Every now and then you get something right. When my state adopted new learning standards for Texas History, the class I had taught for over 13 years. As we all know, the money in districts goes to subjects that have end of the year test. I knew that we would not get the resources we needed for a long time. There aren't even that many resources online for it. The only major website that has information is produced by college professors, a little above the lexicon of a 7th grader.
Knowing that our textbooks would not meet their needs in two years I decided to act. I had my students create their own textbook. I used our districts chunked TEKS, or standards similar to the common core. Each six weeks students would adopt a TEKS and create an interesting interactive piece that students could learn from as they use it.
It was my first project based assignment. I told my students that it was an experiment. They seemed to like the idea that they were doing something for future students...and that I had no idea where it would lead. I know some teachers feel like they always have to be the expert about all things, but I find students love it when you are learning with them and are honest about it. The first year I ran into a couple of surprises.
- Initially when given a choice students will always pick the easiest thing. I thought for some reason they would use the time to create beautiful imaginative masterpieces. They went straight for the PowerPoint and essay writing...strange right?
- Given enough time and support students will try new things. It isn't a natural instinct to do something where you do not know how it will end up but with enough support and encouragement they will try new things...eventually.
- There is power in the cloud. My computer died three times the year I assigned this project. Make sure the students turn in to a Google folder, or on Edmodo so if there is a meltdown you still have access to it.