If you’re curious about doing a variation of the “Alice Project” (regardless of subject, book, or goals), here are some questions I’d ask as you plan/daydream:
- Do you have a topic (i.e. Alice/Wonderland) that lends itself to great/limitless discovery, not necessarily one that depends on great assumptions or predictable answers?
- Are you willing to give up traditional ‘control’ of the classroom for an extended period of time to let your kids make unexpected mistakes along the way?
- Will be you be comfortable being in a ‘guiding’ position vs. an ‘expert’ position in your classroom, especially if colleagues come visit or ask questions?
- Are you in a position to consider and manage a wide range of Web 2.0 technologies without ‘tech’ being the point? Are you willing to learn in real-time with your students watching you figure it out without a typical teacher safety net keeping your ego protected? Additionally, if your tech ‘goes down’ for a day or more, do you have an ability to continue without problem until you can get back on-line? Will your kids still be at-speed?
- Do you have a high level of trust established between students/teacher and students/students to minimize potential issues that might happen in a highly digital project when all/most writing is public from day one?
- Do you have an established PLN (“personal learning network”) or a ‘local’ tech leader in your school that you can turn to for advice and help along the way?
- Do you have an extended period of time (multiple weeks) to let your students (and you) fully immerse themselves in the project? Are you willing to allow success to happen even if failure seem guaranteed at some point?
- What are your goals/vision beyond ‘learn’ the material? Are ‘transparent learning’ and really grasping ‘what an audience means’ central to your expectations?
- Do you have a fair amount of time away from school to set up, manage, and deconstruct the project to ensure its success? Are you willing to work 10-20 hrs a week outside of class to keep it going? And do you want to keep working on it long after the students are done?
- Will you bring in outsiders to engage the students in formal or informal ways? Is this something you will strategically set up or be amenable to if it happens serendipitously?
So, would I do it again?
Ah, the million-dollar question.
Note: If I don’t cover something that you’d like to know about in light of a project you’re looking to do in your own classroom, please email me at christianlong2000 [at] yahoo.co.uk and I’ll add your question to the mix (with an answer, of course).
My quick answers:
1. but of course…
…the students did great work on average, it pushed me to re-think everything I do as a teacher, and technology was central without being the point of the exercise.
2. maybe, under the right circumstances…
…but I’d want to ensure the kids were used to blogging, trust was built up in the class, the kids were willing to write, and I remained steadfast in allowing them to find their own way, yet I do wonder if the newness-of-discovery was ideal for me on this first effort (and if another text would be as equally as successful/maddening).
For someone else, keep in mind I was blessed to have a previously established virtual network of educators who were willing to ‘tweet’ links, leave comments, and volunteer for the jury.
3. most definitely, without apology or hesitation…
…Alice/Wonderland is the perfect text/metaphor; the blending of collaborative technology and reflective writing really served the kids well.
4. not-on-your-life, if you want me to be honest (with a huge disclaimer)…
…there is no way another text would work (as well), yet how do I do it again now that I’ve seen it work this well while having no idea if the next group of kids would embrace it (and not tap into the previous work this cohort did)?
Also, there is the potential of burn-out for both the teacher (managing the project with countless unpredicted hours of tech management and ‘marketing’ via Twitter, etc) and the students (who may perceive the work to be overwhelming if they do not manage their time or get immediately involved from day one).
Also, dedicating 6 full weeks to such a project is something most teachers/classes could not do, so I’m not sure I’d do it if I had to shorten the calendar or juggle a normal array of assignments with it; I’m not sure how successfully ‘immersive’ the project would be with a greatly modified schedule.