Introduction to NetPBL: Collaborative Project-Based Learning
Project-Based Learning
Planning
Projects
Finding
Projects
Making
Projects
1. Goals, Objectives, Standards
2. Select a Project
3. Audience
4. Assessment
5. Assessment Resources
6. When Disaster Strikes
Net PBL Project Plan Map
Communications: The Real Power of the Web
A Visit to Hillside School

Communications: The Real Power of the Web

Side Bar

In the most successful classrooms we've found, publishing on the Web is really the beginning of the story... for publishing on the Web opens the door of the classroom to reaction from the audience in the outside world, and provides wonderful opportunities for the Web author to dialog with that audience

Side Bar

Every student project ends in some form of sharing or presentation. Traditional presentation tools have varied from shoe-box dioramas to writing reports to publishing newspapers to giving oral or dramatic presentations.

More recently, multimedia tools (Hyperstudio and HyperCard) have given students a lively new medium in which to present, or publish, their work.

At first glance, publishing on the Web appears to out-distance "traditional" multimedia publishing tools because of the incredibly vast audience the presentation reaches. And there is no doubt that this is an important feature of the Web.

However, educators who discover the real transformational effects of the Web take a huge leap even beyond this understanding of the Web: They capitalize on the fact that the Internet is primarily a communications medium, and they use the Web to develop dialogs between the Web author and audience.

Normally, the act of publishing is the end of the story: the book is printed, copies are sold, and the author starts a new project. However, in the most successful classrooms we've found, publishing on the Web is really the beginning of the story... for publishing on the Web opens the door of the classroom to reaction from the audience in the outside world, and provides wonderful opportunities for the Web author to dialog with that audience. 


It's the Audience
In fact, when Web publishing is the final act, students have no stories to tell. But in instance after instance where you find students excited about their Web publishing, their "stories" are about their dialog and interaction with their audience. (As an example, see Al Rogers' story of his visit to Hillside Elementary School.) 

This insight reveals the source of so much of the "authentic" flavor of Web projects.

This is not a new insight... a recent incarnation of these ideas was articulated through the process writing movement by authors such as Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins and Donald Murray, who taught:

Students will write when they have a sympathetic, interested audience and they have something to say.

In their landmark 1989 article, telecomputing pioneers Margaret Riel and Moshe Cohen reported that when students write for a distant audience of their peers,

  • they are more fluent
  • they are better organized
  • their ideas are more clearly stated and supported
  • their content is more substantive and their thesis is better supported
  • they consider the needs of their audience.
Cohen, Moshe and Margaret Riel, "The Effect of Distant Audiences on Students' Writing," AERA Journal, Summer, 1989, Pp. 132-159

Over the years many teachers have reported that when students are engaged with real people elsewhere through the use of telecommunications, students enjoy writing more, they are more willing to write, proofread, revise, and edit their work, and they are more careful about their spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabularies.

When you combine student projects, Web publishing, and the communications power of the Internet, your teaching will be transformed. Your classroom walls will tumble down. Your students will interact with real people in the real world... using the same methods and the same tools that people in the real world have been using for years. Learning will become authentic and purposeful. Students will find new meaning in the experiences they have in your classroom. And both you and your students will re-discover and share a new excitement in learning.

Page 1: Goals, Objectives, Standards
Page 2: Select a Project
Page 3: Audience
Page 4: Assessment
Page 5: When Disaster Strikes

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