Three Great Project Ideas

One of the promises of a connected world is the way that it can facilitate guests from the outside coming into classrooms and the ability to collect data and feedback from a variety of locations.  The scope of the projects is only limited by imagination and the abilities of students.

What can you see?
In my opening remarks at the ECOO Conference on Thursday morning, I gave a shout out to @techieang‘s latest project.  She’s got a kindergarten classroom and is using the technology to open doors and windows for her students.  The project is simple in its premise but is only limited by the number of participants and the enthusiasm.  All you have to do is take a look in your backyard.  From her blog, she has made a Quicktime video available showing what her students see.

The video is rich in content and just watching it gives me all kinds of ideas about expectations that could be addressed by the sharing and participation in the project.

Sweet Statistical Computation Collaboration
As I was writing this post, I happened to stumble across another great example.  It’s designed for students a little older and is very mathematics oriented.  I would ask the rhetorical question – has there been a more used piece of candy in education than the M&M?  I know I used them many times for spreadsheet, classifying, and graphing activities.  And, if you’re on the way to doing a workshop and Mac’s Milk is out of M&Ms, Skittles fit the bill nicely.

In this project, students from all locations are encouraged to count the various colours in a bag of M&Ms and share the results with a class via a Google form.  The class even provides a baseline:

According to students at a recent College of Natural Science exhibit at the University of Texas in Austin, the makers of M&M’s state a bag contains the following: 14% are yellow, 20% are orange, 24% are blue, 13% are red, 16% are green and 13% are brown.

So, the results of their experiment could be used to test these numbers.

Food Survey
Finally, continuing on a food theme, what are your favourite foods and restaurants are two of the key themes being collected here.

Later on in the questionnaire, participants are asked in what country they live.  The results offer an interesting challenge, I suspect, when it comes to classify the data since it’s all anecdotal.

In all three cases, I can’t help but think of the engagement that there will be as students look at and analyze the results.

Even a few years ago, surveys like this would be difficult or impossible to take with the potential reach of these.  I like the creative implementation of technology that’s crucial for this to work.  Those that really don’t get it might consider these as examples of integration of technology.  I’d suggest that those aren’t there just yet.  These are examples of how educators use the best tool at their disposal to make it work in the classroom.  You can’t want more than that.

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Start with a Question, not a Statement


If you’re an educator, you’ve undoubtedly been to many workshops and “training sessions”.  (I hate that term – I train my dog)  Inevitably, they start with an “icebreaker” which, if you’re lucky, has something to do with the topic de jour.  I always hated those timewasters – find someone else wearing green underwear and introduce yourself.  I’d rather find a like mind during the activity and build a more meaningful relationship that will continue after the session ends.  The worst of the worst involves finding out what you had for breakfast using those clicking devices that almost always never work right the first time, making the whole process increasingly meaningless.  Why not ask everyone to whip out their phone and enter responses online using any of the free services, using a technology that people are comfortable with?  Or, as my computer studies students related to me after being frustrated with the software, just hold your hand up to vote.

In my interview with Brenda Sherry and Peter Skillen a couple of days ago, I tried to get them to fully explain the Minds on Media concept for those who were interested in it.  I think that Peter summed it nicely….

The concept grew somewhat organically – except to say that we both have strong beliefs about several learning principles:

  • the locus of control for learning should be in the hands of the learner
  • the facilitator must be aware of, and respond to, the learner’s desires, needs and expertise
  • the learner should leave empowered to learn further – beyond the MOM event
  • there are always experts among us

So it made a lot of sense when we were organizing the ECOO conferences that we run a ‘hands on’ day for people with these ideas in mind. But, we wanted more than their hands on – we wanted their ‘minds on’.

When you think through this, it is considerably different from a training session where the leader holds all the cards, er presentation slides, and walks you through the session.

Later in the post, the topics available to participants for this year’s ECOO Minds on Media event are listed.  You won’t find anything entitled “An Introduction to…” or “Beginner’s Guide to…”.  Instead the topics are all described using action words and honour the learning of those who would be participants.  Having participated in Minds on Media in the past as both a facilitator and a pedagogista, I can tell you that sessions do not begin with the statement…

“Today, you will learn how to …”

By its nature, that statement presumes that the audience is a blank slate.  While there are times that making that assumption is good, this isn’t one of them.

Instead, teachers move around the room as free-range learners.  They’re forever jumping into a discussion in process.  The facilitator may pause and ask.

“What about … will we learn today?”

It honours both their role as facilitator/learner and the role of the teacher as learner.  It cuts straight to the core so that active learning can begin.

You need to experience it to complete understand.

Registration for Minds on Media and, indeed, the entire ECOO Conference continues at