Monday, July 22, 2013

Brainstorming for 20%

One of the things that scares me the most is guiding students through the choice of projects. How do I ensure the value of the time, while avoiding project jumping?

Two of my students actually live with me, (yes, I have both of my children in my classroom) and as I have been thinking about this project, I have shared with them the ideas behind it, as well as the challenges I envision. As kids often do, they immediately started thinking of ideas of what to do during 20%, given my boring constraint of "It has to be related to STEM in some way" (after all, that I know of,  Google does not support starting a garage band as part of their 20% time). So my son comes up to me and states, I am going to become a "Call of Duty" Master; it is a video game so it is STEM related. Although we did have a discussion on how this is not a good investment of his time and the like, I started thinking about how many of my other students would try something like this.

Enter two articles that I ran across almost by chance:

First "We don't Like Projects" (, which gave me some questions to ask the students as they embark on this project (or any of our PBL units):

"Before granting resources to our students to begin working on their projects, we ask the following:
Is this something you'll be proud of in five years? Or will you at least be proud of the younger you for taking this on five years ago?
Does this combine two or more disciplines?
Will you work on this when no one is watching over you?
Who else cares about the results of your project?
What content do you think you'll learn? "

This first step gives me some guiding questions . I particularly like the third and fifth as a way to further put the learning at the fore-front of the students' minds as they tackle project selection.

Then, and almost magically "How to actually use Wikipedia in the Classroom" (, which I envision as a starting point for students that might be mired in the "Just tell me what to do". If they first read an entry or two about a topic that interests them, they can jump to a series of questions related to "What is missing from this Wikipedia article? What do you think should be added? How can you ensure its reliability? Can you Google the answers to your questions, and what other questions then arise?" or something along those lines.

Will it work? I am not sure, but it is definitely worth a try :)

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