Seventh grade students have been in the library for the last six school days researching events that led up to the American Revolution. They are writing scripts and recording podcasts. It's the second year that the seventh grade social studies teacher and I are guiding this project. I have to say, I love it.
I love the project, which we collaborated on last year and tweaked when we repeated it this year. I love the noise. I love the energy. And, I love learning from my students. But first, let me back up a bit.
Last year, my social studies colleague went to a workshop on Podcasting. I happened to attend a workshop on Authentic Research and had coincidentally read the book, For Liberty: the Story of the Boston Massacre by Tim Decker.
For Liberty: the story of the Boston Massacre by Tim Decker. 40 p. Boyds Mills Press, September, 2009.
I really loved this book and brought it to my social studies colleague, who read it and loved it, as well. We brainstormed and came up with this project that was dubbed, "The Road to Revolution." Students were divided into groups and assigned a topic, such as, The Stamp Act, The Boston Massacre, The Boston Tea Party, etc. Most of the catalysts that propelled the Colonists toward revolution.
This was a "book only" research project that was done totally in class. The social studies teacher and I brainstormed a batch of books. By beefing up our school's collection and visiting many local libraries, we provided each group with short, easier to read books about each of their topics. They spent two days reading and taking notes. (A pin could be heard dropping in the library on those days.) Then, they spent a day collaborating and writing a script for their podcast. On day 4, they were introduced to GarageBand and told to practice their scripts. Each group was pulled into the "Podcast Room," aka, my office, where it was quiet enough to record their script.
In the meanwhile, students were choosing jingles as intro, outre, and background music as well as images, which had to be properly cited. The best of the best podcasts will be played for classes during NWEA testing, when the groups will be mixed for the two days of testing. They will listen to all the steps on the road to revolution.
Back to learning from my students: I learned about GarageBand from my social studies colleague and from helping last year's students with this project. I am, by no means, an expert on GarageBand. Most students are unfamiliar with it. But, what I find, is that many students are very comfortable clicking and exploring new technology and learning by discovery.
There were at least three instances where I heard, "Mrs. Kahn, how do you do x, y, or z?" And I had no idea. So, I asked the class, "Has anyone done x, y, or z?" Two out of three of those times, another student had already come across it and figured it out. They shared it with both me and the student(s) and it was a win: win: win situation. The next time a student asked x, y, or z, I was able to say, "I just learned that from classmate, a, b, c, or d and this is what they showed me." The one out of three times where no one knew almost always resulted in the very student, or myself, figuring it out. It was very exciting - one might even say, authentic learning.