Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Collaborative Projects

I was inspired by the awesome collaboration projects listed in this article. Elements from that article that I noted for my own collaboration project include the following.

Students are allowed to inquire into topics that are deeply relevant to them, can become powerfully engaged in projects that force them to question their worlds and their conceptions of what is fair. Work collaboratively, exercise choice, write about topics that are relevant to them, and engage in inquiry around genuinely complex social questions. Real writing, in a real-world genre, and for an authentic audience helped the students’ writing improve—they wrote something that the whole world might see.

Teachers ask the right questions at the right times, create classroom environments in which students are encouraged to tackle difficult subject matter, and allowed students to work as a community to construct their own ideas about the ways in which our society is unjust and their own alternative visions of the future. It’s possible to engage students in authentic writing about culturally and socially relevant subject matter through the use of the internet. Collaboration must be encouraged strategically and specifically. Community building is necessary before students will work productively and noncompetitively with each other (at say, the end of the school year). With collective authorship and collaboration, teachers need to watch for students’ deeply rooted assumptions of individualism and competition. Establish the type of community in which students can act as both co-teachers and co-learners.

As an anticipatory set, the teacher had the students use sticky notes (then chart paper) to record questions and connections (often to their families and life experiences) with a text/story/image/primary source. After a whole group discussion, the teacher centered on three essential questions. The steps included a walk through the technology (wiki/website), pick pseudonyms, group brainstorm about what they would like to learn about the topic (encyclopedias, choose-your-own-adventure stories, and book reviews, topic dictionary of words, chronicled the history of the border, a collection of interviews, and a website about borders around the world), and have the students choose four or five topics that seemed the most promising. They created small groups around the ideas that most interested them.

The through included literacy instruction, a rubric, the central question, 40-minute pre- and post- writing assessments, individual writing (drafts), revisions, expansions, and edits (done by all four members of the groups), several conferences with teacher, and the final version. The final draft included an exuberant voice, was organized in a logical way, and included highlights of the main ideas of the website. Group members: outline and research the websites together, read and discuss each other’s contributions to the wikis, and revise each other’s pages. As students work collaboratively to make their websites, they write and talk their way into not only a deeper understanding of the English language, but also of the world in which they live.

Wikis are a particularly promising technology because of the ways in which they facilitate collaboration while allowing teachers to monitor individual students. Collaborate space: website, wiki
wikispaces.com or pbwiki.com

sinfronterasboy.wikispaces.com, choose-your-own-adventure story website

oralhistoriesdelafrontera.wikispaces.com, oral history, bilingual site. Lists of people to interview, drafted questions, interviews, interviews into vivid narratives and difficult experiences. 

indigenouspeoplesandtheborder.wikispaces.com, effect on indigenous peoples.
Project: c
urrent struggles, scaffold their research, teacher finds and prints relevant websites and news articles and summarize them or highlight the key points. Contradictory information. Complex relationships among the Native American tribes, the U.S. government, and the Mexican government. Drew parallels.

Developing a Sense of Social Justice, letter to the president from a student.

Source: Cornell, Grace. (Spring 2012). Sin Fronteras Boy, Rethinking Schools, 26(3).

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