Technology can be a powerful, useful toolin making students more engaged and motivated in school. Group projects and hands-on learning are also important ways students learning concepts and retain information. In Lakeville Connecticut, there is a small junior boarding school called Indian Mountain School. Here students from all over the world are paired with local day students in classes. The learning activity I am focusing on is in a 6th grade science class that concentrates on the human body all year. The basis of this learning activity is to combine hands-on, group work with technology to produce a comprehensive news report on an infectious disease.
Throughout the year, sixth graders learn all about the human body. One of the units covered are about the possible diseases that can infect the human body. To help the students understand about a wide variety of infectious diseases, groups of students will create news reports that describe the infectious disease they choose. I will assign groups of three or four students to complete this project. Each member of the group will have an opportunity to convince the rest of the group to pick their favorite disease. I will help them pick one that they are all interested in learning more about. Once the group decides upon a disease, they will research it using books, Internet or interviewing professionals. The groups are expected to research the necessary information about the disease such as transmission, symptoms, treatments, outbreak history, prevention, and other fun facts. The groups will then write a script for their news report. I will read, edited then approved the script before the group can move on. The group members will videotape the news report and then edit the clips and put together comprehensive, clean final news reports. The expectation is that each student will appear on camera as either an expert on the disease, a news anchor, a reporter or something else. Once the filming is complete, the groups of students will use Imovie to edit their clips into once fluid news report and of course bloopers are encouraged. Each group will present their news report to the rest of the class. I will upload the videos to my class website where they cannot only be viewed by parents and other teachers but also the students. Finally, for homework each student will need re-watch the videos and type up the key points about each disease. This will serve as their study guide for the upcoming chapter test.
Some keys pieces of this project that really appeal to me are that much of the work is independent group work, the teacher acts more as a guide and an aid to those who might need help along the way. One positive aspect of this learning activity is that students are able to help their group in ways that they feel most comfortable. Even though each student must partake in all parts of this project, if one student feels more comfortable with writing the script they can act as the leader for that part and if a different student is already comfortable using iMovie they can lead that part.
Another reason I believe in this project is because there is formal and informal learning happening. Obviously formal learning is found in the structured class setting where students are learning from the teacher and a textbook. Students are informally learning about many other things besides a specific infectious disease. They are learning how to research, how to use technology such as a video camera and iMovie and well as practicing study skills such as note taking and listening for key information. Cross (2012) stated that, informal learning is “learning without borders”. I hope that these students feel that this project allows them to go outside of the box and pursue things that interest them.
Assessment and Evaluation
In my learning activity students are completing multiple steps in order to successfully finish their infectious disease news reports. I believe in evaluating each part of this project is important, not just testing the amount of knowledge that the students have in the end. “In school we are ultimately less interested in how much information students can acquire than how well they can use it. Thus, our most meaningful assessments ask students to perform authentic tasks.” (Mueller, 2012) The different parts of this project that I will be assessing will include the research each group does on their specific disease and the news report written by each group. I will not only evaluate their news report but also help students develop it so that they include each required piece of information well, such as prevention, symptoms, history of disease, etc.
While the class watches the final, edited video of the selected infectious diseases, individual students will be filling out an assessment themselves. Students, including those who made the video, will complete a simple checklist that asks questions about required information, how well the information was delivered and the overall tone of the video. This will be only one part of the evaluation for this project. Finally students will take an exam to test their knowledge about infectious diseases in general and also some specifics on the researched diseases.
“It is not very often in life outside of school that we are asked to select from four alternatives to indicate our proficiency at something. Tests offer these contrived means of assessment to increase the number of times you can be asked to demonstrate proficiency in a short period of time. More commonly in life, as in authentic assessments, we are asked
to demonstrate proficiency by doing something.” (Mueller, 2012)
I believe in tests and quizzes, they certainly assess knowledge that students can study and remember. I also think that we need to evaluate proficiency in real life activities, such as researching effectively and appropriately. Another example is videotaping and then more importantly editing those clips using the technology available.
My hope is to give students enough independence that they really embrace the project as their own.
“Research shows that the involvement in and ownership of their work increases students’ motivation to learn. This does not mean the absence of teacher involvement. To the contrary, teachers are critical in identifying learning goals, setting clear criteria for success, and designing assessment tasks that provide evidence of student learning.” (Garrison, 2013)
Giving independence and being in control and guiding the groups to make educated choices are a fine line. I will be a check in point after completion of each part of the project. In the end, the evaluation of the infectious disease project will be a graded rubric of the research, written news report and video clip as well as a graded test on all of the information given by the individual group reports or me.