Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Crowdsourcing: the 21st-century jigsaw

When you teach without a textbook, you spend a lot of time looking for good materials to share with your students. As I mentioned in my previous post about using news media in lesson plans, it can be exceedingly difficult--not to mention time-consuming--to compile level-appropriate and relevant resources that correspond with curricular themes and focus language structures. This is an area in which a class with 1:1 iPads, or really any handheld device with internet access, has a major advantage over a traditional class: you can just turn all that background work over to the students. I call this crowdsourcing.

I wrote another post back in May about this process, so I won't go into too much detail about my lesson plan. It's very similar to a jigsaw; it's an updated jigsaw, a jazzed-up jigsaw. The objective was for students to demonstrate understanding of different types of government, as part of the unit on what it means to be a citizen. They are going to create their own ideal countries next week, and I want them to be able to thoughtfully compare and contrast qualities of democracies, republics, dictatorships, constitutional monarchies, absolute monarchies, and anarchies, as well as become familiar with some of the vocabulary in Spanish that they need to discuss said governments. In groups of three or four, students did the following in about 20 minutes:

  • Google the type of government. Use at least three different resources to gain a general understanding of it. (in Spanish or English)
  • Choose three words that characterize the type of government. (in Spanish)
  • Name a country that has this type of government.
  • Draw a picture or symbol of your own invention that represents the type of government. (Most did this using the Drawing Pad app.)
  • Share your information with the class. (in Spanish)
To share, students connected their iPads to the classroom projector via the Apple TV. (We don't have a class Twitter hashtag yet, but if we did, they could have shared that way.) Since the information was basic--just words, examples and pictures--all of the groups were able to explain the type of government they'd investigated in about a minute. They synthesized some pretty complex information in a way that their peers could understand in a short amount of time. That's definitely a 21st century skill. 

I love this strategy because it puts the power in the hands of the students; it's liberating for the teacher, I believe, to relinquish some control of the content and the materials. Students are developing information  literacy, higher-order thinking skills and content knowledge all at once, and they're learning that when they come across something that confuses them or piques their interest, they can just look it up. Isn't that what we all do nowadays?

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