In the past eighteen months I have attended three unconferences or Edcamps. They have been my favorite professional development for learning and networking. The model is for the attendees to come with an open mind and plan their time according to the interests and concerns they want to LEARN or PRESENT to the group. Steve Demko tweeted out “what about an unclassroom environment for students” Well, I had an unclassroom. It was an environment that students created their own content and were allowed to be passion-driven in their learning. Then pushed me to “write on!” Here it is…
Letting the students design their learning AND creating was the purpose of this passion-lead final project. This is a spin on an unconference, the same idea, just organized in a matter that fits students and the class. So, set your students FREE!
To have an unClassroom environment, students must have a knowledge base of technology and the subject matter. For the fourth and fifth graders, since they had music for the entire year, this project was always at the end of the year. It started after spring break, so they had anywhere from twelve to fifteen class periods. Yes, nine weeks is eighteen class periods, but for me to ALLOW extra time, is the MOST important planning I did for my students. Presentation and reflecting is when the learning really exists and becomes real.
For the seventh and eighth graders, they had three projects for nine weeks, two small projects completed in one to three days respectively OR if a student(s) came in with an idea, they started their PSP immediately. Over 20% of the students already had an idea of what they wanted to do and or program they wanted to use. Again, allowing enough time for the students to complete their “dream” project, presenting, and reflecting is key to making this a project they will remember.
The projects were CONTENT-based, not APPLICATION-based. So, purpose drove the projects, not the application. Sure, there was an GarageBand project, but the main purpose involved composition and if students could play their song and not use the loops, that was allowed. This created “experts” in a variety of applications, so when the spectacular project was introduced, students could pick from a variety of applications, apps, and content. Yes, many were technology-based projects, but the involvement of music was key, since it was a music class. If I taught Social Studies, then Social Studies would be the key. Barbara Freedman, a music technology educator has a wonderful quote “Teach Music. The Technology Will Follow.”
Students were allowed to use THEIR time to risk on a project that may never get finished. If they wanted to learn “flash” and had no prior knowledge, they could just “learn flash.” This meant that there might not be a finished product. However, whatever they did, it had to have music. They would compose music that they thought would go through their project. Their presentation would be the process they did and all the mistakes that they learned.
Other students wanted to expand their knowledge-base and move themselves forward creatively. They were the non-risk takers or students who were focused on creating something BIG, innovative and creative.
In developing these projects, many students pushed themselves to make something no one else had created or done before. They quickly realized that they couldn’t use the same old loops, same old pictures, they had to create their own.
In addition, students would form “partnerships” where students would help out other students in creating their dream project. If a student was talented in art, their project would be art-driven with a simplistic musical arrangement. If the student was a talented composer, they would have no additional visuals just the created or composed music. Some talented musicians would help the less talented and help edit the composition, with some students involving the most talented visual artists for their projects.
Years ago, as part of the k12online conference my students talked about their experiences with the Spectacular Projects. You can see the entire video here.
1. MUST INVOLVE MUSIC
2. Risk-taking (a program you have never used and wanted to learn) and/or Creative (taking something to the next level)
3. Passion or Interest to you – subject has to be something you enjoy or something you want to learn about.
4. Double-duty, it could be used for another class, such as Social Studies or Science.
5. Could be:
- One HUGE project
- A Project a Day that connects
- Series of Projects that don’t connect
Some key points
- Build in a tech-day, a day you gather all the files and make sure that they work, either online or offline on a computer/iPad/iPod.
- Have the students sign up to present. This helps with classroom management and will let your presentations flow easily and quickly. Presentations can be anything from 2-10 minutes. It may take up to three days to present, so backload your classes to allow enough time for presentations AND reflection.
- Post all the projects. Students did not have to post their work if they didn’t want to, they could show me independently. The purpose was to do a passion-driven project, not posting.
- Have ALL the students comment on the posted projects.
- I tried not having presentations and only having the online piece. It was a major FAIL. Students gave wonderful questions to the presenters and more meaningful comments when they had the formal presentation first, with the online version, after the presentations. There was more a sense of community and interest. When their projects were only presented online, the students felt “robbed” from presenting in person.
What came out of these projects was interesting:
- Lazertron.net was a website that had over 25,000 hits. It was flash-created games with music and won an international website award for most interactive student website. The two students flew to Hollywood as seventh graders to receive the award.
- One student was the runner-up in an international composition contest sponsored by MENC (now NAfME, National Association for Music Education) as a fifth grader. “An Adventure” by Jack
- Many other students started youtube sites for their music videos and creations once they hit the wonderful age of 13.
- Use of music
No rubrics, here’s my blogpost concerning rubrics. Students were allowed to fail and allowed to be innovative.
So where are these projects? Since I no longer teach these students, I have taken of them down. But here are some you can view, since the were part of the k12online conference.