Inquiry Based Learning in Media 21: August 31–September 4, 2009

This week featured two focal points: continuing our work on our drafts for our first formal persuasive essay and exploring social media for social good.

The Blogathon for the Louisville Free Public Library

On Monday, we engaged in the blogathon for the Louisville Free Public Library.  Students enjoyed a personal video from blogathon organizer Andy Woodworth and then spent the period writing about “why libraries rock!”  You can see the 5th period blog posts by clicking here; 7th period blog posts are available by clicking here. I included a RSS feed for the blogathon Twitter hashtag  in our blogathon pathfinder so that students could see how hashtags work on Twitter; several seemed impressed although they have yet to realize the full power of hashtags and Twitter.

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I was moved by many of the student blog posts—I wish every legislator in Georgia and across the country would read them because the students articulated what they loved about our school library and how it helps them.   My favorite quote from the student blogs came from Betty in 7th period, who said, “Libraries are where people start their dreams.”

Writing Triage

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Ms. Lester engaged in  some writing triage to help students strengthen and polish their drafts.  Students were given class time to work on their drafts and engage in in one-on-one writing conferences with Ms. Lester as she provided direction and feedback from the second round of rough drafts.

In spite of a day in which Ms. Lester spent with students discussing some common issues (not fully responding to the writing prompt and some weak areas of content development in spite of the “shaping sheet”) and our posting those writing “fix it” areas on our class wiki, many students still struggled with these issues.    Although we have spent extensive time providing oral and written discussion of the writing prompt and writing strategies, we have quite a few students who have needed intensive help.

One helpful activity Ms. Lester used was showing exemplary drafts on the SmartBoard (which was easy since we each had access to the drafts via Google Documents!).   Several students commented that seeing a model draft from a peer was helpful in visualizing the development of the thesis and the body paragraphs.

Social Media for Social Good

On Thursday, we began our exploration of social media for social good by reading and responding via our blogs to “10 Ways to Support Charity with Social Media.”

Students also drew for article readings (see our pathfinder) and composed their reflections on their Google Sites.

On Friday, we engaged in what I call “Speed Dating” article interviews—(see pathfinder page)students followed the instructions below to interview each other about their articles.  I devised four “big” questions for each group; I randomly assigned questions to students.   This inquiry based interview activity, designed by one of my favorite teachers of all time, Dr. Bob Fecho of the University of Georgia, engaged students in discussing their articles and teasing out the “big ideas” of the articles.

One bit of advice I would recommend if you are working with teens—use index cards to create “placeholders” for each question at your tables.  It was a little confusing getting students seated in groups even though I had provided a diagram.  For the 7th period, I was prepared with the placecards taped onto the tables, so students seated themselves appropriately much more quickly.

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In spite of the fact Friday was frenzied with anticipation of our first pep ralley and big home football opener against our primary county rival, the students stayed focused and in walking around and observing, I thought most students seemed engaged in the interviews.   Some students who came unprepared found out quickly what a disadvantage they had created for themselves as did those who were interviewing them; Ms. Lester and I hope those students will learn from their mistakes and understand why it is so important to complete any unfinished work at home (they had a good bit of time in class on Thursday, but several still needed additional time) before the next class session.

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I had originally planned to do two rounds of interviews, but due to the shortened periods because of the pep ralley schedule, I punted and went with just one round.  We also had to cut short the wiki part of the activity, but we will finish that next week even though I fear the holiday break will diminish that part of our inquiry because of the time gap.  However, as you all know, sometimes you have to make the best of the situation.

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I also plan to do an assessment with a poll or short response via the blog to see what students thought about this inquiry based activity.  Stay tuned to next week’s reflections for more on their thoughts!

Other Developments

  • After some thought last weekend, I wondered if we should move our presentations of arguing for or against the use of social media in the classroom from late September/early October to December.  I felt that students would have more time to collect research as well as to gain more extensive firsthand experience of the use of social media tools as researchers for our upcoming unit of issues in Africa and would be better prepared to speak with a more informed view.  Ms. Lester agreed with this, so we have made the decision to push the final student presentations to December.
  • I have recruited five more teachers (five Social Studies; one Health/PE; one English) to incorporate the use of Google Sites into our class projects!  Some teachers are starting by using these as a means of going paperless, but other teachers are using the Google Sites as a means of not only building student portfolios but also to incorporate the use of Web 2.0 tools for representing student work using tools like Prezi, Glogster, VoiceThread, and OneTrueMedia videos.  I will try to find more time to blog these lessons and feedback from teachers/students in the next few weeks over at The Grizzly Lounge blog, my vehicle for sharing ideas and tech tips with our faculty.

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