- The CtW Project is something different this year.
- My students are grappling with the issues and their possible solutions in more authentic ways.
- I’m teaching ways of reading that won’t be tested.
The Whole Story:
The project description around Phase 2 originally stood as:
Phase 2: Research work being done to solve problem. Create campaign to get donations for that work.
Draft an action plan around a realistic solution to the problem you’ve selected.
Meet with an identified change agent and present your pitch and action plan.
We’ve moved away from that.
Last year’s iteration of the project wrapped itself around an Ignite-style presentation uploaded to slideshare and then posted to the students’ drupal blogs. There they have languished for almost a year. I’ve called them up for conference presentations, but they haven’t been affecting much change other than that of classroom practice, perhaps. It’s striking me as ironic that I used one group’s product from last year as an example during my “Doing Real Stuff in the Classroom” session at CoLearning. If it had been “Doing Almost Real Stuff in the Classroom,” well, then that would have been something.
From the original description of Phase 2, we’ve scrapped the donation campaign, the action plan and the pitch to a change agent. Everything.
As I wrote earlier, I’ve move kids who have been researching similarly themed projects into Solution Groups. Armed only with a fact sheet built off of their 6 weeks of research and a Solution Organizer that helped them to put their thoughts in order, the groups met to share their work and discuss their individual goals for changing the issue each had been researching.
Once the groups had decided whether or not my initial groupings would work / made sense, they set to work making connections across their problems to identify a singular action that could catalyze change in each issue.
It was fascinating to watch.
After two classes, I sat with each group and had them pitch their proposals. What they came up with was better than any donation campaign my brain had envisioned.
One class has a group organizing around the issue of abuse in its many forms. They’re planning to create a resource for SLA students dealing with abuse, contacting counselors to help them and organizing a fundraising walk to help a local non-profit working with people living in abuse.
Again, more than a video dying on drupal.
As I moved from group to group, I realized no one had talked to these guys about leveraging and social media. We talked about the fact that the room probably had around 5,000 Facebook connections they could push. Then I showed them Southwest’s twitter page and we discussed why 1 million+ people would even think about following an airline.
We watched this video I’d seen the night before thanks to Ewan:
And that led to a discussion of non-verbal communication and how a video with only 6 significant words could lead to change.
Anthony commented, “That video changed my life.”
From there, we visited Chris Craft’s kids’ TeachJeffSpanish.com and I walked my students through the idea that a class of sixth graders had built a site with the potential to create real sticky change.
Finally, we ended w/ a google search for “Joe’s Non-Netbook” and then “Joe’s Non-Notebook” as some re-posters have called it. I told the kids how I shot and posted the video on a whim almost a year ago.
We stopped looking at re-postings and started checking out where people had written about the video.
They started to get the idea that this video recorded as a gag had made an impact.
“You’re the first generation to be advertised to since birth,” I told them, “You’re going to need to be the savviest thinkers about this stuff so far.”
Having made it through my filter with their first pitches, the groups will begin drafting sales pitches Monday that will have to meet with unanimous class approval to move forward. It’s our own little ad hoc shareholders meeting.
So, yeah. That’s happening.
Meanwhile, the PSSA looms on the horizon and I can’t help thinking I’m going to have to move their brains into a mold where they see questions as having one answer and answers as being un-refineable. You know, like in the real world.
The ideas they’re working with now are big ones. The solutions they’re striving toward are impassioned and thoughtful. Come April, they’ll have four weeks of testing that doesn’t fit any of those descriptors.