I was so excited! I couldn’t wait to try the new lesson!!! This year I made a conscious effort to change my teaching style. Gone were most of the powerpoint lectures. Gone were almost all “regular unit “tests. Students were going to be more involved in their own learning, and more empowered in how they learned. Also, more and newer technology in the class.
So, here I was just about to start the unit on The Second World War. I haven’t taught this in over 9 years. Hmmmm, couldn’t dust off the old plans. They didn’t fit into the New Me teacher. So I researched and found something that I was sure would ignite the class’s interest ,and make for a fun hands on learning project. An online”Baseball card creator”. How cool! They would work in groups and each group would research and create a trading card about an important figure in World War II, and then trade them back and forth .What could be bad for them. No lectures and notes from me, no long research paper ( but an opportunity to learn) Use of new technology with the chrome books, and working in groups with their friends. I almost dislocated my elbow patting myself on the back !! The big day came, I handed out real Baseball Cards to show what they looked like.
( Unfortunately Baseball Cards seem to be a dying artform) I projected the lesson on the big screen and walked them through it step by step including samples I made.
First they groused about which group was researching which people. OK, I was coming down the ride a bit but no worries, they would get over that ! Then as they started working 2 students started complaining they couldn’t find any information on their subjects. ( I had supplied a few tried & true hyperlinks to get them started) I was confused. I checked in with them and they were researching the ballplayer from the card I had given them! ( really a 3rd string catcher from the Mariners in 1998? ) The roller coaster was descending more rapidly now !! I got them back on track and the entire class was engaged and working Picking up speed the coaster was ascending quickly !!! Then the wheels started to come off. The online creator was not letting them cut and paste photos. Yikes! 30 minutes of class time to figure that out.But we as a class got it.Bravo students. Wheels back on !,up up and away !! OK class, see you tomorrow and back to work then.
A new day at the top of the ride, class assembles and they log on . CRASH, the creator doesn’t save !! All the work from yesterday, gone! I have a mutiny on my hands !! I’m getting light headed from the rapid descent !! I stay calm on the outside ( never let them see you sweat!!) I go into damage control mode, get them settled down and cajole them to start over ( well actually, it was bribery by breakfast bars and peanut butter crackers, but hey !!!) Slowing approaching the crest again, …. “Ah, Mr. Fieldman, everytime I go to another website to look something up, the card creator erases my stuff!” The coaster went down so fast, it left my stomach at the top. Another class period gone with very little work done.
Day 3 didn’t go much better.So what to do? I’m crushed they whole project tanked. Tanked, heck, it bombed like a V2 into London ( WW II refrence!) Only about 1/3 of the cards are done. I make an executive decision. I’m pulling the plug on the project. We will just deal with what we have. I can’t waste any more time.
So what have I learned? I still love the idea ,but the execution was poor. Next year, I need to play with the tech more so I really know it inside and out. Give the students more choice and say in how it is to be done. If my end goal is for them to learn then is the process so important? If some of them want to do it by hand and paper, what the heck why not, if that is what gets them involved. I learned not to get so invested in the how of a lesson, but the what ( are they learning).My enthusiasm on riding the roller coaster may have clouded my judgment of the process. But, that won’t stop me from continually trying new things and getting jazzed in the classroom about it. I think the class learned a valuable lesson about taking risks and failing. The world didn’t end when the lesson failed. I didn’t pout or rant. We adapted, and keep forward progress, inching the roller coaster back towards the top.
So let’s see, our next project is making a Facebook Page about an important but underappreciated figure in Black History.I found the perfect online creator ( ow boy) ,printed out hard copies to do by hand, and when the students asked if they could use another online tool they found, I Was super excited! You betcha! Whatever or however it works for you !! Wow, we are back on top of the ride, and the view is spectacular !!!
Hold on tight !!!