Question Ambassadors - An Overview
The program has just a few steps that are easy to implement today. A student, the Question Ambassador, collects a question from a community member on a topic that the class is studying. Several students will have been assigned to be Question Ambassadors. The teacher takes a selection of the more appropriate questions to the class Question Selection team made up of students and the teacher. The team selects a question or two that they believe that they can help with and returns unanswered questions with suggestions on what might next be done. In the time that the class takes to study their topic or unit, answers are composed for the selected question(s) and returned using a provided paper form.
Schools start with the resources already available. The program grows with and extends current resources. Students research and compose responses using the resources of their room, their building library and computer systems, to the degree the computers are connected to the Internet. The Ambassadors can open a word processing template file and enter data that they collect and edit and revise. They will share their answer with others on their team and rewrite their answer based on this feedback. They will print out their answer form when finished and return it to the Question Asker with the original question sheet attached.
Teachers are in control. They will limit the number of questions and monitor the quality of questions to a level appropriate to their student's needs and the class's capacity. The question sheets will be collated by the building principal who monitors overall building progress in terms of the number of questions collected and the number answered.
School districts have great flexibility for integration. The Question Ambassador process works with a great variety of school technology, ranging from tagboard wall posters and notecards to a single Internet capable computer in the school library to Internet connected computer labs and classrooms. The links at the top of this page lead to a prioritized set of Internet tools useful to online support for this effort. The more computer technology is applied, the greater the impact. The process serves many central curriculum goals that remain high on districts' self-assessment lists. This process places a strong emphasis on communication skills that flow from the problem solving process, especially interpersonal communication and writing that is process focused and increasingly computer revised. Transfer of problem solving skills can be viewed as teaching generic models that generalize to many content areas, or targeted to specific curriculum topics and fields.
Through this effort, schools board members and administrators also become leaders in the development of their community's and region's social capital. Through Question Ambassadors, school systems grow relationships of strategic value to further implement a wide variety of educational initiatives. As the process of moving data using paper forms migrates to data on web forms, webs of online databases can emerge. Local issue databases can feed master databases at regional and international levels.
Other documents and resouces are available. The Question Ambassador Rationale handout reviews other related values of this method. Sample forms for the Question Ambassador process are also available. A web site titled CROP is currently operational that support this problem solving process and the work of the Question Ambassadors. CROP stands for Communities Resolving Our Problems. CROP supports the question collection and sharing process and provides numerous tools and resources along with training on the use of those tools and resources for the problem solving process. The CROP site can be found at http://www.ceap.wcu.edu/Houghton/Learner/LearnerhomeEasy2.html and runs 24 hours a day. The underlying concept can also be used for non-collaborative or just in-class activity through the Poster Internet.
To expand the Question Ambassador concept and provide more significant
activity for students and value for the community, information technology
resources need to be increased and additional leadership needs to be put
in place. Additional information technology requires significant training
for teachers and administrators, expanded Internet connectivity, expanded
training materials, additional networked computer workstations and software
in computer labs and regular classrooms. Grants and institutional funds
need to be sought to increase the number of students and teachers that
can participate. But even very little additional training and resources
can be used to explore some models
of online Question Ambassador systems.
Shelf BibliographyFertman, Carl I., George P. White, Louis J. White (1996). Service learning in the middle school : building a culture of service. Columbus, Ohio: National Middle School Association.
Gray, Maryann J. [et al.] (1999). Combining service and learning in higher education : evaluation of the Learn and Serve America Higher Education program. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Education.
O'Grady, Carolyn R. (2000). Integrating service learning and multicultural education in colleges and universities. Mahwah, N.J.: L. Erlbaum Associates.
Rhoads, Robert A. (1997). Community service and higher learning : explorations of the caring self. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Wade, Rahima C. (Ed.) (1997). Community service-learning: a guide to including service in the public school curriculum. Albany: State University of New York Press.