02 December 2013 ~ 2 Comments

Digitally rich ideas for end-of-semester projects

Digitally rich end-of-semester projects

When it’s time for cumulative projects, students have plenty of opportunities to show off their digital prowess. Here are some ideas.

‘Tis the end of the first semester — at least in my U.S. classroom.

Therefore, ’tis the season for end-of-semester projects.

My students create cumulative projects in preparation for final exams. It’s always interesting to see what they’ve learned in my Spanish classes and see how they can apply it by way of creating.

As the years have gone by, I’ve tried to add more digital skills to these projects. They’re a great opportunity to incorporate some techniques that could really benefit them in college and beyond. You know, those skills we want to teach our students for jobs that don’t exist yet, like:

  • Creating content online
  • Adding value for others
  • Broadening their digital tool options
  • Learning web creation tactics like embedding

Here are some end-of-semester projects I’m doing this year or have done in the past. Like anything else, they’re just ideas. They could be used as cumulative projects like I’ve used them. They could be much shorter at any time during the school year. If you like them, feel free to adapt, modify or change them at will.

1. RSA-style whiteboard animations.

I was fascinated by these illustrations when I saw this version of a Sir Ken Robinson Ted Talk:

Storyboarding ideas can help recording go smoothly.

After doing some digging online (and finding this great, very thorough post), I decided to try it with my students.

Here’s how they work:

  1. Decide how you want your video to look and sound. I found that using a storyboard was easiest (see photo).
  2. Record the video without audio keeping the camera still (using a tripod, stack of books, etc.) My whiteboard setup involved what I had around: an easel, a Bible, a box of screws, etc. (see photo)
  3. Put the video into a video editor (I’ve used Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Studio; I’m sure iMovie and others work well too) and speed the video up to four times the speed.
  4. While watching the video, record the audio and add it to the presentation.
  5. Save the entire project as a video file and do with it as you please!
Here's how I set up a whiteboard animation at home.

Here’s how I set up a whiteboard animation at home.

These projects required LOTS of dry erase markers and more time to edit and re-record than I anticipated. However, my students enjoyed creating them.

2. Shared, embedded Google presentations.

We’ve seen the “create a PowerPoint presentation about …” project for years.

Google’s shared documents take these to a whole new level.

For the next two weeks, some of my students will be creating books with Google presentations. When complete, we will embed all of them in our class Weebly site (Weebly = free website creation site). They will all be in one place for students to access easily.

After they’re all done, I’ll have students read each other’s books (presentations) and answer some questions about them on a Google form.

Students get to see each other’s work without enduring several class periods of presentations in front of the class (which aren’t bad in and of themselves). There’s instant interest when students see each other’s work, and that interest increases when they talk about what each other has created.

These don’t have to be books, of course. They could be the result of research. They could be galleries of student work. The possibilities are limitless.

3. Screencast promotional videos.

Google presentations (or PowerPoint presentations) give students great design power. Combine those with screencasting web apps like Screencast-o-matic or Screenr and they add another dimension to these tried-and-true presentations.

My Spanish 3 students will be creating two-minute promotional videos, encouraging tourists to visit countries where Spanish is spoken. They’ll create presentations in Google or PowerPoint, including text, images and video to create an experience for their viewers.

Next, they’ll take their presentations to the screencasting tool of their choice to create a video. They will voice-over their presentations and create a promotional video.

From there, we will embed those videos into our class Weebly site so everyone can view them and, again, answer some questions via Google forms.

Creating these screencasts is a useful skill for students to acquire. But their ability to parse information they find into a two-minute presentation — AND add the right media elements to communicate their message — is the bigger benefit.

These are just some ideas, but I’m always amazed at what others I find from other colleagues, whether in person, on Twitter or at conferences. I’m sure you’ve tied some great projects to the digital skills students will need. Keep the conversation going — add your project in a comment below!

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2 Responses to “Digitally rich ideas for end-of-semester projects”

  1. Jennifer 13 December 2013 at 2:58 pm Permalink

    Do you ever use Google websites instead of Weebly? Is there an advantage that you know of?

    • Matt Miller 14 December 2013 at 3:39 pm Permalink

      Hi Jennifer –

      I use Weebly for two reasons: I’m very familiar with it and it’s not blocked by my school’s Internet security. I know of lots of great teachers that use Google Sites to create sites. I know of others that love Wikispaces. I think all of them have the same basic features. The most important part, probably, is picking something you’re most comfortable with and using it! Thanks for your comment … Matt


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