Thursday, December 15, 2016

Reflecting on the International Zoo

As I have mentioned in two previous posts, "Reflecting on a Global Education Conference Presentation" and "Influential Global Collaboration Projects," the final task in my Using Digital and Social Media in Education class was a global collaboration project that I created myself. The project is FINALLY complete! For my project, I created a website that provides all of the materials necessary for any teacher to incorporate The International Zoo collaboration project in his or her own classroom. You can view my website here. (I tried to use colors and a heading font that give off a zoo-vibe; what do you think?) In today's blog post, I would like to reflect on my experience building this global collaboration project.

A screenshot of the homepage to my global collaboration project!

Thankfully, about a month ago (during our global collaboration unit for class) I began thinking about a global collaboration project that I could create; I posted a few ideas in my blog. Therefore, when I was assigned with this final task, I had a glimmer of an idea for a project I could actually make. Normally it is the brainstorming stage that seems to take me the longest when working on a project, so having an idea was extremely helpful. When I began working on this project, I just had to more concretely develop the standards, objectives, and goals the project would address; the tasks I anticipated that the students would do; a timeline for the project; how teachers (and students) would collaborate; the technology the students could use; and some assessment tools for the teachers. Because my initial idea was conjured, after reading Kim Cofino's Step-By-Step Guide to Global Collaborations I had the project laid out in less than an hour.

That being said, the greatest challenge in this project was easily making time to create my website and turn all of my ideas into resources. I spent most of my free time over weeks to complete this assignment; I even spent a weekend in Cedar Falls to work on it when I had originally planned to travel home and see my family because this project and finals week created lots of academic stress. I think this would have been astronomically easier if I had my own classroom right now; I would already have a unit with materials to modify, or at least work from, instead of having to build all of this from scratch. If I was completing this as a practicing teacher, I also would have real students with whom I could test ideas and determine if my project would actually be feasible. Completing this project right (not applying an already-created app to a few kids, for example) took far more time than I think it took most people in my class because I didn't have the same resources available. (I will admit that the option to work with practicing teachers was proposed to us undergraduates, but I think that would have been worse; there weren't any teachers in my class who are in elementary education, so the project I would have created using their resources wouldn't be something that I could use myself in the future, and trying to find time to collaborate between two busy people is challenging itself.) At the end of the day, I am proud of the end result; I think my project is something that could be used by other teachers in addition to myself, and it looks great. It was just a frustrating experience producing it.

Image used with permission by KleeKarl on pixabay

One aspect of this project that I am particularly excited about was all of the embedding that I did. In the projects that I researched before creating my own, there was a lot of mention of materials and assessments that would be needed, but they were not actually provided to the teachers. On my website, I created Docs and Forms that could be downloaded and used. In order to do this, I had to create the resources, research to find the trick that allows resources to be downloaded as a copy (instead of providing anyone on the internet with the capability to edit my template documents), and embed my creations in the website. Additionally, I tried a couple of different technologies for the pages that now have Padlets, but I am glad I finally found something that teachers will be able to use easily and efficiently. All of this took a lot of delving into HTML code, which is an area of my website I try to avoid whenever possible, but I think teachers who stumble upon my project will be more likely to use it because they don't have to create the needed resources.

It's hard to anticipate exactly how students will experience this project because I don't have students of my own. However, I would like to think that students would be excited to complete this project. Many kids love (or at least have an appreciation for) animals, so the content area is interesting and engaging. I think students will find it fascinating to work with someone from an area other than their own, and I envision that their collaborative partners will make working on this project even more enjoyable for them. (It may even help keep them accountable for completing their work diligently and at a high level if they know someone from another country will see it.) I also think that purposeful inclusion of technology is exciting for students, and this project would allow the third graders a lot of choice in the technology that they use. Because the students are so young, I could see them getting frustrated with the research aspects or not having enough time to complete the project; however, I included the idea of holding a mini lesson on research if this is an issue with most of the class (perhaps inviting the librarian or media specialist in to help!), and the schedule is purposefully adjustable depending on the students' needs. Another frustration might occur if the student feels like his or her global partner is not putting in the same level of effort, but that could occur in any project and it would be up to the teachers to address that problem. Overall, if I were to incorporate this project into my future classroom, I think it would be successful!

Image used with permission by bird1974 on pixabay

If you have the chance to look at my project, let me know what you think in the comments below! I'd love to hear any feedback, good or constructive! Thank you for reading my reflection (and all of my posts for Using Digital and Social Media in Education)!

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