Monday, March 13, 2006

Reflections on Disapointments and Near Misses - Part 1

In the past few months many of the projects and goals that I have excitedly written about have taken some unexpected turns or have become the victims of scheduling or student apathy. In many cases I’ve assumed an interest in collaboration, interacting with professionals, doing real research, and connecting history to one’s own life that either wasn’t there or wasn’t present in enough abundance to motivate students to do something they weren’t required to do. What follows are a few of these tragic tales. Please be forewarned, if you are looking for a happy story of students transformed and entranced by technology you would be much better served by perusing the ramblings of almost any other Edublogger (my apologies to Lemony Snicket).

Probably the one project I spent the most time preparing for and which I thought would most benefit my 10th grade American Studies students now seems dead (or at least on life support). I have written about this project several times (click here, here, and here for a quick review). It involved researching something important and personal to them or their families or analyzing an aspect of where they live. As a class we got as far as choosing topics and doing some preliminary internet research. We even had the social studies supervisor come in and teach a class on conducting oral history since this was a component of the project. But unfortunately, I could never convey my excitement for the project to the kids. Where I saw an opportunity to do real research that actually connected to their lives, they saw more work with no easy answers. When the time came for them to do their formal research paper (which is required by the social studies department), all but one student chose a topic off a list rather than the personal topic they had chosen. This effectively delayed everything for weeks, and now with nine weeks of school left, reviving this project (while completing the curriculum) seems futile.