A Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

As part of my Pedagogy of Learning and Psychology of Learning courses for pre- and in-service educators, I included a final project for the course was a Celebration of Learning.  They were asked to synthesize and reflect on their course learning using their own creativity, passions, and personal interests.  The description of this project was:

To demonstrate overall knowledge and integration of the material studied in class and from the texts, students are to do one of the following and demonstrate/report results to their classmates:

  • write a report
  • do a photo essay
  • compile a scrapbook
  • build a model
  • put on a live demonstration
  • do a statistical chart
  • keep a journal
  • record interviews
  • design a mural
  • develop a simulation
  • set up an experiment
  • do a mind-map
  • engage in a debate
  • produce a videotape
  • develop a musical
  • choreograph a dance
  • create a rap or song
  • one of your own own design

You will present your project to the class on the last day. You have up to 15 minutes for your presentation.  The grading criteria for this project includes:

  • Neatness and Professionalism- clean, professionally presented, easy to view, free of grammatical and spelling errors
  • Integration of Course Theory and Content – demonstrates an integration and understanding of class content and your research findings.
  • Quality of Content – the content demonstrates mastery and insights into the subject matter.
  • Creativity and Insight – Materials demonstrate creativity and insight about self and course material.

When students have multiple choices in ways to demonstrate their knowledge, the evidence of their learning is more accurate. We wanted the students to actually become the experts through the learning process. This assessment isn’t just a fancy term for a presentation at the end of a unit. To actually engage in an authentic celebration is to witness a true display of student understanding. Learning Celebrations are Authentic Assessments of Student Understanding

Multiple Means of Expression Giving students a choice of how they want to demonstrate what they learned supports the Universal Design for Learning Principle II: Provide students with multiple means of expression:

What if a student can best show you what they learned through art form? Does it make sense to eliminate this option all together? As educators, it is essential to be attuned to the fact that there is not one form of expression that is optimal for all students. Catering to the natural diversity of expression when designing a course can serve to broaden the impact of your teaching: some ways to do this are through text, verbal presentations, design, film video, multimedia, 3D Models, music/art, recordings, or graphic organizers. Technology plays a big role in facilitating these implementations. The CAST website has a full definition. (http://www.uvm.edu/~cdci/universaldesign/?Page=about-udl/guidelines-principles.php&SM=about-udl/submenu.html)

Technology-Enhanced Celebration of Learning

The concept of celebration of learning, honoring students’ learning preferences, and reinforcing the classroom learning can be enhanced in this age of technology.  Technology provides additional ways and opportunities  to differentiate instruction based on content, interest, and ability.  Choice menus give learners the opportunity to self-select activities that are best suited to their interests and ability.  The result is engaged and motivated learners with resultant products that when shared in the classroom have often made me cry due to the personalized and passionate characteristics of these products.

Options that can be offered that are technology-enhanced include:

Create a Series of Word Clouds

Write and Illustrate an eBook

Draw or Paint a Picture

Make Comic Strip

Do an Animation

Create a Data Visualization

Create an Infographic

Create a  “Media” Presentation (must include at two different types of media – photo, images, audio)

Keep a Blog

Make a Game

Make a Timeline

Make a Google Earth Trip

Make an Online Quiz

Compose a Musical Composition

Make an Audio-Media Message

Make a Book Trailer

Create a Stop Motion Animation

Build a Project in a 3D Virtual Environment

Student Examples This past term, two students in my undergraduate course on Interpersonal Relations selected technology-enhanced projects. TJ loves Minecraft, so his final project included a review of the course concepts using his Minecraft Skills.

Another student, Nicole, created a series of Wordles for each topic covered during the course.

In addition, one student loved the Wordles were created in class so much, she did her own handmade versions for her project.

And the Technology Integration Begins!

This was my first full week at the K-8 Charter School as the new technology instructor.  Technology has been used minimally by the teachers at the school during the ten plus year history of the charter school.  As stated in an earlier blog, Integrating Technology: Technology Tools to Develop a Collaborative, Participatory School Community Learning Space, the principal got excited about the potential of technology integration across the curriculum during and after my interview, wants it, but also knows it needs to be a process driven my the teachers.

I explained to the teachers that I want to support classroom learning expeditions when the learners come to me for their computer class.  I also told them that I am willing to show them technology-based tools they can use to enhance their classroom activities. I know many of the Web 2.0 tools and their potential for instructional applications (as a wear as a badge of honor for my addiction to social networking, online webinars and conferences, and hanging out in places like Second Life).  Based on conversations with the school principal and my own experiences/intuition, I understand that that technology integration needs to made as an offering to the teachers.  They need to decide if and how these tools can be incorporated and integrated into their own classrooms.

So this first week was one of preparation as the students start after Labor Day (first weekend of September for the United States) . . . and to my pleasant surprise, several “incidents” of technology integration occurred.

During this pre-school week, I assisted teachers with technology integration . . .

  • The principal asked to me to use Wordle for a warm-up for a staff training session.  The teachers were instructed to throw out terms that represent how they felt when learning something new. I created a Wordle from their responses.  Several teachers told me later that they plan to use Wordle during the first week of school.
  • T., the Community-Based Curriculum Director, discussed with me the use of Movie Maker to showcase the students’ service projects.  In the past, the parents and kids took photos and then T. used Movie Maker to showcase them.  I showed her Animoto.  She practiced using photos from the pre-school family picnic that occurred this past week.  The next day she excitedly approached me, stating that she now plans to offer students the choice of using Animoto as a means of reflecting on their service learning, that she can then  mash-up the students’ Animoto videos for her end of semester service learning presentation.

  • J., a Junior High teacher, worked with me to set up a PBWorks site for the Junior High Africa Expedition.  Students will work in small groups to study countries and post their findings on the their PBWorks page.

  • I showed Shelfari during my interview.  J. and several of her junior high students set up shelves last spring and actively participated over the summer.  I worked D., another Junior High teacher, to show her Shelfari as she and J. are planning to use it for their JH reading project.

  • M, a middle childhood educator (3rd-4th), and I set up a Weebly page for her classroom and created/inserted a PollDaddy survey to assess her students’ learning style preferences.

  • A., a Kindergarten teacher, asked me to help set up a classroom page for parent information.; and L., the special education coordinator, wants a parent site for homework so she could add IEP-based accommodations.  I wanted to get other opinions about this so I went to my trusted network on Twitter.  The recommendations for this included using Google Calendar for the homework with accommodations and Google Sites for the classroom pages. I asked via Twitter for some example classroom pages using Google Sites and here is a list of what I received:

This was a good first week!  Lesson learned: Technology integration needs to be approached as differentiated instruction for the teachers. They are the users in this case and need to generate their own education.  They should be presented with a choice menu and then given the support to develop the tools and technologies that address their abilities, interests, and teaching styles.