Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Collaboratively experimenting

My World Religions class is breaking a lot of new ground for me. We have been studying Buddhism and it's about time for an assessment. Instead of doing the traditional tests or even the less traditional "make a project comparing and contrasting" idea (both of which still have a place in my teaching repertoire), I have decided to really climb out on a a limb this time. My class did a performance instead of a project. When I suggested the idea of a performance, some of them were quite confused. I finally got them to understand that what I meant was that they would take on the role of a Buddhist. We would have students represent several different branches of Buddhism. Then they would have to role play how that particular follower would behave in the situation.

The first thing they needed to do was to decide what the situation would be. We brainstormed scenarios on the whiteboard. One students took a picture of the board and posted it to twitter. That night's homework was to check our blog, as usual. On the blog was a picture thumbnail of the picture of the board so that the students could remember what their ideas were. I then directed them to wallwisher and asked them to tell me via online sticky note in 160 characters or less to tell me what scenario they would chose and why. Here is the wallwisher

The next day in class we sorted the post-its according to categories. Only the ideas that were mentioned remained eligible options. That means that if a student liked a particular idea and did not bother to check the work, the idea might have been lost. We were left with about four ideas. Each student who wrote on the wallwisher was allowed to make a quick pitch for their selection. The students then voted in class on the whiteboard.

The next few classes were spent gathering and organizing information collaboratively. Students broke up into different groups and gathered information about a particular division of Buddhism. The next class period, we created a collaborative google doc and the students looked at specific topics or issues from different Buddhist perspectives.

Only after the information gathering was over did the students learn what their assigned roles were. We had seven different types of Buddhists with two students representing each type. They were assigned to study the information that the class has collaboratively created in order to further prepare for their role.

The next class was our Amazing Race. Stay tuned for details and video.


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