they had to seamlessly embed four forms of digital media into their site.   One of these forms of media had to be something that they found on their own.
  7. Finally, they had to present their website to me in a ten minute role play situation based on the scenario that was provided to them.
Earlier today I watched the last of the ninety presentations.......HURRAY!   I did three before and after school each day since the middle of May.........

While not all students created masterpieces, the results were profoundly better than first semester!   The best of the students can be seen in these sample pages........

While the quality of the work was much better, there still are some things I would like to improve on for next year........

Among my goals for the summer/next school year will be to.......

     1.  Remember that as I am teaching the SKILLS that are embedded into each unit, I need to more 
     explicitly state the skill I am teaching.  Then, when the students are asked to perform the skills on 
     their project later in the year they more clearly will know what I am referring to.

     2.  How can I keep the entire class on PACE throughout the semester, so pieces of the project 
     aren't forgotten, dismissed or ignored because they run out of time at the end of the semester?  

     3.  How can I build in multiple ONE-ON-ONE meeting times with students throughout the 
     semester so I can give them quality feedback on their keep their work to ensure they remain 
     focused on their question and thesis?

     4.  How can I improve teaching the skill of ANALYSIS?

     5.  How do I teach SEAMLESS integration of technology?
All are tough questions........

Fortunately I have a couple of months in order to try and solve them!

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