Thursday, April 21, 2011

Enaged Students - Authentic Tasks - Disguised Learning

I had the opportunity this week to work with a middle school French class. The current curriculum was addressing occupations. The students were being introduced to the vocabulary associated with this topic. Students in the class were assigned the task of researching and presenting a final project that documents what they learned about their occupation. Of course, the entire projected needed to be written and presented in French.

I worked with the teacher, Mrs. Neuschatz,  to develop a project that the students would relate to. We wanted to move away from a traditional research based presentation where students develop PowerPoint slides of texts and images. These types of projects typically do not involve a high level of motivation nor do they result in significant learning or knowledge exchange in a classroom. We can be honest and refer to them as "death by PowerPoint". I think everyone can relate to this.

What we decided to assign is a "Fakebook" profile. Our district is a member of Google Apps for Education. A quick search of the templates in Google Docs returned a number of "Facebook Profile Templates". I selected one that utilizes Google Presentation. It is a four page presentation template that mirrors a typical Facebook profile.
We assigned the students the task of developing a Facebook Profile for a person who practices the occupation that they select. They must include daily events (postings to the wall), who would this person be friendly with (friends), education and other information (info), events that this person might take part in (videos). Although we assigned a rubric, the students have some flexibility as to the content they could provide.

We expect to have some finished projects in a couple of weeks. However, my initial observations in the classroom were very interesting. The students were motivated and excited about the project. They applied creativity and a level of higher order thinking to make connections between the research they uncovered and the sections of the profile that they must complete. It was not sufficient to mere list responsibilities of "A Doctor". They instead had to apply that knowledge by listing activities and events that a doctor might experience and post them on "the wall".  Rather than supply a listing of facts in a typical slide, they are applying what they learned to a task. Students were not only making connections and applying knowledge, but they were learning French through an authentic and engaging task!

The template for our PowerPoint "Fakebook Project" can be found here.

I will share some of our final products when they are ready.

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