Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Rounding 2nd Base

This is the 12th part in a series about 5th grade musicians as they research composers using Edmodo and create Sites using Google Apps for Education.

Last week, we reached a major tipping point in our project.  Students are finishing up research, the Sites have all been created, the biography Docs have been created, inserted into Sites, and shared to me.  Now the worktime has begun.  I think the students and I all realized this at the same time, and you could actually feel the atmosphere in the lab relax.  I think there were even some audible sighs of relief. Definitely rounding 2nd base - what's next?

Our Sites are going to be more than just biographies and maps.  Students have several other pages to create and insert content.  Students are now at the point where I have given them an example website, and they need to create similar pages and content.  Not that I want them to copy mine - they just need to see what the expectations are at this point for finishing the project in their own way.  Each Site must have five required pages:
Biography - embedded Google Doc biography (formatting text and paragraph structure does not work as well in Sites as in Docs, and inserting media into the Site is an important skill in this project).
Composers and Me - answer these two essential questions:  What makes a musician successful?  What character traits [composer name] have that made him/her successful?  These are two of the questions we  used to start our unit.
Famous Songs - embedded YouTube video from a teacher-created playlist which was added to our Edmodo library.  All the students need is the URL from the playlist.
Historical Connections - What else was happening in the world when your composer was alive?  Name an author, scientist, and artist who was alive at the same time as your composer.  Again, I have put timelines into our Edmodo library.
Where in the World? - Maps of where the composer was born or lived.  Can also be images of important places from composer's life.

This is a lot of work for 5th grade students who are both new to research and to Google Apps.
I really wrestled with this question a few months ago:
Should I create a template website and have students change content?
Should students create websites from scratch?

To template or Not to template ... that is the question.  I chose to have students create website from scratch.  Looking back, it was the right decision, because the students can definitely handle it.  But now, I need to communicate to the students the expectations for completing the website.  We have always had an example website, which I shared at the beginning of the project, but now I added a few more directions on each page for the students.  Students should be able to create pages and insert content because we have already done that with maps and biographies.  Here is a link to the example Site.  But I change it when needed for students.

A note about the decision to have students create Sites from scratch or from a template:  It comes down to three things:
• What do you expect the students to create?  How complicated will it be?
• What is the student's prior experience with Google Apps?
• How much time do you have to devote to the project?

You have to start with a clear view of what a proficient project should be.  An easy Site (working only within Sites and not inserting other media) could be accomplished by younger students.  Also, in a few years, students that have had more experience with Google Apps could do this same project faster.  I have spent a considerable amount of time teaching Google Apps (yeah!) because this is a pilot project in our district.  And if you don't have enough computer time, perhaps using a template Site is the way to go - it is still not cheating the students out of great research and collaboration.

But any teacher that embarks on a GAFE Sites project will need to determine for themselves if students are ready to create Sites from scratch.

Finally, I am excited for kids who will be ready to go above-and-beyond and insert other content.  More on that in an upcoming post ...

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