The culminating project

A current WA high school graduation requirement is some form of a culminating project.  Theoretically, this project should be student initiated and serve as an important capstone achievement to document student learning while at high school.

Gardner (2011) tells of her school’s implementation of the “senior project.” She describes the project as a relevant, rigorous, and authentic assessment. It serves to strengthen connections with the local community and has become a “student-driven rite of passage” to celebrate one’s high school experience.  While completed in a student’s senior year, it is, actually, a demonstration of skills and knowledge acquired throughout high school, if not throughout all the K-12 years.

The process  includes:

  1. Students begin the project by selecting a topic of their choice. They are asked to describe the topic and explain how this will expand their learning in a letter that must be submitted and then approved in committee.
  2. The student then addresses the “4 P’s”: paper, project, portfolio, and presentation throughout the year.
  3. Paper – The students write a thesis-driven research paper on their topic. It includes has a specified length, a required number of references, appropriate visuals, and must include a report on an interview with an expert associated on the topic. Once the paper is approved, students can proceed to the next ‘P’.
  4. Project – Students then spend some time gathering data or conducting a field experience with a mentor in the field/community. A minimum number of hours is prescribed as part of the process. Students need to set-up these opportunities themselves.
  5. Portfolio – Students must document their project time with evidence in a digital portfolio. This will likely include video artifacts, journal entries, podcasts, images, etc.
  6. Presentation – Once the project and portfolio have been successfully completed, students share their project in a formal presentation before a panel of teachers, advisors, mentors and community members.

Gardner mentions a number of benefits in addition to the authentic learning experience that asks students to solve problems, read and write critically, and analyze the validity of information on the Internet. For example, students develop courtesy skills that are required in networking, foster a respect for academic integrity, learn to adhere to strict deadlines, dress professionally, and keep commitments. The feeling of empowerment after completing a significant project cannot be underestimated  either.

Reference:

Gardner, N. (2011, Oct. 26) Senior projects: A cure for senioritis. Education Week Teacher. Accessed Oct. 27, 2011 through Education Week.

Mandates for online learning continue

As a follow-up to my post last summer, I came across this article on mandated online learning requirements. As online learning becomes more prevalent, a number of states and school districts are taking initiatives to require online learning experiences for their K-12 students:

  • Michigan was the first state to require students to complete at least 20 hours of online learning between grades 6 and 12 (2002).
  • Idaho recently passed a requirement for all high school students to complete two credits of online learning for graduation (Sept. 2011).
  • Florida now requires online learning credits as part of their revised graduation requirements (2011).
  • Alabama and New Mexico require an online “experience” as part of graduation.

Students are encouraged to complete the requirement on their own time (in the evenings or during summer) or as part of their high school schedule. To ensure equity of access for all students, schools are making their computer labs available during lunch or after-class hours or instituting a laptop check-out program (similar to a library book) so that all students have access to the technology.

As I suggested back in July, it is evident that “more kids will learn in cyberia” and that, once again, we are proceeding down the right path as we consider online learning for a Christian high school environment. This serves as a reminder, too, that we will need to address equity and access issues as part of our plan.

Reference:

Davis, M. R. (2011, Oct. 19) States, districts move to require virtual classesEducation Week: Digital Directions. Accessed Oct. 20, 2011 through Education Week.

Library access for the 21st century school

How is technology changing today’s school libraries? was the tagline that caught my attention today. In the first of a three-part series on this topic, THE Journal highlighted one school’s library designed around an iCommons concept.

The iCommons serves as a center for learning and academic life. It has a relaxed atmosphere and includes plenty of space for student collaboration and work. It includes smaller work rooms for students and areas with comfortable couches for interaction and discussion. “It is not a ‘sushing’ library” but, rather, a workspace.

The digital library collection includes access to various databases and online full-text books by using sites such as  Questia and Google Books. These sites allow students to access materials 24/7, create their own “virtual bookshelves”, and even mark or highlight information as needed. Since it is all digital, there is never the problem of a resource being checked out and unavailable for student use.

The article highlighted at least two important needs that must be addressed when considering this concept:

1. Necessary media and information literacy training to help students access and evaluate the resources and relevent information in their searches.

2. The importance of educating parents regarding the purpose and use of  a library organized around this concept.

Reference:

McCrea, B. (2011, Oct. 5). iCommons: The library evolved.  Accessed October 7, 2011 through thejournal.com.

Social learning network in the classroom

I received an update today regarding Learning Space, which is a social networking site for classrooms. They currently boast over 700 000 classrooms in 200 countries in their global community which are all connected for collaborative projects and shared resources. There appear to be a number of benefits in Learning Space, such as a teacher/school’s ability to set privacy and safety settings to manage student interaction, organize grouping functions for classes or projects, and access to blogs, wikis, forums, etc.  The Global Community may be a good resource to follow and/or investigate further, especially for collaborative project-based learning that take on a more global focus.

Reference:

Noonoo, D. (2011; Sept. 29). ePal’s social learning network has global reach. Accessed October 4, 2011 through thejournal.com.