I am just back from a 2-play experience in NYC. Friday night we saw Ionesco's Exit the King (1962); Saturday we saw Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit (1941). We went from the darkly absurd to the humorously absurd. And here I am back in middle school trying to nurse some thought and organization out of 8th graders. It is Day 2 and I am not seeing much beyond "me" absurd.
Many general topics are on the table: animal testing, dress code, pollution, school budgeting, Maine bicycle helmet laws, the ban on iPods in school, homework, PDA rules in school, school cafeteria food.
Not, I think, a great deal of thinking going on yet - just knee jerk reactions so far. I will be curious to see how much work happens outside of school, and how much discussion happens, period.
I have relented and provided on the board a basic organizational structure for the wiki format. It is interesting that, adept as some of the girls are at chatting via MySpace, they do not see this format as valuable for research collaboration. The problem, I think, is in the concept of "research." One girl, M., even said - "Why don't you just give us a topic to research?"
I reminded her that in social studies students have been given a topic plus all of the important information about that topic; they are to locate images and music and arrange them into a message-bearing iMovie. Is this research? Nope. "But," said M., "it would be better if we could just do a project or print out a paper - I hate this wiki thing."
Because you have not done it and don't want to do it, I thought, it is important that you do it, at least once, in middle school. It takes too long and involves too much time not-speaking or being physical. It will be interesting to see what "information" and "data" is collected - and where it is collected from - about M's topic Homework. I wonder if she will take the bait when I ask her to connect HW to learning style. I assume their point will be that HW keeps students away from more important pursuits...
So far, this group of students is acting just as Dumbest Generation would have predicted. And, I have to add, I am acting just the way a Boomer teacher with an understanding of today's technology would be expected to act - expecting that some time will be spent on task and that this will result in some demonstration of learning...