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Online Projects
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Jennifer Wagner, online project guru, talks about how she first got interested in online projects, and shares tips for selecting the best online project for your classroom. Included: Half a dozen links to online project resources.

I was introduced to the idea of online projects -- or project based learning -- in the fall of 1999, while attending a conference. Immediately after arriving home, I sat down at my computer and started my first online project, which asked the question: "Does a kid really eat the middle of an Oreo first and save the chocolate cookie for last?" Expecting about 20 participants, I uploaded a Web page to the Internet, posted the idea to an educational board I belong to, and mentioned it at a seminar I taught. The project -- with 500 participants -- ended 3 months later. That was my entry -- more like a headfirst dive -- into the world of online projects. They since have changed my world; hopefully they'll change yours as well.

EXPAND YOUR CLASSROOM. EXCITE YOUR STUDENTS.

Online projects are a great way to expand your classroom while, at the same time, exciting your students about learning. An online project uses the Internet to enhance curriculum-based lessons. It encourages collaboration with teachers and classrooms around the world (although you also can have a successful project with a school down the street or the class next-door). Finally, an online project assists you in meeting many state standards, in a variety of subjects.

Before you join an online project, however, you will want to ask a number of questions:

  • What is the timeframe of the project? You probably already have a very full schedule. Will you be able to fit the project into the timeframe posted?
  • What is the grade level of the project? Is the project too simplistic -- or too hard -- for your students?
  • What will I need to buy, find, or acquire for the project? Most projects try to keep cost to a minimum. You will find that some can become quite costly, however.
  • How do I post data? Are you expected to send in your results by mail or e-mail? Do you need to post to a chat room, message board, or blog? Do you have access to the tools you need to do that?
  • What does the sponsor of the project expect from me? Are you expected to create a Web page to show off your class's participation? Is there anything you might need to mail in?
  • Will my principal understand my involvement in an online project? Double check to see if your school allows you to join in. (For those principals who are dragging their feet when it comes to technology use, an online project is an excellent way to get them on board!)
  • If food is involved, do any students have allergies or religious beliefs that might hinder their involvement? One of my projects involved sorting Froot Loops, and I never thought of students who were diabetic. We quickly adapted the project to include rubber gloves - and, luckily, all went well.
  • Is there an easy way for me to get my questions about the project answered? Make sure the hosts e-mail address is posted. I would advise you to send off an inquiry e-mail just to see what his or her response time is. That usually is a good indication of what to expect during the project.
  • Can the project merge easily into my school and state standards? Most projects now post state standards, but if this one doesn't, you might want to check to see how you can easily adapt the project to your standards.
  • How does the project end? Many projects on the Internet peter off to nothing and you never know the results. The good projects post final results and send you a certificate of participation or an e-mail of completion. Also, check to see how often the project will be updated. The more your students come back for updates, the more involved and enthused they will be.

PROJECT RESOURCES

When looking for an online project, you might want to start with Global Schoolhouse, which maintains a database of more than 1,000 projects. A search option is provided that allows you to choose a grade level, subject area, starting date, and many other options to find a project that fits your parameters.

Also, be sure to stop by CIESE for some of the most sophisticated projects I have ever seen. The projects are more detailed and time consuming than most. One nice aspect of CIESE projects is that they are on-going and you can join whenever you want.

Finally, I invite you to visit my project page at Projects by Jen.

About the Author

In 1999, Jennifer Wagner, the first technology coordinator at Crossroads Christian School in Corona, California, was looking for an interesting way to collect data for a science fair project. She posted a question to the EdTech newsgroup, and the Oreo Online Project was born. The Oreo Project has continued, and Projects by Jen continues to hosts online projects each year. Wagner also was a top finalist in the Global SchoolNet Foundation Teacher Award in 2002 and 2003 for her online projects and effective telecollaboration.

Wagner graduated from Pacific Christian College in 1992. Though self-taught in many software programs, she continues to take "any technology course she has time for." She also teaches all Office programs at LVS Online, and for several years, was a tutor (AACTchJen) on AOL, in the Homework Help Area. One of her favorite activities is traveling the United States, conducting enthusiastic seminars, and leaving excited teachers with ideas on how to use their computers immediately in their classrooms. In her spare time, Wagner designs Web sites for teachers, schools, churches, and small businesses.

But yes! There is life away from the computer. Wagner also enjoys reading, writing, the theatre, the oceans, the mountains, and just sitting at home enjoying the company of her pets -- a cockatiel called PC and a kitten named Mac.

Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © Education World

 

Updated 11/14/2011
 

 

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