Monday, March 24, 2008

Brainstorming Meeting

The first day of planning the project is now complete. It was a great session and I am excited about continuing our brainstorming tomorrow. Four out of the five members of the team was able to meet and everyone was ready to discuss the project.

We opened up with an activity to help us think about what it is like to work in a group. We shared memories of a group experience including what worked well in the group and what could be improved. This is an exercise I learned from a class I am currently taking entitled "Managing the Classroom Environment". Completing warm-up activities helps to connect members as well as provide a basis for the task to complete. This activity lead us into things we need to remember as we work through the planning process.

We reviewed the standards in each of our subject areas that are what we feel all students really need to remember. This lead us to the brainstorming of where in real life do we see the standards we are asking the students to know. Due to the warm-up activity and shorten time to meet (30 minutes), we only got a small start on the brainstorming session.

This portion of the session was the greatest learning experience for me. I have never worked with other teachers to coordinate a project. I know all teachers have a different view of what a project is but we also have different methods for creating our projects. It was great to see multiple views of a team as well as the assistance of people.

To get into the brainstorming session, I asked the teachers to think where in real life do their standards exist. This is a question the book "Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age" recommends to help think of project ideas and also a suggestion by Buck Institutes manual. It is a method I have used over the last year and a half to plan projects but found it hard to explain how to do.

As we started to work on brainstorming, we went by each subject. For English we discussed how there is nothing in life that doesn't relate to the standards. Students will complete the standards at the beginning through research or writing a proposal or just summarizing their thoughts as well. For science, we discussed the wastefulness of oil. This was when the conversation was of the most learning experience for me.

Deann, the science teacher, expressed how she really didn't understand what we were brainstorming. She related her experience to when she plans she comes up with a theme. I explained how a project can be a part of a theme but the greater aspect of a project answering a problem that doesn't have a necessary right or wrong answer. To create it the problem, it is helpful to think of problems in real life. I shared my experience at a previous job where I had a problem with a customer's telephone service. My solution to their problem required various knowledge elements, i.e. the things we want our students to know, but it was in essence solving a problem.

This example didn't help her that much. However, teammate, Debra helped by relating the process to hypothesis and then execution. She also explained a project she did with students and how she wanted to do one where the students create travel brochures. I exclaimed as I explained how the book gives the same example. I made copies of the pages for her and it became a discussion we continued throughout the day. I thanked Debra for her analogy and shared how happy I was to again work as a group.

We wrapped up the discussion by me explaining how a project is very front end loaded with us creating a question, assessments/deadlines and products. Ben also offered to take a poll of the students interest to see if an idea of a project will surface from the students.

When we work on brainstorming tomorrow, I will help the group understand the process by giving an example. We will then spend the majority of the time narrowing our ideas to one specific topic that will also lead us to think of all the products we want the students to produce for assessment. On Wednesday, we should be able to complete our project sketch and asset map.

Below is a video of the Keynote presentation we went through as a group:

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