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Cycle Three Report

The story of what happened.

Many details are included in the description of the activity. Essentially, the students agreed that they would undertake an authentic project. Their clients would be a fifth grade class who would like to have game programs to help them practice for their end of course tests.

The process involved visiting the students at their home school, preparing a first iteration of the program, having the students visit the high school, and presenting the finished program. The presentation of the final program was to take place at a small reception at the school for parents, and administrators. Also at the reception, the OcPu computer was presented to a community center member.

Documentation

Descripton of the project
Elementary student reflections
Elementary student surveys
The Games created for the project
Letter to Parents
Team Reflections
Project Based Learning Journal Specifications

Reflection

In preparation for the first meeting, I gave total control of the agenda to the class. I did prepare treat bags for each of the children to promote good will, but made it quite clear that I would be available for logistical assistance only during the field trip. For the first time I could see that the class began to take ownership of the project. I was careful to make sure they understood that we were not to predetermine the outcomes or scope of the project. In other words, I didn't want them to tell the younger students, "This is what we can make for you, do you like it?". This was something that I had to continually remind them of because their comfort zone was being stretched to the limit.

I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the younger students, it was contagious. I could see how these shared experiences bonded my students together. A community of practice was beginning to form. As we returned on the bus from our first meeting with the children, the boys talked excitedly about the programs they would build. Conversation drifted back to the funny moments of the day over and over. I can see that having a living breathing customer to deliver work to, made all the difference in the world. I was bursting at the seams with pride at the way the Java students handled themselves.

In anticipation of the second meeting where the programs would be "beta tested", the team had to choose a leader to conduct the activities. I enjoyed listening to the ensuing discussion about who in the group would make a better leader on this occasion. The final choice was made based on who had a younger sibling around the age of the elementary students. The reasoning behind this choice was that an older brother would better understand how to deal with the fifth graders if they had one at home. I watched and listened to this discussion with great interest as the COP negotiated the shared leadership role. There was one student in the group who was the obvious leader in technical skills, but the group decided that he had no experience with younger children and passed over him.

When the agenda was being set for this event, I suggested that I give a short presentation on technology careers and what classes to take based on career interest. I was voted down in a matter of seconds. The COP had now taken complete ownership of the process and the students felt free to voice their opinion and direct the outcomes.

I did in the end have to exert pressure on the developing community of practice to meet the deadlines for the project. The class enjoyed being self-directed but began to lose momentum as the very end of the year approached. I was not disappointed in this fact though because in previous years student motivational levels were usually at an all time low by winter break. Here we were approaching the Memorial Day holiday with what I thought would be enough steam to complete the project.

As it turned out, I did misjudge the amount of work needed to go from beta testing to actual live rollout of the programs. We encountered one technical problem after another, not to mention the mammoth class time interruptions imposed upon us by the Standards of Learning Testing that two weeks to administer. In the end, the programs were not ready to go live by June 1st as we planned.

One key member of the team failed to produce some necessary components of the project website and another student had to step in and take up the slack. The community of practice was not as harmonious as it once had been. I saw one of the dangers of extending the borders of the classroom. Although the rewards are great, the disappointments are magnified as well. Forging this out-of-classroom bond made me feel more personal about the students' performance. Even though I told myself many times not to take it personally, I did.

Even though we missed the deadline, we went ahead with the final "Meet and Greet" reception during exam week. The date was not firmed up until the week before and invitations were hand delivered to the elementary class 6 days in advance. On the night of the reception, not one parents or student from the elementary class showed up. My students were very disappointed. I was heartbroken.

I asked myself why not even one person showed up. An assistance superintendent, my principal, the curriculum leader and some high school parents were able to attend, but why not even one elementary student? I thought perhaps I did not give enough notice to the parents before the event and that it was a busy time of year. But not even one could make time in their schedule?

I was careful not to show my disappointment to the students, and we proceeded like nothing was amiss. Afterwards, many of my students asked me if I was discouraged because they knew the huge amount of effort it took on all of our parts to get us to that point. I was very touched that they were concerned more about my feelings than their own.

Changes made to the plan as a result of the actions.

Being in the elementary school among so many excited children gave me cause to wonder what happens to all that enthusiasm by the time a child reaches high school. Although I have never had an interest in teaching middle school students, I found myself research middle school models and theories in search of an answer.

This was my final activity, so I did not make any changed to my action plan as a result. Of course, I was quite changed personally. Please read my final analysis to hear more about that.