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BTW was created by Patrick & Julie Johnson, two Canadian educators with an interest in eduction & technology. This site showcases our interactive IBOOKS for students, but we also explore educational issues in our INQUIRY segments and share lessons/teaching ideas in our TEACHING TOOLS sections. Use the Labels section in the sidebar to navigate by topic or simply browse.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Follow up to INQUIRY: Digital Collaboration Using Maker Cycles in the Classroom

In the previous post, I put forth an idea that (I hope) will help me answer the question of how to promote more creativity in the classroom. (Please review that post for background on the project).

I wanted to take a moment here to update everyone on the progress of that project proposal.

Here is a general outline of the project plan as it currently stands.

1. Teacher Digital Collaboration

In my proposal, I asked for (hoped for) teacher collaborators who would join me in the project.

I have had the great fortune to meet @TaniaBumstead, @MrsSmithLA, @mkurashige, @grammasheri, @MWeller77, and @eatcherveggies!

Using the parlance of this project plan, this is my teaching learning hub!

We have been collaborating digitally via google docs, Twitter DM, and (sometimes) Skype and Voxer through out the summer. It started with a few of us, and then a few more joined in...

That it itself is VERY COOL. Every now and then, I take a moment to stop and appreciate the fact that:

Teachers from Hawaii, Washington State, California, Washington DC, Albert and Ontario (x2) are collaborating digitally on a year long maker cycle project!

We took the main premise, developed a time line (one project per month starting in October and ending in May), decided upon maker cycle topics (more on that below), and determined the student's process for the 'learning hubs' (more on that also below). We are also working on a list of 'tried and tested' digital tools for classes to use.

2. Maker Cycle Details

Between the teachers involved, we have different school year start and end dates, different curriculum objectives, and different amounts of time that can be committed to the project. (We also have different time zones to contend with! More on that later!) (And @MWeller77 is a high-school teacher. All other classes are in the Gr. 6-8 range).

That means that the plan we have devised needs to have a certain degree of flexibility and adaptability.

We've settled on a maker project per month, hoping that will give us enough time for the production process, plus the 'commentary' process that comes afterwards between students in the learning hubs. (Of course, we can tweak this as we go along, if needed.)

Some teachers are going to participate for every cycle, others are going to participate in those cycles that fit best with their time lines. (They will either create cycles ahead of time and be 'experts in the field', providing sample works for others to view and/or they will piggy back on certain cycles, joining their learning hubs at those times).

As to maker cycle topics, we chose ones that could be interpreted through various curriculum, such as science, social studies, writing/media.

Here is our current topic list:

  1. A Personal Introduction (Due Oct 1)
  2. A Travel Piece (Due Nov 2)
  3. Lyrics/Poetry (Due Dec 3)
  4. Social Justice Issues (historical or present day) (Feb 1)
  5. An Environmental Issue (March 1)
  6. Completely Open! Do Anything! or Do Anything with This 1 Tech Tool! (April 1)
  7. Reflection on the Maker Cycle Year (May 1)

We thought this list gave us a nice range of adaptable themes that promote creative applications.

3. Digital Learning Hub Details
Learning hubs are created between students in each class. So Student A in my class will be paired with Student B in @TaniaBumstead's class and so on. Their learning hub will be made up of students from different parts of Canada and the US.

Students will create a tech-based make for each cycle (we are calling them 'clmakes', the cl standing for connected learning, as in #clmooc, which, if you read the previous post, was a source of inspiration for this project).

In other words, they will use a digital tool to interpret the theme of the cycle. We have a list of tech tools to choose from, but there is a lot of choice, creatively speaking, as to how they might want to approach the maker cycle topic of the month.

They will then post their clmake on a blog of some sort--one that allows to either link or embed the digital work and also allows for commenting. This site which in turn will create a digital portfolio for students over time.

Once their clmakes are posted, the students in the learning hub will have the chance to view each others clmakes and comment on them.

We decided to structure the commenting process, because we feel that students require a model for this, that they haven't had a lot of practice giving feedback. So we are going with TG: Tell something you liked, give a suggestion.

With 7 teachers, and thus, potentially, 7 students in a hub (a student, or possibly a pair of students, from each class will form a digital learning hub), we don't want to overwhelm them with commenting requirements.  So it seems best to keep the commenting process straight forward and simple.

But we do want them to feel a kinship in being part of a group, and that they have an accountability toward being a responsive audience to that group. We also want them to feel a sense of ownership over the work they produce: they are, after all, showing it to a peer group for their consideration!

We will also be using this as an opportunity to teach/model digital citizenship.

4. Still in the Works...

We are currently working on our own inquiry method: how we will track or observe the effects of this project on our teaching, and on our students. These are some of the questions we hope this project will help us answer:

Can maker projects align to curriculum goals?
Can maker projects be assessed?
Does having a digital audience of specific peers improve student engagement?
Does having a digital audience of specific peers encourage students to apply their skills more effectively than when just creating work for their teacher?
How do I create authentic learning spaces of making and reflecting that empower self-directed learning?

We are also working on how we might launch the project. Because of time zones, and scheduling differences, we can't all be in the same place at the same time for a group google hangout or Skype between all our classes. We are currently working on a plan that would allow for a bit of digital collaboration between students in a learning hub as means of getting to know one another a little better before becoming an audience for each other's work.

So this project is still a bit of a work in progress, and of course may adapt further as we get closer to launch or as the year goes by.

But certainly I will be blogging and tweeting about it as we go (as will other teacher participants) and it has the potential for some really, really interesting results!

So stayed tuned!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for organizing this! I'm pretty sure that I will be able to participate in cycles 4, 5, and 7, and possibly in 6. I'm thinking that my kids will do these ahead of the other classes and then be available as mentors for the middle school students.

    I'm getting out of town next week for a mini-vacation but I'll definitely be in touch as the school year starts (for me that's on Aug 24). :-)