ImagineIT Final Report
After seeing my ImagineIT project through a year of growth, from a fleeting thought to a documented timeline of progress, I have learned a thing or two about the design cycle. First, when one is trying out a new idea, they must prepare to be unprepared. My ImagineIT project has adapted to a number of significant changes, some due to uncontrollable outside influences, such as learning that I will be designing and teaching a new course this year shortly before the beginning of the school year, and some through intentional iterations and refinement as I’ve worked to streamline the project to best meet the original goals. The challenges I’ve encountered over this year were not ones I could have ever predicted at the start of this process, and so being a reflective practitioner has been of the utmost importance. Seeking feedback from peers and conducting focus groups were invaluable activities to help me not only solve identified challenges, but also predict other potential problems seen from new perspectives. Students have consistently shared that project-based learning, the subject of my deep play group and an integral component of my ImagineIT project, is more engaging and enjoyable than traditional transmissionist modes of instruction. My observations corroborate this story - I’ve never seen my students take so much pride in their work. Incorporating authentic audiences has pushed them to produce higher-quality products, although it’s also increased student stress levels. Students have also embraced the “World of Wonder” activities, and my peers and I are consistently impressed and excited by the questions students bring to the classroom. The learning opportunity in student-generated topics has really been highlighted through seeing the natural curiosity and enthusiasm students have for these topics. Through teaching with my ImagineIT project this year, I’ve seen evidence for the power of using rich, real-world tasks to provide context and meaning to learning, and ultimately increase student engagement with both the class content and the school community at large. This experience will push me to further incorporate project-based learning into my classroom, and continue to find new and innovative ways to break down the walls of the classroom and connect the school experience with students’ outside lives.
ImagineIT Timeline Update
The World of Wonder activity integration is complete and has been a great success! Having students highlight their science interests through identifying and explaining questions they have thought of is helping to bridge the gap between the often static feel of science content in the classroom and the 'real' world outside. As students continue to work on projects, new authentic audiences are being sought after for students to present their work. Currently they are working to design and build cities, which they will then present to Chicago urban planners to justify the decisions they made around agricultural practies, energy use, and industries in their city.
While reflecting on the implementation of my ImagineIT project this fall, I decided that I was still somewhat missing one of the most significant components to drive student learning: wonder. To ameliorate this, I will roll out “Quickfire Challenges”, daily “World of Wonder” and current events presentations, and full implementation of social media in the classroom. Social media integration will help break down the classroom walls, and provide a forum for students to publish work. Each day a new student will be in charge of posting a photo and accompanying description of class happenings using the class hashtag #maitascience to @DisneyIIMagnet on Twitter and/or Instagram using a class device or their personal accounts. Students will be offered extra credit for posting photos and descriptions of connections to content they find in day-to-day life using the class hashtag. Other opportunities for equivalent extra credit will be provided for students who do not have access to the necessary technology. Students will also be asked to post products from class using the class and project-specific hashtags. These posts will be projected to review as a class, and to celebrate the learning and progress that students are making. To further connect classroom content to authentic audiences, students will be responsible for beginning each day by sharing a current event related to course content, or an explanation for something that caught their interest outside of the classroom in a mini-presentation at the beginning of class. Students will be encouraged to be creative in their presentations, and can present in a variety of ways (live, video, etc.). Small timed challenges that push students to be creative with course content in fun and unexpected ways will also be integrated into the course at least once a week. This will insight a sense of excitement and urgency to the work we are doing, provide products for publishing to increase broad public sharing, and generally keep classroom dynamics fresh.