Saturday, 23 August 2014

Creating a Class Website Part 3- The Students Take Charge!

Finally, done (ish). Or so I thought. In my mind, my website was ready to show my students and we could begin using it as a resource for learning and sharing within our classroom and with the greater community.

We have been studying communication for the past week so I did a lesson about how visuals, colours and logos can communicate certain ideas and feelings. I then showed my students our new site and said, "What do you think?" Their reaction - it was good but parts of it were boring because it didn't show them as a class. Secretly as a teacher I was thrilled about this response and had even hoped for it. So I simply asked, "What do you like? What do you want to change?" and that is when the real magic began.

My students told me that this website should have more of 'them' throughout it. So they split into teams and each took on a part of the website. A few students started to create a new banner for the class site. It was important to them that they identified us as 5EM and include our school crest. This was who they were and conveying that on the homepage was important to them.

Also on the homepage, they wanted to have a class picture. So of course what else would we be but have a class photo shoot? It was great to see their personalities shine.

One of the best things I felt they did was create an introduction video for our homepage using iPods to record the video and iMovie to create the video. The video was inclusive of every student where each student said hello. The team in charge of the video wanted to celebrate the different languages spoken within our class. Any student who could speak another language said hello in their language. I felt that showed the diversity of our class and our identity as a real community coming together from various backgrounds. As part of this video, another team created an original piece of music using GarageBand. The students tried to included different instruments and think about what message the music could convey. Together, the two groups merged their products and the music was added to their iMovie project. 

We used a number of pictures the students had taken on their digital scavenger hunt the week before to be part of the banners on each of the other pages. They wanted to see their faces on every page and I couldn't agree more! I love having the students be the photographer in my class and seeing the class through their eyes. 

There is a section where I(the teacher) am supposed to update my students' parents on what is happening in our class and what is coming up next. I told my students this spot should probably stay. But of course, my students asked where they could share their thoughts of the week. Good question! So I threw it back at them - How did they want to share with their parents and friends? The word collaboration was key to them - everyone needed access to it and everyone needed to be able to help each other easily within it. A Google Document was one option but it would be a little messy some students thought. So another student suggested Google Presentation. Bingo! The solution to our problem. The students asked that I create a template where each student got 1 slide to decorate, create and comment on. This is how the weekly 5EM Files was born. It is now going to be an optional activity for the students that can be done as part of their weekly homework or if they finish their work and have some free time. All of this was their idea and it was a little shocking they all agreed to doing more work. Who would've thought that something that was dreamed up by my students late Thursday afternoon would blossom into a full class participation activity by Friday afternoon? Is it perfect? No. Is the spelling all correct? No. Is the grammar all correct? No. Punctuation? No. BUT... those are conversations that can be had in the future. Those are conversations that students can have with each other. Those are conversations that can foster teamwork and further collaboration in the future. Students will be able to learn the need for peer review before publishing a piece of work. It is more about the process than the product in my classroom. 

The final piece of the students took ownership over when the icons that linked students to the different resource page. All of the icons originally looked like the PYP UOI icon below until my students said they wanted to make their own. In design teams again, they decided what image could convey the specific subject. Using iPods, they took the photos and then imported to their Macbooks. In Preview, the students cropped the images to become circle images and I was able to add them to our sites. They each link to a separate page full of different resources for that subject. 

I love that my class was so engaged in this process and focused on making what they wanted a reality. Our website is now a place that is just as much theirs as mine. They are proud of the work they created and are excited to bring their parents to the site over the weekend. What I am most proud of my class for is not just creating their website, rather, working together as a class community in an inclusive manner to create something that they feel they have ownership of, that they were able to use their skills and prior knowledge in a meaningful way and that they realised that everyone in our class has something to offer. 

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