Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Web 2.0 Simuation Post-Mortem

Part 2 of 3
In part one (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.


Cheryl Corte said...

Mr. Baker - you are to be commended! Can't imagine holding yourself responsible to 'correct' at various levels, 86 individual Congressional Simulations hosted in Google Sites from your AG students. Allison's podcast comments more than describe her enjoyment and appreciation to you for this Web 2.0 Congressional Simulation for American Government - being fully aware of your untiring efforts in assisting them while constructing their Google Site. KUDOS to you and your three sections for taking the technology plunge; what an invaluable experience!

Larry Baker said...

Thanks, Cheryl. A part of me is sorry that this first group had too go through the first run with me, but there was a special excitement in the class during the experience. Some of the role playing was extraordinary. And as I told a visiting group from Traverse City yesterday, it is my hope that a hands-on experience like this will lead to a deeper level of understanding of government, technology, and negotiation.

Larry Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Baker said...

Fran, a colleague who has used Google Sites as the vehicle for conducting her research assignment shared a formal reflection on this process which I have appended to my post through this "comment". A very exciting collaboration.

[This] semester, having tested the use of google sites after Larry Baker’s tech sessions, I determined, with great help from Cheryl to conduct the British Lit research project online. This challenge meant I had to re-think the final paper requirement since both students and I would be learning a new delivery system. I decided it would be more efficient and more helpful to establish research triads, with students selecting their own two team-mates. To coordinate their work and my instructions and feedback, I created a google-site for each of my two sections, with a google page for each team, named for the research topic that team would be investigating. Within the page were three folders, named for each team member, into which students linked the various research materials. This arrangement allowed the sharing of all phases of the project within the team—sources found, notes taken—each member looking out for what other team members might find useful.

On the Google Home page, I posted the various steps of the research project and a calendar of due dates. Students spent several days in the Media Center for an orientation to library materials and online databases. Cheryl, as co-owner of the site, posted links to various HELP sources, which included a youtube video demonstration of how to scan relevant sections of library books. . . .

As I write this evaluation we are still in process, moving now into the composing mode which will draw on the notes students have collected and require further forays into history sources. They each have a third of the essay product for which they are responsible, along with a collaborative introduction and conclusion to the paper. . . . These students have been patient, resourceful, and motivated, by and large, throughout the venture. Katy's Media Center organization of library materials for the Brit Lit project (in assistance to all Sophomore teachers) and her orientation to databases is invaluable. More students than ever were able to find material in the Greenwood database and explore possible Gale resources for this project....

Like many teachers who have stayed in the game for decades, I relish opportunities to practice alternative teaching and learning strategies. The early years of my career were spent developing project-based activities—long before computers took up residence in schools. It is refreshing to find validation in cooperative learning and collaborative problem-solving.

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