Thursday, October 20, 2011

LHS2.0 WikiSeat Project: Ladies and Gentlemen...

by Sean Wheeler

No way. 

Today has easily been one of the greatest days I've ever experienced in a classroom.  The students did it.  They knocked this one out of the park.  I couldn't be more proud, and to be honest, surprised, at the work that was turned in today.  We had a great time seeing everyone's work.  There were tons of stories to tell, celebrations to be had, and risks that paid off.  In the afternoon we had a chance to talk with Dr. Nicolas Weidinger, the creator of the WikiSeat project, via Skype and it was a perfect cap to a tremendously rewarding day.  There were so many people helping us in this project and we can't be thankful enough to the friends, family members, and colleagues that  shared in the work. Wow!

There's so much to say about all of this, but I'll start by going back to something I included in the first TeachingHumans post on August 15th.  If you're new to following this project, I'd suggest checking out the GoogleDoc that guided my process in teaching the unit.  The experiential learning graphic from that document is really on my mind as I look forward to the next steps.  This is really where the learning is going to sink in and I'm going to be able to gauge what the students are taking away from the project.  

We just did it.  No doubt.  But now comes the "What?", "So What?" and "Now What?" parts.  Nic was great in laying out a few challenges for the students (more about that in the next post), and I have a couple of my own to add.  I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to ask those questions and see what the kids come up with. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What I'd Like Middle School Kids to Know As They Enter My High School Class.

By Sean Wheeler

Foundation Forms Set

My friend Alex, a middle school teacher, asked me what I'd like middle school students to know as they entered our high school classrooms.  While obviously a bit utopian, I was surprised to find myself really talking about foundational, and somewhat predictable, skills.

"1.  "Google It" - I want students entering 9th grade with a sense that they can find anything they want on the internet.  I would love to see students who "Googled" their question before they raised their hand.  It's not that I don't want to help, but I'd love to have students walking in the door who know that they can be their own first resource.

2.  Registering for things and basic internet ability - In 2.0, our students have to register for a pretty wide array of internet services, apps, and accounts.  Our students register accounts for Picassa, Moodle, Blogger, Voicethread, Wikis, Email, DropBox, Google Reader, Google SketchUp, SlideRocket, usually all within the first six-weeks of class.  The more familiarity our students have with setting up and managing internet accounts, the better.  This is even more true for "netiquette".  Issues of internet identity, the permanent nature of internet publishing, cyber-buillying, appropriate use, and civil conduct are significant lessons that we currently teach.  Any help at the middle school level on any of that would be helpful.

3.  Open-source software, copyright, and sharing - As students become not only consumers, but producers, of content, a keen awareness of what's available, what isn't, and what can and should be shared is crucial. This is an area in which our students have a good deal of expertise, and we'd be wise to engage them in these conversations as soon as we can.

4. Back-up everything and have everything everywhere - Our students should be able to access everything they do, wherever they are.  This really stems from the big push for portfolio assessment that you and I heard alot about in college.  The kids need to use cloud computing and services like DropBox to manage their files/portfolio.  Likewise, students should understand that data loss occurs and that they need to take precautions against it.  For example, sometimes students write an email, blog post, or forum contribution and the internet or web service "times out".  At this point, they often come running up to me saying they've lost everything.  Students need to take precautions such as writing everything in Word or GoogleDocs and then copy/paste it into their post or email.  Even something as simple as hitting "select all" and "copy" commands before hitting "publish" need to be taught early on.  If nothing else, it cuts down on student frustration."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Wikiseat Project: The First Wikiseats are in!

by Sean Wheeler

Wikiseat by Analise

It's working.  The first four Wikiseats have come in and the kids are rocking it so far.  The Wikiseat above was created by Analise.  Here's what she said in her Wikiseat Manifesto two weeks ago, just as she was about to actually start real work on the project:

"I have been bullied about being a nerd, most of my life. Yes that's only fifteen and a half years but it wears and tears at you. I like to read, I openly admit it. I like to think of this as being a non-conformist. "Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist". My friends have always been the ones that say: they hate school, they hate the teachers because they make you do work, they just want to get it over with. When I think of classes and teachers and working, I try to think of the good things and focus on them. Knowing what to look forward to in a lot of things helps get you through the hard things.

In my mind those rules apply to the whole world. You can’t do anything more if you have already given your 100% best and someone else doesn’t like it. “To be great is to be misunderstood”. I learn to get scholarships so I can follow my dream. When families say they're tight on money, cut their money in half, that’s what my family has to do to send two children to college and another through high school with expensive athletics and extra-activities. The chair can help me be more calm, more focused. It can help with my work efficiency with my grades and with my sports. Having little to no extra stress on an already stressful life is a blessing to me. But this is the real world, not a fantasy. Things don’t come easy, and I don’t want them to. I was raised to never except things you haven’t earned. I will not take a grade I do not deserve. This seat project will help because it will be made completely from our hands and in doing so, we have all rights to get the grades based on our work."

Here's David's chair and Wikiseat Manifesto.  It's interesting to note that the form of his idea changed, but the function didn't at all.

Wikiseat by David

"My Wikiseat needs to be mine. Not just a chair that has my name on the bottom of it. I want to make a chair that has so much of my personality into it; you wouldn’t even have to ask who made it. I want to not even have to put my name on the bottom of the chair. And I don’t mean that I’ll paint it my favorite color. I mean that I'll design it in the same way as my art style. I want to put things I like all over it. I love to rock, so I’m making a rocking chair. I don’t want a bland square wood rocking chair. I want to build a chair that would never get mixed up with any chair in the world. My chair will be a nonconformist. It will be more than a representation of my personality; it will have its own personality.  My chair will rock to a different beat than any other chair ever. Yeah, it may turn out completely ugly. But I won’t care. I’ll never care. I’m going to build a chair for me, and I don’t care if you think I could have had a better idea. I don’t care if a rocking chair is a stupid idea. I like the idea, I love the idea, and it will be my utmost greatest creation. I want a masterpiece, and I’m ready to work for it."

Nickolas wrote a great Wikiseat Manifesto and the results really matched up with his intentions.

Wikiseat by Nickolas
"As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in Self Reliance, "There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide". If you were to design a chair by looking and using other peoples designs then what is the point of you building one? There would be no point because you are not trying to stand out or be extraordinary but you are just copying someone else's work. "The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried." If you just give up because others say that you won't be able to complete or make your chair and you believe them then your not even using your own thoughts. When you think to yourself that you can't do something it is mostly because you are acting lazy and or even trying. When you say that to yourself you just ruin your self-confidence and self-esteem. When you actually try something you will realize that you most of the time can do it even if it takes you a couple tries to do it. "The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them." When you just do things to please others you are most of the time not pleasing yourself. Therefore you are not even using you own mind but using others to see how they want you too look or do something their way. If you listen to them all the time then you mine as well not even be there because you are not thinking for yourself but focusing on you peers decisions. If you make a chair that is different but you like it then make it don't let other people say that "your chair is ugly you should throw it away", but don't even listen to them. Do what you want because you will feel better knowing that you stand out in the crowd but are not just another average person like everyone else."

Roy's chair might win for the most solid construction so far.  He really turned in a great looking Wikiseat and I actually used it a bit in class today and can vouch for it's consideration of height and comfort.  Here's his Wikiseat and what he wrote in his Wikiseat Manifesto.

Wikiseat by Roy

"Thinking about "Self Reliance" by Ralph Waldo Emerson helps me with my chair that I'm making. If someone tells me I can't do it, I won't listen to them. I'll still try. Or if someone tells me that my chair looks goofy or dumb, I'll think to myself thats it's what I like and what they say isn't going to change the way I think about this project or the design of my chair. "Envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide. " This means that there is nothing special about your creation when you copy someone else's idea. And that if you do, then you're nothing except for an imitator. I will try not to copy any one else's idea while making my chair. I will make it all original with my own creation. I will take Ralph Waldo Emerson's words into consideration while designing and building my chair to make it 100% mine."

I think the students' work speaks for itself.  I'm impressed at their follow-through, commitment, and engagement in this Wikiseat project.  There is so much to be learned from all of this, and I can only hope that the reflective process that will follow will be as deep as I think it will be.  Stay tuned and leave a few comments.  I'm very interested in what anyone else makes of this.