Throughout this semester in our EDTC 6103 course, my cohort members and I worked to complete global collaborative projects. For my project, my 4/5 students completed a culminating passion project, where they selected a topic of interest, researched that topic and generated interview questions for experts, conducted interviews with field experts, designed final products, and then presented those final products to an audience (peers and teachers). Students engaged with their peers about their projects using G-Suite applications (i.e. Google Classroom, Docs, Slides, Forms, Meet). Knowing that we wanted to get students connected to field experts in their specific topic of interest, it was necessary to survey students prior to the beginning of this project to know what fields we needed to find experts in. Additionally, it was important that we leveraged our community connections (in addition to reaching out further) to find experts in all of the given fields. Sending out a communication to families asking if they were an expert in a field or if they had connections to one was really vital in finding the right experts. For a few topics we were unable to find field experts locally, so we then needed to utilize digital platforms and tools (like Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft Skype Education, etc.) to seek out experts who were interested in participating in a 30-minute interview. Upon the completion of this project, we gathered student feedback on successes and areas for improvement. Given that this was our first year of doing this project, and students completed this during remote learning, it was extremely important for us to get feedback about several aspects of this project. The goal was that through this feedback we could continue to develop this project and further increase the engagement, critical thinking, and learning that students experience during it.
To begin, my grade band colleagues and I looked at other examples of culminating passion projects and partnered those examples with our own vision of what this project could look like. Additionally, we identified that we wanted our students to engage in collaboration and connection in a variety of settings. Our goal is to provide students with a multitude of connection opportunities throughout this project. We feel offering students several connection opportunities with teachers and peers throughout this project is vital for student success and provides them with support, constructive feedback, communication practice, and organizational management. Recognizing that we want to connect students with field experts, we realize that these connections/interviews will need to take place via Google Meet, especially during remote learning. In addition to reviewing with students our established norms for using Google Meet, we also realized that we will need to have conversations and practice with students on interview etiquette.
Connecting with Experts
In working to connect with field experts we put out an initial ask to our community members to see if they worked or knew anyone who worked in the fields students were interested in researching. Through this initial community ask, we were able to get a large number of responses from family members or other connected community members who wanted to participate. From there we did an outreach to other local organizations (i.e. Coyote Central) to connect with experts there as well. Lastly, we did Google searches and for field experts and sent out emails and tweets on Twitter to see if other experts were available to participate, There was an overwhelming response of experts who wanted to help out, and in the end, we connected our students with over 30 field experts for this project. Their names and areas of expertise are listed in the design phase below.
Executing Expert Interviews
To begin the culminating project, 4/5 students were asked to complete a Culminating Project Topic Survey Google Form. This survey served to gauge student interest on topics of study, as well as identify types of experts to help guide our efforts to find the right field expert to interview. Additionally, from this survey, we formulated groups based around similar topics of study (i.e. nature, technology, animals, etc.).
Community Ask for Experts/Expert Connections
Reaching out to Field Experts via Twitter
Email to Experts
Google Meet Group Meetings
The 4/5 students met weekly in small groups over Google Meet both before and after field expert interviews. These group meetings focused on sharing out information students gathered from their research, as well as performing mock interviews to practice for interviewing their field experts. Throughout these virtual group meetings, students were able to receive direct feedback from their peers and teachers about suggestions for improving interview questions and resources for finding information related to their topic.
Expert Interviews via Google Meet (Not all interviews are shown below)
Thank You Flipgrids for Experts
**Please note that not all student thank yous are shown below and that student names/faces are blocked out for student privacy **
After completing interviews with field experts, and using the video recordings and research online to take notes, students were asked to complete a culminating project final product survey Google Form. This survey served to compile information from students on what medium (i.e. different digital platforms or offline mediums) they wanted to use to represent their final product.
Culminating Project Presentation Screenshots
**Please note that not all student projects are shown below and that student names/faces are blocked out for student privacy **
Google Slides Presentations
Infographics via Visme & Canva
Google Doc Essays
Videos via Multiple Platforms
Reflecting on the Project
Feedback from Students via Google Form
For this being our first time running this project, as well as it being run through remote learning, I feel this project was extremely successful. Students were engaged and excited about the work throughout this project and demonstrated creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration. My colleagues and I were a little uncertain how running field expert interviews via Google Meet would go, especially through remote learning where we were not working in a classroom with students. We were thrilled to see that there were hardly any major issues (technical issues, scheduling/availability, student preparedness) involved with this process. Given how successful this project ended up being in remote learning, it makes me enthusiastic for the improvements that can continue to be made when running this project with students in the classroom. We received really positive, encouraging feedback from families and administrators as well about how invested students were in this work and the commitment students put towards producing creative, engaging final presentations. For me, this also highlights one of our biggest goals for our culminating passion project, which was empowering students to feel invested in their learning and have autonomy over how they demonstrated their understanding in their presentations.
In doing this project again in the future, there are a few improvements I would make. One of them would be to allow for more time and support in the development of interview questions. While we were able to collaborate with students and leave feedback for them over Google Docs, doing this work remotely and helping guide students in the development of their interview questions was challenging. Additionally, I would love to have students work to draft the initial “ask for experts” email and be a part of that letter writing process. I think that this is a really important step in this project and it would be great to have increased student participation in this. Due to time restrictions and communication issues in remote learning, we decided to manage this task ourselves. Lastly, in doing this project again I would like to spend more time doing mock interview practice. Our students did a wonderful job of practicing their interview questions in small groups via Google Meet and revised their questions after they received feedback. There is always room for improvement in the reteaching of a lesson, and this is one area I feel like I could continue to grow in supporting my students during this project.
I was really worried initially that we would struggle to find enough field experts for each of the given topics students wanted to explore. The idea of finding 30+ experts in a matter of about a week felt daunting, and I was blown away by the outpour of excitement and willingness to participate from experts when we put out our ask. Comments from several of the experts about how they “Never get asked to connect with students in this way,” or that “This is their service to their community and empowering our youth” were reaffirming reminders for me of the power of collaborative community projects. This is a takeaway I am excited to share with other educators and encourage them to also reach out to members in their communities for collaboration.