Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Have We Learned or What Haven’t We Learned? Where Are We Going?

After a long and drawn out approval process, our 9th grade Honors students were able to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother after reading George Orwell’s 1984. Throughout the novels, we completed a multitude of chronological charts connecting the years of 1920-1950 to the book 1984, and 1950-2006 to Little Brother. We wanted kids to examine the events that might have influence these authors to write their novels. All along we asked the kids to think about “What have we learned or what haven’t we learned from these two novels? And given that information, where are we going as a society?”

Every activity during this 8 week process built upon our students formulating an understanding of those questions. From watching videos about MIT’s 6th sense, Google Googles, and Karl Fisch’s 2020 to reading about full body scanners and laptops being used to track student’s home life. We also brought in guest speakers from our History department who talked with the kids about the events surrounding WWII that would have influenced Orwell and post 9/11 legislations /actions that influenced Doctorow. We even had kids figure out the connections between Ned Kelly, The Chicago 7, and our protagonist Marcus Yarrow(can you figure that one out?). Towards the end of the unit, we had the kids write about Ben Franklin’s quote from 1759, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Upon completion of reading both texts, the kids were challenged then with writing a paper defending their answer to the questions “What have we learned or what haven’t we learned from these two novels? And given that information, where are we going as a society?” that wasn’t a traditional black and white paper, but a Wikified Research paper.

As a previous student wrote:
In most English classes, inventing new verbs is reserved for confused students. However, in English 9 honors, wikified has become a universal verb penned by none other than the teacher herself…. A WRP, or wikified research paper, is made on wikispaces.com [and this year we added Google Sites] and allows students to link to resources within their papers, along with embedding various images and videos within their papers. This concept broadens the research paper from words on a piece of paper to a worldwide published work that includes interactive and supplementary elements which help define and support the student’s thesis.

As the students composed thesis statements defending their view point, we taught them about the wonders of wikispaces and Google Sites showing them the difference between publishing a paper for their teacher to publishing a paper for the world. There is a whole new level of engagement and responsibility in writing a paper of this magnitude.

Throughout the writing process, the students were challenged with composing something that was meaningful and relevant to their take-aways from the novels. Some students felt we have learned nothing as a society and continue to fall into the same traps Orwell and Doctorow identify such as blind acceptance of the truth, inability to decide for oneself, lack of trust in government and others, and the overwhelming power of technology. Others feel that because of Marcus’ role in Little Brother and Winston’s role in 1984, that we are learning not to blindly accept what others say and that everyone is empowered to challenge the system.

The students were also asked as a result of their learnings what will happen to us in the future. This part of the WRP could take any form: traditional paragraph, podcast, poem, video, etc…. If they could imagine it, they could create it. I think this is the part of the paper I have enjoyed more than any other. The kids are challenged with creating their own interpretation of a world which they have a greater role in. As they progress through these influencing years of learning, they are creating a future which could mimic their predictions, or challenge the future they see.

At the end of the writing process, the students turn in their wiki work and arrange for a assessment date with Maura or I. We grade their papers together talking through what the student’s intended in each paragraph as well as what we take away from their writing. The writing process comes alive at this point with the ability to walk each student through their thoughts clarifying confusions and appreciating their willingness to do something different. With each paper, I am able to see a clearer picture into my students’ writing mind reflecting back on their growth and seeing the amazing possibilities that lie in front of them. It is so powerful to sit next to each kid while commenting on the creativity of their work and feeling their personal pride in a job well done. Their exuberance at showing their teacher, and I would even guess the world, their thinking is inspiring.

I would encourage you to look through their work as well giving them feedback.
Period 2
Period 5

43 comments:

margotf2013 said...

Through the Wikified writing process, I was able to create a deeper understanding for myself as a writer and for the reader. The ability to use all types of media to prove a point opened up doors to creating a diversified paper. Although the process was not as simple as a traditional essay, it was far more interesting to write and read. I feel fortunate to be part of a learning environment that allows me to explore all types of learning.

loganb2013 said...

This paper was very interesting to write. It made me think outside the box to try and predict what the future would be like. It was also an interesting learning experience to find the parallels between 1984 and Little Brother. The wikipaper format was very different than anything I have written in the past. It forced me to use different strategies of writing than I usually do, and find lots of resources to support my points.

sydneyi2013 said...

In many ways, the Wikified research paper was like any other average school paper. You sit down, outline your ideas, then type it all out. After that you edit, edit, then edit again. Which is exactly what I think most students did. Yet at the same time we had to find pictures, and videos, we had to create our own website. To put it simply; we had to think outside the box. In a lot of ways I think it was better for the students to write this way, because it opens the mind to a lot more possibilities. In some ways, it was harder to do because of all the aspects. However, no matter which way you slice it, the project made you think. Hard.

neelyd2013 said...

The wikified paper has been a very interesting experience. It has been both challenging and rewarding. The paper when it is done looks absolutely brilliant. You can easily include youtube videos, audio soundtracks, and images to turn your, once regular paper, into a new modern essay. However, the site wikispaces and google.sites has formatting problems that were very disturbing and hard to work with. Wiki often locked the user out of it's own page, so they could no longer edit the page. Google.sites was much more user-friendly and organized. The one problem was the formating. You would have to separate it with spaces so that it wouldn't run off the page. Overall, the wikified paper was a great learning experience and very fun to work with.

eberger2013 said...

The Wikified Research Paper was very interesting to write. It challenged the writer to be extremely creative and resourceful to get their point across. Many outside links and websites were essential, and proofreading was key. Many things could go wrong, and it is an amazing feeling when everything is done and correct.

taylorw2013 said...

I have written many papers throughout the years, but this paper was the most meaningful to me. I loved the idea of adding media influence in our papers, and the visual references really enhanced the essay. I had trouble getting started with the paper because I imagined i would have a ton of anxiety with writing this big, huge paper, but once i got started, it was a piece of cake. Indeed, it was a pretty long process, but I wasn't bored out of my mind while writing it. The connections I made while writing this paper were extremely helpful also, becuase it helped me to identify the messages the authors were trying to send to readers. Overall, this paper was probably my favorite paper I have written all year.

melaniea2013 said...

Personally, I really enjoyed writing the Wikified paper. The reason was the content I got to write about and the way I was able to write about it. I usually don't like writing, especially when the subject bores me to tears, but since 1984 and Little Brother were so interesting, the paper was a lot less painful. It was easier to delve into my paper because I was actually interested in the topics. Looking at society and going through media and thinking about life and the future was, for lack of a better word, fun. Of course I may not be the best writer, but I put a lot of effort into my points and I'm proud of what I came up with.

Another reason I liked this paper was because I got to use technology. I felt I really got into that part, too. I had so many song clips when I first started that I only used a fraction of them in the actual paper. Not to mention, I made a few videos, found quotes, images, and comics to support what I had to say and I felt that it added so much. I'm such a nerd, so to get the chance to go crazy with my software was exciting. It also got me motivated. I usually have to force myself to sit down and write a paper, but this wasn't like that at all. I happily put hours into it because I knew it was something I could be proud of. And, I think all that hard work paid off.

breem2013 said...

Writing this paper was quite an experience for me. I had a blast finding new ways to write a paper using all the tools of the internet. It really allowed me to expand my learning and how I express my thoughts. The paper allowed me to be passionate and use my own tools and devices to make the paper that much better, while I expressed myself. I really felt I was able to take my knowledge and understanding to the next level and because of that I'm that much prouder of this paper.
-Bree M

taylort2013 said...

While writing this Wikified research paper I realized the endless possibilities available to me, unlike a normal written paper. I was able to take my ideas and enhance them by using many different sources of media. This was great learning experience and enabled me to think outside the box.

rebekkahc2013 said...

Writing the Wikified research paper has been very different compared to any other paper I have written. Since it had more expectations, like adding video and links, it was harder to write and took longer to put together. One thing I struggled with was the formatting. It took a little time to become comfortable with using the different websites. Each site was different and I think that if I took a little more time playing around with them, my paper could have been more interesting. Even though this paper was harder to write compared to any other paper, it helped to prove the points when the reader could see, through video or links, examples of the ideas. The Wiki paper has even more chances for the reader to comprehend the ideas throughout the paper and recieve a better understanding of what the author is trying to say.

NathanF2013 said...
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kristenn2013 said...

This Wikified research paper was more than a challenge. The possibilities that this paper opened left great expectations that were hard to fufill. It was expected that we would put in pictures, songs, or videos that connected with our work. We were given an assignment that not only expected us to use the regular essay format but elaborate on use it as a foundation for not just a paper but a website. What a high expectation.

GraceC2013 said...

The Wikified Research Paper was an interesting paper to write. I'm still deciding whether or not I found it enjoyable, though. It was in some ways easier than a traditional research paper, because you could get your point across better by using videos and pictures. It was also more difficult because we actually had to find corresponding videos and pictures that relate to our point. This was an assignment that really made me think, and I'm glad that we got to participate in writing this paper.

jessicah said...

The wikified papers were fun to write because there was much more opportunity to add extra examples and really get a point across. The ability to link to other web sites, add videos, audio, pictures and much more made the paper both more personal and allowed for much more information to be presented. I think that this type of papers will be used much more in the future because it is a great way to express ideas. Any point made on a traditional paper can be supported much more strongly with the use of media that wikified papers allow. This paper challenged us as students to think more deeply into things and be creative in portraying the information, and arguing our points. I think that the next time I create a wikified paper I would add more media and outsource more. Overall the wiki experience was a good one and I believe this is a great step up from traditional papers.

JonathanW said...

While writing this online paper it made it an easier way to convey the actual meaning and feelings toward the reader. When writing the average black and white paper, things tend to be left out, such as the pictures and more examples. However again with the Wikified paper more advancements were possible. However I found that using a web creator like webs.com enabled more of a user friendly interface rather than the simple layout of the Wiki paper. With the extra resources available a better paper was formed.

NathanF2013 said...

I really liked the formating that the wikified research paper was able to provide. I was really able to let my creativity flow freely instead of being bottled up and waiting to get out. I also think it provided a better developed paper and increased the understanding and excitement of the reader. It also was much more fun to write than a standard black and white paper.

KaraN2013 said...

Wikified research papers allow the writer and reader access to all information on the internet. This allows the writers to explain topics in more depth, and helps reads comprehend more. Videos and links to articles can be given in full, instead of just a summary or description, allowing the reader to see what the writer is intending in using the specific example. Also, within a Wikified research paper, you can add pictures to ingrain a point in a reader's brain. Wikified research papers allow the reader and writer to delve deeper into a subject.

garrettn2013 said...

Writing a Wiki Paper was a new and insightful experience. I got to use a new tool to enhance my presentation. Pictures can be inserted for added effect to the text. This was more exciting than a traditional paper visually, creating an interesting layout that made the paper pop. Overall, Wiki Papers are a great way to demonstrate learning and should be used in the future.

zacc2013 said...

By writing the wikified paper, I gained a much clearer understanding of the warnings presented in bother novels that we read. By creating comparisons, I was able to realize how closely related the novels really were. The thinking put behind the wikified process is very different that any other project I have completed in school. By using the internet, there is an infinite amount of resources available for me to use. I realized how promising the future of any type of report or essay could be if they were all completed in the way we completed our wikified research papers.

Anna2013 said...

This Wikified Research Paper was extremely difficult to complete. There were endless possibilities in completing this paper. This paper has brought out many sides of me that I never knew I had. It helped me to form opinions on certain topics. The easy accessibility made this paper less difficult to complete and was different very different from anything I had ever written. It allowed me to realize the all the possibilities that I can access whenever I need them.

katiew2013 said...

The Wikified writing was a very good writing experience because it felt like it was more indepth. Unlike a traditional essay I had to look for other sources and materials to support my topic. I liked the experience because it exposed me to a writing style that will most likely become more used throughout the years.

britnij2013 said...

The Wikified research project was fun to do. Normal black and white papers are boring to do. This project allows a student to write a paper using technology to enforce that person's ideas. It made the student think outside the box.I challenged the writer to be creative and find new and interesting ways to do a research paper.The Wikified research paper, in many ways, was more challenging then a normal paper.It required more time, commitment, and research.

ruthieg2013 said...

This Wikified Research Project was much different than I am normally used to. It challenged me to write an interesting paper to go along with an equally interesting web site. In a way it allowed me to be more creative, actually it required me to be creative. The website design was up to us, as was the contnts, to some extent. This was still like a traditional essay, however it added an extra twist.

Chloe said...

Wikified research papers are a great way for students to write papers because it allows them to express themselves besides creating text. When a person writes a paper they have certain things that prompt them to state the points they want to prove. If someone was to write a regular paper the reader would not always know where the writer thought of the points. With technology the writer could insert videos or pictures that can show the reader the full meaning of their statement. Another way the writer expresses themself is by highlighting certain things that they want the reader to look for and fully understand throughout the paper. Wikified research papers are a great way of writing a paper but expressing your full viewpoint of what the writer wants the reader to see.

meredithl2013 said...

The wikified research paper, when assigned, seemed like a daunting task to find sources other than the traditional sources. I had forgotten about the many times where on a paper I can across a song, video, or image that I could not include due to the constraints of a black-and-white paper. I found it challenging, at first, to learn to work with the technology. Though I know how to use technology fairly efficiently, I never before had cut songs on Audacity, edited movies on Windows Movie Maker, or hyperlinked to other sources. Challenges such as these accompanied the traditional challenges of writing a great paper such as finding the right way to word sentences or editing the finalized product. These challenges, once overcome, made the paper much more rewarding compared to other traditional papers. This paper allowed me to glimpse into the future of education and sparked my interest in many ways.

melissam2013 said...

The wikified research paper marked the first time that I had ever considered writing an essay on anything besides white paper. Personally, I found the wikified research paper harder to create than the normal essay. I faced the challenge of deciding how to structure my paper. Usually, a teacher tells me exactly how many paragraphs I should write, how many examples I should have, and how these components should be arranged. It took a lot of time to find all the video examples on YouTube and to imbed them. Despite this, I feel that creating a wikified research paper helped me as an individual more than any other essay assignment ever has. I learned a lot about myself as a writer because the idea of having my work posted on the web alerted me to take this project very seriously. I learned from the teachers at writing lab that I have the tendency to repeat myself and over-explain concepts. I now know that I need to have more faith in my reader when I write. The idea that a longer essay is not always the best essay finally sank in. I also learned a great deal about the world through this assignment. By looking through YouTube videos, I was exposed to different viewpoints on current topics such as the Patriot Act and 9-11. I never really thought much about the war in Iraq and how people in today’s world react to terrorist attacks. Thus, this assignment allowed me not only to learn about literary authors and characters, but also about the world I live in today. I also felt that this project was much more exciting simply because it was going to be posted online for the world to see. With a regular paper, I know that the teacher will read what I have to say, give me a grade on it, hand it back to me or throw it away. With the wikified research paper, I felt that by sharing my ideas I was actually contributing to the world by creating a website that would last for as long as the internet exists. I also learned to use many new technological tools, such a Diigo. Based on my experience, the wikified research was very meaningful to me as a student despite the high amount of difficulty.

Dannyv2013 said...

When I first heard that we would be writing a wikified research paper, I thought it was going to be an easy task. I can honestly say that I was wrong looking back at it now. For the first time ever, I was being told that I could use all types of media in a class paper. I learned how to be more than just a writer, as I was tasked with composing a website, something that once published would be available for anyone to see.

kyliel2013 said...

After writing the Wikified Research Paper, I will never like writing a formal paper using a pencil and a piece of paper ever again. The Wikified Paper was able to stretch our thinking to places it had not gone before. The wikified paper gave us ways to enhance the understanding through music, videos, pictures, and other online gadgets. Although some students may disagree I thought this way of expressing what we know was the best that I have come across. I am very happy that we were able to do this project and hope I get the opportunity to do one again in the future. Not only did it help me to connect Little Brother and 1984, it also taught be how to make a website and more how to use technology to my advantage.

kylerg2013 said...

Writing this wikified paper has made me rethink my previous ideas of what a paper can be. With the internet the information is endless and a person is allowed to weild that information like the mighty sword of ancient stories. With that kind of power to articulate your thoughts it amplifies your papaer that much more and allowes you to widen and strengthen the grasp of your paper on the subject at hand. Writing this paper it also made me apprecaite the usual paper and how we need be able to use both to highest advantage. Even though these papers do hand people the endless power of the infinite internet if a person does not know how to write in the first place this type of paper simply amplifies the atrociousness of a paper. Simply being able to write a powerful paper is still a skill that should be prized to the highest degree and even though these papers can make those papers that much better you still need to have the paper in th first place.

connorr2013 said...

I enjoyed the Wikified research paper a lot more then traditional essays. It not only gave me a chance to explore the world of wikis, it also was put on to the web for everyone to read. Unlike most school papers, this one was written under my name and is forever attached to me via the web. That aloud greater pride in the time and effort put into making it.

alexd2013 said...

I enjoyed writing the wiki-paper because of the skills I learned. It allowed me to approach traditional writing with a new mentality. I felt I could express my ideas and arguments in innovative ways, at the same time incorporating conventional writing. The entire writing process was far more pleasant because my ideas were transferred to the web rather than to paper; the internet provided me with an interactive environment with limitless resources and inspiration to draw from. I also feel like my arguments can be augmented by the countless people who can now read and comment on my paper. This new writing style has encouraged me to be innovative more areas of my life.

edmondl2013 said...

The wikified research paper was very unusual to write. It made use different strategies for my writing so that I could incorporate things like videos and pictures. It also did not feel like a paper as it wasn't just a traditional black and white essay, but felt like I could express some of my creativity. This paper also made me dig deeper to find the parallels between 1984 and Little Brother as it wasn't just a fill in the blank essay that I've done many times, but rather one that actually made me think.

danieli2013 said...

I think that in writing this wikified paper, it let me go deeper into the writing and let the reader see what I saw in the the different sites. I could really show the reader what I saw because I am not so good at explaining. So this really helped me get more in depth with the reader.

laurenh2013 said...

The Wikified Research paper was highly challenging and really applied to the ideology of the Honors program. I did not care either way for the Wikified Research paper, however it was very interesting to try a different way of writing essays.

AmandaV said...

The Wikified paper was a new and interesting experience. It inforced students to process, Little Brother and 1984, and discover the inner meanings of these books; while using other sources to portray these inner meanings- such as videos, music, and writings. This also gave students a chance to display thier creative side. Overall, this was a great assignment.

chrisf2013 said...

I think that the Wikified research paper was very interesting and a unique way of writing a paper. I personally like writing normal essays much more though. I think the Wikified research paper can, at times, distract from the actual essay, and the point that you are trying to get across. With most of my writing I am trying to insert too many outside links and information that it can stray away from the point I am trying to make. I feel that all the necessary information will already be in the paper, and all this extra information can be too distracting from the paper. I feel that the paper was an interesting style, and very unique, but I personally like normal essays better.

silvanao2013 said...

When writing this new type of paper, I was challenged in a different way other than just typing up a paper. I'm not sure if I liked it or not. There are definatly benifits to all of it. I am not the most computer savy person there is so it made it very hard and confusing but interesting to see when looking at the finally product. When using different types of media to show my point, I was impressed by all the new ways I could prove my point. In the end, I really had a love-hate relationship with my essay.

silvanao2013 said...
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nickd2013 said...

The wikified paper that I created was unlike any paper I had ever written before. This is a totally different type of paper where you can incorporate different elements like videos that are limited in a normal paper. This ads a flare and interesting twist to writing papers that makes them much more fun to compose. Also reading the paper is more fun because as you read you can explore external links that relate to the paper. After completing the wikified paper have come to find that even though the wikified paper takes longer I prefer writing them because of how much better you understand the topic you are writing about better.

emilym2013 said...

The hardest point of the Wikified project for me was the expectations that we were given. For me, writing a normal paper, however dull, is a lot more simple, because I can clearly see where I am and where I want to go in my writing. With the internet as an added resource, there was an almost overwhelming range of possibility. I can't say that I prefer the Wikified. Of course, it was interesting, and I learned a lot more, but for the writing process in general, I like the old-fashioned, straightforward method of black-and-white papers.

bryanh2013 said...

Every step that was taken in order to teach each student in an English 9 Honors was carefully planned out so that each student can be able to learn what is deemed necessary. This Wikified research paper lead students to achieve a higher level of writing and learning. It made each student work a great deal more to perfect and get each point across.

aliisar2013 said...

The wikified paper was a challenge for me. I am a traditional essay writer, so unlike many of my peers I prefer the original essay. This wikified spin, needs more creativity and technological knowledge. It has caused me to think differently of essays from now on. For the reader I believe this version of an essay is much more entertaining, whereas it is very obnoxious and difficult for the writer.

baileyw2013 said...

I enjoyed writing this paper more than any other paper I have written in the past. I really liked writing something that would not just be seen by my teacher and me. Anyone who has access to a computer can see the hard work I put into writing this paper. Smith definitely pushed me to think further than I normally would for an essay. The future portion of the essay was the part I had to work on the hardest. We could use something other than a paragraph to illustrate our prediction of the future. I liked that because it was not just a black and white paragraph. Another aspect I liked about this paper was that I was allowed to be creative and make my own website. There was no rubric for the website itself so I could be as creative as I wanted to be with it. Overall, this paper is something that I am very proud of.