Thursday, December 10, 2009

Local Connections

Just wanted to share an exciting project that has basically fallen into my lap(top). Last year in conjunction with our local museum curator we discussed the possibility of getting a local community foundation grant from an oil company here in Cold Lake. Well, now we have been approved for all of the $5,000 requested!

Here's the big question: how can we create a meaningful and memorable learning experience for my grade 9 media arts students? That is, we'll be working to have students look beyond the physical walls of the museum and connect to our community.

First ideas look like this:

1. Create a connection between students and a part of the the exhibit that they would like to showcase.

2. Create a connection with local experts in the oil and gas field, the First Nations Communities and Air Force Community.

3. Have students create original content for their showcase in the form of a podcast, vodcast or other multimedia product.

4. Leave the museum better than we found it. Ideally we will be buying several iPod touches that will be available for patrons to sign out while at the museum to listen and watch our student showcases. The curator will be buying an iMac to load new content.

5. Create a sense of pride and accomplishment in our students who know that their work will be a permanent part of the museum.

Overall the project will take several months and will involve many classes. I've chosen to start with my grade 9 media arts class.

This is where all of you come into play. I need some help! Over the next 3 weeks (timeline is tight for the first round) we will be visiting the museum many times. Students will be using their laptops from our 1:1 project as a tool for gathering information. Video cameras, digital cameras and other technology will be flying around! (not literally)

Please keep in mind that help comes in many forms: A conversation with an expert dealing with assessment in education and a passion for history like my colleague Neil Stephenson. A quick tweet with an idea. An email outlining something similar you might have done. A link to another project that had success.

What do you think of the idea? What would be your approach to this project to ensure student accountability, engagement and success?


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Backchannel Baking

I've had a busy few weeks getting into the swing of things with school but yesterday's class showed how my students are really hitting their stride implementing technology as a tool in the classroom. I would like to place great emphasis on the word TOOL, instead of what often happens which is an add-on.

The recipe from the outside seems like it's destined to be a flop, but here's how I created this backchannel lesson. Take our first ingredient of grade 9 students and throw them into a large mixing bowl (also known as our performing arts theatre). This is no slouch of a theatre! With a Blu-Ray player and HD projector with AMAZING sound, movies in the theatre rock! Then mix gently and let students sit wherever they want (only in the first 2 rows).

Sprinkle in short lesson on backchannel, google jockeying and have a discussion about what the students think they should be mindful of when having an online conversation. This is one of Anne Davies' assessment for learning strategies. She writes, when a teacher "Involve[s] students in setting and using criteria," "they become more engaged in learning."

Don't forget a key ingredient: the rubric. Students need to mix the idea of interacting in a meaningful way in their brains and connect it to technology. For some this is a HUGE step, which is why we will be practicing it more and more in the coming weeks. We discussed the personal and social implications of contributing to backchannel online, and how we can make the experience positive and productive. Students did a self assessment of their experience and then blogged about the positives and negatives of their experience. Most thought it was productive, but a few found watching a movie and participating in the backchannel distracting.

This again confirmed for me that students are not the "digital natives" and tech multi-taskers that some people believe they are. Next time I use backchannel I will pause the movie frequently to allow more in depth discussions to occur with less distractions.

How might you use backchannel in your class?

Note: this lesson happened in early October and I'm just now getting around to publishing this post!