Thursday, April 05, 2007

The GREAT UNPROJECT

In previous posts I have written that I love teaching and I love teaching where I teach. My school is fantastic. We have a great staff, great administration and most of all GREAT STUDENTS. Don't get me wrong. We have those "special" students just like everyone else but WOW I teach some really great students. Never do I go into work with a frown. I go in thinking where will we go today!! Enough background hoorays now for the real reason for posting.

The unproject's deadline was today. Though I am not a real stickler for deadlines most projects were completed. Well most projects completely amazed me and I even had to get an Educational Aide to stay in the room for 10 minutes while I went and told anyone who would listen what these 13 and 14 year olds have created. Kids never stop to amaze me.

The unproject came out of a conversation I had with Darren. He was coming up with an idea for his high school students to do a project and become "experts". he called his project Expert Voices. I was anxious to participate but he wasn't ready in time for my project to start.

Darren since our meeting has created a blog for his students to post to with their Expert Voices.

Out on my own I went and created a project or an unproject. The unproject was to have as few rules as possible. The only teacher driven information I wanted from them was a simple wiki page explaining one of three fraction topics. The second part of the unproject was to do something, anything and show me your expertise on fractions.

Topic 1 What are Fractions?
Topic 2 Adding and Subtracting Fractions
Topic 3 Multiplying and Dividing Fractions

It is interesting because I gave a 5 week timeline to do this project. This included the week we take off for spring break. No school time was devoted to doing this work. It was all done at home. Yes that is right HOMEWORK!! I knew that there would be a big rush during the last week and many of the students were busy doing some finishing touches on their projects this week.

Most students that were going to do the project were completed their background information wiki by the end of the 3rd week.

This brings us to today and the look of disbelief on my face. I have had some AMAZING work handed in. The students without any prompting or pushing on my part have created some of the most amazing projects.

A story about fractions using The Sims.
A movie about fractions using The Sims.
Songs about fractions.
More Songs about Fractions.
Games Games Games about fractions.
Movies about fractions.
Amazing wikis with bubbleshares, and so much more.

But here was the kicker for me. For months I have been trying to find an application that will duplicate much of the "button power" of powerpoint. I have had little luck. That was until Charmaine and Julie turned in their project. This was there background information. It is nothing less that ...... words do not describe it.

They found an application called spresent. It is the killer application I have been looking for. Students when left on their own can create some amazing stuff.

Please comment on their wiki's at spfractions. These kids deserve to know that their work is being seen and appreciated by an audience that is larger than myself.

I would like to thank Darren and Clarence who have already started the Ball Rolling. Thanks guys. This has been a terrific day.

6 comments:

Graham Wegner said...

I know you said that the entire unproject was done out of school hours but how much computer access do you have during your average week for kids to reach such a high level of skills in terms of leveraging web based tools to document their learning? I'm hoping that you must be putting in some hard yards in class time otherwise if I show your kids' work to the powers-that-be here in South Australia, the reaction would be, "See all this web 2 stuff can just be done at home!"

Seriously, Chris, you have to be really proud of where your class is taking that stuff and your own willingness to push boundaries of traditional learning puts you alongside of Darren and Clarence.

Just a couple of queries re: your unproject conditions. Do most of your kids have broadband access at home? How heavily filtered is your school internet connection? (e.g. can you access YouTube?)

Your success tells me I should be doing more with my own class but I find simple access to computing resources to be a big hurdle. I'm heading over to comment on the wiki and I will definitely use some of your class unprojects as a great starting point for the topic of fractions with my own class next term.

Mr. H said...

Hi all I need to answer a few questions that Graham left me.

Most of my students have broadband access at home. It they do not they have a friend that does and they go there.

We have two filters at school. The traditional filter will let you get to ..... not many places but there is a "teacher" filter that gives you access to bubbleshare, youtube ets. During class time I use this filter to let the kids do their projects.

Project was done in groups of 3. This reduces the number of computers needed. I just have an old pentium 2 lab in my room. Not much horsepower but good internet access.

I will post again with different ideas for smaller classes and rooms with less computer access.

Karen Janowski said...

Chris,
Very impressive work created by your students!
How much time did you spend showing them the Web 2.0 tools? Or, did they teach themselves as part of the unproject? I love your Web 2.0 tools resource pages.
Did you have your students reflect on the project itself? I would love to hear what they thought about the process, what they learned, would they use the tools again...?

Mr. H said...

The kids are reflecting about the unprojects at their class blog sites. You can find them in the sidebar. I am lucky. This is the second year for most of these students to play with 2.0 applications. Generally I introduce a tool and then the kids take what I have shown them and make it even better.

Most of the work they create is done at home when their brains are working better. That is the beauty of 2.0.

Thanks for the comment. Be sure to go to the wiki spfractions.wikispaces.com to see the rest of the work. These kids are amazing

Karen Janowski said...

Chris,
It's teachers like you that make it difficult to be a parent. After I spent a great deal of time online amazed by the work of your students, I returned home to see my daughter working with two other senior girls on a group Anatomy project. Their assignment? To color code the muscles of the body using markers and paper!!!They made a mistake and when using paper, it is difficult to start over again. Moreover, where is the creativity, the "taking the learning to the next level" in an assignment like that? I told my daughter that the assignment was so 20th century but she would have none of it. I'm her mom, I don't have the power or authority that a teacher has.
In any case, I was extremely discouraged to see the amount of time spent on this type of assignment. With some encouragement from the teacher (the Science department chair, no less!) these kids could have done some amazing work.
Can you spread the concept of the Unproject 2.0?

Anonymous said...

Chris
Your students have done you proud. It obviously shows how they have been introduced to web 2.0 in a really constructive way. You are showing he rest of us the way. It is little wonder you are so pleased with the results.
It shows also that there are ways around the lack of tech problem - where there's a will, there's a way.
Paul Harrington