Philosophy Class Project – “who I am as a knower”

Posted on 03.08.2012

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I’m really excited about a new project I am doing with my IB students in the Theory of Knowledge class.  They are embarking on a massive project to wrap up our first introductory unit to the course called “who I am as a knower.” (you can see the UbD here).  There are a few things that I am trying that are new that are particularly exciting for me:

Public involvement!

The students are sharing their progress and final product and loving it!  Every student in class created a wordpress blog where they submit their HW reflections and projects.  The students have created some great sites and some are blogging about their progress on their projects  while in class.  Some groups are creating things that simply cannot be worked on in class which meets at 7:10am (making a water fountain, a music video, etc.).  So they are going to blog about their progress each day instead.  You can check out student blogs by going to our class website: http://ibnortheast.wordpress.com/

It’s great seeing how enthusiastic students are and willing to share their work with the world.  It’s amazing how the idea of sharing validates so much of what we do.  It’s created a great atmosphere in the class room and brought us together as learners and educators

The design of the project: let them shine

The end product of this project is incredibly open ended – students can create whatever they want to show their understanding and passion.  Zac Chase, a friend, fantastic educator and thinker, encouraged me (and rightly so) to design the project in such a way that allows students to shine.  This allows students to shine because they can really tap into a skill set they are proud of; I know I am more able to shine when I do what I think I am already good at…  Students can also shine because they are able to choose something they like to do; maybe they like websites and want to design a website, maybe they are into fashion and want to make some T-shirts, who knows!  Lastly, they can chose a product that they might want to try and make – one group is really excited to engineer a water fountain because they are all really interested in becoming civil engineers.  There is a palpable buzz in class right now because students are tapping into their passions.

click here to see the project description 

The process of production – it’s scaffolded

I need to thank a few teachers with helping construct the worksheets and process of scaffolding for this massive open ended project.  It’s been interesting to watch students fight and then embrace the process of detailed planning (which also looks like a UbD-like process).  There are three main steps: (1) coming up with a main message: basically, they had to come up with an answer to the EQ and then think about what their final product would look like.  They then had to think about what types of information they wanted to include that would help them explain their answer to the EQ.  (2) plan their final product: students filled in an adapted storyboard worksheet that I created for them specifically geared to this project.  A very interesting thing happened here. They really fought this part, not including details and following directions; I am inclined to think it’s for a few reasons.  Firstly, they have never seen this type of activity before and I should spend a bit more time explaining how it works and providing examples.  Secondly, they are used to jumping into a project, the meticulous detail I have required is something they inherently do not like (like anyone really does!).  (3) Timeline and responsibilities (see second page): Students tended to assign very vague and general tasks to each other.  My goal here was to encourage them to practice creating a paper trail to hold themselves and their partners responsible.  A secondary goal was for them to plan out how much time their project would take – break a large tasks into small meaningful pieces.  To help them with these three steps I regularly checked in with each group and required them to get my signature after the peer editing process so I could make sure they had enough detail.

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