I’d like to examine the first of the VC7, created by James Tapankov, found on this wiki: 1. Make it meaningful.
o Involve participants from Day 1
o Curricular alignment
o Define purpose right away
o Input into the “how”
o Learn, solve problems TOGETHER
o Deliver learning in multiple modes
o Remember your audience
o Build in reflection
o Provide opportunity afterwards to continue the experience / relationship
These points, for the most part, seem obvious but I guess that’s the point – putting a name to what we intuitively know as educators.
Involve participants from day 1 – Allowing students to buy in and share ownership of a project or learning experience is important. Group discussions and planning for an event, co-creating the environment (I love seeing the school signs that students create to identify themselves or special clothing or items they bring to the experience. Assigning roles beforehand for various aspects of the experience helps; camera person, designated speakers, pre-event organizers or facilitators – these are things that can be worked into a VC experience right from the project’s or activity’s inception.
Question: Do any of you involve parents, school administrators, or others in your class-to-class collaborations, and if so, how?
Curricular alignment – this is obvious but important. I like the idea of talking with the students beforehand about where exactly those curricular ties will be in a VC experience to prepare them in advance. When I was in the classroom, there were years where I printed and posted a copy of all the curricular outcomes on a bulletin board in the class, and we’d all refer to it from time to time to ensure we were covering all we needed to.
Define the purpose right away – I know it’s good VC etiquette to talk about the expectations of the event right off the bat – especially when it comes to communication protocols. Mute your mic when your site isn’t talking, give hand signals or providing some other communication protocol the moment you start a conference. But defining the purpose in terms of what’s being learned or shared, what types of skills or attitudes will be developed, and/or what the intended outcomes seem to me a great way of making a VC activity meaningful for all.
Question: Do you as a VC coordinator or teacher define that for the participants at the beginning of a VC session, or would it be better to have a brainstorm/discussion on what they think is the purpose? Do you have time to do this at all?
Input into the “how” – This is an interesting one for me. I’m a big believer in scaffolded activity structures (i.e. Read Around the Planet, MysteryQuest, Monster Match), particularly for teachers new to the technology or the process. If we can build in interaction, engaging activities, higher-level thinking, etc. we increase the likelihood that it will take place. So allowing participants to have input into the process (the “how”) intrigues me. Obviously working with kids to prepare for the “how”, talking about the “how”, even rehearsing the “how” all make sense, but do we want students to have input on what the “how” will be? I wonder what type of input James had intended? (I’ll ask him to comment).
Learn, solve problems TOGETHER – Large group or small, student interaction and collaboration is a must. I’ve long been an admirer of the work that Terry Godwaldt and John Spence have done bringing extremely large numbers of high school students together and yet having all participants engaged and interacting. In a large event involving, say 400 students, there are opening comments and instructions, followed by small group work where students discuss/debate an issue or develop a solution of some type. Those students, using an online video recording device which records only 60 second videos (forces students to be succinct and directed in their thoughts or reflections), record a short response which is posted instantly for online viewing. Following this, the students view several other 60-second clips and provide online text responses. The large group reconvenes and gets focused for the next element, and on the process goes.
How can you say the words collaborative projects without mentioning Janine Lim, Roxanne Glaser, and Arnie Cormier? They have just released the latest version of their VC projects booklet, and it’s absolutely fantastic! Please visit http://www.remc11.k12.mi.us/dl/media/ProjectsBooklet.doc to download it!
Deliver learning in multiple modes – This definitely resonates with me, given my admiration of a Kathy Sierra blog post which I often reference which reminds us that communicating the same idea in different ways or from different perspectives increases retention, and that “the more senses you engage, the greater the potential for retention and recall”.
Remember your audience – This makes sense. Age, ability level, cultural background, geographic location, and lived experiences all play a part in what and how people can learn. As a classroom teacher I always tried to touch on various learning styles (e.g. auditory, visual, kinesthetic) at various times throughout the year. An expert VC Coordinator, Gord Booth, told me that when he gives advice to potential new VC content providers, he always suggests they create a ‘kit’ which is mailed to the school ahead of time to allow those kinesthetic learners to be engaged. Tommy Beardon from Texas (scroll down to read about Tommy if you click the link) even mailed out cotton bolls to students participating in the “Cotton: Plant of Many Uses” VC. Finally, one could interpret “remember your audience” as reminding ourselves of today’s learner who is often connected to friends through social networks and text messaging, who may learn in smaller, focused ‘chunks’ of time or information, and who thrive on multimedia.
Question: Do you recommend ‘kits’ for content providers to send out to schools? Do you look for other ways to reach different learning styles?
Build in reflection – I don’t remember where I heard it, but I remember reading once that learning takes place not from doing, but from reflecting on what you’ve done. If you (like I) believe that learning takes place using language, then writing, blogging, or discussing an idea or experience makes a lot of sense.
Question: Do you build in reflection or is it the thing that is typically left out due to time?
Provide opportunity afterward to continue the experience / relationship – I see several things in this statement that resonate with me. Being able to participate in one part of an activity, go away from the session to do follow-up activities on their own, then return to the second (or third or fourth, be it an ongoing collaboration) to continue the experience or relationship. As well, I like the cohort model where the same learners move through a learning experience over time. I did my masters in a cohort model and found that the relationships built early on transferred to subsequent courses so well to create an environment where people felt very comfortable and at ease in learning with one another and in sharing successes (and challenges) they faced in their teaching practices. This would seem to me to hold true for student learning groups as well.
Question: Do you have success finding people who are willing to commit to more than one VC session at a time to continue that experience/relationship?
All in all, “Make it Meaningful” is a great way to begin the VC7. Do you have any stories to share which either connect with or refute any of these points?