For those who are new to my blog, for one of my grad school courses we were asked to think of a wicked problem we face in our work. As the degree program is Educational Technology, I decided to focus my problem toward that. Every time I have ever utilized technology in my class, the kids aren’t really accountable for their work. For example, when we created our first digital story in the fall, the kids couldn’t use the online program Little Bird Tales. They could write and edit their story. But, it was my responsibility to pull the kids into the hallway to record their voices. I also had to take pictures of their to upload. Once I had everything uploaded, I had to put it together. As you can see, they really didn’t do much with the digital story other than write it. I wanted the kids to complete a project based lesson that was all written by and written for kids. I also needed to consider technologies that I could use, as my school doesn’t have much. The original plan was to have the children work on a whole class project informing another class all about our school. The other class would work similarly and we would Skype all of our findings.
The entire plan for the Wicked Project was to make the lesson as kid friendly as possible, in order to minimize adult work. If you have never taught first grade, the thing about I will tell you is that structure is incredibly important. They also seem to work better with little mini-projects, rather than huge concepts. The intent of the original project was to use Skype to share a project based lesson. We continued use of the project based lesson. However, we modified it. One huge project was too much. Six year olds have difficulty following more than two steps at the same time, let alone several. The more I structured and planned for this lesson, I didn’t see how the big project idea would work. The first thing I replaced was Skype. We still plan on using Skype, but as an end of the unit visit, in which the kids can ask any remaining questions. It was an issue with structure: how do we structure something as live and open as Skype, while presenting a project? This starts the modifications we had to make. First, I took the “Big Project” and broke it down into little parts. For example, day one we focused on introductions and places in the school. The kids came up with a list of places. It was still project based, as the students went into groups and developed a script to say. They also edited their work, recorded their pieces with the Easi-Speak Recorder, and went around the school to document their assigned area with a digital camera. I know that a part of my wicked problem was making the students accountable for their technology work. But, I decided it was okay, as the teacher of novice technology users, to do a little work as long as the students do most of it. They made the script. They edited. They recorded. They took pictures. I didn’t do any of it. My only responsibility was to pull the files and put them into iMovie. In fact, when my husband was watching the video he asked, “Did you tell them to say that?” Everything they did and said was completely planned by the kids. With that in mind, I really didn’t do much and spent little time putting it together.
Unexpected bumps in the road
I feel as though we would’ve had many more bumps in the road if I didn’t review and modify the structure I spoke about before. As I said, when I was doing my plans for the week, I couldn’t work out the ideas logistically. But, there were several other bumps. Our Wicked Projects had two weeks for implementation. The first week fell on the week of Valentine’s Day, Hundred’s Day, a visit from the dentist, and a snow day. So, the first week wasn’t a choice. The second week wasn’t as stressful. It was a four-day week with teacher inservice on Friday. If working during the writing block every day, the students would have four days to complete the project. But, Mother Nature had other plans. We had an ice-day on Tuesday. Although things had to be rushed to meet my February 24 deadline, I still believe that things turned out great.
In my classroom, we really haven’t done too many projects, especially ones that last several days. I’m not sure if it was the project based learning that made my students so actively engaged, or the nature of the assignment with target audience, but they were so into the entire thing. They worked well with partners. For the introductions, the students had to take pictures of certain places in the school. My teacher colleagues approached me later in the day about how professional the students were about their job. They walked in with clipboards, explained the assignment, and politely asked permission to take a picture. Some of the kids even posed the teachers for a “perfect” picture. I had also recently bought the Easi-Speak recordable microphone for my class and the kids had been dying to use it. They took turns reading or holding my microphone while their partner read the script.
I didn’t have a chance to take pictures of my students, as they were hogging my digital cameras all week. But, the iMovie we made has been uploaded to YouTube in order to share it with our partner class in North Carolina. Take a minute to check it out!