The Power of a Student Project Archive

So, after the API excitement of yesterday, we can return to our regularly scheduled program: more fun in the Widget Warehouse! Today I want to write about my favorite widget of all: the Student Storybooks.

Sharing student work. This is not a widget that someone would want to use in their class (unlike the other widgets, which I always hope might be useful to others!), but I wanted to share this widget as an example of how to continually share and promote student work in a class. For me, the student project archive is the single most important resource in inspiring each new semester’s students, and the randomizing widget allows me to include hundreds of past projects, letting them come up at random again and again so that the new students will get to see lots of great work done by students in the past. It’s also fun for me to see, too, because all these projects are connected with happy memories of semesters gone by as I watched those former students create their projects.

Growing the archive. At the beginning of each semester, I harvest up the projects from last semester and add them to the widget, and I also check the old items in the widget to see if any student has taken their project offline. This time, I found that three projects were offline now, so I removed them from the widget. I am really fortunate that most students choose to leave their work online! (In a separate post, I’ll need to explain how I am going to cope with the coming demise of the old Google Sites now that the new and completely retooled Google Sites has become available.)

Widgets big and small. As usual, I make 400-pixel-wide and 200-pixel-wide versions of the widget. You can see the 400-pixel version here on the homepage of our class wiki for example, and you can see the 200-pixel version in the sidebar of the class announcements blog. Those show both classes, and I also have class-specific versions, as you can see here for Myth-Folklore and for Indian Epics.

Explore! One of the first assignments each semester is for students to explore past Storybooks, getting ideas and inspiration for their own projects. Seeing work by past students is the single best way to help new students get started, far more so than any instructions or descriptions I might provide of the project: Storybook Favorites.

So, this post is both about the power of random for increasing awareness and for promoting curiosity… and it is also about the power of student-to-student learning. Students of the past can also contribute to the students of today, and the more you can weave a project archive into your class environment, the stronger the presence of those past students will be!

My peers can be my teachers.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.