Tag Archives: projects

Why It’s Time To Change How Students Cite Their Work

This article was originally posted on Edudemic on February 20th, 2014.  See the original post here.

When students write a paper, it goes without saying that they must cite the sources that they use in creating it. For generations, students have created note cards to document and organize these resources and/or submitted a bibliography page with their finished work.

In the modern classroom, student research and creation has taken on a new look. Before, when students created a poster, and then separately handed in a bibliography page to the teacher, justice was done and fair credit was given for the ideas used.

However, as widespread sharing of these projects becomes more common, and the internet allows students to reach an audience far beyond the school or classroom, we need to re-evaluate this procedure and address our responsibility to share these sources – not just with the teacher or school, but with all who might consume the project.

Without readily available sources to review, the audience cannot truly evaluate the validity of the project. They are left with what might be a beautiful and elegant project (the product) without knowing the sources used to construct it (the process).

Sharing sources with an audience is how we can focus on the PROCESS of creation rather than seeing only the PRODUCT.

Sharing Sources of Student Work

1. Include citations for individual pieces of information within the products themselves. This method has the advantage of sharing the sources with those who are consuming the project. For a classroom, this further engages the class in evaluating the sources that are used and allows them to ask “is that a valid source?” or “does that source have a perspective or a bias?”

2. Have students create a traditional bibliography page in Google Drive and include a link to it on their project. This will increase the likelihood that students will explore sources and evaluate projects at a deeper level. The same could be done with Evernote or a shared document in Dropbox.

3. For traditional paper projects, science fair projects, posters, mobiles or other display work, have the students provide a shortened URL to let others find and explore their works cited as they view the product. This will also work for electronic work such as PrezisGlogstersPoppletsGoogle Presentations or online videos. Shortnened URLs can be created at tinyurl.com or by using chrome extensions such as goo.gl URL shortener.

3. In place of a Tiny URL, use a QR code to link viewers to works cited. QR codes can be created for free using QR Kaywa or QRCode Monkey. QR codes are an image file that can be easily added to online projects, and are equally effective when added to the end of videos.

In our information-rich world, accessing information is a daily activity, making it essential to credit the sources being used. This is no less true in elementary school, high school or college. The “Culture of Creation” that emerges in connected classrooms makes this even more important, and putting it at the forefront of creation will allow for a healthy and necessary evaluation of how classwork is created and the ideas used to do so.

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4 Ways to Ensure Students Learn While Creating

This post was originally published on Edudemic you can click here to view the original.

When was the last time your students said “Wow, that worksheet changed my life”?  Can you even remember a similar cookie cutter classroom activity or assignment from your days as a student? Yet they were a popular tool because they were structured and efficient in getting the class to a set finish point.

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Education, guided by a focus on Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy, is moving towards an emphasis on creation and innovation in the classroom. Though technology did not spark this movement, it has fueled the process by providing students with exciting and powerful tools. But is creation synonymous with learning? Can students even create without learning? How can we ensure that what they create has value?

The Exploding Volcano Project

volcano science project

The past archetype for creation in schools is best embodied by the Exploding Volcano Project.  Picture two students standing before the class nervously combining the vinegar, baking soda, and red food coloring that sets the explosion in motion. The class cheers as the small toy figures are consumed by the red wave of destruction.

The real question for teachers the becomes “Did the students presenting, and the other students in class, truly understand the learning objective behind the project?” If they did, then the lesson was a success and that volcano provided a dynamic form of class engagement tied to the learning objective. If they did not, the lesson produced a time consuming distraction that – despite the oohs, aahs and excitement – produced no learning.

4 Strategies To Ensure Students Learn While Creating

Teachers need to help their students move past the flashy excitement of the best creation tools and establish a laser focus on their learning objective. Student work should be an expression of learning not just the mastery of a tool.

1. Start with your specific learning objective.

Define the objective of your lesson clearly and effectively, then communicate it to you class.  Allowing your students to have freedom and choice is much easier when those options revolve around a clear mission.  Framing that mission for your class is where it all begins, and if done incorrectly, where things can come undone.

2.  The idea to be expressed comes before the tool used to express it.

In reality, all products are in essence an essay expressed through a different medium.  Whether you call it a “main idea,”  a “thesis,” or something else, all student projects should begin with one. This is the student’s unique take on demonstrating the class objective, and should guide their research, organization, as well as their choice of tool.

3.  Make asking “How will this show mastery of the learning objective?” your classroom mantra.

Doing this will help students to keep the assignment on task and evaluate the effectiveness of their work and allowing them to reflect on their current knowledge. This constant articulation of the learning objective in their own words develops a crucial metacognitive skill: the ability to evaluate their own progress.

4.  Engage in evaluating the  PROCESS of creation and not just grading the finished product.

Technology creates well-polished products.  At first glance, a well-edited video or a visually pleasing presentation can impress, but upon further evaluation, it may be of little substance.  Creating check-ins and opportunities for peer and teacher review can keep the learning objective in view as well as support the development of skills. Watching a student construct meaning, formulate how to express it to an audience, and THEN create a presentation, offers more opportunity to foster growth than just collecting an assignment ever will.

The following creation example illustrates how one student chose to demonstrate his mastery of the learning objective  “Describe and communicate the ideas and philosophies that arose in response to the industrial revolution.”

While many students chose posters or graphic organizers to explain these concepts, this student, gifted as a musician, chose to write this song.  As you listen, ask yourself if it meets the objective, and if it represents learning.

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5 Ways to Blow the Top Off of Rubrics

This article was orignally published as a guest post on “Free Technology For Teachers” an incredibly helpful resource run by Richard Byrne.   

Do you have a rubric for that? Rubrics, designed to help teachers grade fairly and convey their learning objectives and performance standards to students, can serve a critical role especially with technology-rich projects. Teachers also like them for standardizing grading among teachers teaching the same course. At their best, rubrics firmly establish a minimum standard for learning and product construction. At their worst, rubrics become a recipe that can lead to all students producing the same product. In these cases, creativity and the development of unique products become a casualty to tightly constructed standards.

“If you assign a project and get back 30 of the exact same thing, that’s not a project, that’s a recipe.” – Chris Lehmann

Especially with 1:1 or BYOD classrooms, where individualized learning should be the norm, this is a huge potential problem. In these classrooms, it is still important to effectively convey the learning objective. However, it is the rare rubric that both provides guidance as well as addresses the task of grading the widely varying assignments generated when students have real freedom to choose what they create.

“Individualized instruction is a method of instruction in which content, instructional technology (such as materials) and pace of learning are based upon the abilities and interests of each individual learner” via Wikipedia

Rubrics can become barriers to creativity and fall short when they provide a stopping point – where, once each component is checked, the assignment is done and learning and creation stop. There is incredible power in letting students pursue their interests and express their creativity. The products that result from this pursuit of passion and interest will always stand out when placed next to those created through a sense of duty and obligation. Placing a list of “have to’s” at the top of a rubric is like building a wall at the bottom of a slide. It completely destroys the ride and subverts the joy of the creative process, providing an off-switch. The way teachers assess individualized learning needs to be adapted in consideration of this.

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in the creative art of expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

Blow the top off of your rubrics to encourage students to keep pursuing their learning. Leave the basic level standards in place to help students meet the assignment’s objective and support students who need more structure, but then create a rubric with a blatant challenge and ample encouragement for students to push themselves beyond the basic requirements.  

5 Ways to Blow the Top Off of Rubrics:

  1. One of my favorites is to modify the definition of an “A” to include this language: “A project that in some way redefines the teachers definition of excellence.” The video below is an example of a student who did just that: she could have submitted a Venn diagram for this project but chose instead to do this RSA style video.
  2. Where possible, eliminate simple checklists from your definition of “Exemplary”. Students who are given a checklist will do just that, check off the list. When everything is checked, their minds will tell them that they are done. That is not how excellence is created.
  3. Avoid having too many rules and extraneous limits in your rubric. Making too many restrictions stifles creativity, and makes students nervous and cautious. Stick to standards that make the learning objectives clear without being overwhelming. Rubrics don’t need to reaffirm every standard of work established over the course of the year.
  4. Use language that supports taking creative risks. Encourage “Daring” and “Unique” work. Charge students with something more than simply meeting or exceeding a standard. Often rubrics can sound too clinical, use rubrics to issue a challenge.
  5. Allow room for mistakes and errors in excellent work, especially where new tools and technologies are concerned. Creativity takes time to polish, and overly punitive standards can make students feel that creative risks aren’t worth their effort.

Rubrics have been a valid and effective tool for teachers to evaluate both a student’s process, as well as their products, and can remain so if they are adapted to fit within the models of freedom and creativity. Like a fence, rubrics can keep students confined to a learning objective, but where excellence is concerned, make sure that the gate is left open. Ultimately, the goal is to allow for creative projects that you can’t imagine, but that your students can.  

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