Tuesday, January 31, 2017

"Trip of a Lifetime" Applying November's Transformational Six to a Research Project

The last time I blogged it was about using VR in the classroom, taking virtual lit trips. I mentioned the all encompassing project that I was working on with my math teaching partner, Mrs. Welch.
I created a “Trip of a Lifetime” research unit about five years ago, but it needed revamping. My math partner had a "Road Trip" project which we thought we could bring together. This year Mrs. Welch and I were able to put our combined project into play. We were able to collaborate and have our students research and create their journeys around the world.  
I have also been part of an innovator cohort in my district, and we were asked to create a unit that answers the 6 transformational questions by Alan November:
  1. Did the assignment build capacity for critical thinking on the web?
  2. Did the assignment develop new lines of inquiry?
  3. Are there opportunities for students to make their thinking visible?
  4. Are there opportunities to broaden the perspective of the conversation with authentic audiences from around the world?
  5. Is there an opportunity for students to create a contribution (purposeful work)?
  6. Does the assignment demo “best in the world” examples of content and skill?
This cohort assignment really made me think about transforming the thinking of my students. I once heard during a conference, don't ask students a question they can Google. With so many pieces involved in this project and the ability to choose the delivery method students could Google pieces of the information required, however, they could not Google their final product. They had to sift through information to fulfill the expectations of this project.
November's Transformational Six go beyond SAMR when it comes to technology and innovation. This lead to a great discussion with a colleague who also teaches in a one to one iPad classroom. There will always be days when you are the S, substituting an online document for a paper document. I don't believe a teacher can be at the highest level of SAMR or can fulfill all six transformations in innovation on a daily basis. There will always be days when as a teacher you must be the "sage on the stage." I think the key take-away is don't be the direct lesson teacher each and every day. Be the "guide on the side" much of the time. I actually try to apply SAMR to each unit as a gradual release method. We use to hear, "I do, We do, You do" all the time to have students demonstrate proficiency. Substitution very much applies to the direct instruction lesson the "I Do." The Augmentation part connects to the "We do." The tech may be the tool, perhaps we are on a google doc or a reading program where I can interact directly with you. Modification and Redefinition come into play as the "You Do." If you are a teacher utilizing technology your units of learning should always end with the students taking ownership of their learning and demonstrating this.
One of the articles I read about the six transformational questions stated that many teachers believe they are at the Redefinition level, but can not apply a project to the six questions. Trying to apply all six questions to a project takes time and you may have to look at what you have always done in a new way.
I believe our combined ELA/Math research project does answer, or comes close to answering, these six questions. Here's what I got:

  1. The assignment did build capacity for critical thinking on the web by requiring students to research population, primary language, climate, terrain, three attractions to visit with prices included, a hotel, and the distance traveled in this location.  The first four can easily be found with a google search.  The part that makes the students think critically is finding the hotel, attractions, cost, and distance.  This requires students to utilize an attraction’s website, sometimes translating it to find cost. Students also had to convert foreign currency and measurement. In math class students had to calculate gas mileage for a rental car, money required for hotels and food. Students were applying math to their researched locations seeing how algebra will in-fact play a larger role in their life than they believe it will.
  2. The assignment developed new lines of inquiry by requiring students to choose a location, then finding out more about it.  Sometimes students would choose a location such as France for the Eiffel Tower or China for the Great Wall, but they would know nothing else about the country or what city to visit.  The research would build upon itself as students learned more about their chosen locations.
  3. Students were making their thinking visible throughout this entire project by mapping their locations, mapping their travels within a location and choosing a variety of ways to present their research. Students also had to explain their decisions for choosing a rental car based on their math.
  4. Students were able to edit errors and post their final slides and their reflection of the unit on their blogs. For their presentations other classes, admin, and teachers were invited in to listen to presentations and evaluate. In the future we would like to open this up to the social studies teacher to incorporate the appropriate standards and further connect cross-curricular content.I’m not sure how to bring this into the global community more than we are.
  5. Students were able to create a travel itinerary.  Many said they would like to actually take their trip or at least part of it some day. Students were also tasked with presenting three of their locations in a way to inform others of their “journey” such as posts on social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest (real or fake). Other methods of presentation included blogging, podcasts, travel films, commercials, and Google Maps tours.  
  6. This does demonstrate “best in the world” examples of this type of learning. We searched through for examples and linked many in our document for the students, however we couldn’t find anything that was as comprehensive as our requirements. Here are a few great examples of student work and curriculum connections found on the internet before our project: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.
Here are some student examples to show how the students created HyperSlides to share their research findings and trip planning:


Students Examples:



I found this assignment challenging and rewarding. I definitely plan on revising my thematic units again this summer and working to apply these six transformational questions to my final projects. I hope this has inspired someone, anyone!

Thanks for reading! To make your life easier, purchase my "Trip of a Lifetime" project or my full Around the World in Eighty Days unit. Check out my Teachers pay Teachers store for lots more!

~Andi

@aadamsELA
English Middle School Mania


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