Monday, June 18, 2007

Great Tours

You might find it interesting to know that I teach a senior level astronomy class. You might also find it interesting to know that the students and I had a conversation that involved the idea of the students being producers of information and not just consumers. We talked for awhile about what this would look like in a high school class. The students decided that they wanted to create different types of documents through out the school year where they could show that they learned and understood some of the material that was presented.

As we looked at the different ways that astronomy impacts our lives, the students tried many different approaches to show their knowledge.

  • They produced a wiki where they showed how the material in the history of astronomy currently influences the world around them.
  • They produced advertisements attempting to sell a telescope of their choice.
  • They measured the size of galaxies and attempted to classify them (on the computers).
  • They produced a timeline of space exploration.
  • They produced PowerPoints or PhotoStories on the life cycles of stars like our Sun.

All of these items were good.

  • They looked at the Solar Cycle and tried to find a pattern in the sunspots.
  • They plotted stars (closest and brightest) on an H-R diagram and tried to find patterns.
  • They looked up definitions of terms that I thought were helpful.
  • They worked in groups a lot.

Most of which needs more work to be a better fit in the class.

The students, and I, are most pleased with the final projects from both semesters. In the spring, the students took a topic of choice (from a list of course, I was not willing to give up all control) and produced a creative item to teach their classmates about the item. I received children's books about the Apollo program, CD's of music for Challenger and Columbia, video about black holes, and trading cards (for the Gemini missions, Space Shuttle, Apollo, space stations, different astronauts and other topics).

The fall semester, now that was impressive. The students created virtual tours of the Solar System. The only requirements were:

  1. The project had to be longer than three minutes.
  2. There needed to be research turned in with project.
  3. A reason for a source needed to be included with the works cited.
  4. All eight planets (Pluto not included) needed to be in the presentation somewhere.
  5. The Asteroid Belt did not have to be included.
  6. The students needed to spend time on the details of one planet of their choice.

As you might expect, there were some really good projects turned in (and some that left a little to be desired). The students used music to add to their projects and they even used their own voices. There were some projects that used video while most did not. There were some errors in the facts (I guess that we need to work on that). There are some items that I will need to go over with the group next time but I was impressed with the results that the students produced.

Take a look at a couple of the Solar System Tours. One with music and one without.

ErikJKyleL (6.75 MB)

RobertRSpenserH (5.29 MB)

Next semester, I am thinking about something using claymation. If there is anyone who has experience using this in a Windows environment please let me know about the software.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What Does Literature Say About Human Beings?

All of second semester, my ninth grade honors students explored the BIG question, "What does literature say about human beings?" They were asked to work together in groups of their own choosing (3-4 participants) and put together a multimedia presentation of their answer to this question. Presented during their final exam time, this was their final assessment in this class. As well as answering this question, the assignment had additional requirements in that the groups needed to determine if they agreed or disagreed with what literature said, and then use modern examples to prove/disprove their answer. The final product was to be creative, captivating, as well as thorough. (In case you don't realize the beauty of this kind of project, the question they would normally have received during the final exam was now at the beginning of the semester. This way, we were able to refer back to the question as well as use it as a focus with all texts we studied. Furthermore, they connected this question to their other classes, their lives, and the world around them- you gotta love it!)

In order to begin completing this project, I outlined the units we would be studying this semester: a social issue independent reading novel, poetry, 1984, and Farewell to Manzanar. After each unit was completed, the groups were able to have time to work collaboratively, figuring out how they wanted to answer the question and in what format they wanted to present their findings. Also, the groups worked with me to determine a rubric for the assignment as well as determining into what grading category the assignment should fall. This project was student-based where they determined the answer as well as how it should be assessed.

After watching the tremendous hours and valuable collaborative discussions many groups put into this project, I would most certainly assign the challenge to my classes in the future. I was impressed by how each groups' presentations were so varied as well as the methodology behind presenting their findings. Groups used PowerPoint, PhotoStory, and MovieMaker. Some groups chose to look at the semester under one large topic (i.e. humans are hurtful to one another) while other groups broke it down to each text specifically (i.e. social issue books say humans are vengeful, Farewell to Manzanar says human can survive, etc...). I even had one group who choose to cover the material from their entire freshman year. Impressive!

Also, to me, this project is exactly what is required of them in the "real world." They were asked to synthesize information, work in a collaborative group, blend each participants' differing ideas, be creative, be original, and learn something.

I hope you take the time to watch what they have created and offer some constructive criticism. If you only have time to pick one I would pick "Experiences" (wonderful blend of music and visuals to enhance their presentation- plus it made me cry). I do think they are all worth watching!

Emotions:Man's Greatest Failure



Man Strives for Superiority

People Looking For More

Oppressive and Selfish


Don't Think Before You Act

Me, Me, Me

US History Student Samples

So I finally have some student samples to share.

First, we attempted a group project that intended to see the creation of documentaries regarding the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the Civil Rights Movement. While some groups did produce strong documentaries utilizing some great interviews, the projects probably did more to teach us about the many potential problems with compatibility - technological and personal!

More successful and educational were the individual projects. Many stuck out to me as being entertaining and informative. One used claymation to explain the history of dance in America. Others dealt with topics ranging from genocide to fashion and fads.

I have chosen two to share. The first is a more traditional movie that I felt was well done addressing the issue of espionage: Cold War Espionage

The second is a power point that, to me, takes power points into the next generation. This student created a constructivist presentation that allows the user to determine their path. This project looks at military technolgy : US Military Technology