Monday, August 16, 2010

Crazy Collaboration Idea

I've got an idea.

I think it's a pretty good one, but I need your help.

I need help from a lot of people. Especially students and like minded teachers. Even if you don't teach the same courses as I do you can give your input.

So here goes...

I want to get students and teachers together in the same room (mine) to have them help me plan the direction of my media arts program for the upcoming year. All of the CTS (career and technology studies) modules (opens PDF) are changing this fall in Alberta. This is an exciting time for me but also a scary time.

Traditionally teachers (including myself) try their best to offer the modules that best fit their expertise, comfort level, as well as available resources and technology. I'm very fortunate to have a great lab and access to 12 video cameras for this fall. Until now I've always seen these modules as start-stop, individual entities that don't have a lot of commonality other than a natural progression from level 1 modules to level 2 and level 3 (eg. Video production 1, 2 and 3).

I've been musing about changing how I assess students to a system where students must communicate their competency and mastery of skills described in the outcomes found in the modules. The problem with this is that there are so many overlapping skills between the modules that I would need to create a course where skills demonstrated in a project we are working on may come from several different modules.

So this is what I'm thinking about for my approach to my class this fall. This is the part where I need your help to jump in and give me advice. This is where I should be talking to great elementary teachers. They do this all the time:

1. I want to create projects that students are genuinely interested in and are excited to come to class to participate in each day.

2. I want projects that incorporate outcomes from as many as 5 CTS modules in each one.

3. I want learning that is way more hands on for my students. Tactile, get dirty and make mistakes kind of learning.

4. I want students to understand the outcomes and be able to show their learning through discussions with their peers and others, through blogging and sharing of projects online to develop a web presence, and not through any sort of traditional testing.

5. I want students to tell me how they think they should be evaluated/assessed in the course. They need the freedom to design projects that will best showcase their skills and learning.

That's not too much to ask is it?

My plan to move towards this is currently in the works. My first step is to start a dialogue (buzzword alert) with the students. I've created an event called "My MultiMedia- a Student's Voice on a Facebook page. I've contacted a core groups of 4 students who really enjoyed MM to spread the word about what we're going to do next Monday. I encouraged them to post the link to the event on their walls and text their friends who want a say. Here's how I described the day:

Always wanted to tell Mr. Nichol what kinds of things he should be doing in his Multimedia Class? Come prepared to share ideas, look at the outcomes of the program and think creatively about what media arts looks like at Cold Lake High School.

With all the CTS outcomes changing for multimedia this fall what better time to take a fresh perspective- yours!

How often do you REALLY get a say in how a class in High School runs? This is your chance!

In addition to this I promised really good snacks and a pizza lunch. Gotta feed them!

Where do we go from here? In preparation for the day I am meeting with a couple of the students to talk about what they think about how the day should run. I don't want to have them participate in 'teacher tactics' for group discussions that we often use in class if they don't think it's going to work. I want them to set the agenda with me to have ownership of the process.

What will the day look like? I don't know right now. I'm half expecting the day to crash and burn. This would be fine with me. The learning from that could be just as valuable. I'm tempted to leave the agenda open and start simply with a few key phrases:

"Describe your experiences as a student in multimedia class"

"What sucked about multimedia and what things were good?"

"Where do you think the class should/could go?"

"Now how do we get there?"

Comments and assistance in this process are greatly appreciated.


  1. Is there a way to run the Monday session a bit like edubloggercon? Poster paper around the room with your questions from above. Have students circulate and comment on each question. OR Better yet. A GoogeDoc with these questions in it. Students sit at computers and answer questions in GoogleDoc. This will provide a record of student ideas. We then project the GoogleDoc on wall and begin looking at all of the online feedback and discuss as a group.

    I volunteer to be the secretary. I will have my laptop with me and help to document as much as I can.

    I am really excited about this. Getting me thinking about my own classes and how I can up end the Apple Cart!!!

  2. This sounds fabulous - I'm not familiar with the Alberta modules, but would like to see them. Each year my media production students and I revisit what we want to learn informally, but I like the idea of a student created and structured group and focus.
    I think your questions are a great start and look forward to following your progress.
    Good Luck!

  3. I am so excited that you are doing this! I think you have great starting questions and you know that at some point they'll lead to an examination of the outcomes. I sooo wish I could be there! I'll be co-presenting with 4 other people that day so I'll have time to be on-line often throughout the day. If you have any questions/comments/progress you want to share please do- I want to stay in the loop!