HOT TOPIC: Online Projects
Volume 1, Issue 3 - September 19, 2004
"Ten years ago online collaborative projects were all the rage as teachers were first discovering the affordances of the Internet. For the first time classes could interact with others online in geographically disparate locations from within the confines of their own four walls. The Web was brimming with all kind of innovative ideas of how to improve instruction by making use of the information and communication tools available online: email, mailing lists, message boards, live chat, videoconferencing, gophers, web sites, and multi-user virtual environments each provided possibilities heretofore unimagined in education!
Sadly, online projects are not en vogue at this point in time. With all the demands to meet standards and perform well on tests, many teachers have lost sight of project based learning as a way to help students master required content. Certainly the projects in question need to be tightly aligned to standards and benchmarks; there’s no room left in the school day for interesting activities that don’t make the most of instructional time. That having been said, there are excellent projects out there that nicely target standards across multiple subject areas in the curriculum.
In looking for a quality project, make sure there is a natural connection between your class work and the project in question. Plan ahead for your project, teaching key skills and concepts, in preparation. Also, when you register for a project, be sure you are committed in following through to its completion. Keep in touch with the project sponsor periodically via email and be sure to follow up your project experience with in-class activities which extend the learning experience. Above all, be flexible in participating in a project, and always keep your goal in mind - it will help you through difficult days when you are trying to keep on track.
At the same time, don’t bite off more than you can chew - start small! It’s better to begin with a simple project than to join a large scale project and drop out before your participation is complete. As you gain experience including online projects in your curriculum, you will eventually think about sponsoring your own. But one step at a time – and this week’s projects are a great place to start!
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