Project Description | Adapting to Other subjects & Contexts | Teacher Reflection | Student Reflections
Students were tasked with producing an eBook based on an Italian historical figure of their choice. The challenge was to bring the historical figure to life by transforming a factual biography into an engaging story and creating the illusion of their presence through the creation of a hologram. The main learning goals were to develop a more sophisticated written expression, learn a new verb tense in context, to acquire new cultural knowledge, and for the teacher to identify gaps in the grammatical knowledge of every student to be able to provide personalised mini-grammar lessons during feedback sessions on each chapter. The hologram acted as a trigger to explore our driving question – “How do eBooks have the potential to redefine the reading experience?” and, together with other online technologies such as Photoshop and eBook creators, allowed students to develop ICT and future-focused skills authentically.
Context: Yr 8 Accellerated Italian Course
Time: 17 weeks
Learning objectives:to create a text-rich product that would allow students to practise their writing skills, to learn more about Italian culture as well as important knowledge from other disciplines (history, science, literature); to introduce the passato remoto tense (unknown to whole class) and consolidate passato prossimo and imperfetto tenses; to begin to develop HSC reading and listening skills; to learn technological skills relating to eBook creation; to develop narrating skills, to develop creative and adaptive thinking, to explore the potential of eBook technology to re-define the reading experience.
Product:Students had to create a narrative, in the form of an eBook, about an Italian historical figure who made a significant impact in their field. The book had to incorporate important facts about their life, their work and their influence, and had to include a talking hologram of their person, as well as at least two other forms of interactive media as students explored how eBooks could re-define the reading experience.
Exhibition:Students had to present their books to a class of Yr 5/6 students from the Italian Bilingual School and send their eBook to author Davide Morosinotto for feedback (his book Leonardo Da Vinci, Genio senza tempo was used as a model for the project).
Assessment rubric: (co-constructed with students)
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Adapting to other subjects & contexts:
All the suggestions, as well as the original project, can be multi-disciplinary. For example, the original project was implemented in a Language class but can be multi-disciplinary, involving Art (for the pictures), English (for exploring the driving question, for researching, for transforming fact into narrative, etc), Design and Technology (for using Photoshop and eBook apps) and History (for the historical content, researching authentic facts, etc)
- English: creative writing; adaptation of a novel into an eBook (simpliefied novel, exploring communication through eBook technologies)
- History: ebBook about an historical figure or period or event
- STEM: eBook about a famous scientist/mathematician/physicist featuring their theories explained through graphs, videos, animations
- Design & Technology: focus on the eBook app
- Art: eBook about a famous artist; pictures painted in impressionist style / Picasso style, etc
- Service Learning: eBooks for the visually impaired (reading out loud function)
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I was feeling very challenged by this class due to the diversity of levels. All students had attended an Italian bilingual primary school, but they were of different ages and had varying degrees of fluency in the language.
This was my third PBL unit with the class and I was not entirely satisfied by the results of the first two. With this project I wanted to be able to integrate grammar teaching and HSC skills development into the actual unit. In the last project, I covered various grammatical concepts and we also worked on HSC papers, but these occurred in isolation as completely separate lessons that had nothing to do with the actual unit.
I also needed a project that required a lot of writing, as I felt that my students needed a lot of written practice. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that the project included cultural components; however, given the fact that these students had already experienced an extensive exposure to Italian culture throughout their primary years, I had to make this component more academically rigorous, which is why one of my non-negotiables for the project was researching an Italian historical figure. I also knew parents would be more likely to buy into the project as it sounded more traditional and academic with this component.
As with every project, I tried doing it myself first. I started by researching facts about Marco Polo. I had collected an entire page of facts and then I got stuck. I just didn’t know what to do next. I had gotten the inspiration for this project from a narrative I had bought in Italy about Leonardo Da Vinci, so I decided to try and contact the author to tell him about my project, explain the concept of hurdle tasks and ask him to share his whole book writing process with me to assist in devising milestones for my students. He actually replied and it was one of my most exciting PBL moments. He was very interested in our eBook project as he too was looking at the concept of eBook readability with his publisher. He wrote me a three-page email with a step-by-step approach to writing a narrative about a historical figure, with suggested hurdle tasks. He was even happy to provide feedback to my students on some milestones and on the final product.
Students and parents were very impressed by the collaboration and at parent teacher night a parent provided me with the contact details of an Italian author she knew personally who would also be willing to collaborate with us.
When I first introduced the project, however, some students protested, complaining about the technology involved (eBook and hologram) and requesting that I adopt a traditional teaching with teacher talk and textbooks. It was very disheartening to hear, but with the support of colleagues I chose to continue with my project, remembering a similar reaction with a senior class when I first introduced my flipped learning model in 2011, before flipped learning was a known pedagogy. I recognised that this is a normal reaction when something new and innovative is first introduced, as students fear what they don’t know, do not necessarily like being challenged at first, and feel overwhelmed by the change and level of difficulty. I even shared my flipped learning story with the class. It was very satisfying, however, to observe the change in attitudes of the students who were so negative to begin with. In a reflection, one student even wrote that creating the hologram was one of the achievements she was proudest of. I have to admit that I was also very proud of myself when I attempted the hologram at home before proposing it to the students. I did not work initially, and I felt so satisfied when I figured out why and found a way to make it work. This is probably what my student felt too.
The excursion to the Italian Bilingual school for the reading of the eBooks to Years 3 and 4 was a success. The little children were all engaged in the reading and were excited by the interactive parts of the book. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, the students were not able to show live holograms, but some had taken an video of the hologram at home and the children were wowed by the technology.
The most exciting part of this project for me was the support of the Italian author, Davide Morosinotto, who read all the first chapters and provided our students with feedback. It meant so much for them to be critiqued by an expert in the field. The most satisfying part of the project was the effect it had on one particular student, who had been disengaged all year. He decided to research Dante Alighieri, and his first chapter starts with Dante’s mother at Heaven’s door having a conversation with God about his beloved son. It is brilliant. The language contains grammatical errors, which we will work on through our feedback sessions, but his story telling skills are exceptional. This project has tapped into his talents and is allowing him to shine in front of me and his peers.
In fact, the thing I love most is how PBL brings out the hidden talents in our students. I hate that traditionally schools only reward and recognise ‘academic intelligence’, and it is so sad that students leave the system feeling ‘dumb’. It feels so good when projects like this allow these students to shine.
Have you been fighting against Google in your subject or context too? How could you embrace Google instead? Click here to contribute your experiences, thoughts and ideas to the comments section.
” … This eBook project initially seemed like a lot of work and personally I believed that I wouldn’t be bothered to do it…for me it was like mission impossible…Before I knew it I had finished my first chapter and it was phenomenal. I feel satisfied because I worked hard to redeem myself and it makes me so proud and happy that my teacher wrote a blog about how I’ve improved and impressed her”
Edward, Yr 8
“During the process of writing this eBook, I realised that I have a talent for making my stories interesting using fantasy as well as facts. I feel that creating this eBook has brought out the best in me.”
Federica, Yr 8
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