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We wrote our own textbook

My state adopted new learning standards for Texas History, the class I had taught for over 13 years. As we all know, the money in school districts goes to subjects that have end of the year state exam.  Knowing  that we would not get the resources we needed for a long time led me on a hunt. However, at that time there weren’t that many resources online.  The only major website that has information is produced by college professors, a little above the lexicon of a 7th grader.
Moved to Action

Knowing that our textbook needs would be left unmet  for at least two years I decided to act.  We wrote our own textbook as a year-long project based learning challenge. I had my students create their own textbook. I used our districts chunked TEKS, or standards similar to the common core.  Each six weeks students would adopt a TEKS and create an interesting interactive piece that students could learn from as they use it.

Slide1Failure is Part of the Process
This was my first project based assignment.  I told my students that it was an experiment.  They seemed to like the idea that they were doing something for future students…and that I had no idea where it would lead.  It was scary, becomes initially I felt I had to be the expert about all things technical, but I found out students love it when you are learning with them and are honest about it. The first year I ran into a couple of surprises.
Encouragement helps

Initially, when given a choice students will always pick the easiest thing. (This truly surprised me…I don’t know why.) I thought for some reason they would use the time to create beautiful imaginative masterpieces.  They went straight for the PowerPoint and essay writing…strange right? After the first submission being heavy in essays and PowerPoints it had to set some rules.  I  curated collection of “cool tech tools” that the students had to use 5 out of the 6 submissions.

Knowledge has Power

Trying new things was empowering for students. After the rough start they bloomed. Students became the class experts in that software and would help tutor each other. Some students took great pride in knowing many different apps, and websites that did “cool” stuff. And would poof up when other students asked for help.

Power in the Cloud

Everything started off so good. Students would send, or share their drives with me and I saved it all to my hard drive. However, that was a plan I quickly regretted. My poor computer died three times the year I assigned this project.  Make sure the students turn in to a Google folder, or on Edmodo so if there is a meltdown you still have access to it.

Where is it now?

The textbook is still out there and kicking.  After year one, I was moved up to 8th grade.  Now a dear friend is carrying out the project having students fill in the blanks, and add “stuff” to it that make it super fun, and interactive.  He has noticed the same surprises.  Creativity takes practice, time and a community where risk are celebrated.


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