My project/unit plan for my course final is a very basic research assignment that asks students to explore a topic of interest and develop a systems-based understanding of how that topic of interest has changed in the last 30 years. I have taught world history for 15 years and absolutely love the systems history approach as it allows for a deep understanding of the connections between people and ideas, their geography, and other people. I also chose this project because it is at the end of a modern world history course and very rarely do most history classes (except for token “current events” days) ever address recent or contemporary change. Like MTV or Reality TV.
The research process is the key here and ninth grade students are expected to establish research skills along a continuum with their senior year demanding extended essays or English papers. I have embedded opportunities to practice search skills, visual literacy, organization, content-analysis, and ultimately presentation/design elements. My students will be constructing a slideshow with exactly 15 slides that change every 20 seconds, a presentation technique referred to as Pecha Kucha (pronounced “pa-kach-ka”) . After five minutes the audience will have heard a research based “story” about the last 30 years that demonstrates understanding of systematic change. We will employ a PERSIAN chart for their research plan, video examples, and ultimately a tool box of appropriate terms used specifically by social scientists. The assignment will be be four class periods with one class for presentation. Rubric link is embedded into the lesson plan:
Well, after two months of exploration, organization, and autonomous thinking about the craft of teaching and what is happening, I am left with a number of very real questions and dilemmas about the systems we still use to educate young people. If I trace the genesis of my beliefs regarding education I end up with the birth of my son (and two years later, my daughter) and the very real concern that I (still) have that he is allowed the freedom to learn and grow socially with other members of his cohort. That my children are able to think critically about the world around them and that direct instruction in skills will be made available along with the opportunities to shape their own learning. This course is a beginning in allowing me to facilitate a change in mind set: that education is a journey employing all the senses and brain functions in order to understand and shape our environments. It never stops. Our focal point as educators is the tendency to be age-restrictive (roughly ages 4-18) and that preparation is the paramount responsibility. I think this is a very narrow view of teaching and in general ignores the real roles of teachers (which are approximately 23 different roles).
Blogging is great because I get to say what I want. Current teachers must consider collaborating on a regular basis, consider upgrading stale and disengaging curriculum, and above all stop complaining. I hear so many teachers complain about so many different matters that it is very uninspiring and difficult to be collegial. Current parents need to be much more engaged and informed on what is happening in their children’s class rooms. Know the curriculums and question when they appear stale or lacking in 21st century skills. Administrators must be involved as well in evaluating classrooms and begin to push their schools in a progressive direction that emphasizes higher level skills, rigor, and pride.
My favorite excuse for not keeping up with the times is “I am a traditionalist.” (whatever that means) I literally throw up in my brain. All I can promise is if my son or daughter ever has a “traditionalist” for a teacher, all I can promise is that it will be one very long year and they better get used to seeing my face. I read Nurture Shock; plus, I know how the brain learns.