Monday, December 21, 2009

Turn your class into a Museum

As I’ve said before, group projects were my least favorite type of assignment as a student, and therefore, I am reluctant to use them in my own classes. However, I think if you set parameters, provide time and a work space for the groups, and ultimately judge the students on their performance the projects can be a positive learning experience for all.

Turn your classroom, online discussion, blog, or second life space into a museum exhibit on a particular topic related to the course. For this assignment, the class will work as a whole, but be broken into teams to handle different topics of the exhibit. Each member of the teams would be responsible for a part of their section. Have the class brainstorm what should be included in the exhibit and let students sign up for the team that most interests them. For example, an exhibit on Gettysburg might include a sections on clothing, weapons, strategy, generals, soldier life, medicine, the Gettysburg Address ect. The smaller groups or teams would brainstorm and divide up even more detailed topics and develop how they will present that content to a museum audience for an interactive experience.

A face to face class might include small replicas, people dressed in the appropriate attire, posters, ect. An online classroom might have some similar products but might also include technology like blogs, wikis, U-Tube, Web 2.0 tools, ect. Encourage students to be creative and remember they are engaging all ages and knowledge levels. As a class, they organize the material, put it together, and open their exhibit to others in the school or public. One way to help prevent chaos is to assign or vote on a leader for each team that would then form a committee to be the main organizing body of the exhibit.

Before getting started select the main topic for the exhibit, find resources to get the teams started, and consider how each individual and team will be evaluated and provide that rubric to each class member. Ultimately, you maintain the role of master curator and the success or failure of the exhibit lies with you, the instructor.

What experiences have you had with group work in your history courses? Please share with us your successes and failures.

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