The learning goal for my project is: Students will demonstrate understanding of the life and importance of a significant religious figure using independent research. Students would not necessarily be required to make a timeline as I did. Rather, they would have the choice between a written essay, a poster, and a virtual timeline like mine. They would, however, all share a rubric and the basic aspects to be included: a description of significant events in the figure’s life, a coherent presentation, correct grammar and punctuation, thorough research, etc. While the paper and poster would have guidelines, they would not need to be taught to the class in the same way as the timeline, which is something that the students would most likely be completely new to.
Before beginning the project I would need to give students an opportunity to see a timeline in action as well as work with it some so that they could make an informed decision about which option they would like to choose. That in class instruction would require preparation on my part, first by securing a computer lab or laptop cart, and second by arranging student logins. They are not complex, but require an email and password. It is possible that I could make one and simply have all of the students who do not have their own email addresses use it, but then they would all have access to one another’s work. In a tutorial I would first show them my final product, then show them the different tools available to them. Timetoast is a relatively simple tool to use, and does not have a confusing number of options. I could show the students in a short period of time how to create a new timeline, make a new event, change the information in that event, and add images. I would also allow them time in class to explore how to use the tool, which would coincide well with the fact that I would be giving them time in class to do research online as well. For this independent research project, having class time where they can work on their research and discuss their projects with me would be vital, regardless of the tool they decided to use. Having class in time would make up some of the work, but for those students who did not have access to computers or the internet at home I would also make sure there was time outside of class for them to work on the project. This could mean during homeroom, after school, or during study hall (my placement school has AEP, half an hour every day for all students to work on school work). During this time I would make sure I had a laptop available in my classroom and let them use that time to do either their research or create the timeline.
When introducing the project, I would emphasize the aspect of choice that the students have but the underlying consistency of how their work will be assessed. As I said above, there would be the same rubric for every student, and the students would receive the rubric. For a project like this, where there are so many variables of student work, I believe that extremely clear expectations are vital for them creating quality products. Also as discussed above, I would introduce the product to the class and allow them to work on it on a few different times in the process so that they could discuss with me any issues they face. This would include time without the whole class there – whether before, after, or during breaks in school time – so that students who had very serious issues or needed more directed help would be able to get the attention they needed. Some of these challenges would probably stem from the technology, though I imagine the majority of the issues would have to deal with doing research online, which is a whole other set of technological skills to learn. Doing research online would have to be something we worked on as a class over time, something that we built to over time before using it for a major project. This would probably mean a presentation from the media specialist about the resources the school has available as well as smaller assignments to work on these skills. Working with the timetoast tool, however, there are certain things that can cause problems, such as uploading videos or even deciding which events to include that I could help clarify for them. An issue with uploading videos would simply take practice and patience, while helping students learn how to make the selection of what went into the timeline would require individual attention to help the student increase their critical thinking. To make sure that none of these serious issues arise, I would most likely require students to complete this project in at least two parts. The first would be focused on the research, making sure that the students are keeping up on that and understand how to do historical research. An assessment for this would be most appropriate in the form of a short annotated bibliography, with the second part finishing with the final product.
Having a complete way for students to give feedback on how they created their products and me to give them feedback on how they did is, of course, vital for this project. All students, no matter the tool they used to create their final products, would be required to complete a brief reflection on how they did their research and how they used technology. This would allow me not only to understand the effectiveness of the different forms of turning in work, it would show me how they viewed the research they did and how they could continue to develop research skills in the future. This would help me in my assessments, which would center around the rubric discussed above. By completing the same rubric for each student, this would streamline the grading process, thus allowing me to focus on giving student individual feedback for what that did well or could improve on. This feedback would be in the form of a written response to return to each student with their rubric.