Video Interview: The Importance of Choice for Igniting Student Passion and Learning Through Research Projects

Earlier this week, I ran a short feature on our art gallery inspired by student research.  In the video below, Teagan takes a few minutes to discuss her work and the importance of choice in igniting student passion in research/inquiry projects.

Student Research Inspired Art Gallery

Research Inspired Art

This fall, The Unquiet Library has hosted a unique art installation inspired by student research this past spring.  Some of you may remember Teagan from this past winter and her unique approach to creating mindmaps.  Teagan and her partner Kristiena (whom you may remember as one of my co-authors from this fall for a Knowledge Quest article) created a digital multigenre research composition on veterans and PTSD.  Both Teagan and Kristiena were part of a group of students who generously shared their insights and reflections on being immersed in a participatory culture of learning.   In their words, they set out to explore “…PTSD, the effects it has on veterans, and how veterans can receive help from this mental illness. It is very important to understand the severity of this undermined illness because without knowing about the organizations that help these veterans, the specific treatments these organizations use, and what we can do as a community to help, we are letting our country’s veterans down.”  Their inquiry was inspired by their readings of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac, and Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson.


Teagan, who is a gifted photographer, decided to create her own original images to depict some of the key ideas and findings from their research and integrate them into the multigenre digital text.  I was so struck by the artistry of her work that this fall, I asked her if she would consider letting the library create prints of her work and have a research inspired art gallery.  She graciously gave me permission and used excerpts of her research to create informational placards for each print.  After we mounted the prints and placards on art easels, we arranged Teagan’s artwork in the sequence she outlined for us so that viewers could follow the narrative of her artistic creations.  Students and teachers alike have been impressed not only with her moving and striking photography, but they have also been pleasantly surprised to learn that it was sparked by the information she discovered in her research and that the gallery is an alternative representation of those findings.  Not only did Teagan photograph and process the photographs, but she and her father both served as models for the prints.


The research inspired art gallery has not only helped others learn about PTSD and its impact on veterans, but it has also nudged people to see research as something more than an assignment and that it is a mode of learning that can far beyond a class assignment.  I am hopeful that future galleries featuring inquiry inspired creative works will be commonplace and can incorporate additional participatory mediums for interacting with the gallery with a feature like panels coated in IdeaPaint where people can respond to the art and ideas. On behalf of the library and our learning community, I would like to thank Teagan for generously sharing her talent and wisdom with us.

Spotlight on Multigenre Elements: Fictional Text Messages of Historical Figures

Check out this multigenre element created by a student who illustrated Thomas Paine’s views on government using fictional text messages.  The student used his/her iPhone to create the fictional text message and utilized the iPhone’s screenshot capability to capture the “texts.”  The images were then pulled off the phone and imported into Glogster, and the Glogster was embedded into the project wiki page.  Many thanks to Ms. Lisa Kennedy, 11th American Literature/Composition teacher, for collaborating with the library on this project!

Teachers as Learners Conference Keynote and Concurrent Session Presentations

I want to thank the wonderful educators of the Griffin-Spalding County School System in Griffin, Georgia for inviting me to present a keynote speech and four concurrent sessions this past week at their Teachers as Learners Conference.  Below are resources from two days of learning and sharing!

Springing Into Digital Research Projects

Over the last 18 months in Media 21, students have created a variety of learning products:  traditional research papers, collaboratively written research papers, digital learning portfolios (which included multigenre elements), and information dashboards (Netvibes).  In thinking about this spring’s research project on veterans’ issues and how to meet our students are their point of need while pushing their thinking, Susan Lester (my co-teacher) and I decided to go focus on students creating a digital research project (see details above in the embedded project document).  After engaging in presearch for three days this week, students will choose a topic and then be grouped by common research interests.  Like last semester, these teams of students will collaboratively investigate a common list of of research questions developed by Susan and to create a digital research project that reflects the findings of their research.

This concept of a digital research project is inspired by our own previous efforts, Jim Burke’s musings on digital essays, and the wikified research project at Learning and Laptops.  Students will use Google docs to draft sections of the text (see page 3 of the project document for the organizational structure of the “text”) and share the final drafts on their group created research wikis (we are using Wikispaces).  Within each page or section of the research project or “paper” on the wiki, students may include hyperlinks to their original sources or embedded multimedia to help enhance the reading experience of the audience.  In addition, students will embed one mulitgenre element in each section that represents some key insight, understanding, or knowledge related to their research in that section.  Groups will also use the discussion feature of their wiki instead of WordPress this time to centralize their learning reflections.  Groups will be responsible for all decision-making as to coordinating the sections and responsibilities of the digital research project.

Here are a few other changes to our spring project from previous research endeavors in Media 21:

  • As I blogged last week, we are using Symbaloo for an information dashboard instead of Netvibes, and students will use this tool as an organizational tool rather than final learning artifact like last spring.
  • We are using NoodleTools instead of Evernote this spring for notetaking—since students are collaborating on the Works Cited page, we felt they should also work collaboratively on their notecards, and NoodleTools provides an easy interface for doing that with shared lists.  We also felt that based on their work last semester, our students need a little more assistance and scaffolding in improving their notetaking skills, and we feel NoodleTools will support these efforts.
  • Students will not present a final “presentation zen” style presentation; however, the tradeoff is that we are creating an entire week for peer review of digital research projects and self-assessment (more on this aspect to come in late April).

In this process of letting some learning activities go while adding others, I’m looking forward to seeing how these adjustments work for our students.  The only change I’d like to have made with this project was to have given students the opportunity and strategies to have developed their own research questions to facilitate somewhat more authentic inquiry; however, I am hopeful that we will be able to open up the inquiry process a bit more in 2010-11.  I so appreciate Susan’s willingness to pilot this new model of “research paper” as students will not submit a paper document, and once we learn what works well and what does not, I hope to scale this out to other teachers/students in all subject areas.

I’ll be sharing update on observations and student work/insights in this space over the next six weeks, so I hope you’ll stay tuned as we being our next journey of learning!