I have been looking forward to this project all year! We just got started on Friday with a wonderful group of fourth graders, and their very flexible classroom teacher, Sonja. I’m so excited to be able to collaborate on this project a second time. I hope I’ve learned from my mistakes the last time around, and have set up this workshop for success.
We’ve been doing a lot of planning at the elementary level in order to avoid some of the confusion and frustration I experienced last year – mostly due to lack of planning. Here are the key structures that we’ve put into place so far:
Grouping & Coordination
At this point we have determined that we will split the 20 elementary classrooms that are participating into a number of smaller sub groups. First we divided by age level, then by writing style or curricular focus to ensure that the peer editors will be knowledgeable enough to offer constructive advice. We also wanted to keep the groups no larger than 3 schools collaborating together so that it is easier for the students to offer thorough peer reviews.
We have created one page where all of the student stories can be linked and easily accessible. Also on this page, we have all student partners clearly laid out in a table, so that students can quickly find the work of their partners. Regardless of whether the individual student pages are part of the same wiki, or actually hosted on another classroom wiki, they are all clearly linked here.
Time Lines & Expectations
We have laid out and agreed upon our expected deadlines for each phase of the project: 1st draft, peer reviews, 2nd draft, final story, and awards. Though the dates vary for each sub group, a great effort has been made to ensure that the smaller groups have identified specific dates that the work will be completed. Hopefully this will allow teachers to better plan their classes and complete the project in a timely manner.
Assessment & Curricular Focus
Given that the various sub-groups are working within the same curricular focus, we have begun to develop common procedures and assessments so that all students are clearly working toward the same goal. In order for the peer editors to be truly helpful, they need to be looking at the stories through the same lens.
Wiki Memberships: All teachers have been made “organizers” of the wiki. This will allow them to add their students as members as they see fit, without having to wait for one organizer on the other side of the world to approve the requests. Teachers are welcome to create their own class wiki and just link their pages here, or they can use this wiki as the actual work in progress. When I add students, I open the Members and Permissions page and have students come up and type their e-mail address into the “Invite New Members” line. Then I show them how to become a member of wikispaces as a class, and they join the wiki. This allows all the students to join the wiki within one class period, but does not send those annoying “request for membership” e-mails to all organizers.
Naming Policies: In an effort to more easily find student work (just in case links break, or students forget to create the right links) we have developed a page naming format: SchoolInitials_StudentName. Not only will this place all student pages from one school right next to each other in the List Pages view (which was essential when we had student issues last year), but it will make the linking process easier since there are bound to be multiple students with the same first name in all of these classes. Last year we had students naming pages with file names that had nothing to do with their own name or their school’s name and it made it increasingly frustrating for their partners or the classroom teachers to navigate through their work. The more transparant the file naming system is, the easier it will be for all these 20 different teachers and classes of students to manage.
Communication: Although we have been communicating mostly by e-mail I’m finally now trying to move discussion to the participating schools page discussion tab – this way new teachers can follow along with the conversation as well. It makes so much more sense to have the conversations in a central and open place, plus, with the ability to RSS wiki discussions (and changes), students and teachers can keep close tabs on all updates anytime.
Parental Permission: Despite the fact that absolutely no personal information will be shared during the course of this project, I always like to ensure that parents are not only aware of what is happening in the classroom, but that they formally allow their children to participate. Given the concern about online projects, I would much rather deal with any questions before the project starts than after students have become invested in their work.
Now that we have some of the basics for a successful globally collaborative project lined up, Sonja and I have been planning how we will approach this project with our students. Here is our planned schedule:
Introduce the project. Share the global scope by showing the Participating Schools page and exploring all the different countries involved. Make connections to students prior knowledge by sharing student-friendly pop culture references to Arabian Nights (Disney’s Aladdin comes to mind). Build interest by reading aloud the frame story for the project and discussing ideas for how to persuade the Alien King to let the human race live.
Get all students signed up for the wiki. Split the class into two groups – one that has e-mail accounts already and one that needs help creating an account. Have the classroom teacher read an excerpt from the Arabian Nights frame story (appropriate for elementary, we used the Eyewitness Accounts series) while the other group is dealing with the technical steps to sign up. Once one group is finished, swap.
Lesson Two – Four
Brainstorm ideas. Each student will complete an Inspiration mind map, or other graphic organizer, of their ideas for their story. Ideally we will share these brainstorms with our partners around the world, but if time is short, we can discuss these in class. Students will use their experience with persuasive writing, as well as the rubric and expectations for quality persuasive writing as they brainstorm to ensure that their story will meet the project requirements.
Online safety. We will watch my two favorite Public Service Announcements (Think Before You Post & The Talent Show) to discuss appropriate and safe behavior online. We will use the Online Safety guidelines as posted on the wiki to ensure that students are prepared to work and learn in this environment.
Wiki basics. Demo the main features of a wiki and allow students to post an introduction to themselves that uses all of the basic wiki techniques (formatting, inserting images from a website and the desktop, and linking). These pages will be an introduction for their collaborative partner, as well as an authentic way for students to learn how to manipulate wiki pages.
Lesson Seven – Ten
Write. Complete the first draft.
Lesson Eleven – Thirteen
Peer review collaborative partner’s work. Edit and improve their story based on collaborative partner’s feedback. Post second draft
Lesson Fourteen – Fifteen
Peer review collaborative partner’s work. Edit and improve their story based on collaborative partner’s feedback. Post final draft.
Awards and celebrations.
One thing I would really love to have time for is either narrating the stories by podcast, or adding images to enhance the stories, or creating a never-ending story by linking all the various stories together, or even creating a video of individual stories. At this point I’m waiting to see how the students do with the basic tools needed to collaborate on a wiki. Any students that are interested in taking their ideas farther or brining a multimedia element to their story will be supported either in small groups or individually.
I can’t wait to see what they all come up with! No doubt there will be some very exciting and unique stories appearing on these very pages over the next few weeks!