Monday, March 3, 2014

An example 'glog' & its potential for a group project

Last week I highlighted "glogs" as a web-based option for creating digital research posters, and I have put the finishing touches on an example glog to pair with this discussion of how this could be used as a group project - one that would be especially well-suited for the active learning classrooms on the UWEC campus.

Here is a link to the glog; a screen shot is shown below for those who want to take a quick glance:

What went into glog creation?
It is worth pointing out that I found myself wishing for at least a couple of collaborators while putting together the glog over the past week!  Even though working within a group presents its own challenges, I could have used a few more brains and sets of eyes for a few of the activities that went into the glog creation, including:

  • Identifying an appropriate timeline (or glimpse of a timeline, really) for the event;
  • Locating coordinating images and screening video clips;
  • Gleaning important background information from a variety of reports, including two lengthy reports;
  • Summarizing aforementioned background information into concise statements;
  • Locating appropriate data to complement the words and visuals;
  • Arranging and rearranging the glog components to ensure that all of the important items would fit;
  • Editing the text items to highlight certain points while maintaining some sense of consistency.
I spent approximately 6-8 hours on this glog, which is more than I initially expected since the topic is one that has routinely been a focus of discussion in my intro-level economics courses over the past few years.  In other words, I have already examined at the data, read several reports, and trolled YouTube for helpful videos - I can only imagine how long it might take someone who is new to the topic!

Ideas for a coordinating class project
Here's what I had in mind when I selected the topic for this example glog: Zimbabwe's recent episode is one of a long list of hyperinflation episodes that have occurred across time and space, so one approach would be for each group to focus on a different hyperinflation episode for their glog.  A larger objective for the class would then be to identify the basic underlying pattern for each of the hyperinflation episodes.  In other words, what are the "ingredients" of hyperinflation, so to speak, and how does this information aid our understanding of why these episodes occur?   Addressing these important questions could be a part of a discussion or a reflection paper - to be completed as a group or as individuals - that follows a digital poster-sharing session in class in which students can move around the room to ask each group questions about their particular hyperinflation episode (perhaps with pairs of team members taking turns manning their own digital poster to share and answer questions).

Options for individual accountability
Collaboration does not happen automatically (see last post about collaborative learning for more on this).  There are a number of options available to increase the chances of effective collaboration with this type of project, and there should be some form of individual accountability in order to ensure that team members are working together and sharing the workload.  One possibility is to divide up the project's tasks among the members of the group (see example list above) and ask for each component to be submitted individually - ideally, at the point in the project that it is needed - as well as for it to be incorporated into the final product.  Another option would be to require each student to complete a set of tasks individually (e.g., extract three important points from a given report, locate two images that represent the event, and identify one YouTube video that would be a good source of related information) and then have the groups meet to sort through the available options, refine, and locate additional materials, if needed.  The important step here would be for each member of the group to be held accountable for his or her share of the work, which helps to minimize the possibility of freeloaders and reduce the fear that the lack of effort by one or more group members will have a negative impact on the grades of those who do their share.

Group projects do not necessarily translate into saving time
Students should be asked to collaborate with one another when collaboration is valuable.  Groups often provide opportunities for students to capitalize on strengths and specialize; however, discussion and decision making takes time.  Horton (2012) identifies allocating sufficient time for teams to work effectively as an important aspect of designing coordinating activities: "Typically team activities take three to ten times as long as an analogous solo activity" (p.498).  This serves a reminder to be thoughtful when offering opportunities for collaborative learning.

Horton, W. (2012). E-learning by design (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

No comments:

Post a Comment