So the Macbeth project has been completed, and I’ve had time to contemplate what went right and what could be improved.
Problem: Too much new tech all at once
Despite being “Digital Natives,” a sizable portion(perhaps 20-30% by my estimate) were frustrated by the volume and complexity of the project. Aside: I wonder how much of this was due to the technology and how much was due to the material being analyzed. Shakespeare is a challenge on its own without the addition of all of the technology.
Solution: Delayed release of new tech
The easiest solution is to space out throughout the year when the students are introduced to the necessary technology tools. Perhaps get the students set with their school email during the first week of school in August. Then work on introducing Twitter in September and October. Then in November use Storify for a small project. Perhaps analyzing a short story. I thought that the necessary skills were spaced out, over about the month and a half that this project has taken; however, it appears that for many of the students this was not long enough. It is like juggling. Our students went from juggling two or three objects…then when we introduced this project suddenly they’re juggling eleven.
Problem: Twitter account deleted
Sometimes strange things happen. One of my students had her entire school-associated Twitter account deleted–as well as every tweet she ever composed–over one weekend. There was no warning, no rationale, no nothing from Twitter. The account just vanished. The worst part was that the student’s Storify account couldn’t be accessed without a working Twitter account.
Solution: Set-up a new Twitter account
I wouldn’t have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes. On Friday I worked with the student to compose a reply tweet and then to Storify it. So I saw her work and her earlier tweets. Then on Monday the Twitter account was gone. Even the password reset didn’t work. Twitter said no such account existed, yet we couldn’t reuse her school email account(which is where the reset should have been sent). So I had the student create a new email using Gmail(it was fast and free) just so she could get back to work. Thankfully after setting up a new Twitter account the student was able to reconnect Storify and continue working. Like with any regular day of teaching… being flexible is vital to survival.
Problem: Students not following directions
Solution: 1. Chunking the steps more. 2. Set up all of the technology and logistical parts first and separate from the content. 3. Safety Quiz
By chunking the parts of the project a bit more I think the students would be able to follow what I am asking them to do. By giving them a handout with sometimes five or six major tasks, each of which may require five or six discrete actions to accomplish, the students may at times be overwhelmed with the complexity of the task.
If we had the students set up their accounts earlier and separate from our study of characterization in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the students could get some foundation in their use, the “kinks” could be worked out, and any technological shortcomings(Chrome not installed on the computers, no Storify extension, network problems) could be alleviated as well.
Problem: Students failing to meet deadlines
This project is already a bit of a logistical balancing act. There is a logical workflow and time between due dates to grade not just work for this class but for our other classes(although I know Emily would always want more time). However, if we give the students extra time or the deadlines are “soft,” suddenly grading timelines gets very messy. It becomes very difficult to know who turned in what when, and also there is the professional question of “does late work lose points?” If our goal is mastery, then no it loses no points. If our goal is teaching the harsh reality of deadlines in the real world, and maintaining our own sanity… then, yes, late work loses points. Potentially lots of points.
Solution: Instill a fear of the deadline, a palpable desire to never miss a deadline, in every student earlier in the year.
The first solution that comes to mind is to not grade the Storify after Act II and then again later after Act IV rather grade it after every act. I found that the scoring of the individual storifys didn’t take long, but keeping organized and making sure I scored them all slowed things down. However, despite the increased workload–scoring 5 times vs. 3 times with the current plan–this would get the students accustomed to: how the storify will be graded, how important deadlines are, and help keep the students up-to-date.
5. She’s so HEAVVVVYYYYY!
Problem: Forgive the Beatles reference, but the amount of work we asked the students to do in some of the later acts was just too much. Between technology issues(slow network, balky computers, etc.), time constraints, and, well, life (illness, sports, trips, etc.) getting in the way the project was a touch too much(AC/DC reference here!).
Solution: Focus. What skill(s) do I want the students to demonstrate and perform? Focus on tasks that allow the students to show their mastery of the skill(s) and their understanding of the content. Time to look at the project handouts and guidelines with an editor’s eye. Cut the unnecessary, the chaff, the “cute, but not core” to the unit/lesson/objective.