Sunday, September 2, 2007

30 minute technology project

I had my doubts.

I was pretty sure what I was asking the kids to accomplish was doable, but I had my doubts.

I'd even done a dry run at an in-service I'd taught for other high school staff members; they had accomplished a very similar task in just about 30 minutes. At the inservice, I had advocated that technologically based products didn't need to take days to complete. I knew the theory was sound; however, there was still this lingering doubt about a practical, classroom application.

The students' task: take a picture of themselves using the on-board cameras on the MacBooks, send it to iPhoto, and create a postcard that told me something about them, so I could get to know them. All right, not a sound curricular connection, but my point in doing this on the second day of class was to give the kids an idea of the type of things I would be asking them to do during the coming semester. I wanted them to understand that class would pace quickly and that they would sometimes have to think quickly to accomplish a task.

The entire activity took 40 minutes instead of my planned 30, but this was well within the time frame I hope to accomplish some future projects. The extra time was a result of a quick demonstration of how to work through the process (I created a postcard of myself), brainstorming some items to share with me, and some technical difficulties we experienced as a result of new Internet filters and authentication software installed in the district this summer. All in all, I'm calling this one a resounding success.

What will make this activity work? A clear set of expectations set out as the students set off to work on a project: let them know what you (the teacher) expects to see as an end result. Be specific. Be precise. And tell the kids the time limit.

I'm anxious to try this now with a curricular connection and will be doing so this upcoming week when the students do character postcards based on a character from Of Mice and Men. But more on that later when I can report how that activity works out.

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