There are two possible units of inquiry that I will be leading in the Autumn of 2014 as potential candidates for redefinition through technology:
Rights & Responsibilities – inquiry into how human rights are granted, viewed, and protected
What’s your story? – inquiry into personal histories and the role of primary sources in historical understanding
In any case, my goal is to embed technology to maximize student agency. There are also Web 2.0 tools that need to be introduced and practiced throughout the school year so that students will be prepared to use them for their end of year Exhibition. Which one of these units is most suitable to be redesigned around a Web 2.0 tool in a way that redefines the learning of the unit?
One way to address this question, or determine if it is even a good question, is to consider tasks. In order to assess whether students have mastered using a new tool, they must be able to use it to complete a task.
Rights & Responsibilities
In this unit, we introduce Wikis as a tool to organize and share information and links. It was used simply to aggregate research findings. Students also created speech and slide presentations to communicate their understandings of the connections between rights and responsibilities.
One possible task might be to create a wiki to raise awareness for a human rights issue, embed a survey, petition, or pledge form, then use videos of their presentations to promote their causes and pages via social media like our class twitter account and blogs. Students this year completed a similar task, but only researched an issue to prepare a blog post.
The greatest challenge would be for me to design learning experiences to support students as they become web designers and social activists, perhaps at the expense of some of the ‘formal’ learning activities we did in the past. Perhaps the solution lies in integrating those activities into the learning of the web tool?
From a planning point of view, the wikis would be the focus. From a learning point of view, human rights would be the focus.
In terms of student agency, feeling that they are using technology to take action for a cause that they care about should foster an authentic sense of purpose and ownership. Web 2.0 tools and social media would empower us to redefine our learning from research and presentation to taking action to raise awareness.
What’s your story?
One of the challenges was in finding a community to share our stories. I believe that if I could find at least one other class also making personal histories about family members, it would significantly enhance the learning experience for students. We did collaborate with another class using VoiceThread to create personal introductions, however, that meant that our interactions focused on the technology, not on the learning.
Facilitating global collaboration among students with technology must focus on the learning, not only the technology.
Having some high-quality artifacts from this year, I can provide a model to other teachers so that students would be working in the same genre. By creating a tool with which we could all share links, the possibilities for interaction and conversation among students would be significantly enhanced.
It could be a case in which ‘modification’ on a large enough scale becomes ‘redefinition’.