Elk Noodle Soup, anyone?
Thankfully, this project went very well. I was able to learn from the problems that I encountered with the Advanced Photography project, leading to a website that will be very usable in the classroom after a few last edits, and a lot of authentic learning about not only landscape photography, but how to work together as a group whether in person or not. Where the last application, I was faced with a lot of unmotivated students, this group got excited about the tools and went above and beyond. One student taught himself some more advanced html code and volunteered to help with formatting for other students. Another small group of freshmen girls created an extra website about the fate of a female Elk, her roadkill husband, and the future of their family. The elk story wasn't Pulitzer prize winning fiction, but I felt that it represented how the technology not only made it easier to access and teach the same information, it created a more interactive and fun environment within which to do that learning, or additional learning. I know those girls worked outside of class to finish their project and that the three of them worked collaboratively in much the same way that I had modeled to the class for our main project.
The idea of collaborating all at one time on a document through Google docs was definitely a new one for my students. Of course for the most part, Google docs acts like a word document, but the linking of links, the idea of "publishing" to make things public, and how html code works, were new things to get used to... We started by gathering and citing images from the internet. Most students were not familiar with how to gain the url of only the jpg. Students needed to have basic web browsing skills, which most appeared to... By the end of the assessment most students were operating at higher levels of internet browsing, and were creating media content within the scaffolds of Google Docs and ArtsConnectEd, something which most of the students had not already done. There was a lot of procedural knowledge to learn and that was one of the main objectives of the project... to work in collaboration and to move from basic to more advanced skills in search, citation, and media transformation. Students largely were in an inquiry based activity where with basic scaffolding from the teacher they found content, chose what themes and techniques could be gleaned from what they saw and then put that into a format that could communicate all this to others. The content knowledge was authentic, but it wasn't gained from direct instruction via instructor, it was information that they "owned," through their own inquiry. The technologies that were a struggle became easy as students worked with them, because their understanding had risen.
The technology allowed a real world aspect otherwise inaccessible, that content could be viewed and reviewed by themselves, the instructor, and anyone else they wanted to invite. Both individual and group learning was had, so that the tasks could be accomplished. Students did need initial help from the teacher to understand the technology and the goals of the assignment, but from there they were able to quickly explore on their own, and get the results they wanted. Back to the freshmen girls that created the Elk website.... I had had those girls in a different class last semester and struggled to get two words out of them. The technology provided a platform for creativity and voice that I had not otherwise accessed from those students... and they provided it themselves.