Last week we explored the benefits of giving students the opportunity to choose which technology to use to demonstrate their knowledge.
In our Choice 2.0 example, students choose which technology to use to research a topic and give a presentation for a specific purpose. Compare this with the traditional Choice 1.0 technology integration lesson where students usually researched a topic, created a PowerPoint (for example), and submitted the presentation to the teacher.
Choice 2.0 Example
The health of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem is deteriorating.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation wants to start an advertising campaign for middle school students to learn about conservation. As future citizens, it’s important that you and your friends understand the various conservation issues that affect the health of the Chesapeake Bay.
1) Research a topic on conservation.
2) Use Microsoft Office to create an advertisement or commercial for middle school students encouraging them to become involved with the conservation effort.
3) Panel Presentation: You will present your advertisement or commercial to a panel of experts and explain how your project helps middle schoolers learn about conservation. Your colleagues will be in the audience.
In Choice 2.0, students have purpose, a real world problem, and a real audience. Their choice of technology will depend on their preferences and strengths. Students will use a variety of higher level thinking skills to create their final product.
Facilitating this more open ended type of activity can be challenging since students will be working at a more independent level. Inevitably, students will be moving at different paces. Students will be using a variety of technology programs at the same time.
In order to minimize difficulties with research, the teacher should provide adequate structure and guidance with these types of open-ended, long term projects.
Providing Structure: The Choice 2.0 Project Checklist
These simple questions will help you plan an activity appropriate for the strengths and needs of your class. The target age for this checklist is middle school, but this can be easily modified for your grade level.
1) How do you keep your students on track throughout the project?
For example, will you include a calendar or timeline of due dates? This helps students build independence in their own planning and helps parents understand your expectations.
2) How will you guide student research?
Where will the students do their research? Left on their own, many students will use Google or Wikipedia and use the first article they see. Will you include books? (Or, is that too 20th Century for you?) Are you going to recommend some teacher approved or recommended websites? Or, do you require students to use a minimum number of websites or books to verify the information? These are things to think about.
3) Where will the students record their research so you can monitor their progress?
Will you trust your students to take notes on their own paper? Will some remember to bring paper to class? Will they type their notes electronically on a Word document? Will they remember to save their work if they take notes electronically?
Many teachers provide a graphic organizer, chart, or specified format to help the students organize their notes.
You know the needs of your students. Sometimes, taking and keeping notes from research is a challenge!
4) How will students cite their work?
Students hate citations. Actually, so do most adults. But, it has to be done. Here’s a helpful online citation tool.
5) How are you supporting your diverse learners?
Will all students have the same amount of work and resources? Or, will you provide additional resources on a simplified reading level or reduce the number or project components? Will you “suggest” certain topics for certain students that may have difficulty with more abstract concepts?
6) Do you have a checklist? Or, will you have checkpoints throughout the project where you require each student to conference with you so you can review their work and progress?
Checkpoints break larger projects into smaller tasks. This prevents the “teacher surprise” if some students are falling behind, having difficulty, or have nothing to show after spending a whole period in front of the computer.
Checklists build independence. Some students can organize independently. Others need some help and a few might need a lot of help. All could benefit from some kind of structure that you model through the supports you provide.
7) Will you provide a folder or packet? Where will students keep everything?
Many teachers provide their student with a project packet that has all the calendars, graphic organizers, checklists, etc.
Having the packet as a guide allows the fast learners to progress at their own pace independently, allowing the teacher to facilitate and directly help other students.
The packet also facilitates work at home since parents understand the format and expectations.
A packet with their research notes and drafts is concrete evidence of their progress.
8) Technology Approval: Will the students research and build their presentation at the same time? Or, will you require that you approve their research before allowing them to build their presentation or product?
At the middle school level with a diverse socio-cultural group of students, we’ve found it helpful to make sure that students do all their research (Internet and library) before allowing them to use technology to create their product.
Requiring checkpoints maximizes time to make sure content is covered and basic expectations are met. Although many students may be able to research and create their product at the same time, some students may have difficulty organizing all steps necessary to complete a large project and become distracted by unstructured time on the computer. Breaking a larger project into manageable components with opportunities for feedback and requiring completion of tasks at each stage ensures that all students will be successful.
With all of the research complete, the teacher can feel confident that content was covered regardless of the technology used. After all, most content teachers have to balance keeping up with the curriculum pacing guide with allowing time for larger projects. An organized approach to research helps ensure that content objectives were covered.
This is important, since next time we talk about incorporating more flexibility and opportunity in allowing students to exercise Choice 2.0 with their chosen technology.
Next Time: Choice 2.0: Risk as Opportunities to Learn
Special thanks to Ms. Goble, 7th grade English teacher, for our continuing work with Choice 2.0 projects with students.
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