Digital Breakout.edu: My first attempt

At this past February’s PETE and C  in Hershey, PA, I learned more about a concept called Breakout.edu.  The premise is that students or adults solves a series of puzzles and/or problems to achieve a predetermined learning goal.  Breakout.edu allows for critical thinking,  collaboration, and creativity.

These lessons can be either digital in nature or actual physical lock and puzzle boxes.  There is a growing and strong support network for teachers online, with numerous resources, but that is a topic for another blog post.

I chose to work with a digital breakout to start, it is free and I have access to all of the necessary online resources.

This post is currently under construction.

#Sal308 Volume I

I am still sifting through information from PETE & C 2016 and implementing ideas into my professional self.  One idea that I especially liked was from George Couros, whom I follow on Twitter and via his blog, Connected Principals.

The idea was to daily Tweet something you or your students do in your classroom, adding a hashtag so you can easily track your Tweets.  I have started that process, which is not very difficult to accomplish; there should be tons of ideas that can be promoted in your day if you just pay attention to what is going on…I am using the hashtag #Sal308.

This is my first weeks’ effort archived via Storify.com.

 

Book Study The Jungle: Let the Adventure Begin

Today I rolled out a new concept for my Honors US History and Government I class, a semi-independent book study.

The project has evolved from numerous ideas. After reading over my archived Tweets from PETE & C, a #KTIchat, and a #PAedchat on Twitter, I am intent on fostering a culture of learning in my class, not a system of work and grading. I want my students to be motivated to learn instead of just wanting to earn a score.

At first, I wanted them to become Muckrakers and find things about town and school that could be improved. However they will be my students again next year and I want them to have a meaningful Summer Reading Experience, this new project will be a test run for that adventure. On a side note, we may still do the Muckraker project later time permitting.

Anyway, I chose The Jungle by Upton Sinclair since we are studying the Progressive Era AND we have enough copies of the books for my class. (The Pennsylvania budget impasse has our district on a purchasing freeze.).  School finances are a major inhibitor of new things this year.

I borrowed a study guide from a colleague who used to teach the book in her class and adapted it towards student publishing.  Only the first 20 chapters are used in the book study, the last 10 can be completed for Accelerated Reader enrichment points.   The reading is grouped into four project sections, with each section needing some sort of published project to explain the discussion questions.  Students must create a blog post, a podcast, a video, and then have one project of their own design.  The project styles can be created in any order of their choosing.  The final aspect would be to create some sort of Book Trailer we would publish.  I created a very open-ended rubric of expectations, more to keep me somewhat objective in my grading than for restricting student creativity.  Students are not required to be on video in my class, they may have “Special Guest Actors” in their stead, but they must create on multiple medias.

When I explained the project to my students, they were not phased by the reading and the questions.  When explaining the project sections, some were nervous about the technology.  When I explained that the rubric leaves much room for THEIR creativity, I saw shear terror in some students eyes, and much trepidation in most eyes.

I asked the question, “Truthfully, how many of you are nervous or scared about this project?”  All students raised their hands, I joined in too.  I explained that it was okay to be nervous, we have not done something this open-ended yet this year.  I was even nervous because I was not sure how smoothly things would run.  But I tried to reassure them that we will adjust to any “bumps in the road” that we may encounter and we will work together for success.  This seemed to calm most of the students’ fears, some will take longer to calm down.

My goal is to get them to learn, create, and share as a second nature.  I want my students to be able to express themselves well and gain their voice on a public platform.  I want them to want to learn and be inquisitive, not just perform for a number or grade.  Hopefully this project in a step in that direction.  As we move forward I plan to record our progress, our missteps, our adventures, and my reflections on the journey here.

Timeline Reflection: Progressive Era

So, my students added to their timelines in Honors US History I, overall they turned out well, I am extremely happy with how the project is progressing.

There are a number of things about the project that are in the running for my favorite aspect of the project, but I think I must say that having the students pick their own specific topics of research was my favorite aspect.  Their ownership of topics seemed to give them more interest in their work.  A close second was their presentations to the class, all of my students did well, and I see potential moving forward as they become more comfortable with speaking in front of everyone.

Some of the interesting facts that were shown by students were the fashions of the day.  Attire seemed much more formal, which still boggles my mind, even though I have taught this era for a number of years.  I wonder how I would have survived back in the day without Hawaiian shirts…

Looking back, I think we need to improve upon the turn in rate on Edmodo.  There are still students who turn in the wrong links to their projects or do not turn in their projects at all.  We are almost 3/4’s of the way through the school year, this should not be happening anymore.

Moving forward, I am implementing my students to reflect more on their projects.  It is a takeaway from what my review of all the PETE and C Tweets.  I used to have students reflect on their work, but it died out over time.  It is going to be reinstituted at all levels, including my own, starting with this project.  The reflections should help create better projects moving forward.