Thursday, December 12, 2013

We Could Use Your Expertise!

A week ago I shared a bit about the 20% Time Research Projects that my tenth grade students are putting together.  One day each week, about 20% of our weekly class time, we will be using researching  topics of the student's choice. But this project is not just about researching…it is about doing something with what you learn.  To complete this project successfully students will:
  1. Pick a topic they are passionate about, something they want to learn. Students may work alone or in small groups of no more than four.
  2. Find a book on their topic to guide their learning.
  3. Pitch their project idea in a project proposal to the class for topic approval. Students will submit both a written proposal and produce a video proposal to be posted to our class site for our community of learners to vote on.
  4. Connect with an expert on your topic to interview.
  5. Blog each Friday reflecting on their progress. Each post should also incorporate reflections on how their selected book is guiding the research.
  6. Produce something – a presentation, a writing piece, a show – to share with people outside of our classroom.
  7. Reflect on what they have learned in a TED-style talk.
At this point, students have selected their topics and many of put together their written proposals and pitch videos.  They are selecting their mentor texts over the next couple of days and identifying experts to interview.  And this is where we could use your help!

As you can see in our spreadsheet, I have students working on a wide variety of topics - everything from writing horror novels and screenplays to helping the local homeless population.  I would be grateful if you would consider taking a look at this list of topics and think about how you might be able to help.  If you are an expert or know of one, please add your name and contact information to the appropriate box.  Over the course of the next week, my students will contact you to share interview questions.

My students and I cannot thank you enough for taking time to support this project but know that we are indebted to you for your help! Please click on this link to support our research.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Students Excited About Research?!

I must confess that I might be just as excited as my tenth grade student!  Just before Thanksgiving, I introduced our second quarter research project.  I've never seen a group of students so excited about doing research!  Our research project, called a 20% time project, has students using 20% of our English class time each week to work on research of their choice.  The idea stems from a practice that the 3M company and Google have been using for years and gained traction as more and more people read Daniel Pink’s book Drive.  Pink, a former speech writer for Al Gore turned author, cites an idea that started with the 3M company and was expanded by Google.  Google encourages its employees to spend one day each work week, 20 percent of their work time, focusing on their own projects.  Why?  Well, it turns out that when people have autonomy over their work, time to master their skills, and a clear purpose, they are more motivated to learn.  And scientific studies and research supports this claim. In fact, Google’s philosophy of 20 percent time is how we now have Gmail! So students in our tenth grade English class have to opportunity to research anything...yes, anything!

Working either individually or in small groups, students will be completing a series of research tasks, including writing a formal project proposal, putting together a project pitch video, blogging their progress each week, reading a text connected with their research, interviewing an expert, and producing something to share their research with an audience outside of our classroom.   This is not simply a research paper.  Rather, once students finish the research phase of this project, they must do something with their new found knowledge.  Students will be creating products and presentations (either individually or in small groups) that will extend beyond the classroom, such as documentary videos for our school's weekly television program, web pages, pamphlets, newspaper or magazine editorials, an article for our school newspaper, letters, public speaking presentations, fund raising, music, plays…or whatever we can think of to best make our community aware of our research topics.  The idea is to reach an audience outside the doors of our classroom in order to share our research.

And the ideas that students have started to research are incredibly diverse!  I have students looking into:
  • how to create a documentary film about Philadelphia,
  • how to write a screenplay,
  • how to start a cupcake company,
  • learning quilting,
  • creating an app,
  • how to build a computer,
  • learning to play hockey,
  • what it takes to become a National Geographic photographer,
  • becoming a certified in search and rescue,
  • starting a new student club,
  • learning C++ computer language,
  • putting together a documentary on a young professional dancer,
  • blogging about different psychological and social issues faced by teens, and
  • how to become a horror writer, and so, so, so many more ideas!

As a teacher, I never expected to come into class having students begging for time to work on their research! Interested in learning more? Check out the playlist below that I shared with my students:

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