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If America Were a Village… September 21, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
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The current 7th/8th grade project is coming along.

We have five classes of 7th and 8th graders combined. Two of them attend library class twice, computer class twice, and gym once per week. One class attends art class four days and gym once per week. One class attends music class four days and gym once per week. And the fifth class attends ALL five specials (library, computer, art, music, and gym) once per week. That last group has become known as the “on demand” class.

The two classes who attend library twice and computer twice (let’s call them the “library/computer classes”) have begun the project. They listened to the book while taking notes, selected topics in their small groups (8 in each class/16 in total), and have begun to draft key questions to be researched.

While planning this unit with my colleagues and mapping it out on the calendar it became clear that the goal for these two classes to create both voicethreads and glogs was unrealistic. So now the library/computer groups will research the topics using wikispaces and create voicethreads of their findings, and the “on demand” class will work in pairs to make glogs. The “on demand” group will borrow the research from the library/computer groups that has been “pushed down” to them via the student research wikis. They will add their own research as well as their own opinions to their glogs.

The art class will explore information about the 16 research topics via the wikis of the library/computer classes. They will then create artworks inspired by this research (in various formats, including “shadow boxes”) and then provide digital images of their artwork to the other classes for use in the voicethreads of the library/computer classes and the glogs of the “on demand” class.

The music teacher may also get into the game. The music glass is composing original music. If it works out that the music class also takes inspiration from this project’s student wikis, mp3 recordings of their original music compositions (with instrumental and/or voice) can be utilized in the glogs created by the “on demand” class.

The most exciting feature of this project is that the students will collaborate and contribute to each others’ success and learning using technology tools. This will occur despite a very tight schedule that places all students in their “specials” classes at the same time every day. All classes will be focused on the same range of topics related to various aspects of American life. The topics researched will certainly generate discovery and discussion of social justice issues, thereby supporting a vital element of our school’s mission. The final products will integrate skills in research, reading, writing, design, art, and music.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Back to School! September 14, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
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Well I made it through the Project Technology Elite program! I gave my final presentation to the class in June. Five of us newly minted “alumni” presented at the recent Chicago Public Schools Department of Library conference on September 3. We gave two presentations. Both were well attended. Our colleagues had lots of good questions. I will be cobbling something to present at the upcoming annual conference of the Illinois School Library Media Association in late October. I have also been invited to present the use of educational technology tools in research to a class of school library students at National Louis University in early November. For both of those presentations I expect to have new student work to show.

Today I began to co-plan a new unit for 7th and 8th graders with the new computer teacher at my school. We are crafting a research project in which the kids will analyze different aspects of American life drawn from the title, If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States by David J. Smith. The students are attending library class two days a week and computer class two days a week (for a total of four 40 minute periods). They will work on this project in both settings for the first quarter. This project will integrate several technology tools.

Here is what we have so far…

I will read the students the book, asking them to note in writing which statistical realities they find interesting and worth exploring further. I already have identified many facts in the book that represent good jumping off points for further research. As a class we will create a list of possible topics. I will provide each student grouping (groups of 3) to select their top three choices of research topics and then assign them accordingly. At that point the students (with teacher guidance) will identify key questions to be researched.

The student groups will utilize wikspaces.com to organize the research project. They will create five pages and populate them with the five following items: 1. links to relevant information; 2. relevant images; 3. bibliography citations from any and all sources of information, photos, etc.; 4. key questions and information which addresses them. Links to their wikispaces sites will be posted on a page of the school library website (along with all documents related to this assignment such as the instructions, the rubrics, recommended resources, etc.). The information that they compile on their wikispaces site will be used for their final products.

Students will utilize PowerPoint to create slides to be utilized in slideshows on Voicethread.com (in which they combine their PowerPoint slides with minimal text, other images, and recordings of their voices sharing information). Among the requirements of their Voicethread will be the inclusion of a graphic depiction of data (e.g. bar graph, pie chart, etc.) that they fully describe and analyze. They will be generating the graphs using EXCEL (click here for a lesson on using EXCEL to generate charts) or Create A Graph. The Voicethread products will be one of two main information products.

The second product will be something like a webquest. Utilizing the same research about the same topic, the students will state a position about their topic and then find links to online items that support their position. They will combine those links with images and brief audio clips of their own voices to create online interactive digital posters (glogs) using Glogster.com.

Once the students have their information products a few class periods will be provided for the students to view and listen to each others’ information products using headphones. They will be provided a standard format for providing feedback (perhaps a simple form that can be copied and pasted into an e-mail). This feedback will be sent by e-mail using First Class (the communication/collaboration tool provided by Chicago Public Schools) to the students who created the work and to the teachers. After students have viewed and listened to all the Voicethread and Glogster and provided feedback to each other they will be able to vote for the top three or four projects (from both classes engaged in this project) to include in a presentation to entire middle school in the auditorium.

Another layer to this project yet to be fully explored is integration with the art program, which this quarter has a single class of 7th/8th graders. I am going to propose that my students “push down” information about their topics (using their wikispaces sites and e-mail) to the art students to inspire artwork in a variety of forms. If this works out, photos of the student artwork can be integrated into the library/computer class students’ projects (i.e. wikispaces, voicethreads, and glogs).

I will blog more about this as it unfolds.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.