An article in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy has made me re-evaluate how I use technology in the classroom. In this study, a teacher in an urban, mostly minority, mostly low-socio-economic school (very much like mine), moved her English instruction from a teacher-led, book-based curriculum, to a constructivist, project-based, digital learning environment. Students continued to learn and master the curricular requirements for English Language Arts, but in a whole new way.
Groups of students worked together throughout a semester to create a documentary film about a subject of their own choice. They did all of the background research, all of the script writing, all of the acting, directing, camera-work, behind-the-scenes production work--everything that goes into making a real film. And, because it was a creation of their own choosing, they were totally invested and engaged in the work.
At the end of the semester, the students held a film festival, to which they invited their parents, family and friends, as well as the entire faculty. Bringing in a real audience gave the students an authentic experience and provided an opportunity to share their work with a much wider audience. Plus, knowing that the films would be seen by a large and diverse group played an important role in their mindsets while making the films.
I am very interested in adapting at least some of this idea for use in my AP English Language and Composition class. This course focuses on argumentation and the use of rhetoric in argument and persuasive writing. I plan to have my students create their own film as the culminating activity during the second semester of the course. It will not be a 20 minute, full-fledged documentary like those in this article, but rather a 5 to 10 minute film that uses satire to address a real problem. Students will work in groups, select their topic, create their films, and present them in a film festival similar to the one referenced in the article.
Dockter, J., Haug, D., & Lewis, C. (2010). Redefining Rigor: Critical Engagement, Digital Media, and the New English/Language Arts. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(5), 418-420. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.