Sunday, February 8, 2009

Integrating Technology in Heritage Fair for Teachers and Students

I am passionate about teaching Canadian History and Heritage. One of the ways I share this passion with my students in our involvement in Heritage Fair every year. Most of my students look forward to this time of year. They can't wait to get started in this project based learning experience and start talking about their topic in September. I think it is because they have the chance to explore a topic they are interested in and that they get to choose themselves. Their enthusiasm for the project makes it my favourite time of year as well.

A video I have created and have used in many ways is a promotional video for Heritage Fair. I have used this video in school to get students excited about their projects. I have also used this video to introduce teachers to the Heritage Fair process during the professional development workshop I give to interested Regina Public Schools teachers on Heritage Fair every year. Thank you to Dean Shareski for giving me the video footage of the Moose Jaw Regional Fair to use in my video.

I have also ventured into wikis with the creation of my first public wiki. On this Heritage Fair wiki, I have accumulated a number of documents, links and resources for teachers including a link to the video. It has now been used in a number of schools in my system and it has even been used in other districts for the promotion of Heritage Fair.

Another addition to my Heritage Fair file has been the creation of a custom Google search engine developped with Terry Pon. I was first introduced to the concept of custom search engines by Alan November at the TLt Summit in Saskatoon last year. This was the first one that I have used with my students and it has been quite successful. We chose Canadian websites to send students to such as Historica, the Canadian Encyclopedia and the Government of Canada collection as well as the CBC. By using this custom search engine, I have found their online research to be much more productive this year than in years past. The main problem with online research using regular Google for this grade level (4/5) is that they tend to use the first website that pops up in Google and then they think they are done their research. Because their topics are so diverse, it is hard to just direct them to a website or two.

The other challenge I'm experiencing is having them realize the importance of mainting a list of sources for their project while doing their reasearch (in books, online, etc). I find that I'm constently repeating myself when talking about crediting sources in their projects and that "Google" is not a source. There is always an endless number of opportunities to teach "digital citizenship" when working on Heritage Fair.