For many years I have encouraged students to dig into their curiosities through Passion Projects, Teach Me Something I Don’t Know events, and Learn Something Amazing activities. Each time, I facilitate these learning opportunities, I inevitably become more knowledgable and am consistently impressed with the conscientiousness, inquisitiveness and pride students display. The process of discovery is unwrapped as they research, synthesize and present their learning. This term, the students shared their knowledge about such topics as: Tae Kwon Do, Korea, numerous breeds of dogs, how the ear works, the science of roller coasters, what makes a great cup of coffee (which included a tasting!), the evolution of the iPod, environmental protection and one child’s personal passion for corn. The diversity of choice was no different than in previous years, however there was a noticeable change in the quality of the presentations.
Over the year our students have been shown numerous TED Talks from TED and from TED-Ed. They love them. I even experimented by showing them at lunch as they ate; it kept them focussed, and they were engrossed. As these Talks have played we discuss the content but we also talk about the presentation style. What do TEDsters do when they talk? How do they capture the audience’s attention? These people are passionate about their subject matter – how do they parlay that passion into engaging presentations? The students had fantastic observations around using slides with less words and images that connect with what is being said. The students made note of the utility of props on stage and how presenters who didn’t read off of cue cards demonstrated that “they are really knowledgeable about their topic.”
After all of the Ted “Class” Talks, I proposed a challenge. As the students were learning and creating their Passion Project, they were to keep the presentation at the end in mind. They were encouraged to present in multiple forms from: poster boards, pictures, PowerPoint/Keynote, Prezi, whatever came to mind. The students did not disappoint. Only a couple students read from their projects, and a few from their cue cards. Most students “talked” about their topic, using cue cards as quick reminders. The majority used technology as a means of visualizing their talk; they did not read the slides to their audience. One student transferred the skills she learned making a Weebly website in our Government Unit of Inquiry to her own Weebly site about Impressionist Painters. A number of students who did not use technology came up with creative, interactive learning visuals. One particularly imaginative project was a board game around environmental education and protection; a game we will keep in our classroom for ongoing learning.
In terms of assessing their work, we choose self-assessment, peer assessment and teacher assessment and it never fails, the majority of students are too hard on themselves and their peers are generally on the same wavelength as myself. This group of students was particularly impressive as they were also expected to provide compliments and critical feedback to the presenters and they did so in a very respectful and mature manner.
As a teacher, I was proud of the hard-work and success the students demonstrated through their Passion Projects. Not only did they learn about their interests and answer their questions, they nurtured their researching, note-taking, and synthesizing skills. They discovered more aspects of word processing software, PowerPoint/Keynote programs and web-based applications. Finally, they grew in the ability to tell the story of their curiosity in a manner that reflected their confidence, knowledge and passion for learning. As a fully engaged and informed audience, we are all richer for the experience.
A couple of TED Talks we have watched in class
A copy of the Passion Project assignment plus a couple of others mentioned above. They change over the course of the learning but projects like these are always living documents. Feel free to use as you like.