The varied methods of gathering information for each project are inherently diverse. Every student has the opportunity to gather information from books, multimedia sources (like the internet), other students, the teacher, and for some projects, videotape, cassette, or other sources of information. Much attention was given to ensure that the student can choose the method that best suits his/her style of learning. No matter what kind of learner the student is (visual, auditory, etc.), there is an opportunity for that student to learn the material the way that is most comfortable for the student. All students are required to use two sources of information for gathering information on the projects, but the students are free to choose which two resources they feel most comfortable with.
As a matter of fact, the curriculum is so incredibly versatile, that the “modifications” necessary for ESE (Exceptional Student Education, or “Special Populations”) students are already in place by the nature of the program. In the Comm Tech program at Seminoole Ridge, all students learn at their own pace, in their own way. Students choose what projects they will do, they design their own solutions to the problems, and they implement their plans in the way that is most comfortable for them.
Additional focus is spent on the diversity of the outcomes of the projects. Because the projects are open ended, the student is free to choose how to solve the problem. Two students doing the exact same project may both produce completely different projects. The lines that once divided gender, race, and culture are now used to “connect the dots” as students work together using the same skills and tools to express their individuality and ability.
Lastly, there has been an incredible amount of cross-curricular activity in my room. Many students visit during lunch to work on technological alternatives to the standard paper-based research paper. One innovative project was the use of a video game interface to teach Spanish. There was a virtual reality world created of an apartment. When the player walked up to different items in the virtual world, the name of the item would pop-up on the screen (like “bookshelf” and “stove”) in both English and Spanish. It was an incredibly creative use of a tool normally used as a diversion from education, used to actually educate!
Effectiveness of Assessment
For the most part, students are assessed using the standard rubric on every project. But within that rubric, there are various modes of assessment. Students document their work in a portfolio, which includes graphic and written documentation of their work and research. Each project itself is evaluated in a one-on-one conference with the student about the project, it’s craftsmanship, and the amount of detail apparent in the final prototype.
Within the project portfolios and in the final team projects, students are assessed with a variety of methods. From written essays, sketches and diagrams, and through formal and informal presentations, students are given the opportunity to participate in determining their grades. These multiple means of assessment help create an atmosphere of equality, as students with less skill in one area (like writing or presentation skills) still receive that important practice in that area, but their grades do not suffer as they gain high marks in the areas they are strong. Every project in the program is graded with at least three different forms of assessment.