Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wrapping Up

There has been some exciting occurs in this last week of working on the project. Some of the highlights include creating great graphs, some students not working, some students doing all the work, some teams working well together and the cafeteria already making changes.  

On last Thursday, many of the teams kept getting off task. I think it was a mixture of summer fever and some confusion on how to create graphs. Although I taught how to do graphs in class, I do not have all of the students on the teams. This resulted in some teams not having anyone who knew what to do. I thought a handout that showed step by step would work but that was not good. Also, I was the only teacher in the team that knew excel. Despite these kinks, there were some groups who made some headway and got their five graphs created.

The cafeteria manager started to be very interested in what suggestions from the students. I supplied her with the graphs of all the responses of all the school. Students started reporting this week changes in the cafeteria menu for the better. This was GREAT news. The students actually got to see that what they do can make a difference. They do have a voice that the world needs to hear. 

The Tuesday project meeting was the best. I wrote suggestions on all the teams that had graphs so they can make changes. Students really got into the updates to graphs. To teams in particular do a great job changing the layout. I will post those images on Friday. The best thing about it all is that no one taught them how to change it. I helped the figure out the right way to click and they took it and ran. This was the highlight of the entire project to me. Getting students to understand and use technology for themselves and by themselves.

Today, we talked as a team about what we need to do as a wrap up. I will be producing a document for the students to see their grades on all the turned in assignments at this point. We will also make sure the students know not to just copy and paste the example business proposal. I will also print all the items from the different teams to place in a binder. 

We started to also discuss what went well and what we need to work on. The great thing about it all is we have a record through wikispaces to build upon. DeAnn mentioned how all the team has to be trained on the technology the students use before we have the students use it. I am going to create a form for all of us to fill out to come up with more items we need to do as an improvement and what went well. Overall, the teachers admitted this was a little difficult since they never seen a project before so they spectated on occasion. I saw this as  need for me to be able to create a better picture for others. Despite this issue, they are all loving the idea of project based learning and anxious to do it again!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Example Documents

I did not go to school today due to my need to work on my final project for my masters. DeAnn reported "We are still alive, just barely..without you. The kids did pretty well in the library....and most importantly the library was glad we left everything in good shape! We did get some printed finished menus and some started on the business proposal."

I got up early to complete the example document for the students to follow. I posted it on wikispaces. I also planned to contact the district's nutrition manager who creates the school menu but Master's work won. I also reflected on how it would have been great to get the chef and a co-op speaker as we brainstormed. We will have to make sure that is apart of the process next year.

Well, more tomorrow.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Great Pictures

There was a lot of activity between the three classrooms the students worked in for their project. Student pictures are now uploaded on flicker. Check it out at this address:

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rolling On

Students worked diligently today on their menus and their lab report. I forgot the lab report was due on Thursday so students in my class did not work on that element. DeAnn agreed to allow them to work till Tuesday.

I took lots of pictures of the students working and am working on putting it on a flicker page. I will create another post when this and the movie of the launch is complete.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Starting To See Progress

The students worked project as scheduled in the last two class periods. The checklist is working to help the students know what they are supposed to do. We were also on one accord as a teaching team. A new student to our team found a great website to use for the project "by accident". I love it when that happens. Other teams were really getting into the creation of the menu and finding foods of other cultures. I am the tech resource teacher on the team so students came in and out of my room asking for help on creating the menu and some asked for help on search as well as if a particular food would be resonable to create in the cafeteria. From this point on the students will be recording all of their research and creating their products on the computer.

I had the awesome task of figuring out a new piece of software. I know I mentioned in a previous blog entry that I was deciding between using InspireData and an online survey. Well, the online surveys were not going to work. All of them were only free for the first 100 responses. After 100 you would have to pay. Also they did not give the students the opportunity to create the graphs. They created the graph of the results. Therefore, I decided to figure out how to use InspireData's new feature of an online survey.

Thanks to this blog, the product manager of the product contacted me about a week ago. Thanks to his help, I was able to better find the information that will help me create a survey that meets the types of questions I wanted the students to ask. I just finished creating the students survey and it was really easy. I did find out it would be important to write down the survey id and owner id it gives you when you go to publish the survey so that you can close the survey later. I am going to have to contact the product manager and see if it is a way to cancel the surveys I created by accident :).

So far it looks like it will be a great tool. The only downside is the students have the ability to retake the survey. I had to communicate to the english department to make sure the students do not take the survey twice and skew the numbers. The good news is the product manager listened to me about that being a great thing to turn off and it will be an option in the next release. I can't wait to see some of the preliminary results on Friday. I will be going through the interpretation of the data with the students next week. If you are intested in more information about InspireData, you can get it from

Tomorrow we will be on a field trip. There are some students who are staying behind and will probably work some on the project. I will be checking with DeAnn(science) to see what occurs to report.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Handling the Bumps in the Road

I didn't get a chance to look up suggestions too heavily. I did see that the checklist will be a great way to help the students and also to have a meeting to clarify again with the teachers.

We met briefly on Monday and again our meeting almost ran away from the focus with having to deal with a student issue. However, we were able to modify the checklist I came up with and to create an example final product for the students to review. We still as a team need to discuss what the expectations are going forward. I had many students mentioned how Ben (English) told them something different to do for the project.

To help remedy this problem as well as to not have each teacher have to be that in depth with the knowledge of other subjects, I suggested the students go back to the teacher. They have the ability to go to different rooms for questions. I reminded them for the lab work go to DeAnn (science) and for graphs come to me. I didn't say this in the nicest way so I will have to apologize to my students as well. The end of the year antics of students is increasing. I found myself losing patience with the students as we attempted to go through the project.

Today, I worked with the students with the questions they created for the school survey. The original questions submitted by the students were a mixture of good and bad. As a learning exercise, each class discussed how to make questions better and voted what questions to keep. Although the goal of learning how to revise and improve decision making was great, I don't think it was achieved with the method chosen. I chose to do it as a class. Many students tuned out and some were not active in the voting process. Next time, I will divide them into groups and have them edit them in the small groups first. I will then have them do it as an entire class.

To see the students' original question, revised question and final survey questions, check out under management section.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Management Examination

The final day in the first week of the project revealed the need to come up with more management tools for the students and further clarification among the team of teachers. One student revealed to me that they were not told to complete the survey questions as I instructed. At first, I didn't really take this students word to heart because they are hardly ever at school. However, events that occurred later in the day let me know there was more work to be done on the communication side of this project.

During the last class of the day, I scanned the actual questions of the students and saw how they were still asking questions for the cafeteria manager or principal instead of the student body. I also was missing so many questions. Some of the students explained that Ben (English) teacher told them to put them on their gaggle blog. I thought this was weird since as a team we never discussed putting anything on gaggle. I also thought I mentioned to have them write it on a sheet of paper but I could not be for certain. This let me know we really needed to tighten up expectations for each week.

DeAnn (science) and I talked at the end of the day and revealed even more need for management of the project. She explained that many of the students didn't understand the look of an online survey. I thought I had did a great job of explaining this in the class but I didn't include a visual which is what was probably needed to help the students. I assumed that since they completed a paper survey before in another project, they would just know that it is the same as the paper but online.

I realized I would have to spend the weekend finding other management tools and how we can better communicate as a team. It is interesting how you think everyone is on the same page in a meeting but the actions after the meeting shows what everyone really understood. I am going to spend the weekend reading the management tips in the Reinventing Project-Based Learning and Buck Institute for ideas on how to better manage this project before we get any deeper.
I also discovered as I looked at some of the

Thursday, May 1, 2008

So Much To Review

I can not believe it has been over a week since I last updated everyone on the project. The two days before the launch and the days since the launch have flown by. There is so much to tell. I hope that I will get everything in this post and try to write everyday instead of waiting.

The two days before the launch was a little hectic. The team meet the Wednesday before the launch but the meeting was derailed by a discussion of a student. I had to opt to try and complete the planning via email. This is not the best way since one of the team members still struggle with using technology. The good news the person is really wanting to learn and get better. I made a mental note to make sure we have a formal business meeting for student issues and designated meetings for the project planning next year.

Via email we ironed out the small details of managing the project. In the middle of the night on Wednesday, April 23rd, I realized the best way to have the students work on the project is to not have normal classes during the last two periods of the day on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This will allow the students some time during the day to work but also an ability to keep working after school without breaking stride. Since there were 20 teams, there could also be five teams in each room. Everyone on the team agreed with the plan and we were ready to launch.

The launch on Friday, April 25th had very few bumps in the road. I filmed the launch so I will be able to edit and post it soon. Each teacher had a particular part to say and everyone had their script to follow (see the video at the end or PDF on the wiki). The majority of the students really were interested in the project and the flow of the presentation was flawless. The bumps included many of the students not trying a lot of the healthy foods, many of them still did not have a picture of what exactly they were to do in the project and some of the slacker students were still not interested in the project even though they complain about the cafeteria. In reflection, one of the team mates suggested we do a poll of the students interest before the next project.

Some of the main management problems that have occurred since the project is students complained about their teams. We had to emphasize they could not change teams but they could boot people off the team via the statements in their team contract. Many of the students still did not get that they had the opportunity to change the cafeteria. They also didn't understand what products we wanted. This opened us up to discovering we all did not have a proper perspective on each other's expectations. At our next team meeting, we discussed what each other was expecting the students to produce and decided to create a dummy example for the students to follow.

Many of the confusion started to clear once we got on the same page and created more expectations of what needs to be taught formally in our classrooms. I also realized before the launch that there needs to be a place for the students to get information and so I updated to include a student info tab. Once we actually were clear on expectations, this site became a great resource for the students.

The greatest event occurred yesterday during the interview session with the cafeteria manager and the principal. The students truly started to see the realness of the project and to see what is possible in the school. As instructor's we became even better aid today to show how the students should not do certain things in their recommendations because it would not be approved by the principal. We also discovered how much power the student and their parent have on the food supplier for the school.

Upon reflection of our launch and the first week following the launch, I have discovered the following items will keep our project on the road to success:
  • Each teacher needs to be informed of what will be taught in regard to the project for that week
  • Have a PowerPoint slide every Tuesday and Thursday of the due dates to be displayed while students are working
  • A harsher punishment for students who do not work in their teams. Currently, it is just receiving a zero
  • Have each team explain back to the instructor what their goals are for that day so that we know they understand what they are doing
I will be writing again tomorrow. I promise :)