My year-long Action Research project was titled, “Engaging Students in Authentic Technology Project”. The full pdf of the report can be found at my Pepperdine student website . Some final thoughts …
Planning: In order to be successful in using a thematic project-based approach I must carefully plan out curriculum and skills integration. It doesn’t just happen on its own.
Student Engagement: Engagement is present in the classroom if the student sees value in learning the new technology skill.
Authentic Audience: One of the most compelling factors in engaging students in technology lessons is to design projects that have an authentic audience. The difference is that the students are making innovative projects that are seen by real people and content that is authentic and interesting.
Best Assignments: The best assignments are related to “real world problems,” used real world technology tools, are built on life experiences and require in-depth work.
Challenges: The challenge for any teacher is to balance teacher-directed instruction and student-centered learning. I need to vary the nature of assignments and whether students worked by themselves or in groups.
Give Student Choice: Choice empowers students in their learning but also gives students options to choose projects that are more suited to their learning style or personality.
Assessment: This new type of curriculum planning required me to rethink how I assess skill knowledge to make sure students are learning the technology skills required. The focus is on the process of learning – not the end product. My job as a teacher is to discover whether students are learning and understanding the material.
Continue to grow: I need to continue to evaluate which skills should be covered in my computer classes. The world is flat. Change requires new ideas and new teaching strategies.
Go Global: I should continue to integrate newsworthy and global topics as a way to maintain the authentic feel of student projects.
Feedback: I also need to find a way to give valuable feedback to students about their learning and progress. Portfolios can provide an area for reflection and another authentic audience for their work.
Organization: I will continue to use Moodle for organization and journal entries. Having the ability to access the class site and handouts from home was a huge advantage for the students this term.
Let go: I need to let go of controlling all of the aspects of direct instruction and teaching. It is essential to give students opportunities to “learn how to learn”.
Finally: There must be a real purpose to learn technology skills and then opportunities to demonstrate their use. No longer will I stand in front of my computer lab and drill students on isolated technology skills when students don’t have a reason or purpose to learn them. Projects that have authentic audiences raise the quality of performance on projects and also provide students with purposeful motivation to do their best work.