Thursday, July 28, 2005

MERLOT '05: "Storybook: A successful model for student web publishing" notes

One of the better sessions I attended, Laura Gibbs discussed a 15 week storybook writing project her students complete for a myth folklore course. The project itself is worth 50% of the final grade. Each student chooses 4 stories to re-tell in their own words. All formal writing is published on the Internet with a tool of choice (composer, blogger, jotspot, WIKIs, etc). Training in basic web publishing skills is built into the course to familiarize the students with the technology.

Why is the model successful? The 4 "M"s (one is a fake!):
  • Motivation - students are motivated by a "real" audience of peers, who act as a community to offer constructive criticism, advice, and new ideas. The teacher alone is not a real audience.
  • Modeling - students relate better to peers (than to the teacher). For instance, in writing about vampires, students are able to "fill the gap" with knowledge gleaned from television, books, online chat groups; whereas the teacher may lack particular subject knowledge (and in some cases interest).
  • Multimedia - online format introduces new opportunities for creativity and expression through text, images, video, audio.
  • iMprovement (the fake M) - the storybook model is an iterative process whereby work is continually revised with respect to comments from peers and the teacher.
The project requires approximately 1-2 hours of student work per work, and Laura strictly dedicates (with an egg-timer) no more than 15 minutes of time per student per week. Students are required to write 3-4 responses per week. No grading rubric is used.

Sure beats the pants off of multiple choice tests.

I recommend seeing the presentation or Laura's myth folklore site for further detail.


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