ARCHIVED—Taking a Virtual Trip One Question at a Time
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If people put up travel blogs for real trips, why not have students create a blog describing a voyage they make through their learning?
The grades 4 and 5 curriculum in Alberta is heavy on Canadian content so Dan Buchanan has students create web pages and then use them to record an imaginary journey. Grade 4 students travel within Alberta. Grade 5 students travel across Canada.
The students have to do extensive research to determine when to make their virtual trips, what sights they would likely see and what they would learn. Then they assemble the material into a travel blog with text, pictures and other media.
The technology used is the iWeb web composition program from Apple and the school's intranet. (School board policy is that student work may not be made available to the general public, to protect children's privacy.)
One of Buchanan's roles as teacher is to set out a rubric and help facilitate the students' work as they go along. "It's a big project and they need to be reminded to go through each stage and to think ahead."
He begins by going through the rubric with students and explaining all the tasks and outcomes they have to complete. He also does regular follow-up sessions on the SMARTBoard to remind the students of how far they should have progressed at any given point. The students themselves do a weekly self-evaluation of the work they have done and what they still need to do. (See, "Improvement Through Self-Evaluation" and "How to be Better Than Good.")
In addition to picking a region to travel to, students also pick a Canadian artist to discuss along with their trip. They may even produce artwork based on photographs of places they "visit" in the style of that artist.
After students have done their general research, they need to work out the specific details of their trip. This means sitting down with a map and ruler and figuring out how they will travel and how long the various legs of their journey will take. The blog has to present a trip that is as close to what a real traveller would experience as possible. The students have to discuss the preparations they would make and the supplies they would pack.
As they go along, Buchanan helps them stay focused. For example, one choice students have to make is which of the basic templates from the iWeb program they will use and how this will determine the way they structure the content. Buchanan gives them guidance about website design and then has students explain how they have used these principles to attract and keep interest.
"It's not very complicated technology and that is one of the best things about it," explains Buchanan. "The project ties a whole lot of work together into a single big project kids can be really proud of."