Which Online Project Is Right For Me?

What can you do with online educational projects? Well, you can teach multiple standards by using an integrated curriculum while encouraging peer collaboration with the use of real world situations. Whew, that was a mouthful, wasn’t it! But, with so many online projects out there to choose from - which one is right for you? There are 10 factors to consider when choosing an online project:

  1. Cost (it’s a shame that this has to be such a high priority!);
  2. The main curriculum focus (history, mathematics, etc);
  3. Interweaving of other curriculums;
  4. Standards (national/state education standards);
  5. Quality of project;
  6. The amount of time;
  7. Collaborative or not collaborative;
  8. Personal benefits;
  9. Other benefits;
  10. How many can participate.

Let’s look more closely at each.

  1. Cost: I have found there are many (make that “many manyâ€) free, excellent online educational projects. Yes, there are some amazing projects out there that do cost money, and they are worth it, (JASON, comes to mind) but there are also a lot of wonderful free projects. Space Day and Listening to the Walls Talk are great online projects that have a lot of good things going for them, and they’re both free!
  2. The main curriculum focus (history, mathematics, etc): What do you teach? This might determine your main curriculum focus, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. For example, I teach technology, so I usually have to decide- which academic area am I going to focus on? Mathematics? Science? History (Social Studies)? Language Arts? Art? Music? I might include other subjects, but I find it best to focus on one single subject.
  3. Interweaving of other curriculums: How many (and how well?) are other curriculums woven together in the project? I believe it’s hard for students to understand the interconnectivity of subjects taught independently. Yes, students need to understand mathematics, but then, they also need to see how it will be used in the real world. They need to understand how to write a 5-paragraph essay, but they also need to know that the essay is a viable form of communication that easily allows others to see the results of research.

I prefer projects that focus on one subject but that easily include and interweave other subjects. For example- “Listening to the Walls Talk†(http://www.millennium.scps.k12.fl.us/walls.html)is a project whose main focus is social studies. The goal of this project is to teach students basic geographic and research skills. A secondary, but possibly more important goal of this project is to record the history of houses and neighborhoods around the world.

Occording to the National Historic Trust: Historic sites have fascinating, engaging, and compelling stories to tell. Preserving these places, listening to their stories, and learning from them are essential to our understanding of who we are.

Education World lists several national and education organizations that have taken on the challenge of creating educational standards or guidelines to be used on a national level, including the following:

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
http://www.nctm.org

National Council of Teachers of English
http://www.ncte.org

National Geographic Society
http://www.nationalgeographic.org

National Council on Economic Education
http://www.ncee.net

National Council for the Social Studies
http://www.ncss.org

Center for Civic Education
http://www.civiced.org/index.html

Consortium of National Arts Education Associations
http://artsedge.kennedycenter.org/professional_resources/standards/nat_standards_main.html

National Center for History in the Schools
http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/nchs/

International Society for Technology in Education, or ISTE
http://cnets.iste.org/index.html

National Academies of Science
http://www.nas.edu/

My humble opinion is “Yes! Give up that Saturday!†for the pro’s outweigh the con’s when it comes to online projects. I have found that even though I might have to give up some time now to read through a project, there are rewards. Often there will be ready-made and useable lessons, alignment with standards, and even ready-made assessment tools.

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