Monday, March 2, 2009

The Name of the Game is Convergence

The thing about a Web 2.0 project is that it doesn't have to be limited to just one Web 2.0 tool. Web 2.0 projects can take on a life of their own and can be brought back throughout the school year the way a good comic recycles a tag line throughout his act. I'll explain...

During my unit on nationalism my students were broken into groups and assigned different nations to profile. I chose twelve nations (a group of people who share a common language, religion, history, and geographic area) that are covered by my curriculum for the students to research. The students spent a day in the library researching their nation and adding their findings to a section of our class wiki. I teach three sections of Global History throughout the day so I divided the groups so that kids needed to work with students from sections other than their own. In other words, the students from first period began the research, the students from fifth period completed the research and kids in ninth period checked and corrected the work of the previous classes based upon the situations from earlier in the day (this is an example of the completed page). The next day for homework all of my students needed to use the wiki to complete a scavenger hunt of the nations.

You might be thinking to yourself, "wow, what a great project." (Or more likely you're thinking I can't believe I just read all of that I could've been checking my Facebook page.) But wait there's more. I said Web 2.0 offers opportunities for convergence, all I've done is explain stage 1.

About a month later at the conclusion of the World War I unit the students returned to the nations wiki to complete a project I call a "Virtual Treaty of Versailles." (The Treaty of Versailles was the peace treaty that ended World War I). The students went back to the wiki pages that they created earlier in the year and they found that there were additional questions for them to answer and additional materials with which to find the answers. The students now needed to use the documents provided (Germany sample) to discover what their nation had done during World War I, what their nation hoped to achieve at the Treaty of Versailles and hypothesize about whether their nation deserved the things it was asking for in the Treaty of Versailles. This time around period 9 started the project and answered some of the questions, period one picked up where period 9 left off and period 5 checked and corrected the answers by following the citations left by the other groups (for those of you curious how I was able to alter time and have period 9 start the project, I admit while I do one day aspire to have the ability to alter time, in this case I just had period 9 start the project the previous school day.) Now you're probably saying to yourself "brilliant, you had the kids do the same project twice, you are quite the visionary." (That was said sarcastically. The one thing Web 2.0 has yet the achieve is the proper conveyance of tone in the written word.)

Stage 3 (now is where we get a little tricky): The kids come in on day 2 and based upon the work of their group the previous day, they now need to create a 1 to 2 minute enhanced podcast using all of the research on the wiki. The podcast is to cover what makes the group they researched a nation, their nations role in World War I, their nations aspirations at Versailles and a defense of why their nation deserves the things it is asking for. The students then had two class periods to write the scripts for their podcasts and record them. To make life easier for the students I created an image folder for them on our school network containing royalty-free images that they could use in their podcasts. (This step eliminated their need to search through Websites and photo galleries for copyright free images thus saving class time.)

At this point your probably saying "OK not bad, but all you really did was have them start a project in one unit and have them finish it during the next one. Where is this magical convergence you eluded to?" I hear what you're saying. OK, fine you want to see the magic happen? Fine, as Mike Lang would say, 'it's time to get into the fast lane granny cause the bingo game is about to start.'

Stage 4: The podcasts created by the students were then posted to a blogger page used in the class for homework assignments. Over the course of the rest of the school year as we discussed one of the nations profiled the students needed to view the podcast created by their classmates for homework the night before the lesson. For example, the night before the lesson on the Munich Conference (the conference that gave Czechoslobakia to Hitler) the students had to watch and respond to the podcast created by the Czechoslovakia group. As another example the night before the lesson on Japan during the interwar years, the students needed to watch and respond to the podcast created by the Japan group. In the Spring when we get to the Arab-Israeli group the students will need to go back and watch the videos created about those groups at the Treaty of Versailles. By doing it this way the students are forced to go back and see how history impacts future situations.

A project like this might not work in every discipline, but for Social Studies where we try to get the kids to understand the connections between the past and the present it works perfectly because when they are interacting with their own work from earlier in the year the connection becomes crystal clear for them. It is one thing for the teacher to ask the students to look back in their note books to re-read notes they copied during the Treaty of Versailles unit, it is a different world when the students are constantly confronted with their own voices from earlier in the year to see how one event could lay the foundations for so many future conflicts.

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