So here it is the night before the start of 2nd semester. Normally I would be watching my traditional night-before-semester starts movie of Oceans 11 or Oceans 13, but I want to change it up a bit this year – because I really hope this year is different (and if it is not, I can always blame George Clooney!). See for far too long I have let my Honors Political Science class kind of slip to the wayside when it comes to cutting-edge learning. The class is made up of honors level seniors, and while it would be easy to blame the slippage of the class into what it is today on the fact that seniorits had already set in for them, the real reason was staring me in the face as I looked in the mirror every morning. The class was too teacher centered, too lecture based, too test based (seriously Illinois requires us to test on the Flag Code!) and way to easy for students to disengage, sit-and-get, and still do rather well in the class. While I set out with a goal to make students active consumers in a political market place, I never really gave them the opportunity to do that.
Tomorrow, 2nd semester starts, and with that a brand new set of students will enter into my classroom. Some may come with the anticipation of an easy good grade, some may come because they are generally interested in politics, and some may come because they do not feel like being challenged with the AP curriculum. Whatever the reason, they will be in my classroom tomorrow. And when they sit down they will be in for something completely new!
With the help of Andrew Marcinek’s blog on Edutopia I reworked my curriculum to make it more Project Based Learning orientated. Following Andrew’s model, I am going to have project managers, team leaders and teams when working on the project. Students will also be writing on thier own blogs that will be called “TILT” Blogs for (Things I Learned This week). Students will evaluate themselves and each other throughout the process of learning and creating. The entire process is being driven by the students use of Google Apps for Education (an informal sort of pilot to test feasibility for future classes) including GoogleDocs, Blogger and GoogleGroups. I am jumping into the PBL pool – without waterwings – I am very excited!
Our first unit will be timely, as it will be on elections. The essential question for the unit is: how does one become an informed citizen in the political marketplace? The project centers around students needing to create an online voter guide for a first time voter in the upcoming primaries here in Illinois. The driving question for the unit is: what do you think a young voter needs to know in order to make an informed decision in an election? After posing that question, I will let the students go and collaborate, similar to Andrew’s situation. Brainstorm, make a plan, research, execute. The website and the plans for the class can be found here.
Will it work? Probably Will it be different? Absolutely! Are some kids going to be frustrated that they signed up for an easy class and instead are now responsible for their learning? If they are then I know the anwer to that first question is not probably, but yes! I plan on blogging about it here throughout the year of how the class is going, what I have learned, what I have loved, and what I will never do again.
Well, it looks like safety break is almost over, and its time to get back into the pool…if you are looking for me, I’ll be the big kid over in the deep end…without his waterwings.