Social Media/Studies

UntitledIn addition to more critical efforts to conduct inquiries into history as it intersects with our present landscape, the TALONS class has come to embrace dramatic efforts to enact and recreate history in their social(s) learning. Whether engaging in a mock trial of King Charles II, or making impassioned speeches as characters in the French Revolution, such theatrical turns have traditionally made for memorable classroom moments.

A few years ago, a group of TALONS grade tens approached me to see if they could ‘pitch’ a unit plan for our upcoming French Revolution study: in blog posts and classroom activities, members of the class would each adopt a character from the revolutionary period, and strive to realize and represent diverse perspectives on events in 18th century France.

In the years since, the unit has evolved to include Twitter, as well as a series of improvised discussions, debates and addresses – all in character.

Thus the class is able to imagine and take in the passionate decrees of a young Maximilien Robespierre:

In the future I believe that it is not enough for the monarchy to only lose a portion of its power. France should be a country run for its people by the people, a democracy! At this moment I do not have enough political power to share my views in such ways, but in time I shall express my desires. One day I assure you, I will find a way to improve the lives of the poor and to strike down those corrupt from power.

And see the story through to his betrayal of Georges Danton, who addresses his friend:

I curse you.

We once had, if not brotherhood, at least mutual understanding. We were creating a France that our children would be proud of. I know not when your idealism became madness but I must have failed to see the signs, because I was not prepared for all the murders, and all the terror that you instilled into this country.

Robespierre, you will follow me into dissolution. I will drag you down screaming, and we will fall together.

In addition to these perspectives developing on individual blogs in monologues and comment threads, classroom time is spent charting the development of significant revolutionary events against characters’ reactions which are presented in improvised debates or speeches. And the dialogue continues on Twitter, as each character adopts an avatar to not only promote and archive their blogged artifacts, engage in dialogue with their allies and nemeses, and exercise their own democratic rights in carrying out the final assessments in the unit:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.38.18 PM

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.39.55 PMSensing that there might be a popular uprising against a tyrant teacher bent on sticking steadfast to an arbitrary deadline, I asked to see a show of support for the idea:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.43.23 PMThe idea was taken up quickly.

By philosophers:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.42.33 PMThe King of France:

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Feminist leaders:

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 9.45.54 PMAnd even the farmers:

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At the culmination of the unit, each of the TALONS delivered a final address that looked back on their contributions to the revolution, and how they might have done things differently with the benefit of hindsight. And while each member of the class was only tasked with creating one unique angle on the historical events being studied, the effect rendered by the series of addresses on the unit’s final day presented a nuanced and multidimensional look into the various subjectivities that (might have) helped shape the revolutionary period.

From each of their perspectives, what the French Revolution might be about would likely sprawl in a dozen different directions: a part of a historical march toward justice; political reform; a spark in the narrative of female activism; the story of scarce resources driving extreme behaviour. And to ‘teach’ toward these myriad truths is at once a curricular requirement and Quixotic pursuit, revealing the tensions of education for citizenship in a pluralist democracy, asking How do we create unity and cultivate diverse perspectives?

In interpreting history, as well as our present moment, students ought be engaged in rehearsing this act, and with the dramatic role play the answer offered to the pedagogic problem lies at the heart of narrative.

Of sensing an individual’s arc at the centre of a multitude of shared and individual lives.

Of constructing ‘we’ out of many ‘I’s.

Whether face to face or in the online sphere, this is the task of schooling in the multicultural society.

EDCI 335: Final Design Project

EDCI335 Final Design from Bryan Jackson on Vimeo.

You can read the full PDF of the paper here

Background Drawing identified-gifted learners from the Coquitlam School District, Gleneagle Secondary School’s TALONS (The Academy of Learning for Gifted Notable Students) Program offers Ministry-identified gifted learners interdisciplinary core curriculum (Social Studies, English, Math, and Science for grades 9 and 10, all at an honours level), as well as experiential opportunities to complete Planning 10, Leadership 11 and PE 11. TALONS learning is largely organized around inquiry-based projects that make use of outdoor education and community service elements to imbue learning objectives with a greater tangible relevance to students and their local, as well as global, communities. In addition to covering provincial Ministry of Education curricula in the above courses, the program is grounded in George Betts’ Autonomous Learner Model (Betts & Neihart, 1986), with an emphasis on metacognition and acquainting each member of the cohort with skills and habits uniquely tailored to their own social and emotional roles in cultivating interdependence and community.

This design project was conceived to align both the explicit and implicit foci of British Columbia’s Social Studies 9 curriculum (Social Studies 8 to 10 Integrated Resource Package 1997) with a larger narrative expressed in the personal and collective learning in the TALONS classroom. By bringing the “Hidden Curriculum” into the open in this manner, the learning design intends to conceive of means of engaging the course material which are congruent with its ends. 

#Unplugd11: Why Sharing Our Stories Matters

Why Sharing Our Stories Matters: Story by Bryan Jackson from unplugd on Vimeo.

It was a great honour to be able to share the story above with members of my #Unplugd11 group – Rodd, Kim, Giulia, Kathy, and Andy – and be a part of the inspiring collaborative editing and writing process of the collectively-authored second chapter of the Summit publication, Why ______ Matters: Choices & Voices (pdf). As Giulia noted, it was amazing to work in a group where:

we negotiated meaning through shared understanding. We dug deep to determine ‘the point’. The main ideas were mined, refined, expanded and sculpted. The group was so considerate but challenging too. It was the perfect mix of choice and voice, modeled perfectly- as teachers, editors, learners, colleagues and friends.
Rodd's Group

Voices & Choices author group

As my invitation to the Unplugd Educational Summit arrived during the beginning of the unit(s) mentioned in my canoe story – which turned out to be perhaps the most fulfilling and relevant of the year – it seemed a logical focus for my essay and supporting anecdote around the topic: “Why ______ Matters.”

The conversation around Truth with respect to the emerging developments in 2011’s Arab Spring movement are seen beginning to take shape in a post highlighting many of the #Talons‘ thoughts from that first week. Megan made for a particularly inspiring synthesis to the class’ thinking:

If what happened in Egypt is any indicator as to what can be accomplished through communication, I think that maybe, I need to realize, or maybe we (and I’m talking to all my fellow youth out there) need to realize that if we organize we can accomplish something big. People may say that children and youth are better seen, and not heard. But you know what? We are the new generation, and we should have a say about what sort of world we are growing up into. So hey, there’s my two cents. Just tossing it out in the world of the internet. But I guess you might say this: I know that it actually matters now. I am a participant in this age of information.

The conversation continued across posts about events in the Middle East, discussions of Canadian history and Louis Riel, and provided powerful inspiration for the class’ This I Believe personal essays, that are the inspiration and support for my Unplugd thesis, “Why Sharing Our Stories Matters.”

Download the preface and first two chapters, as well as the upcoming sections of the Unplugd11 e-book as they are published here, and be sure  to tune into the emerging weekly author panel discussions on #DS106Radio: chapter two authors Giulia Forsythe, Rodd Lucier, Kim Gill, Kathy Cassidy, Andy McKiel and myself will be talking about Voices and Choices this Thursday evening, 9pm (EST), 6pm on the west coast (to tune into #DS106Radio, this link should open a streaming playlist in iTunes or other media players: http://www.bit.ly/ds106radio4life).

Participants in the Age of Information

Jonathan’s political cartoon

This week semester two began with the class’ study of Manitoba’s Red River Rebellion, Louis Riel, and the explosion of Egypt’s political upheaval. On the edge of a new unit, and the coming onset of spring, the Talons have set out to uncover the truth behind media and political interpretation of both history and recent current events. Seeking the more basic truth of individual experience and expression in a record of social bookmarks and blogpostsnot to mention comments the class is attempting to answer personal questions about the goings on in Egypt and Middle East that were identified as relevant topics on the class wiki this week:

  • What are the conditions that have created the anti-government sentiment in Egypt?
  • Where else do such conditions exist?
  • What are the specific goals of the protesters? Who is emerging as their leader / spokesperson?
  • What is important to know about Egyptian history or culture to better understand these recent developments?
  • What has the Western (European, American, Canadian) response to developments in the Middle East been?
  • What conditions or factors influence the West’s decisions regarding these countries’ fates?
  • Who and what is the Muslim Brotherhood? What do they want?
  • What emotions factor in journalism?
  • What does ______ have to gain by influencing different outcomes?
  • What is the media’s responsibility: to tell its audience what it is expecting to hear? To challenge people’s existing views or opinions? To objectively present information?
  • Are there viewpoints or perspectives missing from coverage of events in the Middle East?

Along with the collection, and discussion of many different brands of media’s coverage of the recent struggles for freedom across the Middle East, the Talons took to the blogs last night, and haven’t looked back. They began by seeking out the untold stories, the truth behind the media, even only in as much as they could interpret their own response to them.

Megan found this to be no small task:

I have read so much about these protests, it’s all I can do but to try and imagine what it is like, standing side by side with so many others, all fighting for freedom. I wish I could say that I have done something like that, made a change. Who I am, and what I do, is hardly history textbook worthy. I am a child, a child in a never-ending world which stretches on forever in any possible direction.

For the past week, this is all I have been able to think about. But then, just this night, something occurred to me. The cause of the Egypt rebellions was from a push; a movement from the people of Egypt, but more specifically, the youth. Whenever an article on this is written, you can bet that it usually at least mentions social media as one of the causes. Does the “Facebook Revolution” sound familiar? Or maybe Twitter? These were the means by which the word was spread, the dissatisfaction in the government and the voice they felt they didn’t have, and the realization that something could be done about it.

Donya finds a connection to a young man whose death may have sparked a rise to action:

In this article , it is thought that Khaled Saeed’s death was one of the many factors in the start of the Egyptian protests. On the news, there was some footage of demonstrators holding up pictures of his face and shouting “Khaled Said!” with passionate anger.

Khaled’s brutal death was one of the events that pushed the Egyptians to voice their anger, but was it worth his torture for the sake of his country’s change?

Do you think that if he was alive today, that he would endure immeasurable amounts of pain to have the same outcome? Would you do that for your country and for future generations?

It sounds as if I’m bordering on sacrifice here, but that’s what this is isn’t it?

Only a small percent of people can actually say whatever comes to mind and publish it for whoever to see without having to sleep with one eye open.

The other percent are faced with the possible death of what they believe, who they love and even themselves if they share what they think.

And they do it anyways.

It seems as though Khaled was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and happened to be given a glimpse of how twisted everything really is.The people who were trained to protect and provide an example, were instead exploiting their power in order to get a quick fix.

I think Khaled’s death was one caused to uphold an image, but then later on turned into ammunition for millions of people who were wronged on a daily basis.

I don’t know this man, nor will I ever get a chance to meet him, but the fact that he chose (unknowingly, perhaps) knowledge instead of his own life, made me admire him anyways.

And that is what Khaled said.

And Lexi wonders if she – and perhaps the rest of her classmates – might be onto something bigger:

It’s like I’ve started pulling at a thread that doesn’t end. And maybe that’s the thing about truth. Maybe truth cannot be absolute, irrevocable, and undisputed.

Indeed, Stephanie’s post proposes truth in this case to be an illusion altogether, alluding to the Al Jazeera’s dubbing of recent events:

Egypt’s rebellion will be known as the “Revolution of Dreams”.  This vision is where thousands of men and women work together to fulfill.  Leonardo DiCaprio once quoted in the movie Inception “Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”  As a result, the Egyptians voiced out, allowing the world to make known of their words.  And through this movement, we come to understand that when “people power” unites, it will ultimately conquer the government.

But Richard, in a comment-turned-blogpost on Iris’ post, gets to the heart of the matter:

Raw facts, especially numbers are the truth, however when it is being reported, it become opinion. So, really a report is like myth.

At the heart of every myth there is a grain of truth.

I think, as I told Richard in a comment I posted tonight, that this grain of truth is the essence of our study of history through communication:

The socials curriculum is weaved out of stories of exactly this sort of political instability and unrest:

  • we study the revolutions of England, France, and in America
  • we reenact the Confederation of Canada
  • we are introduced to rebellious figures such as Louis Riel (who in his own time was a fugitive of Canada – teaching highs school in Montana – before being hanged for treason)

These lessons, and a continually rigorous interpretation of current events are the basis of a responsible participation in democracy, but also the pursuit of illusory truths that are the telling, and retelling, defining of human history, starting with a record and discussion of the present moment.

Which brings us right back to Megan, who writes perhaps some of the most inspiring words yet rendered on the class blogs:

And then you come back to me. Still sitting in front of her computer, and still on the opposite side of the world. I am a child, in this age of information. But I am also part of the age of information. I have just as much say in what occurs as everyone.

If what happened in Egypt is any indicator as to what can be accomplished through communication, I think that maybe, I need to realize, or maybe we (and I’m talking to all my fellow youth out there) need to realize that if we organize we can accomplish something big. People may say that children and youth are better seen, and not heard. But you know what? We are the new generation, and we should have a say about what sort of world we are growing up into.

So hey, there’s my two cents. Just tossing it out in the world of the internet.

But I guess you might say this:

I know that it actually matters now.

I am a participant in this age of information.

The class will be engaged in a process of exploring a diversity of opinions across these topics in the coming terms, and invite your input in our discussion, if you, too, are possessed of an opinion about the way of the world, at this unique moment in time.

You can check in with the discussion on the embedded blogposts and bookmarks on the Talons Socials Wiki, as well as Blog and Comment feeds in RSS if you would like to subscribe.

Talons’ Showcase of Learning: American Revolution

declaration-of-independence

It seemed a natural extension of the type of learning we put to use in class every day: research and communication, collaboration and presentation.

 

In encountering the context of the American Revolution, and interpreting not only the Founding Fathers’ possible intentions in creating the Declaration of Independance as a political document, but also a living document, and record of human progress, the class wrote a series of their own Declarations of Independent Learning.

A common theme that arose in these statements of purpose was the opportunity for TALONS learners to document, record, and showcase their learning for posterity, their peers, and the extended audiences of their blogs. In assessing the amount of the course content absorbed, and creating an opportunity for an individual synthesis project on a finite timeline, we set out to redefine the history test: an open-computer, Google-able, tes- errr… Showcase of Learning.

At nine in the morning last Thursday, with a blanket of wet snow covering the Lower Mainland – leaving one student to ‘telecommute,’ and complete the test from home – I shared a Google document with the criteria supplied below. They were able to communicate via the chat feature on the document, and in other ways that could be shared publically (Etherpad, or otherwise – no Facebook chat); talking to group mates, and other people in the class was permitted, so long as it didn’t interfere with anyone else’s ability to work productively (another common theme in many Declarations of Learning).

On laptops, with textbooks, and pre-prepared notes, the class had seventy-five minutes to make use of any resource they could muster in responding to one of the quotes, cartoons, or critiques below.

Talons Learners have the right to showcase their learning

TALONS Constitution, written into law November 2010

Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western World, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest through which the events of current history are presented to us.

Noam Chomsky – The Responsibility of Intellectuals (1966)

Respond to one of the statements below to demonstrate an understanding of the colonial context of the period (conditions leading up to the revolution), an introduction to the source of the quotation, and connection to our present understanding of history, and current events.

Your response may be in the form of a blog post, Prezi, Slideshow, or other animation that must be linked or posted on your blog, and must include the following:

  • Title: a statement of purpose, or thesis
  • Links to at least two of your classmates’ blog posts about the American Revolution, or the nature of Learning Rights
  • Links to three outside sources
  • Two quotations (from either of the above)
  • An image (to ensure Nick will read the results)

Select one of the following artifacts, reflections, representations or quotations on the American Revolution for discussion and presentation.

Examples of Talons’ responses can be viewed on the exemplar page of the class’ Socials Wiki.

The rubric below was also attached for reference.

  • Boston Massacre

(originally by Paul Revere)

  • “History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly.”

Benjamin Franklin

  • “We have here a forecast of the long history of American politics, the mobilization of lower-class energy by upper-class politicians, for their own purposes. This was not purely deception; it involved, in part, a genuine recognition of lower-class grievances, which helps to account for its effectiveness as a tactic over the centuries.”

Howard Zinn

  • Benjamin Franklin at the Court of St. James

Benjamin Franklin at St. James Court

  • “They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Ben Franklin

  • “The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims.”

John Adams

  • “The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted.”

James Madison

  • The able doctor, or America swallowing the bitter draught

The able doctor, America, swallowing the bitter draught

  • “If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”

James Madison

  • “No more, America, in mournful strain, Of wrongs and grievance unredressed complain; No longer shall thou dread the iron chain Which wanton Tyranny, with lawless hand, Had made, and with it meant t’ enslave the land.”

Phyllis Wheatley

  • “It does not require a majority to prevail but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set bush fires in people’s minds.”

Samuel Adams

Exceeds Expectations

Meets Expectations

Barely Meets Expectations

Colonial Context

Response provides engaging and well-supported context to relate significance of historical figures and events. Response provides adequate context to relate significance of historical figures and events, but may lack specific detail and authoritative support. Response attempts to provide context and relate the significance of historical figures and events, but may contain flaws in logic, or  lack supporting detail.

Source of the Quotation

Response introduces author or source and is able to compellingly relation their bias and perspective to revolutionary and modern events. Response introduces author or source and is is able to relate their bias and perspective to revolutionary and modern events. Response may attempt to introduce author or source, but does not clearly relate bias or perspective to revolutionary or modern events.

Connection to Modern Politics or Current Events

Response draws multi-faceted connections to modern history and/or politics, and demonstrates a unique correlation between past and present. Response draws connections to modern history and/or politics, but may not demonstrate a unique correlation between past and present. Response attempts to draw connections to modern history andor politics, but may not demonstrate a unique correlation between past and present.