During this past year I have been participating in the COETAIL program offered through YIS. The program has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me and has given me hundreds of ideas that I want to use in my classroom. One of the most consistent themes to pop up during the course is the idea of global collaboration (people working together to complete a common task). The idea is intriguing to me and is one I plan on using next year. To ensure that I do I decided to use the course 4 project to come up with a unit planner for a unit that I’ll be teaching next year.
I love having my students conduct experiments. No matter what grade I am in I usually find a way to integrate a science fair type project. Not only do they love this type of project but it also provides them with the opportunity to learn from each other as I make sure that they are given time to present their work to their classmates and others within the school. However, I have been wondering if there is a way that I could expand upon this idea so that other students from beyond the school can work and learn together?
I also love having my students conduct research. However, I find that many of the sites that my students go to require them to read or watch something (Wikipedia and YouTube for example). There is no interaction involved. If my students are anything like me, they need to be doing something with information in order to remember it. Isn’t there a place way students can interact with the information that they are learning in online spaces?
After pondering the two questions above I believe the answer lies in creating a wiki (using a variety of other embedded tools) and a blog. Using these two tools will allow my students and a partner class to create and share their learning with each other and the wider world. For the purposes of this course project I decided to use science unit that I will be teaching next year as an example.
In order to ensure that this idea goes off without a hitch I need to find a class around the same age as my students who will be going working on a similar topic at the same time. I will also make sure to consult Kim Cofino’s guide to global collaboration. Below is a rough time frame of the unit and how I see it unfolding:
- Skype meet-up to introduce the classes. Initially this can be done as a class meeting. Afterwards it can be done in smaller groups to allow students the chance to get to know each other better.
- Introduce wiki, blog and other tools that will be used during this time. This can be modified depending on student prior knowledge. If this unit is done later in the year, it would be wise to allow the students a choice in the tools that they use. If the tools are new to the students time should be set aside in order learn how to use them.
- Introduce the unit via some provocations and seeking out prior knowledge. These can either be done traditionally or using technology. It might be nice if the teachers could film some provocations videos to share with both classes. This would allow the classes to get to know the other teacher.
- Have students post student questions onto Wall Wisher (this should be updated regularly)
- Students should blog about their thoughts and reactions to what has been going on (this should be ongoing throughout the unit).
- Teachers should select at least one student question each from Wonder Wall. Using this the teacher should create a science experiment that can be conducted by the whole class. As the experiment is conducted teachers should encourage students to think about the scientific process (take evidence using photos and videos). After the experiment teachers should model research with the students to find reasoning for the results of the experiment. Teachers should also explore how this force affects us. Students should share that they have learned with the other class using some of the tools that will be used for the summative assessment.
- Teachers should take the documentation gathered from the experiment above to create a sample project page for the summative assessment.
- After the example experiment teachers should select a few more student questions to conduct more experiments. These experiments should allow for more independence so that they can demonstrate the skills they learned from the whole class experiment. Upon completion of experiments students should share their experiences with the other class.
- Field trip to explore the real world implications of forces.
- Students are shown the example summative assessment page. Students should be provided an opportunity to question it and see everything in it.
- Students select a focus for their summative assessment task.
Throughout the unit students are expected to share their work and new knowledge with students in the other class. This sharing could be does not always have to be done through a blog or Skype. Teachers should allow time for students to come up with how they feel it is best to teach the other students what they have learned. For example, they may want to reproduce an experiment so that they can take pictures and create a VoiceThread (thus allowing students in the other class to comment and ask questions). Students may also choose to create a movie and personify the experiment. The video could easily be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo and embedded in the wiki (this still allows for comments and contributions from students in the other class).
When it comes time to work on their summative project, the students should already be comfortable sharing their learning with the other class. The rough idea is that students in each class select a question or idea to explore (related to forces) and conduct experiments and research to provide an answer. Ideally there should be a group in each class working on the same question (thus allowing for a sharing of ideas). As students work on their project they should document their work on the wiki to foster the sharing of suggestions and ideas between the groups. Students will also be expected to explore and comment on the work of other classes.
Eventually for the final project students will have created a wiki page that includes the following:
- Demonstration of collaboration between the classes.
- Demonstration of scientific process.
- Demonstration of research (citing sources of information).
- Demonstration of understanding of forces.
- Demonstration of the learner profile and transdiciplinary skills (if using this in an IB school).
- Use of a variety of tools.
I like the idea of this unit and the possibility of creating a class wiki that allows people to learn in a variety of different ways. I also like the opportunity that allows for differentiation. For example one group may feel comfortable making a video of their experiment, while another may feel comfortable taking photos. Both methods allow them to gather evidence and display it in a way that suits them. The project also has the opportunity to go involve not only global collaboration but the concepts of flipping a classroom. Finally, I love the idea of working together with another class to create something that can be used by others to help them learn.
While I like the idea of this unit, I realize that it is not perfect. One of my major concerns is fostering the collaboration between the classes. As this is a science-based example, I am concerned about how best to foster online collaboration. To me science experiments are tangible hands on experiences and I don’t know how that will translate in this project. Also while the aim of this project is to create an interactive learning space, the end product could easily turn into a read and watch product. Does anyone have any experience with global collaboration and a unit heavy on experiments? What about ensuring the creation of an interactive wiki?
Bill Nye the Science Guy- Quicksand found on YouTube, uploaded by Hungry Hom3r
(personal inspiration for this project idea)
Chef Calendar by beneneuman found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed
Day 123- Thinking Cat by Miss Tessmacher found on Flickr, Creative Commons Licensed