Monday, September 17, 2012

The Anatomy of a Collaborative Endeavor

Today Melinda Bronkhorst, Brian Lancaster (both 4th grade teachers at Bentheim Elementary) and I laid out three collaborative projects in under a half an hour. Here is how it all came together so quickly.

Melinda initiated the planning session by signing up for some collaboration time. She basically just wanted some ideas on how she could engage her students a little more deeply with technology. We came up with an idea where students would connect the iPhoto use skills I had planned for Infotech with their beginning studies of the United States regions. The plan is to have me bring down the mobile lab on Thursdays and ask students to begin exploring the tourist sites of states in their assigned region. They will find pictures that show examples of physical characteristics, save those to iPhoto, add bibliographical information to each photo, and organize them into albums. We will continue the work each Friday when the students visit me for Infotech. The three week project will culminate in some type of production where students share their photos to show the uniqueness of their regions.

I love planning like this. I am able to share my technology knowledge and the classroom teachers share their content and curriculum knowledge. Jointly we can put together an endeavor that is solid in all aspects of learning.

We weren't quite done though. We started to then think about what the next step might be and what other grade level objectives we might be able to address. I shared that sixteen years ago I used to have my fourth graders practice business letters by writing the game and fish office of different states. Every student was tickled to get a packet of information in the mail that featured all kinds of posters, pamphlets, brochures, and stickers. We decided we would resurrect the project and work together to do some business letter writing with Google Docs. Students will find the natural resources office for one of the states in their region and ask for some information on the wildlife that call it home.

That second project led to a third one that involved meeting briefly with Brian. Every year he does animal reports with fourth graders in Science. In the past we have worked together to give students links to research sites, and published them with the computers. This year we are going to try to connect the animal investigations all of the way back to the original regions investigation. The animal that will be the subject of the science report will one that students learned about through material solicited from the business letters. This is designed to build a little extra connection between the student and the subject they will research.

All of this planning and brainstorming took about 25 minutes. In that time we were able to tie together Social Studies, Writing, and Science...all of which were infused with educational technology. These are just examples of the types of projects we can do together. We took Melinda's general initial idea and quickly generated three very specific projects designed to engage learners in new and different ways.

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