Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Romancing Your Computer

While 12 of my Honors American Literature students were in Hawaii, I decided do to a little experiment with the somewhat grumpy students who were left behind. I gave them the following objective: Develop your own understanding of American Romantic poetry based on the resources in your book; select and incorporate at least one extension, such as Romantic art, Romantic music, British Romantic poetry, or your own, original Romantic poetry. Use Photostory to present your findings.

I showed them how to use Photostory, helped them individually with interpreting tough poems, and then just gave them time. The results were impressive, and discussing the poems in small groups with individual attention was much more effective and engaging than discussing the poems with the whole class.

When we shared the Photostories in class, students voted on the following categories: Most Deeply Analytical, Most Sublime, and Most Creative and Entertaining. The winners are worth taking a few minutes to enjoy if you have time:


Friday, November 03, 2006

Social Studies and Videos

I hesitated to talk here about video, being a history teacher and all. But Barb's post on te Fischbowl inspired me to share.

Many of my students will tell you (or complain to you)that I can take a 30 minute video and turn it into a 3 hour tour as I stop the video and have so many discussions. I ususally believe that these conversations are more important than the video and the video is simply a vehicle for the conversations. The weaknesses in my methods tend to be my inability to stay on track time-wise with the department's curricular goals and the fact that most of the conversations are based on MY questions or observations that I ask the students to respond to. Rarely do they create the questions or pose the observations that become the video conversations.

So...what did I try? In A.P. Government, I have shown a video for the last 6 years called "Why Can't We Live Together?", a Tom Brokaw special that examined the issue of race, white flight, perceptions and self-fulfilling prophesies in a middle/upper-middle class suburb of Chicago that tends to mirror our world in many ways. The conversations in class can often be uncomfortable for some as we speak publically about an issue that few find comfortable. This time, as we watched the video, I held back from stopping it (for the most part). Instead, they blogged as we watched. They shared their observations and questions. We responded primarily through the blog and I only stopped to have a discussion based on a question or comment they had posted.

What did I think of the experiment?

There were some positives. Students, for the most part, were not passive watchers, but active participants with EACH OTHER. A number of good conversations were held, much like those in the past. Some students shared great resources or anecdotes. We have a record of the conversation which is interesting to look back on to see how the conversations changed as they were presented with new information.

But, regardless of the positives, I'm not sure I like it. Some struggled with the multitasking. Much of what the video offered was missed or ignored. Instead, some students turned to a more generic discussion of race. While I like them having the conversation, the video offered some specifics that challenge or support many of the generic pieces. From many, those were missed. I watched a number of students only watch their laptop screen as they tried to keep up with comments.

Additionally, blogging is the wrong tool. Maybe something like skype would be better, but I had not yet created that capability in class. Blogging made the conversation very jumpy as responses to comment A are not seen until eight to ten other comments have been posted.

A few outsiders joined our conversation, one who threw gasoline on a fire. Because of the topic, I then had to be even more vigilant with each new post as I felt like I was no longer responsible just for what my students posted.

Will I try it again? Probably, but I will try a different tool, will discuss more the multitaking aspect and their responsibilty with the video info. But I suppose I should wait for them to respond before I decide.