Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tyranny and Choice - An Activity

Byron Nelson, Secondary, High School, innovation, Create, Communicate, iOS simulator, Choice, Like many teachers, Mrs. Carla Reisman (click on link to follow on Twitter) assigns her students presentation projects. Unlike most teachers, Mrs. Reisman isn't afraid to loosen the reigns of power in her English IV class.  With guidance, she trusts that if she does not limit her student's horizons in an assignment they will, with guidance, achieve greater feats.

The class had just finished reading a book, In the Time of the Butterflies, that focused on the dehumanizing acts of Rafael Trujillo and his tyrannical Dominican regime.  Students were asked to present the actions of the book "from a different perspective".  They could choose any technological resource to convey their presentation.  To this end, she invited the campus I.T. coach to class and had him present several options.  Students could choose one or more of these technology vehicles or come up with their own.

Carla's goal was set in stone, but how her students got to the goal was up to them.

With this freedom, many students felt comfortable to play to their own strengths and eventually created projects that wowed her.  

In particular, two eighth period students imported an iOs simulator onto their mac-books.  Within the simulator they created Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat shortcuts and linked those to their character's fake accounts (yes, they created those as well).

When these guys presented their project to the class, they framed the presentation as a couple of students who had accidentally found a cell phone that "happened" to have belonged to the tyrant in the book.  They went through his fake Twitter account, images, and a fairly simple website they had put together for the project.

Neither Mrs. Reisman nor the I.T. coach had mentioned this vehicle to the students.  They had come up with the approach on their own because Carla had inspired their efforts by constructing choice into her activity.  Neither the assignment nor the rubric cast a long constraining shadow over her student's efforts.  Her students rewarded that trust with a memorable demonstration of what freedom can do in the classroom against the tyranny of a teacher centered lesson.

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