Friday, November 11, 2005

CESC Projects--getting it right

2 weeks ago, students were using FLE knowledge building to develop their knowledge of Uneven heating. I felt they needed something to focus them on getting it right so I gave them a project in which they would need the knowledge. Well, I think that was a good idea.

So, it was wide open, what project? I thought of: "comparison" and "characteristics of", products. So then I figured that doing a web page would be a fine way to do these. Good choice. Well, then I made a template for each product and when I tried to put them on my plone site, important parts were 'stripped-off'. I couldn't do color, large fonts or most importantly, there were no visible borders on the tables in the view state. Oh boy. Things didn't look clear without the borders so then I tried to figure out how to get the lines visible. That was on Friday when I found out this problem.

I never thought it would be this hard to do something basic! As the days passed, I was unable to get the grid, visible. I tried 'meanwhile' lessons using appleworks documents and boy do I hate appleworks. crummy crummy crummy. It probably would have been OK with a full strength suite but their tables are weak.

So, there were issues with with the mechanics of the product. But that wasn't all... Now, how am I going to have a team of 3-4 students with 2 computers available between them make a single, challenging, appleworks document? I tried many arrangements. First, I tried to explain this multi-faceted project and how to do it. Not fun for students nor I, and it was not successful. I first gave student tables a choice of the 2 projects and that was too hard--used up too much time and most didn't get what they wanted.

The next class I assigned them their task and that was OK. But it was still too hard. The next day I started over, almost. And tried 'expert grouping' ie jigsaw puzzle style. That didn't work well because it was confusing how to group students because there were 2 different products with different ways to break up the roles and besides it wasn't clear what the roles should be. I dropped that idea after first period! As the classes/days progressed I slowly got things right. The next step was clearly assigning roles for the project but still that was too hard and besides how were they going to integrate their work into 1 document?

And, I couldn't seem to get them to collaborate on the project! So, the whole point was being lost. Also, at first I wanted them to find their own images, pages and links. By the end of the week I had them use photos from a shared folder on the network!

Well, by the last period of the week I finally got it right! At each table, 1 computer was responsible for getting the images and deciding where they should go on the grid. The other computer then would insert these images into the correct cells. When they finally got this, I started to get questions like, 'which picture shows this concept the best'! At that point they were ready to process the concepts. So, instead of parallel processing on this project, there was a kind of give-and-take serial process. Interesting... Will I find this true in general when I have teams of students collaborating on a single product? Is that what Jamming will be good for? I'll see...