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Middle School Projects January 5, 2011

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.

The race to the first quarter finishing line was a bit harrowing. Several student teams waited until the very last minute to create their voicethreads. This limited the time the students had to view each others’ work and provide systematic feedback. Despite the pressure at the last minute there was some really nice work. It was very clear what we had to do to make the next project more successful.

Our new project is called “Power and Protest in America.” Students viewed the film Viva La Causa: The Story of César Chávez and a Great Moment for Social Justice (distributed by Teaching Tolerance Magazine), taking notes using a structured form about basic elements of that protest movement (e.g. goals, leadership, allies, actions, and outcomes). A period was devoted to a discussion of the film with the students referring to their notes. The students were then provided a listing of protest movements in U.S. history and were asked to select their top three choices. They were also able to suggest their own protest movements to study. The students are researching their topics; using research wikis to save images, information findings, citations, and voicethread scripts; creating PowerPoints; and importing their presentation slides into Voicethread and adding audio commentary to the slides. All information regarding this project as well as a listing of the protest movements the students chose to study can be accessed here.

In this project the two classes of students working on this progress four days a week are again sharing their information with the class working in the library or computer lab twice per week. That class with less instruction time will create glogs using GlogsterEdu.com. This quarter’s middle school art students are again seeking inspiration for artwork and then sharing that artwork with the researchers who will incorporate and analyze that artwork in their wikis and voicethreads (and maybe in the glogs, too). One of the “ten elements” of this project requires the students to compare and contrast their own protest movement with another movement, identifying at least one similarity and one difference. This adds an additional layer of information sharing by the students.

Here are a few things we did to improve on lessons learned in quarter 1:

1. We sent home all information about the project (including a link to the project page) to parents at the very outset of the project. We required the students to return a signed form from their parents indicating that they received the information about the project. We included the prompt return of this signed form to the assessment rubric. Last quarter we sent home this information along with the mid-quarter progress report. This time the parents will receive this information twice – once at the beginning and once at the midpoint with a progress report. The requirement to return both signed forms from parents amounts to 8% of the grade on the assessment rubric!

2. In the first quarter the computer teacher and I saw each of the two class sections twice per week, sometimes less as a result of holidays and other irregularities in the school schedule. This time we are each seeing only one of the sections four days per week. It is much easier for us to take full ownership of guiding eight student groups. Last quarter a few groups who the computer teacher and I thought were on the ball slipped through the cracks.

3. We created a more detailed timeline with more concrete deadlines.

4. We provided more structure to the final products. This time we decided to establish “ten elements” as required content. This content must be represented in the research wikis and in the final products (voicethreads). Most of these ten elements were part of the structured form the students used to take notes about the film Viva la causa, so they already had practice with these concepts before they began researching their own protest movements.

5. We moved the final deadline up to two weeks before the official end of the quarter. This way we hope to have some wiggle room at the end of the quarter and perhaps more time for students to view each others’ work online and provide feedback. Also, we won’t be competing for the students’ attention with the project deadlines and exams for other classes.

We are already heading into the home stretch of the second quarter. It might be another nail biter. Although we scheduled the project be finished in plenty of time, the heavy testing schedule in January is definitely going to reduce our class time, as both the computer lab and the library computers will be dedicated to testing for quite a number of days. I am really hoping that the students see these projects through to the end and produce the best work yet.



1. Lisa Perez - January 6, 2011

Fran: I am totally impressed with your work with your students. You really have captured the vision of a librarian working at top levels. I EXPECT that you will be submitting a proposal to present it at ISLMA, etc. I’ll look forward to watching the project progress!

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