Wednesday, January 3, 2007

The Harlem Renaissance

Gina, a Language Arts teacher at our Middle School approached me about infusing some technology into one of her favorite units to do with her students: The Harlem Renaissance. Her classroom is set up as a fantastic learning environment where students truly take charge of their learning. In past years, she has created guidelines for this project only to see them amended continually as the students work their way through the project.

The Challenge: I asked Gina what she would like to see happen here; the project had always been a success in the past. Her response was that she always felt that offering the students opportunities for different outcomes was essential to the project's success. The real problem was going to be figuring out what core elements each group was to be responsible for in their project, and what they could expand on and individualize. We really did not want to see thirty-five powerpoints. The project breaks the students into heterogeneous groups each assigned to a particular subject within the Harlem Renaissance: Art, Music, Literature, or History. The preliminary requirements are that each group must present their information to the class in some way and during that presentation they must somehow assess the class on the material that they present. How would we enable them to have technological options when presenting?

The Solution: Looking at some of the work that educators around the country are doing with spaces like this one, it became apparent to me that creating a repository for all the information they find on their particular topic would be ideal. That way, any one of the other groups could have access to it at any point throughout the unit. Gina was fully on board with this for several reasons. One, it satisfied the requirement that they do research and produce some work that qualified as writing. Secondly, in creating a wiki, the information was out there for other teachers on her team to use in their classrooms for cross-curricular work.

As for their presentations, we planned on showing them the following strategies: Photostory to create a digital story using art or portraits from the time period; digital audio downloaded from various sources of either jazz musicians from the period, or better yet, from authors reading their poetry; podcasting their experience using Audacity and making it available for other classes or grades within the school.

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