The 40 schools in the ABPC 21st Century Learning project produced more than 100 web-based projects and activities, small and large. Here’s a Digital Dozen representing some of their best work.
The award-winning ThinkQuest team from West Blocton Elementary in Bibb County, Alabama, show off their booth at the 2007 National Educational Computing Conference in Atlanta. (L-R, standing) technology teacher Annette Harris, Breanne and Sarah; (seated) Daniel and Jaylon.
CSI: Cahaba Student Investigators
Science and civics (Thinkquest website)
West Blocton Elementary School
The CSI team based at West Blocton Elementary has been called in to solve “The Case of the Mysterious Macros” at this prize-winning site created by six elementary students for the 2007 international ThinkQuest competition. At their “About This Website” page, the kids describe their work in detail (something we wish more student project sites would do!), including lessons learned. Here’s what they wrote about choosing a topic:
“We live near a refuge and the management staff needed someone to do a water quality study, so we decided to help out while making a website about what we learned! It was a little scary to commit to this project because we didn't know anything about our topic. We decided to jump right in and find out all that we could.”
The colorful site, which includes cartoon drawings of each team member, fully demonstrates the higher order learning that took place as the students researched water quality issues and aquatic ecosystems. You’ll see lots of photos, interesting sidebars, and impressive academic citations.
Four members of the CSI team are fourth graders at WBES. Another team member attends school on the Gulf Coast of Florida. And the sixth member is a third-grader who lives in Slovakia. How’s that for a classroom without walls?
Voices from the Schoolhouse
History and civics (wiki/multimedia project)
Ms. McGuyer – Hewitt Trussville Middle School
What was school like for students who graduated from high school more than 65 years ago? Students in Erin McGuyer’s technology classes at HTMS found out in a project-based learning activity that documented some of the education history of the Trussville community.
With the help of several small grants, students were able to build a mobile recording studio which they “took on the road” as they interviewed representative citizens across five or six generations and asked them to share their family and personal stories about school.
The project relies on a web-based wiki, “Voices from the Schoolhouse,” to serve as the central repository for the students’ work products, including still photos, movies, and podcasts of the student-led interviews. Although the wiki is still a work in progress (which is, after all, the idea behind wikis!), there’s already plenty to hear and see at the site, including selected pages from the very first HTHS Yearbook (circa 1940).
Web-based oral history projects like this have several good effects. They not only engage students through exciting technology tools and create public audiences for their work, they can deepen their thinking about history and have the potential to form a greater bond between today’s students and the kids of yesteryear.
Madness in the Method
Senior English (class blog)
Mrs. Caldwell – Mountain Brook High School
During the 2007 school year, senior English teacher Brandi Caldwell came up with quite a few innovative blogging ideas that extended the thinking and writing in her senior literature classes.
The first entry you see when you open the blog supplements a study of satire. Caldwell has posted three editorial cartoons and asked students to choose a cartoon and explain its satirical nature. Caldwell, who gives extra points to participating students, drew 11 comments for this activity. Several other entries extended student discussion of a book study -- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Here, Caldwell used a high-interest prompt (24 replies) to increase participation: “Choose a movie and explain why you think it exemplifies the themes in Frankenstein.”
Caldwell switched her blog services in mid-year. Be sure to follow the link in the right navigation bar to see her earlier class blog and more examples of how she extended student engagement beyond the class period each day.
Political Parties and Elections Projects 2007
AP and Advanced Government (wiki & Tapped In)
Mrs. Gaddy – Hillcrest High School
Each year, Scarlett Gaddy’s government classes devise and conduct election campaigns as part of their study of the American political system. “It has become a fixture for my classes and we have enjoyed conducting our elections for the past 17 years,” she says at this special wiki developed to support the project. “This is the first year we have conducted any portion of the elections online.”
Students developed their own political parties and used the project wiki to post their party platforms, which were required to address taxes, education, economy, foreign affairs, gun control, abortion, social security, Medicare, immigration, and the environment. They also chose or created campaign songs, PowerPoint presentations of their platforms, campaign commercials, and even “instant polls.” (See the OPP Party page for samples of each.)
While the wiki provided a “public face” for the project, Gaddy also made extensive use of private space at Tapped In, an NSF-funded virtual community platform available free to educators (tappedin.org). Gaddy says Tapped In offered a safe and secure space with discussion boards, file sharing and instant messaging that students were able to use for various campaign purposes.
Room 170 Online
11th Grade American History (blogs and wikis)
Miss Kincaid – Northridge High School
Elizabeth Kincaid weaves blogs and wikis into a purposeful tapestry for her American history students. The link above leads to her primary classroom blog, filled with intriguing graphics and primary source images from history. From there, students may be sent to a Google Document for their World War I assignment, or to Kincaid’s wiki, where they are asked to help develop an illustrated glossary of key terms and figures from historical eras. Or they make click on a Norman Rockwell magazine cover and find themselves in the EBSCO document database where they will read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Era story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair” from the actual pages of the May 1, 1920 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.
Each student in Kincaid’s 11th grade classes also has a blog (see left margin) where they post project and homework assignments. Kincaid’s blogs and wikis highlight some of the rich Classroom 2.0 possibilities for history teachers, given the vast amount of engaging primary resource materials now available on the Web.
CMS Professional Learning
Web 2.0 support for teachers (wiki)
Challenger Middle School
The homepage of this professional development wiki developed by the 21st Century teacher team at Challenger Middle is, well, plain. But looks are definitely deceiving.
The team, which included principal Edith Pickens, set out to create a set of resource materials that could support faculty colleagues as they explored ways to use Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms. Click under Professional Learning Topics to visit pages that explain podcasting, blogging, wikis, digital storytelling, Skype, webquests and other interesting tools and websites.
The informal but very useful mix of information (including video clips) on each topical page is aimed, in part, at enticing faculty to engage in more conversations about Classroom 2.0. The PD wiki also reinforced a faculty inservice presentation by the team members where teachers rotated through 20-minute introductory demonstrations of web-based teaching tools. Since wikis are designed for collaboration, teachers are encouraged to add to or improve the pages over time.
Safely Surfing Cyberspace
Internet safety activity (webquest-plus)
Wrights Mill Road Elementary School
“The Committee Against Kids Using Computers (CAKUC) has determined that the Internet is too dangerous for children,” begins the introduction to this webquest. “They want to outlaw the use of computers for all children under the age of 12. Can you believe it?!”
Third through fifth graders at Wrights Mill Road Elementary are then asked: “Can you show your teachers and parents that you know how to stay safe while using the Internet so the members of CAKUC won't ban computers? We need your help to complete the 1) Safely Surfing Cyberspace web quest, 2) get your Internet Driver's License and 3) design a multimedia project to teach your friends how to stay safe, too.”
Devised by the 21st Century Learning team at WMRES, this project not only leads students through an analysis of Internet safety information gleaned from a variety of websites, it helps the learning stick through the production of a PowerPoint (3rd), podcast (4th) and movie (5th). Students also take a test at the PBS Kids website that can earn them an “Internet driver’s license.” (You can access the multi-media products here.)
Schoolwide literacy project (wiki)
Cullman Middle School
Aimee Smith, a technology teacher leader for the Cullman City Schools and an ABPC 21st Century Teacher Fellow, explained her middle school's Collaborative Books wiki project during the ABPC Powerful Conversations Network meeting in May 2007.
“What would happen if we invited kids to write collaborative stories?” wondered the 21st Century teacher team at Cullman Middle. Here’s the result, which makes full use of a wiki’s ability to allow multiple authors to add, subtract and edit content.
Students could choose from among fantasy, fiction, mystery, fiction based on fact, and poetry (the most popular, as it turned out). The results are sometimes a bit messy, but teachers say the project created great excitement among students – including many who had shown minimal interest in writing in the past.
CMS technology coach Aimee Smith says the “fun with a purpose” project also complemented the first phase of Cullman City’s one-to-one laptop initiative, which provided a portable computer to each 7th and 8th grader for school and home use.
Multimedia Field Trips
Schoolwide project (Wetpaint & multimedia tools)
George Hall Elementary School
Derek and Leo prepare a photostory about their first grade field trip.
Wetpaint is a free web tool that might be described as a “wiki on steroids.” It combines the collaborative features of a wiki with the graphics and content management capabilities of website creation software like FrontPage or Dreamweaver. Students and teachers at Mobile’s George Hall Elementary put those capabilities to good use in creating this gallery of podcasts, photo stories and blogs to document the academic field trips made by the school’s PK-5 students.
Use the left navigation bar to find accounts of these trips, including photo slideshows written and narrated by the students themselves. On the homepage, there’s even a podcast of fourth graders sharing their ideas about the value of the project and the products they created.
On the homepage you’ll also find lots of comments by impressed visitors. A professor from the University of South Florida wrote: “I teach similar kinds of literacy activity with my undergrads at the University of South Florida in Tampa. This is the kind of work I hope my teachers will do when they are out there. Keep up this great work. It puts the kids in charge of their own learning.”
A Daily Dose of Digital Photography
Photography (blogs and wikis)
Mr. Myers – Spain Park High School
Photo by student J Brinkerhoff
Teacher Erik Myers employs a mix of blogs and wikis in his photography curriculum at Spain Park High to manage his classes, showcase student work, and invite comments from peers and visitors who drop by to view the eye-popping digital art.
This link leads to Myers’ blog, “A Daily Dose of Digital Photography,” where he selects and posts a daily image from the work of his advanced digital photography students. Each contributor includes a brief reflection on the image and (typically) 5-6 visitors offer their critiques. This Web 2.0 strategy is furthered through cross collaborations Myers and his students have developed with high school photography programs in Rhode Island and Washington State.
Also see Myers’ blog focused on art shows and exhibits and the wiki he relies on to manage student assignments and announcements. While it’s still quite rare for a high school to have a full-time photography teacher, Myers’ strategies could easily be adapted to other arts-related courses.
Tucker’s Treasures Podcast Corner
Second grade (student podcasts)
Ms. Tucker – Vestavia Hills Elementary East
Second graders in Christina Tucker’s class at Vestavia Hills East are on the verge of becoming professional broadcasters, with four audio podcasts under their collective belt. This link leads to their first effort, a Veteran’s Day interview with a retired lieutenant who served in Vietnam. Click on “next” in the bottom right corner to move forward to other podcasts featuring the students’ New Year Resolutions, class news of the week, and a guest appearance by another second grade class in which they reflect on the writing of poetry and share a favorite poem.
Tucker’s project demonstrates once again that students in the very early grades can get involved in and excited about technology-infused learning that lets them share their work and ideas with a real audience.
Golden Eagle Survival Guide
New student information (website & mixed media)
Athens Middle School
Students and teachers at Athens Middle are developing an information guide for incoming seventh graders, with a “Survivor” theme. From a central webpage index, visitors can jump to areas like Ancestry, Immunity Challenges, Warriors (sports, of course!) and Tips from the Natives. At the homepage, students can also sample a recent broadcast from AMS’s daily schoolwide news broadcast.
The Ancestry link leads to one of the most interesting features -- a wiki titled “AMS Through the Years”. Here, Pam Corder’s language arts students have created podcast and video interviews and features that help document the school’s history. There are also interviews with the principal, several teachers and a selection of students.
One of the wiki pages tells the story of the historic Donnell House, which sits in the center of the AMS campus. Accompanying the text is an excellent video of the house and grounds, hosted by an AMS eighth grader who may be destined for broadcast news.