Projects that Pop: The Mission Matters




Building fluid environments for learning involves developing instructional materials, activities, and assessments that meet the needs of all learners.

Whether you and your students use Comic Life, PowerPoint, Moviemaker, or Google Presentations, it's time to re-imagine our student assignments and assessments. Identifying a meaningful mission, infusing engaging examples, and offering opportunities to participate and extending the experience through technology-rich resources are critical to project pizazz.

PowerPoint can be seductive. Young people and teachers alike are susceptible to it's charms. Small groups can be heard saying:

Rarely do we hear students or educators talking about the purpose of the presentation, the quality of the information presented, or opportunities to extend the experience beyond the presentation. These are the elements that make a presentation powerful... not clipart and annoying sounds.

You can download a short PowerPoint presentation that provides an overview for your students and teachers. In the past, presentations often displayed factual information as a series of bullet points. Increasingly, skillful presenters are shifting their attention from disseminating facts to designing experiences that address the diverse needs of their audience and the many channels of communication available for conveying ideas. Don't let new technology get in the way of high level thinking. A Prezi project isn't more powerful than a PowerPoint project. It's the content that makes the difference.

Student projects are about content not PowerPoint, explore tools for creating project materials:

Rather than exploring PowerPoint, let's explore how to think differently about presenting ideas, representing ideas, and extending the experience. For instance, thinking about the structure of animals through the use of X-ray images by Nick Veasey from National Geographic.

Let's explore projectscollaborations, and reflection.

handoutEight Effective

Project Missions

Rather than individuals or teams simply creating reports, comics, movies, or presentations, refocus the activity on a specific category of deep understanding.

The comic examples were created using Comic Life and in some cases online software.

Click the image on the right to see it full-size.

Explore eight missions: EntertainEmoteInformInstruct,Challenge, EngageProvoke, and Persuade.


• Visual Storytelling • Language Development • Creative Writing • Diary • Re-enactment • Speculative Project • Experiences •

Goal: Convey a story, imagine a world, illustrate an idea

Watch Somewhere over Web 2.0 from Wizard of Apps: The Musical.

Explore some comic examples:



• Show, Not Tell • Share Insights • Connect to Emotions • Activate a Poem • Demonstrate Traits • Convey Concepts •

Goal: Express a feeling, illustrate an abstraction, move an audience

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:




• Documentaries • Histories • Databases • Photo Essays • Represent Ideas • Categorize • Show Patterns • Share Results •

Goal: Analyze information, explain causality, visualize ideas

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:




• Tutorials • Directions • Demonstrations • Presentations • Conduct Experiments • Demonstrate Procedures •

Goal: Show strategies, explain concepts, teach others

Watch how teens are Using the Flip Video in a High School Math Class (YouTube): Part 1 and Part 2. Addpipecleaners (Youtube) for some fun with graphs.

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:



• Present Issue, Challenge Thinking • Visual Story Starters • Introduce Problems • Inspirational Examples • Extend a Story •

Goal: Create dilemmas, envision problems, kickstart projects

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:



• News Programs • Visual Journal • Travel Logs • Yearbooks • Highlight Programs • Create Welcomes • Showcase Work •

Goal: Announce events, document experiences, reflect on lessons

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:



• Public Service Announcements • Stir Interest • Influence Thinking • Impact Behavior •

Goal: Arouse emotions, heighten awareness, change attitudes

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:




• Illuminated Term Papers • Advertisements • Book/Movie Trailers • Apply Advertising Techniques • Promote Action•

Goal: Support arguments, show perspectives, convince others

Explore movie making examples:

Explore some comic examples:


An Example

KoreaWhat does this type of activity look like?

Make it Authentic...identify personal interests and local connections to the Korean War.

Korean War through...

Focus on firsts. How was the Korean War different from other wars? Explore some aspect and interview veterans about their experiences. Generate a product to share conclusions.

Truman desegregated the Armed Forces in 1948 just prior to the Korean War. This was the first war where African-American and white soliders were fully integrated. Learn more at Desegration of the Armed Forces.

Use Stixy for planning. Upload to SchoolTube

Interdisciplinary Connections: Find Natural Fits

Seek opportunities for collaboration. Combining two subjects can create synergy. Look for natural fits such as Physics and Mathematics or Stage Light Math. Explore ways to combine history and historical fiction writing such as Chicago Stories.

mash-up is a web application hybrid. It combines data or functionality from two or more sources to create something new. These have become increasingly popular with Web 2.0 applications such as blogs, maps, and photo networks. With so many different sources of information, it's sometimes difficult to get the "big picture." Mash-ups provide a way to begin synthesizing information. For instance, Google Maps can provide a geographic view of content. At his blog Learn Digital History, John Leeconnects the Library of Congress Folklife Center audio interviews made after the bombing of Pearl Harbor with Google Maps. You see Buffalo New York on the map, then you can hear what the people said.

Think of the ways young people could create their own mashups. Show them the Sherlock Holmes maps. Use the Mark Twain Stormfield Project for ideas. They've identified Mark Twain's Connections on Google Maps. Could your class create a project identifying this connections to other places around the world?

VietnamInfusing technology into teaching and learning.

Reading Plus History. The teacher infuses tools such as a VoiceThread to bring the learning experience together through photos, video, and website materials to motivate and engage.

In learning about the Vietnam War, young people can draw on a wide range of resources including graphic histories such as the Dwight Zimmerman's Vietnam War: A Graphic History, a collection of short stories such as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and websites such as the Library of Congress Veteran's History Project. The resources and technologies come together as the student uses a maps, photos, a Flipcamcorder and SchoolTube and Google Docs to share her project.

Tips for Success


Use the links on the left to move through this online workshop.

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