As my mind turned over ideas about the final project for COETAIL, I started thinking hard about what was feasible for me, while still including redefinition on the SAMR scale. Anyone who has read my blog posts knows my limitations with using technology and the Internet, and thus any ideas that I formed had to keep these in mind.
I have two more topics to teach in the second half of the year, Flight and Space.
This isn’t exactly the simulator I have in mind. Rights reserved by SuperJet International.
Flight is a great chance for students to do hands-on investigations and engineering, and as I considered this unit, my initial thoughts were that I wasn’t really interested in spending too much time in the computer lab during it.
That said, I know that Google Earth has a flight simulator, which would be a potentially engaging experience for them to learn aspects of control of a plane. I could see incorporating the simulator after we learn the basic functions of the plane, and having them practice flying from one destination to another, but it would be a lesson, not a unit.
I found online a curriculum called Fly To Learn that uses the program X-Plane to help teach students about flying, and then has them designing an aircraft. The culminating project ends with a contest among students across the world. Now that would be an interesting thing to pursue, but it certainly won’t happen this year for me (can’t get it from Myanmar), so it’s out as a project for COETAIL.
So that leaves the topic Space, which is a subject that very much lends itself to technology and computer integration, as its abstract nature leaves in the classroom experiments at a minimum.
At this point I looked at the technology standards for 6th grade, to see whether I could find inspiration from integrating the project tightly with the curriculum. A few standards stood out to me:
“Students will collaboratively create and present original video related to 6th grade content.
Students will exchange information with other students and/or experts in collaborative projects appropriate to the 6th grade curricula.
Students will participate in a long-term (i.e., over an extended period of time with multiple exchanges) group collaborative project in which information on a specific topic is exchanged and analyzed or electronically published jointly by students in ISM and/or with others in a remote location.”
So, my two project ideas are as follows:
I found a collaborative project called “World Moon Project” that works with one of my standards for Space, and would also give students a chance to work with other students around the world. It is an authentic learning project, that entails viewing the moon from different parts of the world, sharing that information, and seeing what is the same and what is different, then coming up with reasons for those differences.
Rights Reserved by Tizianoj
There are many steps to the project, first logging the moon as it appears for 6 weeks, then submitting a description of it to the website, followed by receiving descriptions from students across the world. Students must read through the descriptions, find the similarities and differences, and look into why that may be the case and write an analysis of why they think it happens.
This seems a good possibility for the Course 5 project, because it utilizes the power of the Internet to link students across the globe in with an immediacy that would have been impossible before. It seems to have a good combination of using technology to record and reflect, but also to connect with others. In the meantime, it isn’t completely Internet dependent, which makes things a bit easier for me.
Perhaps my primary worry with doing it is that the project will take up more time than the content merits, and force me to shortchange the other parts of the space unit: studying the planets, rocketry, and the challenges of living in space. That said, in the spirit of emphasizing the “pipes over the oil”, the skills practiced and gained would be extremely important.
In terms of my own teaching with this idea, I would have to work hard to leave the discoveries up to the students, and leave their explanations and ideas that go out to other students in their pristine state, rather than fixing them up. I often lead students too much by the nose to make sure they get the understanding I want them to find, and this would require me to trust in the learning process for themselves a bit more than I am used to.
To do this unit, students will have to be able to use their problem solving and analytical skills. They will also have to work on putting their ideas into words, and using the Internet resources that I provide to help them find and interpret information. These are skills that my students still need quite a bit of work with, so it seems like it would be a very useful project.
Another part of teaching about space is looking into life in space, and the challenges involved with it. There are many many sources of information about this online, from Internet movies about life on the space station, to interactives from NASA. In the living in space portion of the unit, I would use Edcanvas or some other website (perhaps just my own) to collect the online resources, and including associated comprehension and questioning tasks for each resource. In addition to this I would add some labs to investigate food and taking care of the body in space.
After finishing our investigations, for the final project students would make a video, with their choice of structures. They could do a Bill Nye style informational video (complete with the pop song rewritten for new science lyrics), or a drama of life in space with a storyline.
Admittedly, all this would have to be adapted if I do the entire space unit more as a simulation (webquest style). Yet either way, it would all be based on content from the Internet, and the culminating project would be a creative undertaking of digital storytelling for the purposes of demonstrating understanding in a multimedia format. Knowing that students study space as well in 3rd grade, we could perhaps gear the projects for that level of understanding, and then share the videos with them.
My concerns about this unit would be, again, the time needed to be given as support for students with their movie project, balanced with the standards that I need to address in the unit. I always find projects like this deserve a lot more time than I ever give to them. I know they have already had some training with making videos in their computer class, but still, it would be a challenge for them. This would be a good culmination of everything we’ve practiced all year with understanding what we read on the web and synthesizing it into a new understanding. Yet based on past experiences with dramatic projects, I know I would have to really think through each step carefully to avoid it ending up as a sloppy project that no one is proud of (I’m remembering my Narnia newscast from 5 years ago, where I learned to always always always preapprove the script).
I’m also not sure if this is still simply modification, rather than redefinition. Yet, I could start from this idea and grow it into something that is more along the lines of redefinition.
In any case, these are two project ideas that I have, that utilize technology without being too Internet dependent. Still, I’m open to any ideas or refinements, so feel free to give any suggestions!