In MAX we always start the year with an introductory project. These projects serve several purposes. They give both students and staff an opportunity to get a feel for working together toward a common goal, facilitate meeting new people, and allow students to be creative with some technology. We faced a particular challenge this year in that we didn’t have access to video editing equipment for the first two weeks of school. Luckily, our plan for the intro project was to build a website that the students could use throughout the year as a project management tool. It proved to be an exceptional unit of study for all of us and has–indeed–given us a tool we can all use.
WE began the project with several pieces of text. We started with A NYT article on a study of successful workplace teams accompanied by a NYT online quiz that asked participants to guess emotions associated with facial expressions. We read another article on Work Group organizational structures, and looked at some info-graphics presenting different work personality types. Students practiced reading and annotation skills with these pieces in preparation for an ALL-Academy Socratic Seminar. After all that work, the students had a lively and focused 90 minute discussion and were particularly interested in discussing the relationship between social norms, gender and the communication skills that seem to be necessary for strong groups. As instructors, we remained silent, on the outside of the discussion for the entire period, and were deeply impressed by the academic level of conversation we witnessed.
AFTER the socratic seminar, each student wrote a reflective essay discussing his/her strengths and weaknesses in group situations, and setting academic and personal goals for the year.
THEN we got to the work of creating the website. As Instructors, we had already written pages for ourselves, and we used these as models for format, writing style and organization. Students were placed in groups, and interviewed one another.
Finally, armed with interview notes, the reflective essay, and an image or icon of their partner, everyone wrote a biographical sketch of another student in the academy. These sketches form a bio page for each student in the website.
WE are hoping to utilize the website throughout the year as an organizational tool. Biography pages are linked to group pages and can be moved as a student changes groups. Group pages can be changed and updated. Groups thus have a single digital space where they can link calendars, post screenplays and AV scripts. Because the website has been created in Google Sites, they will have access to the information stored on the website anywhere, anytime.
We believe that this website will provide students with a tool for organization and communication similar to what they would experience in a real world environment, preparing them for the world of both college and work.
It’s called the MAX Student Network, and if you’re part of our school district’s Google Drive, check it out!