Every other year I teach a semester long World Issues course. Each year it takes a different shape based on the students I have and the world events going on. Once again this summer I thought about the form I wanted to take on. Firstly, as a “flipped” teacher I wanted to make sure the students were actively pursuing information and not just listening to me tell them everything I know. Secondly, I contemplated how a course on world issues could reflect the world around us: a world where information is at your fingertips, shared with social media, and commented on.
A few years ago I attended the Alta Vista-NWCSI August Event entitled “Becoming Students of our Students’ Work-Together.” There a Mount Vernon Christian Social Studies Teacher shared with me his framework for a similar course, having each student follow a country through the various issues and ending with a Model United Nations.
For each “issue” students researched its status in their own country. It was interesting to see the searching methods of students and organically, we could discuss how to vary search terms and how to evaluate the credibility of a source. Students also became efficient at citing their sources.
With the information they gathered, they had to “present” the information using technology. Educational Technology is a passion of mine so various blogs and Twitter posts have helped me build an arsenal of tools. Students used LiveBinders, Screencast-O-Matic, infogr.am, Padlet, and Google Drive. Students experienced a range of emotions using all of these tools. They were frustrated, nervous, and excited. I was surprised by how uncomfortable students were using these technologies for learning. They are accustomed to entertaining themselves with technology, but creating educational products was not so easy for them. I am thrilled that they “survived” these technologies and have even used them again in other classes. Furthermore, it will be important in their future careers to feel confident trying new technologies that they must use.
The final piece of learning each issue was to share their knowledge. Not only does sharing reflect 21st Century learning, it also allowed students to see each issue from the perspective of multiple countries, not just the one they studied. Students would post their products on Edmodo and then comment on each other’s posts. In the future, I hope they will be able to share to a wider audience with Twitter and/or blog posts.
Much of this model was influenced by the C4 Framework for Social Studies education: collect, collaborate, create, and communicate. This structure is a great way to integrate technology in a regular way, it allows students to get out of stagnant textbooks and dig dynamic, relevant content.