Taking a Deep Plunge into Google Sites) I outlined my new, tech-improved Congressional Simulation:
All of the game documents were distributed through Google Sites. In addition, each of the students created her own Google Site and was responsible for building the site with a character profile, daily journals, a summary podcast, and a "score sheet". The podcasts were created using the free audio recorder, Audacity. What is more, separate simulations were launched in three sections of American Government, involving 87 students, total.... (Click for the the full project assignment).
Here is an evaluation of the highs and lows:
* Technical Issues Trying to bring 87 students on board is, well, trying. Eventually everyone got going, but I was amazed at how many students did not check their own uploads. I would go online to check the work and encounter a problem, creating a series of email back and forths that tested my patience. My next post will propose one remedy to this problem.
* Accountability I have to figure out how to hold students accountable without repeatedly returning to the sites at various steps along the way. This was exhausting. But fifteen year olds still need progressive due dates to create a complicated final product. In our school procrastination is embedded in the culture, and to allow students to complete all the work in one gush would turn the whole enterprise into a fiasco. The time stamping provided by Sites' "File Cabinet" page may be a solution. Knowing their work will have a time signature may sufficient incentive for the majority to meet the due dates.
* Uniformity I was anxious to encourage creativity so it never occurred to me to have the students create uniformly named web pages for their files. This cost me considerable time searching for the work, particularly since Google Sites has a weak default navigation system.
* Podcasts The podcasts for the simulation were outstanding. It took forever to listen to all of them, but I could not have been more pleased. Students had trouble exporting files from Audacity and then uploading them. I think more time in class will be needed to work on this. My plan B was to have the students use flash drives, which became a clerical nightmare.
* Video The Presidents in the three classes were required to post video State of the Union messages. These were wonderfully creative. I might make video extra credit for the other players, next ttime.
* Creativity Many of the students "got into it" and developed creative sites as I had hoped. If you would like to sample one of the best all-around sites, click the Harvey Sartori screen capture in the upper right hand corner and you will be transported into our '09 simulation.
* Fun Though I was worn out by the process several students confided in the podcasts that they had learned a great deal while having fun. This was gratifying. I will conclude Part Two by offering this excerpt from Alison's podcast.
P.S. Part 3 proposes a "Blog Squad" to troubleshoot the little day to day problems that arise during a complicated Web 2.0 project like this one.
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