Based on my research there is not a project-based learning tool or a service-learning online multimedia tool that guides educators or students through the process. There are a lot of worksheets and handouts but nothing interactive or engaging.
Currently on our site a user titles their project, then adds a description, some “tags” to make it easier to search and then publishes. Leaving it up to them if they are interested in adding additional resources such as unit/project plans, supporting documents, pictures, or videos. Since there is no incentive for doing so, unless being directed by an instructional coach or program coordinator many projects are left unfinished. Which leaves us with a library of half-ideas for projects. We encourage and take pride that users upload their projects at the inception of the idea vs. when the project is complete but often that strategy backfires.
Hopefully with the integration of the project-planning tool it will better guide members in sharing specific details and helpful pieces of evidence. By integrating the digital badges members will ideally feel incentivized to continue working on their project. Another feature that will support this is email reminders for those who have begun projects but then deserted them.
In the simplest form, this is how the tool will work. Modules 1-3 will guide the user through a series of questions based on what NYLC believes are the best steps for planning. The questions will all be guided with resources to help the user(s) plan their projects.
Ideally, this happens at the beginning before the project happens but if not the users can retroactively share what happened. From there before moving onto module four the users will upload pieces of evidence which could be student samples, newsletters about the project, videos from class or media coverage, pictures of students working, etc.
The tool will require them to upload five artifacts or pieces of evidence before moving onto module four which is self-assessment. At this point the user’s project can be complete, or they can choose to enter their project into a queue to be peer-assessed. The peers will use the evidence and artifacts to rate and give feedback to their peer. Both the project creator and the assessor will receive a badge for participating. If the project creator wants to complete the full cycle, they can submit their project for NYLC adjudication. The only catch is that will be for a charge because it requires staff time. If the member is a part of a specific NYLC program they may be granted a code to bypass the fee.
Without getting too far into details about the specific modules some overall tool will include the following features:
- Multiple members may co-create projects
- The user(s) can print at any time
- The user(s) will receive email notifications if:
- Their project has been sitting too long in steps 1-3 without updating or evidence added
- Their project has steps 1-3 completed and evidence added but hasn’t been self-assessed.
- Their project has been peer assessed
- Their project has been NYLC assessed
- As soon as they move to the next module their project will be saved
- Members can go back and forth between modules or just use the tool as a professional development opportunity
Many service-learning organizations and funders offer small grants $500-$10,000 to schools and classes for service-learning projects. Many of the grants ask similar questions to our module 3. If educators and youth are already going through this process to share their project, why not make the grant application within the same tool? The GSN gets more content, the tool has multiple purposes, and the grant applicant gets support along the way. The grant module would feature any additional question that the funder or program would need addressed in order to be processed. This may be logistical questions, information about their specific issue area, or other questions. The module would be modified based on the grant application.
From there, NYLC can pull the applications, judge them and award the best ones a grant and a badge.