16 January 2014

Hand over the Reins: Specialized Project Groups

Most projects worth doing cannot be done alone. Most projects worth doing require coordination of time, materials, money, and information. Coordinating all of these elements is one reason collaboration is an essential 21st century skill. The old adage tells us what we must do with anything we want done right, but what kind of lifelong preparation is it for students if I "do it myself"? How can the project carry over into other aspects of their lives and encourage them to go forth and do likewise once they leave my class?

I have to hand over the reins.

But this is the tricky part: I have to prepare them before I do it. So even if I'm not doing the time/material/money/information coordination myself, I have to know how and then break it down into steps my little novices can handle.

So I proposed some groups to the class, and they proposed some more. It's week 2 of the semester, but you will notice that I used cognates wherever possible, so I was speaking Spanish even if they did not necessarily respond in kind--more of an interpretation activity at this stage.

  • Organizar dinero
  • Organizar el calendario
  • Investigar Colombia
  • Presentar la clase/escuela
  • Presentar la comunidad
  • Coordinar materiales
  • Amigos de correspondencia
The pen pals group was their idea, and it was pretty cool because before it was suggested, a couple of kids were pretty "meh" about the whole thing--that group lit their little eyes up, though! I let them choose their groups then shuffled them to keep groups at four or fewer each. Nobody felt moved by the calendario group, though, so we struck it. The research group, however, was so popular we split it into two: one to research daily life and one to research the proverbial landscape. The video I showed them raised a lot of questions I couldn't answer, quite frankly, and making their new Colombian buddies feel bad has always been a concern with this project, so I thought someone had better do some digging.

We're Skyping with a representative of Ayudando Ando this week, so the groups' first task was to come up with questions that would help them do their jobs. I think maybe next time I'll have them create a group job description before Skyping, probably via InfuseLearning, but I wanted the excitement a real-live international conversation would generate sooner rather than later.

From there, we'll go to my new best friend, Trello, where I've laid out a board with tasks I need each group to handle. I'll have them figure out what's missing first, what else they think they should do, and then get down to the business of delegating. For each task, I'll have groups tell me
  1. How many people need to work on this?
  2. Which group members are going to work on this?
  3. How much time do they need to finish?
  4. What vocabulary do they need to understand or use?
  5. What resources do they need?
  6. What evidence will they submit when they are done?
  7. How/where/when will they submit the evidence?
They will then need to complete calendars and contracts outlining how they plan to accomplish their goals. My job will then be to negotiate and approve both, then provide them the necessary vocabulary, technology access, and practice to get where they're going. I will also check in with each group daily with some simple questions in the TL:

  • ¿Qué tienen?
  • ¿Qué necesitan?
  • ¿Qué sigue?
We will also have  to coordinate an overall class calendar, so groups will have time to collaborate with other groups or present to the class as necessary.

It's my group last semester that gave me the idea to split up the class according to their interests to tackle this monumental project. Well I remember the sense of complete failure the first time I undertook this huge project. Now though? It's not just my project. The kiddos are taking the reins, and I'm ready for the ride!

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