* START EARLY!*
Developing a New Project
* Choose a topic of interest.
Have students identify a topic that they would like their project to be about. The topic can be academic or non-academic. This will ensure that students maintain the self-motivation to see the project through and put their best foot forward.
* Choose a standard (optional).
The technology fair does not require that students align their projects to a standard. However, if you have a student that chooses an academic topic of interest, identifying a standard that aligns to that topic may be beneficial for the student by giving him/her a specific focus. It may also be beneficial in that it can allow you as a teacher to designate some class time to working on the project since it is aligned to a standard.
* Choose a category.
Prior to having students choose a category, make sure that students have a clear understanding of each category. One recommendation is to hold an information session with students and parents in which each category is thoroughly explained and students are able to ask questions to clarify any misconceptions or confusion.
* Choose software.
Once students have identified their topic and category, students should choose the software they are going to use to create their project. I would recommend allowing students to choose software they are already familiar with or that is fairly easy to learn.
Once your students have chosen a topic, category, and the software they want to use, it is now time to begin working on the project. Below are some strategies to consider using as your students begin to work.
*Create a schedule.
Meet with your students to create a schedule for when they will work on their project and when they will check in with you. I would suggest meeting once a week at minimum with your students to view progress and give them feedback on their projects.
*Keep a journal.
Have students keep a journal in which they record dates, times, and work completed. This can assist students in preparing for the interview part of judging. One past observation is that some students submit great technology projects, but fail to communicate effectively the steps and thought process behind their project. Keeping a journal can help prepare them to answer such questions during the judging process.
*Involve parents in the process.
Ensure that parents are a part of the process. Invite them to work with you to help their child produce top quality work.
*Recruit experts in or outside of the building.
Try to find experts in the various tech fair categories to come share their expertise offer suggestions to students about their projects. If possible, as experts to serve as mentors for students. If you having a hard time finding local experts, use online resources to find experts that would be willing to engage in video chats using tools such as Skype and Google Hangouts.
*Make use of category sample rubrics.
Give students a copy of the sample rubric for the category they chose. Ensure that students are using the rubric as a guide while working on their project.
Develop Existing Projects
Your students may have completed a project for your class that meets the criteria for one of the categories. Rather than starting from scratch, have the student enhance the project to make it more competitive and submit as an entry.
Many of your students who want to compete in the technology fair may have competed in the science fair at their school. If a student submitted a technology project to the science fair, the student may be able to use the same project to submit to the Technology Fair. Students would determine the category their project would fit under and use the rubric for that category to make necessary modifications. Another idea can be for a student to document their science fair project with the use of technology to create a technology fair project. For example, a student that conducted an experiment can create an iMovie or another mixed media presentation that shows the process and results of that experiment.
Make Final Edits
Once students have completed their project, have a few people, including yourself, look over and make suggestions for improvement. Some of these people can include other teachers, other students, administrators, parents, the school's ETS, and, if possible, experts in the field. I would recommend giving these individuals a rubric for the project category and letting them grade the project using the rubric. Below is a list of additional things to check for.
- If there is an audio component, make sure the audio is loud and clear.
- If there is a video component, make sure the video is clear and sharp.
- Ensure that all transitions included are smooth.
- Check for all grammar and spelling errors.
- Make sure that the project is within time limits.
- Make sure you follow copyright guidelines.
Prepare Students for Judging
Having a great technology fair project does not guarantee a win. Students must be able to effectively articulate themselves in a way that shows judges they have a good understanding of the process in creating their technology fair project as well as knowledge about the category and software in general. A great way to prepare students for the judging process is to hold mock judging sessions. Below are a few sample questions:
- Why did you decide to do this project?
- What process was involved to create your project?
- What new skills did you gain from doing this project?
- What challenges did you face while completing this project?
- What software did you use (if applicable)? Why did you choose this software?
- What did you learn from this project?