The Long View

I’m joining Patrick Higgins today via Skype for a workshop he’s conducting on web 2.0 for teachers in his district.   The plan is for me to share the Vietnam Wall project that our English 3 AP students completed last spring, so I’ve been looking through my post about it, re-viewing some of the student projects, and looking at the wiki we created to support the project.

In looking back (and looking forward), I can see so much better how to work with the other teachers involved to deepen the project for the students and how to build more global connections and conversations into their work as well, so that their end products will be more varied and even more meaningful.

When we began the project, doing one on that scale was new to us, the tools were new to the students and teachers, and so we were learning as we went.
I can see now that what I have learned myself in the last four months would enrich my own approach to the project.    And it feels rewarding to reflect on how I’ve grown.

What has gotten me to this point in my thinking?  Time.  Time to reflect.  Time to do other things away from school.  Time to travel, to visit museums, to see movies.  Time to read what other teachers are doing in blogs and articles.   Time to talk with other teachers (in person or over chat on Skype or in emails).  Time to read books.


All of which brings me to this–how would building more time into things we do with students deepen their ability to step back from their work and evaluate it, rethink it, or view it differently–providing them with the “long view”?    Do we provide them learning encounters with long stretches of time between them to allow that reflection to occur?  

Are there ways we could ask students to go back later and reflect on a project from months ago, and evaluate it, via a blog or a learning journal or some reflective writing piece?  

The standard format of school is that it tends to march inexorably on, towards the next project, or class, or test.   How can we work to make learning in school more cyclical in an authentic way, one that is more reflective of our own “life-long” learning?

Image:  Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Tx

Update:  In taking the long view this morning, I looked back at some of the student video projects, and wanted to point out a few more well done ones, in terms of creating a theme, use of music background, or verbal storytelling.  It’s interesting how some students’ voices are subtly reflected in the tone–either patriotic, or questioning the war, etc.  (We did work with students generally on appropriate tone, given that the theme was to create a memorial.) 

Update 2:  During the Skype I realized that we had gotten several posts over the summer on the blog Joel set up after the project, several from Marines.   It was really thrilling seeing the response and that the project was meaningful. (in addition to a few emails we’ve received.)




2 thoughts on “The Long View

  1. Carolyn, I don’t know what the answer is – maybe multi-year projects that carry over from Grade 9 through Grade 12?

    I know that I need another two months off to process everything I’ve been learning over summer vacation!


  2. Carolyn,
    I have a comment on the time to reflect and evolve idea; and a comment on Vietnam Wall project.
    A few years ago, you may have been there, we saw Jamie Mckenzie, From Now On, present. One of my 5th grade teachers was with us. We were both very impressed with his idea of long term projects, because of the time to reflect aspect. She did this with her language arts class the following year. The things we both learned:
    *students were very motivated, at first, to learn about a topic of their own choosing
    * the technology was not the focus, but were very useful tools. We learned what tech tools we needed to know when we needed to use them. Not every student learned or needed the same tech tools.
    * a year may have been too long for this age group (10-11 year olds) because the interest waned a bit in the spring
    *but the time to reflect, did indeed, produce more indepth thinking about their essential question for their topic. There was growth and change in their questions and ideas as the year progressed.

    She did another long term research project the next year, but it wasn’t over the course of the whole year, just the second semester. In retrospect, this was closer to a research project becasue the time was shorter, the ownership and depth of studying was more limited.
    I’m not sure where the happy medium lies for this age group, but I know I have some teachers who want to continue to find it.

    The Vietnam Wall project: I have had opportunities to view many of these over the summer and each and every one of them just tears me up.
    This is because they are so respectfully handled. They capture the feel, the sorrow, the pride of the soldiers, and the inability to comprehend by those of us who watched our classmates, friends, family, neighbors and loved ones go into something that we had no understanding of.
    These kids are documenting lives of their grandfathers’ generation, with a respect and reverence that shows in their choices of music, text and photographs.

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