Since I heard of the 100 Objects of the British Museum project that the BBC began I have been intrigued by the whole concept. The radio show is captivating; one can still hear the podcasts via this link. For some time I have wanted to incorporate this project into my class. If you think about the type of knowledge, understanding of the subject-matter, research and sophisticated thinking that goes into such a project you will understand that to make such a list (100 objects that shaped human history) is to really understand the complexities of the history. I wanted my students to understand the complexities of the history that we have studied this year, so I set about to modify the BBC project to fit our history and our needs.
To make this work in a 7th grade American History class, I had to significantly modify the number of objects and the required elements. There is no question that this was a valuable project. I will definitely be doing this again next year, however, there are some elements to the project that I would modify.
First, let me relate what we did and what worked.
My colleague and I used this project as a final exam project at the end of the year. We modified the requirements to 10 objects in American History. Since we have studied early American History, the time frame was from 1400-1861, the start of the Civil War. We also allowed our students to choose more conceptual items rather than sticking strictly to 'objects.' For instance, King George III is not himself an artifact that can be found in a museum, but many of our students saw him as so influential to the founding of our country that he HAD to be included on the list. As a work around, we allowed an official portrait of King George III from the National Portrait Gallery or the British Museum.
We also thought is would be too much in too short a time frame to require a podcast of every object-this was an element that was hard for me to let go, because the podcasts are really the beauty of the project. We just didn't have the kind of time we needed for that; we will be working that into the project next year!
Instead, we used a different engaging tech tool: Aurasma!
Aurasma is a great tool to use for several reasons: 1) It's so easy to use! Once the students understood how to upload their videos and apply a trigger image, they were off and running all on their own. The only troubleshooting we had to worry about was the wifi connection being overloaded with students using it all at once, and ocasionally the app crashing. I am convinced that happened because so many of us were using it simultaneously.
2) Students had a blast doing this project, and it was because of Aurasma! I have done video projects in the past where students had to create a news show, a movie trailer, or a documentary on a subject. This was different. Students had to choose objects that represented the 'story' of early American History, then talk about the objects, explaining how they fit into the story, or how they represented a certain era or time period in the story. Students were given a lot of freedom about how to do this. Some made recreations, some animated their videos and talked over them, some created Animotos or iMovies, some just had slide slows of pictures that they voiced over. All of the videos were well done, but more importantly, the students had to KNOW what they were talking about in their detailed explanations of the objects they chose. In this way, each student became an expert on their object, therefore they became an expert on that time period in History-just what I wanted to happen.
3) Students learned so much more than if they had taken a traditional final exam. See my comment above. In order to create good, detailed and entertaining videos, students needed to reflect on what they wanted to say about each object, and they needed to do research. Even if a student had done well at the beginning of the year learning the early part of American History, without fail they all said they had forgotten much of it. This project forced them to go back and remember what they learned in a way that would make it more difficult to forget the material a second time.
4) Finally, Students had a blast visiting each others' museums. After creating fantastic museums, we had two days of viewings (well, in some cases only one, since we worked down to the wire). Students were exctited to see each others' work. In many cases, some of the objects were the same, but it was great for the students to see the many different interpretations that their classmates had on Early American History in 10 Objects. No two projects were alike, and that was pretty awesome!
The detailed project and guidelines can be found here. At the end of the project, the students reflected on their work, the process, and their classmates' work. The reviews were pretty awesome, indicating that using Aurasma in a fun, engaging yet challenging project is a must repeat! The quote of the year, "I wish all teachers knew about Aurasma so we could use it in more of our classes!" Enough said!
More detailed instructions about the nuts and bolts of how we used Aurasma, and how to use it in general will be forthcoming. In the meantime, you should check it out for yourself.