Last week I lost a war. This week I was determined to do better. The first thing I did this weekend was to actually complete the Venn Diagram assignment myself. I realized many weaknesses of it including poor design and poor choice of texts. I should have created structure before the assignment to help them understand the texts before asking them to compare them. The Library of Congress also did not really address the topics in the way that I wanted.
So Monday morning I apologized again for the assignment and told students I was not grading it. I explained my intentions and goals of what I had hoped to accomplish and acknowledged how the assignment failed in its execution. I introduced a new challenging read related to the essential questions, but in this task did not ask them to do anything extra with the text, just understand it.
The rest of the week students chose a part of the story of the Spanish American War to tell and started developing materials for their videos. Students like this better, but it would be a stretch to say that very many of them are excited about the project.
My larger solution is coming at the end of the project. We are planning the next project on the Cold War. I created a Project Briefcase with the standards and the topics of emphasis: McCarthyism Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam. My temporary Driving Question is “How do you all want to study this?”
I have not planned how we will do this project, the audience, or what our final product will be. There will be no fancy entry event. Students are going to help design this project from day one on what they want it to be. I have given lip-service to this idea before but it is time to put my money where my mouth is: student designed projects. #winning
The one thing that we are planning for this project is a detailed simulation of the Cuban Missile Crisis. We feel this is worthwhile because the students have asked us multiple times including last week to do more simulations. Also it is taking a ton of time to research and set up on our part so there is no way that we can wait to start putting it together.
We are looking at this next project as a pilot for turning over our entire curriculum to the students. We have some concerns but it is time for students to take control of their own learning.
With all of the talk on #edchat this past week about differentiated learning, one tweet stuck with me about having students create their own rubrics. Off the cuff I had students create the rubric for the podcasts we are making about our Balsa tower project.
I played them part of this student podcast from uptonben We talked about the good things we heard: music, multiple speakers, enthusiasm, and interviews.
Then I had one student write down our requirements on the board:
- 45 points total
- must have a written script before you are allowed to record
podcast should be 2-4 minutes in length (-5points/ 15 seconds off)
- Introduce yourselves with first names only. (2 points)
- Explain the project-what were the requirements/goals. (5 points)
- Explain how you made your tower and your design ideas. (5 points)
Tell about your results-weight of tower, sand, and efficiency (5 points)
Explain what you learned. (5 points)
- Creativity and making it interesting (8 points)
- Cooperation (15 points)
- Music is extra credit-5 points
This is my polished version. I added the total points and points for each item. I also required them to have a written script, creativity, and cooperation. So the rubric was not totally created by the students 🙂
Matt Townsley, who always gives me great pushback, asked me on twitter:
“Also in the spirit of reporting learning, how many of your podcast points are based on process/requirements vs. learning/content?”
My response is that 20 points are for the learning/content of the podcast and 10 points are for style (intro. plus creativity). The cooperation points are for effort and are primarily to make sure that both partners are doing their fair share of the podcast. So a little less than half of the points are for learning/ content from this perspective.
But this is a technology class and learning how to make a podcast is also a learning objective for me. The students have already received a grade of 140 possible points on the Balsa Project itself for things like research, drawings, construction, and how much sand their tower held before breaking. Therefore the purpose of the podcast is two-fold: to report their learning from the Balsa Tower project and to learn how to make a podcast. So in my opinion all of the points represent learning/content.
Finally I do not believe that true assessment of student learning can always be measured. Some of my top students tried some experimental designs. They looked cooler than the rest of the class’s towers and were voted by almost every member of the class as most likely to be the champion. Ultimately they were failures as designs and broke under the weight of the bucket with no sand.
These students definitely learned about design from their failure, probably more than the rest of the class even though their grade may not reflect it.