@FlatClassroom @EracismProject Global Debate Learning From Teacher Perspective

I know, you are probably thinking what in the world can I possibly have to talk about in regards to the Eracism Global Debate project?

I have blogged about this project several times(see the end of post to see past reflections). Well, I have some more ideas to share. I have learned that I am not good enough yet and have made preparations to be better as an educator. Talk about a model learner! Yes, I admit that I could have been better as a teacher. That is the truth and I accept that.

Doing this project for the second time, but with a younger group of students was essential for me to realize that I have more to learn. Without this opportunity I would have never known.

Working with sixth grade students on this project has really changed the operations of this project. Here are some issues that I did not discuss in the first 6th grade reflection.

1. They need more strict guidance and focus because they are just too immature mentally and socially.
2. Many don’t use Facebook or social media tools so this just debunks the whole notion of them all being online using these tools.
3. Wait……why are they not online connecting to learn besides the apps that lead to nowhere good?
4. Structure on how to do research because they really have no idea how to gather research and piece it together as a team.
5. Teach them how to listen. They don’t know how.

So, what I am going to do about it?

1. Google Research in Google Drive – I recently realized that I am an idiot for not using this tool. I will require this tool for them to research. I will teach them and the first thing we will do is create an annotated bibliography using the tool to gather research and work through the How-To’s. I made the mistake of assuming that they could find an article, extract the proper information and share it with their team. They made a feeble attempt, but I needed to give more step by step direction and then let them go. I left it too open too soon and we struggled in this area during the first round.

2. From the annotated bibliographies of each student I will have them critique the information provided to get them ready to create rebuttals in the debate. Having them look critically will help them listen. I think by doing this activity throughout in terms of arguing the merits of the article or book will help them process the information while at the same time working on persuasive skills needed to debate. While debating we wanted to talk like it was a summary and not really sell our ideas.

3. Teach them to create a chart and how to document the information shared by the other team. As opposed to just a blank piece of paper to capture ideas I will give them a template to follow. I have found that the open piece of paper is too broad and they miss out on key phrases and facts to respond to. There is not enough time to listen to the debates twice so they have to be on the spot. When I judge debates for this project I use a grid system and for some reason I never thought to teach my students the method. We used it second round and it worked so much better. It forces them to key in on key facts and phrases and learn to scheme and strategize much more efficiently.

4. Evaluate their scripts and statements for grammar and spelling. We often don’t have time to cover this in great detail, but with so much time on speaking, listening, writing, and research why am I not hammering this big time? Time to bring out the guns and teach them. This will help them in organizing ideas as well as speaking.

5. Kick kids out who don’t work. I give them several chances to work and warnings, but this is not a required class. If you are just going to goof around and mess up the document, leave immature comments in the Google comments, and not contribute…..see you later. Grow up and try again. Sometimes I need to be a bit more harsh. I like to let them learn and let the group bring them in, but 6th grade they don’t do this. In 8th grade they will call the person out, but not at this level. I need to be that person. I think if I remove them after giving some warnings and vision about what to do, then they have had their chance. If it continues, then remove them. They need to realize this is a great opportunity to learn. If you don’t want to be passionate about it, then perhaps this is not for you. I really believe that sometimes removing a student from an opportunity like this can be a wake up call that they need to take advantage of what is being provided to them. I don’t think they always understand this. Once they have lost that chance, they will realize it and next time around they will be more focused. And yes, I have that luxury over most teachers as this is an enrichment opportunity. I am blessed to hold that over their heads which I know most classroom teachers don’t have this, but I need to use this when needed.

It has been an interesting journey for me. I have found myself more frustrated with the sixth grade compared to 8th grade, but I have to remember they are lacking several key tools, skill sets, and thought processes that 8th grade came to me with. My frustrations stem from me not preparing them as well as I should have and therefore I point the finger at myself and not them. I have to step back and teach them. I assumed too much and that lead to my frustration. Next time I will take care of the gaps and I know that it will resolve the frustrations I felt during this sixth grade enrichment. I have high expectations and I need to remember that if don’t equip them properly how will they ever achieve this status?

With that all being said, I am so proud of how much we turned things around from the first round to the second round. I implemented some of these ideas and the students realized they did not quite work to their potential. I think it was a great wake up call to not win the first round. It knocked them down a notch and made them realize they had to improve and I had to do the same. We were in this together as a unit, the students and I, and as a unit we modified our system to make it work.

It has been another wonderful experience for myself as a teacher and creating a classroom that was able to see growth in learning and engagement. The learning did not stop with a letter grade as I did not give a grade. I told them the world was listening to them and that should be all they needed in order to do well because who wants to sound unprepared to the world? The learning has continued beyond the debate class and I am so excited to work with these students on new projects this year and the years to come.

Any suggestions or thoughts? I would love to hear them. Especially on how to teach listening?

6th Grade Debate Project: Eracism

March 15th, 2013: Flat Classroom Global Debate Project: Eracism
“How do I operate my classroom and run the day to day operations of preparing for a global debate?” 

8th Grade Debate Project: Eracism 

December 19th, 2012

December 14th, 2012
December 12th, 2012

October 25th, 2012
Flat Classroom: Eracism Round 1: AMAZING!

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Flat Classroom: Eracism Round 1: AMAZING!

This year I have students participating in another Flat Classroom Project.

I have 16 8th grade students taking part in the Eracism project which is an international debate.

A link to this project is here

The debate topic is

Debate topic:
“Global management of natural resources will cause conflict between cultures”

Talk about intense! My students had to take time to focus on the content, deciphering what this really means, creating research, outlines, arguments, etc. Everything that goes into a debate. These are some of the top students in our building. This project has not only opened their eyes, but my eyes as well.

Aside from gathering researching(basic skills that they are sick of), these students have to take their thinking to a whole new level that I really feel they have not reached before or not too often.

After a team dropped out, both of my teams are debating against THINK Global school located in Argentina. What I found to be most fascinating about this process is during the first day when I exposed the students to this project they all had a common reaction:

  • We have to go against other schools from other countries? Awesome! Oh wait, they are going to tear us up. 
  • We are the only public school? That is not fair!
  • How are we going to beat these teams?
I found this so striking. When time presents itself I am going to have a class discussion about why they felt this way without even knowing who these other schools are and what they do.
My 16 students are spread across three class periods. They don’t get to meet together as a collective team due to scheduling so they have to communicate and work together through Google Drive and gmail. It has been interesting. What we have discovered is that nothing works better than face to face communication. In a tech saturated environment, these kids are realizing the power of human interaction.
We are in the midst of our first round debates. We have had two of our speakers speak so far. One team is done presenting and just waiting for the final speaker of the other team. 
What do we think?
Well, I think my kids felt inferior. The speaking skills of the other teams were amazing. We have done an outstanding job preparing. I am quite impressed with the scripts and research we have conducted. One student contacted an author, has been asking questions, obtained a copy of the book, and just started to explore beyond Google. 
My kids felt the pressure of thinking on your feet. They only get 5 minutes to plan a rebuttal after listening to the other team. I cannot even begin to describe how intense my office felt while they were talking, discussing, planning the strategies, and then speaking rebuttals. I am not going to lie. I was sweating I was nervous. And I am the teacher and really play no part in the process. I really wish I took pictures. Actually, I am going to take pictures and video next round so I can show how we operated. It is quite amazing to watch them break down the information, make a plan, write some ad lib scripts and begin recording in a matter of minutes. I am so proud of these kids.
There is such a sigh of relief when the recording ends. Then we talk and celebrate for getting it done. 
As an educator I feel like I am being challenged. This platform challenges me to think of more ways to push my students in this way without it being detrimental to their learning. I think that they are enjoying this project. They know there is a real audience listening to them. At this stage they could care less about grades, but instead they care about sounding intelligent, making sound arguments, and winning!
Now that they have done a few speeches(for a lack of a better term), I feel like we have a grasp on things. We know what to expect. We know how to better prepare. Regardless of how we do first round, we have second round. 
This is their project. I don’t even have access to their scripts. I fill their minds with ideas, strategies, how to work as a team, etc. I leave it up to them to organize content, find content, write the words, etc. Should I proofread their scripts? I don’t know. Some might say I should. I have decided to be an advocate of the “team concepts” and “thinking skills”. I feel that if I read the script, offer ideas, give links, etc. then the arguments become mine. I don’t want that. I want them to find their voice. I want them to discover their ideas. I want them to feel like this is truly 100% theirs.
I am fortunate enough to be working with another amazing teacher that runs the Argentina schools. This teacher communicates back and forth daily. It has made life great. This teacher helped when another team had to drop. I feel blessed to be competing against THINK Global. We have learned a great deal from the effective speaking and articulation of their speakers. They are examples of where we are trying to be. 
This is phase one. I will keep things updated and will post pictures and video next time we go through the process. It is too much fun to not document. Education is good when at the end of the day the teacher has learned as much as the students.
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The Great Debate: Ninja or Pirate

Seriously, I was posed this question the other day in the hallway by a fellow educator. Ever since this question has been posed to me I have been constantly thinking about it. This question has been long debated in the world of nerds and geeks. Being that if you follow this blog you are one of my allied Nerd Clansmen I figured why not throw it out there to see what you have to say. Pirates hate Ninja, Ninja hate Pirates. This question really forces you to dig deep to decide on what qualifications you stand by in your decision. What side do I align with do you ask? Well, I will post a video by the end of the week with my thoughts and my decision. In the meantime, go ahead and post a comment(s) on your alliance along with your reasons for doing so. I will be adding information about pirates and ninja throughout the week. Be sure to check back to see the info I share along with the votes and comments of everyone. You can also cast your vote over in the sidebar above where you vote for the Teacher Mystery Challenge.

This will be the only thing posted this week as I want everyone to focus on this great intelligent debate. I will have my video posted Friday, but other than that this week will be devoted to this topic and also to catch up on all the videos I posted last week and the weekend(I got a little carried away with recording myself)

Let the Great Nerd Debate begin………………….

Signing off with an Ahoy! There me hearty or a silent escape into the darkness

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