2011-2012 Top Ten

I want to start a new tradition of listing out my favorite projects that are completed throughout the year. In part, so I never forget how special some of these projects are as well as honor my students’ awesome work. Below you’ll find a top ten that really isn’t in any particular order. (I don’t have the heart to really rank them when so many are so good to begin with!) I have a little snippet of explanation as well with each.

1. Augmented Reality – This was the first time I had heard of AR; although, the technique has obviously been around for at least a little while. My students being a bit wiser than me in terms of the latest technology decided to base a project entirely around using AR as a learning tool in the classroom. The first attempt resulted in a 3D to-scale model of a clipper ship, while a later attempt would generate images of the globe, a model of an English factory from the industrial era, and a few other cool pieces. Basically what happens with AR is that software is used with the aid of a camera that when aimed on a “trigger” projects, in real time, a 3D interactive model with relatively high detail. In summation, a very cool interactive tool!

2. Knowledge of the Garden – You’ve seen me gloat about this one on the blog a few times already. I’m always thrilled when our students projects become real and visceral. In this case, students created an educational green space in a local park and used public speaking, presentation, and fundraising skills along with academic research to generate a physical product that will be in our community for a long time to come. (This was our “Get Active” type event from last year.)

3. Time Scanning – I just posted about this, so click here to see what it is all about if you haven’t seen it already. (This will be on display at the expo tomorrow night!)

4. The Pixel People – We have many students, especially young men, who love video games. Many have wanted to generate a game themselves, but honestly our resources at school are somewhat limiting as well as our project time lines usually don’t warrant enough time to really create such a product. Well, thanks to a great little program called Scratch, that all changed this year. We had two students develop a video game that takes a player on an adventure that simultaneously teaches the player important AP Human Geography terminology. It is a lo-def game, but fun to play and great to see come to life.

5. Appspeare – A down side to our Studio make-up is that the language arts portion of many projects become after thoughts due to the grandeur of the AP content; however, every once in a while a project really resonates with LA portion of the class. In this case, a young man developed an app with the intent of helping students understand and interpret Shakespeare better. He includes historical information, reading strategies, his own analysis of a play, and connects with the human geography of Shakespeare’s era. Although not a licensed developer yet, this creation will help this student possible find a new hobby in app development in the coming years!

6. Fit 4 You Learning – I’ve doted on this project on the blog before too. This was simply cool because it was students really thinking about how they learn and then applying it to a product that would help others learn. A couple of young ladies, who  consistently develop great projects, devised a teaching and learning ‘company’ that appeals to all learning types and generated lesson plans, activities, and an interactive website for the product. The result was professional and insightful. Metacognition at its finest.

7. The Six Degrees – This was fun in more ways than I can tell you. Have you ever played the game “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” or some form of it? This entire project was based off of the belief that you could get back to any desired Wikipedia page in six steps or less. Students developed a lab of sorts to record their findings as they tried to constantly come back to various topics of the historical era they were researching. The result was a simple, but informational research document included tables, graphs, analysis and conclusions drawn from various outcomes. It was an entertaining experiment with interesting results. (More often than not, they could get back to a desired page in six steps or less.)

8. The Epic of DERP – Remember when I said that many of our students love video games? Well this project served to reinforce that idea all over again. A first semester project, a group of young men used a handful of video game mapping programs to develop a visual epic that was to mimic ones such as Gilgemesh and The Iliad. The result was a ninety-plus page epic with visual maps of the various adventures and landscapes included in the epic. It was well written and really synthesized the research of ancient civilizations and early epics.

9. A Tale of Four Cities – Another video game related project, this particular one I wrote about before as well. Using Minecraft, students developed replicas of four major ancient civilizations and their most important structures. Although, this project lacked some of the writing integrity that I would have liked, the overall result was fascinating and structurally fairly accurate.

10. The Decision 2012 – One of the most thought provoking of all the projects, six students took the task of learning about current political, economic, and societal issues inherent in the upcoming US elections and developed their own candidate campaigns, debates, propaganda, and points of view. The result was astonishingly mature (especially for ninth graders) and balanced political project that really demonstrated their knowledge of the political process. What probably matters most about this project is that they really looked at the issues and the political climate of the country, which is rare in many young people let alone high school freshmen.

Pretty cool, huh? I can only imagine what next year will bring…

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