Project 1: Interactive Course Website
Students are seldom asked to critique how textbooks are written. Although they may have opinions about the inaccessibility of the texts they are asked to read, they are rarely asked to contribute in making those texts more accessible and student friendly. In addition, some students understand better than others how to successfully retain the information presented to them. However, students do not have the opportunity to learn from each other what works and what does not unless they ask each other. And I’m assuming they do not.
This project would consist of a website for which only the course’s students and the instructor (me) would have access. The site will be hidden to non-members and will be password protected. I will write the course information, broken down by topics, and searchable. Each topic will also include links to relevant youtube videos to add to the accessibility of the information covered. Students will have the opportunity to comment on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. The nature of their contributions will be the following: They can suggest clearer ways of wording the content; they can describe what helps them remember the content (tricks, mnemonic devices, etc.); they can suggest additional helpful video clips; or anything else they think would be helpful.
Besides requiring students to engage with the material in more meaningful ways than just memorizing it, students will be aiding in the creation of something. At the end of the semester, the website will be better and more complete than at the beginning. This should, hopefully, give them a sense of having contributed to the world of knowledge – something I think students are not asked to do often enough.
Anna is from Jamaica. She is 52 years old and afraid of technology. She does not have an email account, nor does she know how to go about creating one. She decided to go back to school now that her children are married and out of the house. She is slightly uncomfortable being the oldest person in the class, but she takes comfort in the realization that there are others in the class who are also older students. Although Anna is very proud of herself for going back to school, her biggest weakness is believing that everyone else knows things she does not.
Chris is combative. He is 22 years old and wants to do the least amount of work possible. He thinks learning is for nerds and he sees his education as a means to an end. He believes the world would be better if we were allowed to do what we wanted without having to follow the rules someone else made up. He’s got a chip on his shoulder and frequently makes offensive and disruptive comments in class.
Aviva is an eager student. She is 19 years old and identifies as a conscientious worker and learner. Whenever a question is asked in class, she is the first to raise her hand. She is never absent and prides herself on getting the highest grades possible. When she earns a 97 on a test, she is upset about the 3 points she didn’t get.
Users will find the website only by being told about it and being invited to join. They will receive very detailed written instructions on how to create an account that allows them to comment on the site’s content, and on how to leave those comments. In addition, a computer lab will be used during one class meeting to give students the opportunity to try leaving comments, while being able to ask questions and raise concerns.
Scaled up version
The website will be created on WordPress and will include plugins for security and password protection. Students will be able to create profiles through the use of BuddyPress. Users will have the ability to leave comments on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis through the use of Digress.it, or any other plugin that may be found between now and implementation that allows for annotation of content. There will also be a blogging area, where students can share relevant information (e.g., upcoming meetings, study groups, etc.).
Once the site is created and I am confident that the security is up to snuff, I imagine the longest amount of time will be devoted to the writing of the content. The creation of the website, and its various plugins, will likely take several weeks. The writing of the content, which will be written using various textbooks and websites, will take no less than 3 months. Once the content is up, the process of allowing students to contribute to the site will take a full semester.
I currently have a working knowledge of WordPress but am not nearly familiar enough with BuddyPress or Digress.it to claim competency. I will also need to familiarize myself with the necessary security plugins to ensure the site cannot be accessed by anyone who has not be invited.
Time to completion: 5 months
Scaled down version
The website would still be created on WordPress and include plugins for security and password protection. However, students would not create profiles or have the blogging capacity – they would only comment on the content. The content would also be considerably scaled down. Perhaps only certain topics could be covered on the site, as opposed to all of the class material. This scaled down version could be a pilot of the scaled up version. Perhaps it would only run for the first half of the semester and students could give feedback about whether they found it useful.
Time to completion: 3 months
Project 2: Competitive Course Quiz Game
For many students, learning has become rote and boring. Injecting some fun and competition may be incentives to learning the material. This project would be a either a phone or web-based app that allows students to play against each other. Once they create an account, they can challenge another student or play against another student who has challenged them. If beginning a challenge, they can choose the topic that the questions will cover. Each question answered correctly earns points. Answering the question faster earns more points. As students win more challenges, they move up in levels. For example, a student could be Level 1 in “learning theories” and a Level 15 in “classical conditioning” based on how many challenges they won.
Amy is 18 and not very engaged school. She is going to college because that is what her family expects of her. Amy is very competitive and does not like to lose no matter what the game is. She is the youngest of 4 and has 3 older brothers. Growing up in an Irish-American family was always fun and loud. She got her competitive attitude from growing up with her 3 competitive brothers.
Anthony is absent a lot. He often has to take care of his younger sister when the babysitter cancels. Although he takes school seriously, he cannot devote as much time to it as he’d like. He sometimes gets his reading done on the train. Sometimes he does his homework on his phone. He wishes material was easier to learn so that he wouldn’t feel like there was never enough time to do anything fun.
Carole is 21 and does not like to hurt anyone’s feelings. She always preferred solitary games, such as crossword puzzles or Sudoku. She finds little pleasure in winning because it means someone else has lost. She is very conscientious and is always the first to hand work in when it is due.
Scaled up version
The quiz app will be iphone, android, and windows compatible. Users will create an account, along with a profile, and be able to sign in and play either on their phones or on a computer. Users will also be able to contribute questions to be used in others’ games. The app/site will keep track of users’ progress. The site/app may be built using quizlet or some other quiz-making platform. Because students will create profiles, it will only be made available to the students of the course so that they can play against each other only, and to ensure security.
It will take about a month to try out different app/site building platforms that allow account users to play against each other. Once the platform is found, it will take a few weeks to create the questions and test that the app/site is working smoothly. If all goes well, the site should be up and running within two months and ready to be used in a course, either for studying purposes, or to gain extra points on the final grade (e.g., reaching level 20 = 3 points on overall grade).
I have no working knowledge of any of the necessary platforms. Getting a handle on which ones offer what I want, and then learning to use it is going to be the biggest hurdle. Making up questions is going to be the easiest and quickest part.
Time to completion: 3 months
Scaled down version
Students will use quizlet, or some similar site, to play against each other. The games will only be available on a computer, not on a mobile device. Each student will need to create an account and I will monitor their progress. Because the site will not also be a phone app, this should cut down on the amount of time needed to get it up and running. Students’ accounts will not have profiles attached to them, so the need for security will not be as high.
Time to completion: 1.5 months