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A Native American Collaboration

Every year, 3rd grade classes at Balboa Magnet School, are learning about Native Americans. Students conclude their learning by creating a project about one such Indian Tribe, describing in detail their culture and way of life. In 2008,
after the school subscribed to Google Apps, new horizons of technological growth opened up for students to pursue. I suggested that the final project about Indian Tribes will be done with Google Sites and offered to create a project template for it. It would’ve probably served students better if they created the site themselves, but serious time limitations forced us to adopt the template option. The templates were customized for each class. In most cases, students were conducting research in the lab, the classroom or at home and wrote up the entire project on paper. When they came to the lab, they merely copied their work to the site template. However, one 3rd grade teacher decided to seize this opportunity to teach the class how to handle this project in a digital environment.

The teacher organized students in teams of two or three students. As a first step, students were asked to search for reliable and relevant resources. Using a research tool such as Zotero, students were asked to save their resources under a ‘Native American Project’ folder that they shared with their team members and could access from home. This allowed them to work on their projects from home, as well as the classroom. The assignment was split among team members, each responsible for their own project parts. The template was set up to allow student collaboration, assigning one student as site owner and other team members as collaborators. Every page in Google Sites provides a comment section, allowing students to engage in lively brainstorming sessions and a place to critique each other’s work. Students enjoyed the experience because they learned a lot about technology and how to handle different aspects of it, but mainly because they were responsible for their own learning. The team leader had an important role to coordinate the entire effort and team members cherished the social experience, brainstorming and collaborating with the team. The final outcome looks like this website about the Pawnee Tribe.
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