Documentaries in the Classroom
Here's a thought: let's improve student research writing and assessment using authentic pedagogical strategies and incorporating multimedia models in the form of professional documentaries.
The basis of this idea stems primarily from the minimal attention span in high school students. Now don't pretend you were always the perfect studious high schooler, even if you're a teacher. I have a theory that the best teachers are/were the worst students, but that's for another blog and time. In my experiences working with teachers and students, research season is never met with enthusiastic high-fives and cheering. When collaborating with my cohort teachers about their upcoming projects, none have yet to reply:
"Research projects! Huzzah! Pomp and circumspect!"A more common response from teachers and students alike would be:
"...Research...ugh...papers. So much grading..."This is the secondary motivator for continuing my thesis in this direction; teachers and students find research projects a "challenge". Nonetheless, research is a vital skill for life! Not just an academically driven life, but the ability to seek and filter knowledge, building upon previously learned skills, then successfully implementing new knowledge is necessary for survival!
Changing that flat tire on your Ford F-150, installing a new hard drive in your Dell XPS M1330 laptop or getting your X-Box 360 resurrected from the RED RING OF DEATH are all examples with OTC* connections (*Outside the Classroom). Which brings me to my first proposed requirement for a great research project.
If students (and teachers) are going to stay motivated or awake during a research project, the project must research something with an authentic OTC connection.Some say students are lazier and lazier each year - you know the ones, they're always in the teachers lounge. This isn't true. Students are as curious as ever but can only maintain so much curiosity in historical figureheads and book reports. It's been done and looses it's significance by secondary school. Let's agree, there's more interesting topics to delve into than this. Likewise, the methods of research evolved with our students.
This evolution comes in two ways:
- Our students have evolved as hip, technology savvy digital natives, which is a very generous way of saying their attention span has significantly decreased.
- Our students have more research tools available to them than 3x5 index cards and a card catalog.
Technology must be recognized as an integral component of the research process.Just as Pre-writing is an integral component of the five-step writing process, our students need to be familiar with the technology available and how to properly navigate it to stay out of trouble. At a professional development with Alan November as the headliner, he showed us a website providing plenty of biographical information about Martin Luther King, Jr. Further filtering revealed that the site was owned by the Ku Klux Klan. Students need to know just because it's on the internet, doesn't mean it's true. On the other hand, the amount of Web 2.0 resources are also classroom worthy. Twitter has been considered the top tool for learning three years in a row! Seriously! Go take a look -> Top 100 Tools for Learning. Anyone on the #edchat Twitter channel would probably agree.
I'd love to delve into each of these points further and even cite the research I've already gathered to support my ideas, but I should stop and emphasize how professional documentaries fit into the grand plan... next time. One of my favorite rules for writing stems from Hemingway - always leave things unfinished so you'll have something to write about tomorrow.
SummaryThe purpose of rewriting research curriculum in the classroom includes:
- Students are evolving with shorter attention spans
- Teachers and Students dread standard classroom research projects
- Research is a vital life skill
- OTC (Outside the Classroom) connections
- Recognize technology as an integral part of the research process