Proposal #1: Comparing Standard, Charter and Progressive Schools
One quarter of the public schools in NYC are failing and educational opportunities that are found in progressive schools are not offered at these schools. These schools do not situate students for social or collaborative learning and children essentially are not experiencing making or building as part of their course curriculum so that they are unlikely to be interested in careers in technical fields such as robotics or stem technologies. Also, children who are underperformers or who have behavioral issues are sometimes pushed through school or may become dropouts.
The NYC Dept. of Education’s website has an interactive map that allows parents to locate schools within their zone, but the map does not identify charter, charter-progressive or progressive schools. Although information is available on the site for how to apply to charter schools, the site does not make plain that charter schools can be strictly traditional or whether they have elements of progressive methodologies.
I am very interested in creating a website that compares information for students from preschool through high school using data visualizations, geospatial mapping, a blog-space and forum to provide useful information to parents to help them make well informed decisions around where and how their children will receive their educations. Parents will be able to compare various types of methodologies as well as assess school performance and funding. Parents will also be able to determine what schools have assimilated progressive learning into their curriculum, as well as each school’s mission statement or rules of governance.
Personas: Anthony and Carol are parents to two sons. Mason, who is 10 years old likes science. 8 years old Justin is a math guru. Both parents would like their sons to attend schools that will enhance their interests but neither parent understands how charter schools might be different from standard schools. They are also unaware of how progressive methodologies could positively affect their children’s educational experiences. Both parents are afraid to send their children to the neighborhood school.
Christian and Jon are concerned there is an academic disadvantage for children who do not achieve higher education and they want their child to have many experiences in his formative years. Their child will attend pre-school in one year and these parents are very committed to finding a good environment that will allow their child to play and explore. In terms of methodologies and curriculum, both Christian and Jon believe they would be able to make a more informed choice if they knew how public schools offering standard, charter and progressive educations compare to each other, but they do not know how to access that information.
Use Case Scenario: Parents will be able to explore datasets through data visualizations, discover methodologies and pedagogical practices through the blog and will be able to gather additional information through participation in the websites forum by discussing topics of importance with other concerned and knowledgeable individuals. A geospatial map will be created so that parents will be able to see the location of all schools which will be differentiated by methodology.
I would propose that a link to the website be available on the CUNY Academic Commons, and that the site would be popularized through social media. The site would also be easily searchable through taglines that will be used in blogpost to increase the sites visibility and through search engine optimization.
Full Version: Parents will be able to interact with different datasets using data visualizations and geospatial maps to access information to help guide their decisions including:
- Where different schools are located locally and nationally;
- Whether the schools are standard, charter, charter-progressive or progressive;
- Student grades;
- Types and amounts of funding received including for Title 1, non-Title 1 and private schools;
- Links to rules of governing and mission statements for each school;
- Links to digital tools that have been integrated into classwork; and
- Information around whether blended learning is implemented.
- Teachers will be invited to write blogpost to share their methodologies and pedagogical practices on the blog-space.
Datasets for public and charter schools are available online, and I will need to contact institutional researchers of progressive schools to request comparable data for this research project.
All of the tools that will be used to build this project except Excel and WordPress are free and open source. The forum space will be created using phpBB, and I will create data visualizations using Gephi and Excel, and a geospatial maps using ArcGIS.
The only concerns that I have are that the Gephi file will need to be embedded into WordPress and the phpBB and ArcGIS files will require a plugin.
Timeline: Excel is the only tool which I am already using. There will be a learning curve for each of the other tools. I will need to spend the most time learning Gephi and ArcGIS and I plan to spend the summer digging deeper into both programs. There are resources available online to help through that process.
I believe I can complete this project within one semester. It should only take a month to compile all datasets including those from progressive schools. I estimate it will take two months to create the geospatial map and data visualizations. Once a domain name is purchased, I will setup WordPress, and upload phpBB immediately to make sure it is installed correctly.
Short Version: The bare bones minimally viable version of this project will utilize information from traditional and charter schools in one NYC urban area and if a progressive school is not located within that same area, I will compare information from the nearest NYC progressive school to produce a Gephi data visualization.
The stripped down version would show the school’s locations, amounts and types of funding received, links to rules of governance or mission statements and resources if any used for blended learning. The blog-space will also be created in this version, and I will also upload the forum page.
Short Version Timeline: This short version can be completed within the next two months.
Proposal #Two: A Space for Student Collaboration
Children who attend failing schools can experience frustration with their school work. It may be that these students need to engage their work socially rather than traditionally which may help to develop interests in assignments. Additionally, if they were sharing the same learning experience digitally with their peers, they might look forward to successfully completing assignments.
Personas: Tyler is 13 years old and has not learned how to focus on task. Tyler would rather doodle and talk in class and sees his teachers as an authority figure which he would rather strike out against.
Sophia who is fifteen years old tries to get her work done but often feels dejected because she really doesn’t understand what she is reading. Sophia complains bitterly that she tries but her teacher just wants to punish her by giving her more work to do.
Use Case Scenario: I would propose creating a mobile app that can be downloaded onto tablets or phones. Having posed a question around a reading, students would begin working to find solutions to problems by compiling a list of keywords they have created, and would upload pictures onto one line of a grid as a visual reference to the keyword. A writing space would be available next to the picture so that students could answer 5W/1H questions relating to the keyword.
After the student has worked through all of the keywords and themes, they will be able to place all of the pictures that were used in the workspace side by side to create a completed visual storyline of the reading. Having experienced the app, students should be better situated to complete writing assignments about the topic.
A backchannel would also be available for other students to discuss events that are similar to the posed question. Participants in the backchannel could be challenged to add similar events to the event on the main page, and to explain those similarities.
When the work on the main page is completed and challenge questions in the backchannel have been answered, students in the back channel will be able to join the student on the main page to compare similarities between all topics. This could help create interest in literature and historical events.
Students would be able to use the app while commuting since it would be available on tablets and phones.
Full Version: I would use Ruby on Rails to develop a grid with space to include sections for keywords, comments and photos. The open source tools I would use include:
- Padlet which would sit within the grid and its wall can be populated with photos (via pasting the url of the photo into a template). Although Padlet does offer backchannel technology, I want to keep the backchannel conversation separate from the action that is happening on the Padlet wall. This would allow the student in the main section to work alone within the environment to clarify their ideas around the topic.
- TodaysMeet (also an open source tool) would be used to create a private backchannel space where a group conversation can develop.
- Factlink uses an invisible layer approach to allow users to see the contents of a webpage and write directly on the invisible layer. Factlink can be customized if a website requires it.
Ruby on Rails will support each of these tools. Padlet, TodaysMeet and Factlink should all have a very small learning curve.
Timeline: It should take 2 -3 months to learn Ruby on Rails. None of the other tools present a learning curve.
Short Version: There is only one area that would be changed on the short version, and that would be to not use “TodaysMeet” since both it and Padlet offer backchannel discussion capability. Otherwise, the short version of the app is identical to the longer version.