Thursday, October 22, 2009

RLab Presentation at SVES

Many thanks to Joy Stewart and the the folks at Maple Street School for organizing the Southern Vermont Educators Symposium. Thanks also to the folks who sat in on the 'RLab' presentation today. I always appreciate opportunities to chat on the rationale behind the RLab course, the evolution, and the changes it inspires both personally to students, adults, academically at our school, and to me as a guide.

As promised, here's the presentation I brought embedded below using Google Docs. For those that are unfamiliar with this type of player, here's a quick overview:

You can play it here in this embeded window but it's quite small. The slides will forward every 10 seconds. You can use the 'Open in a new window' button (looks like a tv screen in the vid control panel) to blow it up full screen or just click here to view the presentation full-screen online. If you do so the controls to move slides should appear on the lower left.

The beauty of it being online? As we make changes to this presentation you'll always be viewing the most current version. Save the presentation link as the post here will get buried in the blog as we ad posts.

These are the slides presented at the conference session with a few minor edits... a quick effort to explain some things further because I'm not narrating. We usually don't put so many words in slides, but for archiving purposes and viewing it with no narration it makes more sense.

Make presentations with a boatload of slides or just a few? We chose a boatload this time. The slides here are also wordy because there's no narration cooking along with it.

We never did get onto the question of "how are student projects archived?" Here's the answer! Hey, I promised we'd get to it!

Each student in the course is given access to the server volume that houses our RLab class folder. Your tech staff can help explain how to set this up if you want to head this route.

Our class folder contains the following:
  • Course introduction presentation
  • Class intro videos
  • Grading/ evaluation information and examples
  • Public speaking and presentation tips
We also have a class folder called 'Project Development Steps.' This folder contains documents on explaining guidelines and project responsibilities:
  • Directions for sending in class assignments via email.
  • Creating and submitting a project proposal.
  • Developing and maintaining your class journal.
  • Developing and shoring up a syllabus for your project.
  • Project presentation guidelines: Presenting to the class.
  • Archiving guidelines.
  • Final Project checklist.
All student projects are stored in one folder called 'Project Archive'. It is organized as follows:

Year/Project title/Individual

An example:
2005/Digital Art/StudentName

All 'digital art' in the year go in the 'Digital Art' folder. Projects with unique titles go individually by year and subject ie:


As you can see we archive things by 'year and project title' rather than by just project title. There are a few reasons I can explain:
  • It's easier to find peers.
  • Students build off projects already done by their peers.
  • It's easier for me to see project evolution on topics by year.
  • It's rather amazing to look back and see the list of what's been done in each individual year: Year/Project Title. Our subjects seem to expand by year.
Guidelines for archiving project work we use currently:
  • The following docs are saved in PDF format: Journal, syllabus, and presentation to the class. No presentations are saved in powerpoint, keynote or even open office format or online. Program versions and features change all the time and saving in a PDF format keeps it simple. PDFs also force folks to present material clearly, sans animations and embedded content.
  • Video must be saved in Quicktime format and referenced in the syllabus and presentation to view if applicable.
  • Examples of work ie pictures, artwork etc must be saved as either JPEG or GIF files.
Here's the format folks see:

  • Journal.pdf
  • Syllabus.pdf
  • Presentation.pdf
  • and a folder called /Materials. This houses videos, art prtfolios, pictures, etc.

We chose this format structure for the following reasons:
  • It's simple!
  • The file formats are universal / they've been around for a long time.
No stone left unturned, no complex archiving system headaches, no surprises. Clear expectations, simple organization. Love it!

Students can use search capabilities on computers to scan the archive in bulk for keywords or scan traditionally by folder view for year and title. Whatever works for them.

We've had many discussions on moving this project archive into a digital system, much like the OpenCourseWare initiative at MIT. We were concerned about format issues into the future and server cost and maintenance. Plus, this format we're using works very well. Who knows where we may head though. We've also found this document style/folder format also allows students to take projects with them easily too by copying onto cds, laptops, keychains etc.

If you have questions or want to chat further please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for tuning in, AP

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