I was explaining an oral presentation assignment to my students today when it suddenly struck me that it could be done on a Wikispace instead of using PowerPoint. Or at least maybe it could. I was in the middle of my class, and I didn’t have the luxury of pondering and exploring at that very moment. But the thought stopped me in my tracks. Why? Because it both excited me and freaked me out. The last time I tried using technology, the students freaked out AND they didn’t have the bandwidth on campus to access VoiceThread.
Once again, these students are really being challenged by this assignment. I want them to think about a Millenium Development Goal Target. I want them to reasearch the essential issue’s causes and effects. I want them to find an organization that is working to meet the target. I want them to do something to help, and tell their classmates what they can do. And before the Sichuan Earthquake many of them had never even considered that people could organize efforts to help people in other parts of the country, much less the world. Philanthropy and activism are new concepts where I live. But the ideas of sustainability and development are very much in my students’ minds. I hope they will begin to get a vision of a future they can affect.
I got the idea for the final project from David Truss and a post he wrote called Caring Across the Curriculum. It got me excited about the potential for affecting change in my classroom. My students, as I have written before, often feel their options are limited because they are English majors. They think they can only teach English and translate. I am, once again, trying to pry their minds open to the reality that, as English speakers, their options are world-wide and as open as their minds are.
So today as I prepare for class, I still struggle with the question: wiki or PowerPoint? Do I have time to learn about it and teach it? I am also attempting to impose standards of reference citation, another hugely unfamiliar territory to these college students. I am showing them how to use EasyBib, and reminding them to cite it if they use it, and don’t cite it if they don’t. Sounds easy, but last time they did an oral report requiring the citation of sources, a girl doing a report on the hobby of cooking cited a book called Baking with Marijuana. She didn’t know what it meant, she didn’t have the book, and thus, she didn’t actually use the source. This was not an isolated incident of a student citing a source that wasn’t used. I would estimate that 85 to 90% of my students did the same thing with other books.
So in one class I have to give them specific instruction in citing sources. Do I want to add another challenge? They already know PowerPoint. Maybe I should wait until next year. But…maybe I could just…try it? The power of having a live English web audience is almost irresistable. Stay tuned for my final decision.
But my students will still need to do the same research. So if you are familiar with the Millenium Development Goals and their targets, and know of interesting organizations that are working towards them, send me a comment with a link. I’m sure some students will need some direction.