Interview with teacher Lori Grata about her Selfie Project

Lori Grata is doctorate student at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. She currently resides in Seattle and teaches full-time at a one-to-one school. Lori has a Bachelor’s lorigrata-profile-picdegree in English Literature and Secondary English Education. She has a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She was worked in both the public school system in South Carolina and Pennsylvania as well as the private non-profit sector in both Pennsylvania and Washington.

In another post, I discuss the way that I have been inspired to steal ideas about using Selfies as a driver in a certain student engagement way. In this short post, I interview the person I stole the idea from…

DW: Lori, what age and subject were those involved in your Selfie project?

LG: The students that worked on this project were high school journalism students, ranging from 15 to 17. While the majority of my students were sophomores, students of other ages would also likely be very engaged in this sort of project. It could also be adapted for use in other subject areas, including executive functioning.

DW: Where did you get the idea from?

LG: My colleague, Chuck Cassick, and I wanted to create a project that would require students to communicate with members of their school and community. Our goal was to provide a platform for students to communicate with people outside of their typical social circles. An essential part of journalism is being able to talk to people you don’t know and being able to engage in the world around you — this was the first step in getting our students this experience.

DW: What was the student response like, and did staff feel the same way?

LG: The students loved the project itself, but also loved the opportunity to win prizes. I awarded prizes for the best overall project, runner-up for best project, and fastest group to finish. What high school student doesn’t love a little friendly competition?

My first priority was teaching the students professionalism, since they would be interacting with members of their school and community in unstructured ways. I made sure to thoroughly explain my expectations of their behavior before I let them begin, and made sure they understood that any complaints would result in the loss of a letter grade on their assignment.

The staff enjoyed the opportunity to help with this project. I believe that open communication and collaboration with staff can really enhance student experiences in a positive way.

DW: Were there any obstacles, or problems that you, or the students, encountered?

LG:  There were only two small obstacles. I extended the final due date to allow the students more time on their projects. Time estimation is always tricky when doing new projects with students! The second hiccup was a shortage of school-issued cameras. Since the students were required to reserve cameras for the project and schedule days that they would be taking photos, some groups reserved cameras on the same days. If I were to do this again, I would need to request a larger number of cameras to ensure that all groups have maximum flexibility.

DW: What, if anything, did you learn from doing this – and what might you alter if repeating it?

LG: Most notably, I was able to learn more about my students’ personalities. As an educator, I was able to learn about setting and enforcing expectations for my students. It was very gratifying to help students accomplish their visions. It was a very positive experience that I would welcome the chance to do again!

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