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‘Society and Culture’ Category

  1. Who Are We? Teaching ‘Personal and Social Identity’ in Society and Culture (a reflection)

    28 June 2013 by shartley

    This topic was introduced with the above Prezi towards the end of Term 1 2013 to both of my school’s Preliminary Society & Culture classes.  I teach one of them.

    Students were then launched into a PBL style unit with the Who Are You Project (pdf).

    To further explain the elements of this project:

    • Explore: This is a summary of the syllabus content
    • Answer: Students were required to respond to these questions
    • Reference: Students were to consult at least one resource within each of the reference categories listed
    • Compose: Students needed to communicate what they had learned about their personal and social identity
    • Present: An edited version needed to presented to the class – the cone of silence refers to the agreement that anything of a personal nature that’s discussed in Society & Culture does not go beyond the classroom

    It was a very successful project with most students engaged and deeply involved with the process. A minority took the more self-directed style of learning as an opportunity to do little.

    Other issues included:

    • The word ‘explore’ – students didn’t understand that these were the concepts needed to be investigated, even after verbal explanation – this will need refinement for next time
    • Explicitly asking questions meant students were inclined to approach the project as a typical Q & A worksheet, answering the questions superficially because they hadn’t investigated the concepts first
    • Some of the items on the reference list did not have a clear link to the project at hand – conducting background research to place subject into context needs to be taught clearly
    • Many students decided to do a PowerPoint (not listed) but generally did it well, some learned how to use Prezi for the first time, some did scrap-books, others did blog posts and the work avoiders wrote out a speech.

    Overall, they really learned a lot about the concepts and terms in a meaningful way because they applied it to themselves and there is nobody they know better.

    I was then away with my Innovative Learning Team on and off for a couple of weeks so during this time students completed more traditional textbook and video worksheets.

    They also watched Yolngu Boy (link includes comprehensive educational resources), followed by an essay completed in test conditions.  The students’ attitude towards this essay made me quite irate.  Many held the opinion that since it wasn’t an assessment task “it didn’t count”.  That earned them a little lecture on what school and education and learning was about.  A singular focus on HSC marks makes me mad!  Despite this attitude or because of my tirade the students produced some excellent essays.

    Finally, for this unit, students were given a Research Assessment Task to perform primary research (questionnaire or interview) to compare their identity development to others (questionnaire) or another (interview).  Unfortunately many students completely forgot all the concepts they had learned from the Who Are You project, the textbook, the videos and from the Yolngu Boy essay in which students had included concepts quite well.   All these tasks had been scaffolded so the concepts were reasonably clear but the link of the concepts to the title of the unit, Personal and Social Identity, obviously hadn’t been made strong enough.  These research assessment tasks were mainly written as if personality equated to identity.  *sigh*

    All that been said, I still think the program is a good one.  Next year the plan is to make the Who Am I project and the Research Assessment Task into one big assessment task with some tweaking.  I want to drop the textbook part altogether but part of the reason it was included was to placate a parent that believes my teaching methods lack the rigour required for the HSC.  You see, I made the mistake at parent-teacher night of saying we had been having fun in the course and hadn’t taught to the test (the first assessment task).  Obviously I should wash my mouth out with soap!

    We are all human, students, teachers and even parents.  I know my students have learned much about themselves and others from this unit.  Hopefully their learning will also be reflected in HSC results in a year and a half’s time.

     

     


  2. Cabin Fever Ramblings

    26 June 2013 by shartley

    TheOffice

    I’m fond of looking at my life from the perspective of an alien on a fact finding mission on the behaviour of Earthlings.  This concept served me well in a Year 12 English assignment that a good friend continues to cite as the moment she knew I should be a writer.

    More than 20 years later and I have written little, in the literary sense anyway.  If an alien had been observing me the last few days it would think I was a sloth, moving only from bed to toilet to kitchen to couch repeatedly.  The toilet visits are quite frequent due to the copious cups of tea and glasses of mountain stream water, delicious straight from the kitchen tap in my holiday cabin.  However, the kitchen visits are also for the naughties I bought for this stay the tiny town of Talbingo.  I consumed half a family-sized packet of lollies the first day and half a packet of Mint Slice biscuits the second, the remainder being consumed by my husband and children who actually earned the calories by skiing each morning at the Selwyn Snowfields while I stayed holed up in our cabin.

    FrozenCar

    My alien watcher would see me flit from phone to book to papers in what may seem a fruitless shuffle.  There is no phone coverage from Optus in Talbingo so I can’t text but through the magic of a wifi dongle I still connect around the globe, even to my dear Twitter friends attending the enormous International Society for Technology in Education Conference in San Antonio, USA.  Other Twitter friends attended a TeachMeet in my home town, Sydney, last night but the commute was too far from here for me to attend.  As they went to a TeachEat afterwards, my family and I walked to the Talbingo Lodge for the All You Can Eat Pizza Night, which was surprisingly pleasant, helped by a bottle of red wine.

    The Talbingo Lodge had been locked up for about a year, looking for someone to love and care for her.  Three months ago a new owner came along, a regular holiday maker in Talbingo, originating from Cootamundra where he has a similar establishment.  Perhaps I should interview the owner, for a general piece of writing, or for a Business Studies case study for my class or for an EdAssist article.  The Talbingo joint is eclectic with various paraphernalia stuck around, like caps and hats hanging above the bar, skis and golf clubs stuck on walls and ceiling, a games room for the kids, including an X Box with a car racing game which won my son over.  He played against a kid he’d never met before.  The Mum approached my thirteen year old to explain the loud competitive eight year old boy was autistic and my son volunteered that it was fine by him because he was autistic too.  The owner was concerned about the loud behaviour of my son’s new friend because people were trying to watch the rugby.  Well, sort of.  It wasn’t a big deal of a game.  That’s tonight.  We’re returning to the Talbingo Lodge tonight for the Stage of Origin, booked our now favourite table, by the fire, in front of the large TV screen.

    Marking

    So here I am, having completed the essential marking of 45 Society and Culture essays in two days, giving myself a reprieve before I tackle the less essential marking.  I’m reading ‘The Office’ by Gideon Haigh and it could be describing me as it provides the history of clerks working irregular hours, fitting in their own writing as much as possible a la Dickens.  Except I seem to do a lot of thinking about writing but not much writing in itself.  I completed a Masters of Arts recently, majoring in writing and literature and discovered I had a gift for script writing (thanks Deakin for the HD).  Unfortunately for my students I’m also excellent at Editing, another HD subject.  I have a couple of scant plots mapped out for scripts but I just can’t seem to find the oomph to dedicate some real slabs of time at it.

    Instead I tend to focus on the here and now, so I end up immersing myself in all things related to school.  This year I am teaching six subjects and am on the Innovative Learning Team (ILT) which is currently constructing a report about the future direction of pedagogy and technology in the school.  The ILT is saving me from being downtrodden by my numerous classes – I’ve never had so many before.  Plus I’ve stepped down from management positions to start afresh at a new school so I’m not used to facing so many students in recent times.  It’s a hard slog!  I’m constantly being encouraged to keep being innovative and try new things in my classroom by two of my four superiors.  One of the others is remote and simply trusts me and another prefers old school, but that’s OK because I just balance traditional with my ‘keeping it real’ style in Business Studies anyway.

    I have volunteered to speak for 7 minutes at a TeachMeet in a month’s time on Chaos Theory, planning for it to be about my Year 10 Geography class where I have a class of 30 boys, most being quite boisterous in nature.  This class was noisy when they were arranged in rows and given traditional worksheet learning so now I conduct it more like Project Based Learning (PBL) and it’s slightly louder.  Less evidence of learning is being produced and they probably won’t perform as well in an exam as the other classes but I believe they understood the concepts much better as a result of the PBL style.

    TMCoast

    The ILT is grabbing my real passion as I like to push students to achieving their best but not in the traditional sense of scoring well in exams.  Since I have a broader goal for students I am a bit of a trumpeter for changing the ways of teaching.  However, I am about balance, having just left a school that was going too far in the one direction, in my not so humble opinion.  Two aims I have just jotted down in my steadfast companion of a notebook are probably not achievable in the near future but I think, wouldn’t it be great if I could help students to map out their own educational path, mentor and guide them, plus help each student create a portfolio of their achievements.  I’ve only looked at a couple of online programs that would do that but they didn’t tickle my fancy.

    One of the other activities I have flitted about on is consideration for my son’s education.  He attends that school where I previously taught and I’m trying to conceive a plan for him to fit into the school, achieve traditionally set school goals and achieve some goals of our own.  Today I emailed a reply to his Case Manager (due to his autism) about a meeting for next term.  I’m hoping to present a mildly radical plan of action for the rest of the year, involving dropping Art and arranging self-directed project time for him instead which he would need to report in the form of Tumblr or the like.

    So here I am, having just spewed out 1000 words in what should be organised into several different pieces of writing.  I’ll let this sit for a while and return to it later.  Perhaps this afternoon, perhaps tomorrow, we’ll see.  I am a procrastinator.  And besides, it’s time for food and a cup of tea.

    [I ended up being distracted by the Rudd/Gillard PM leadership battle and the Texas filibuster so nothing productive occurred this afternoon]


  3. Burqas in Society & Culture

    24 August 2011 by shartley

    students' lesson on judging the burqa

    Students dressed in burqas as part of conducting their lesson

    Instead of the usual speech with PowerPoint assessment task that had been done the previous 5 years or so, the class and I changed the task to be conducting a lesson to the rest of the class individually or in pairs.  The topic is Intercultural Communication and the task was to focus on learning a culture in another country.  There have been four lessons so far.  All have been very interesting and engaging.  Students have embraced the concept wholeheartedly.

    We’ve had a student teach about how to overcome having stereotypical perceptions of other cultures, using Chinese and Australian stereo types as a demonstration.  She had Chinese rice biscuits as rewards for students who contributed to discussion.

    Student ran lesson comparing Indian and Australian culture

    Eating butter chicken in class

    We’ve removed shoes to eat butter chicken and rice with our fingers off banana leaves while a general comparison of India and Australia was presented.  We’ve had a student check for preconceived notions of people in Iran, focusing on the Arts, language, cinema and in particular women and then proceeded to dispel those myths.  The last one, to date, was by two girls who came to class dressed in homemade burqas.  I teach in a Christian school on the north shore/northern beaches of Sydney.  It is a very anglo-saxon community.  The girls idea was that we shouldn’t judge about the wearing of burqas in Australia when we hadn’t even met someone who wore one.  Even though the class knew who were under the burqas they were awkward and some laughed to cover the embarrassment.  They conducted an excellent lesson without getting the giggles (which I was afraid they would do) and then walked around in the playground at recess for 5 minutes.  They were so buzzed by the experience they raced to tell me about it and I asked them to write a reflection.  They did:

    Reflection on wearing the burqa

    Wearing the burqa around the school completely changed both of our perspectives and opinions on wearing the burqa. Not including the lesson, we wore the burqa for roughly 4-5 minutes in the playground. During this small amount of time a few different things happened. As we first stepped out of the classroom and into the year nine quad we got shouted at with comments such as ‘terrorists’ as well as being on the receiving end of judgemental and disapproving stares. The year nine quad was by far the worst in terms of racist comments, as well as harsh and hurtful ones as well.

     We then progressed to go where our group sits and then directly to the office. Although no comments were yelled directly to us, we received judgemental and harsh looks from both students and teachers alike.
    As we walked into the office to get changed the office staff as well as other faculty members that were in the office gave us both quizzical and disapproving looks before they found out that it was us. As we were getting changed back into our school uniform, one staff member even commented, ‘I didn’t know who you were or what you were hiding under there,’ which was yet another example of the stereotypical, disapproving attitudes that were shown in regard to the burqa. Once we were fully changed back into our school uniforms the office staff merely laughed and shrugged off their previous attitudes towards us.

    The only people who were not judgemental of us wearing the burqa were the teachers and students who knew that we were underneath them and what our purpose for wearing them was. The teachers who knew that we were underneath gave us encouraging comments like how good our costumes were and ‘good on us’ for walking around wearing the burqas. Our friends who saw us underneath the burqas simply laughed and were egging us on. However, through all the laughs, a sense of disproval was still being sensed even though people knew it was us underneath the burqas.
    Some other teachers made discreet comments about the burqa and their discontentment was obvious. The same can be said about the students.

    Wearing the burqa for that five minutes or less was a really big eye opener for us. It gave us a great sense of respect for the women who openly choose to wear the burqa and a great deal of sadness towards the women who are forced to wear the burqa. If all of those nasty comments and looks was what we received in five minutes in a school playground, we could barely imagine what it would be like walking around all day, seven days a week in the general public.

    This really gave us a whole new perspective on the burqa and opened our eyes up to really how harsh people’s attitudes can be towards the burqa. It definitely is going to make us think twice before we judge a woman wearing a burqa.

     

    I had tears in my eyes when I first read this.  This is why I teach.  These girls were considered trouble when they were in Year 10 last year.  Look at them now!

    Homemade burqas

    They even made the burqas themselves


  4. Pulled every which way

    9 April 2010 by shartley

    Twitter has inspired me as I see other teachers passionate about what’s best for students.

    It has depressed me as I realise how little I know compared to many others.

    I want to investigate every which way of teaching but I would find the process overwhelming.  I want to read the hundreds of blogs I have found through Twitter.  I want to use nearly every resource I discover.  But time, sweet time, prevents me.

    Twitter has connected me to other parts of the world.  One highlight of this is a (private) blog between my Society and Culture students and students at the UN International School in Hanoi, Vietnam.  Blogging is something I am trying in a variety of contexts in class (eg see http://saclife.edublogs.org) but also a little as a teacher and anonymously as a writer.

    The last few days I have been following #ACEC2010 (Australian Computers in Education Conference) on Twitter.  Two of my colleagues have been presenting there, Stephen Collis (@Steve_Collis) and Chris Woldhuis (@cwoldhuis) and I’ve watched via U Stream.  I have been addicted to all this, yet I have learnt nothing new since it has all been discussed before in my PLN on Twitter and through what we do at my school anyway.

    I had allocated today to completing a university assignment for my Editing subject as part of my Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) through Deakin University.  I’m just over half way through this course and I’m really enjoying it.

    My other subject this semester is Script Writing.  I spent Easter writing a monologue for it.  You see, I want to be a writer, probably a fiction writer.

    I am already published as an educational writer but that is just to gain a name for writing before I hit the real deal.  I must admit I enjoy the exercise though.  At the end of each year EdAssist send me a list of topics I could write on for BusiDate and generally I choose something that would interest me, or is most relevant to what I’m teaching, or most recently, what I know a lot about and can write with minimal research.  I then write the article during the summer holidays.

    My educational writing started when Grant Kleeman came to my practicum class during my Dip.Ed. at Macquarie University and asked who had a finance background.  I’m actually a degree qualified accountant who used to work in funds management.  For example, for three years I was the Accountant for the Cash Management Trust at Macquarie Bank.  Through Grant I ended up writing three chapters of Commerce.Dot.Com.  Grant then passed my name onto EdAssist.  EdAssist also invited me to deliver lectures on Business Studies to students in holiday workshops, which I did for two years.  I have also lectured for Economics and Business Educators (EBE) as a result of an article on WorkChoices I wrote for EdAssist.  I enjoy doing all this.  But the time!

    For the last six and a bit years I have been teaching at Northern Beaches Christian School.  It is quite a ride.  Once I muddled my way through first year blues I now find the classroom quite an enjoyable and exciting place.  I’m not great at differentiation but I do see students as individuals and treat them as such in my relationship with them, just less so in the teaching process.  I think my passion for teaching and most of the subject matter is contagious and my students generally like class as much as I do.  They also love going on journeys with me learning new ways of learning.

    I also do a lot of online teaching.  I think it is very suitable for Commerce and Business Studies but HSC Economics I still wonder about.  This year I have some very enthusiastic Economics students but personal interaction is necessary so I have Skyped with one and driven to Scone for another.  Workshops are too far apart and not always convenient for the students.  My school is very gung-ho with technology and mostly I am on board.  We have an institution as part of our school called Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL) which is constantly looking for new ways to educate better.  I don’t always agree with some of the decisions our Principal makes, such as our focus on Matrix learning in the middle years and teaching students en masse, a lot of the time with several classes in the one large space.  I’m not fond of that level of clashing noise.

    What I’m currently keen on to do through SCIL is collaborating with other schools in my area, sharing ideas and producing quality resources, preferably online.  For instance, I’d like to develop a focus study on social networks for the Popular Culture topic in Society and Culture.  I think it would benefit from lots of input from a variety of people, not just teachers.  The problem is, I’m having trouble finding Society and Culture teachers on Twitter.  My next step will be to talk with people in the Society and Culture Association, via email or, heaven forbid, phone (so old-school).

    I love to read, both for pleasure and to keep up with current events.  I have about 40 unopened Sydney Morning Heralds in my lounge room and 100 unread emails from the New York Times, Crikey and The Punch in my inbox.  In my bedroom I have dozens of books waiting for me to read them, goodness knows when.

    I also have two gorgeous children, a supportive husband and a dog.  I am trying to lose weight and become fit through Fernwood and a personal trainer there.  I attend Turramurra Uniting Church and meet with friends from there a lot less frequently than I would like.  I used to volunteer as a Youth Group leader but as a teacher by Friday night I am simply too sapped of energy.  I still haven’t completed my tax return from last year, embarrassing as an ex-accountant.  I have a small group of friends who I neglect too much.  Some of them I stay in touch with via Facebook.  I enjoy tennis, wine, restaurants, movies, classical music, opera and theatre but don’t have enough time or money for all that I want.

    I dream of living on a bit of land in the Southern Highlands with high ceilings and an open fire place with cups of tea and just writing the days away.  But I also know I will continue to be tugged by all my interests.  And I’d miss the classroom.   I plan to teach for another 6-8 years, which is when my children are due to complete their schooling, and then reassess.  However, I don’t think I can keep up the current pace for that long.

    I need to give some of my interests away.  But what?


  5. content AND pedagogy

    10 January 2010 by shartley

    Someone else’s blog posting has taken me to a bit of a rant:

    …the key to effective teaching is not the content information I have in my head, but the ability and skills to help students find the motivation within themselves to want learn about the subject matter. I don’t have to be an expert in that content subject in order to make that happen.

    Thankfully the blogger went on to add There needs to be a balance.

    I think sometimes we forget that we do not have the time in our clichéd ‘crowded curriculum’ for students to discover every iota of information for themselves.  It helps that the core information is available on tap from the teacher and, heaven forbid, textbooks.   As much as we like to be teaching our students how to research, have inquiring minds, problem solve and to learn for life rather than exams, too much of our school system is geared towards passing tests and writing content heavy essays to prove how much has been learnt rather than how the mind works.

    In the subjects I teach it is very important for me to stay abreast of current events, particularly economics and social issues.  To do this I read a lot and attend conferences.  Attending economics lectures (with accompanying notes) provide me with a wealth of information that would take a multitude of hours for me to research.  The same is true of the classroom.  Sometimes teacher exposition is the easiest way to move through content quickly.  Sometimes the easiest way to learn for exams is to memorise content.  In an exam based system it can’t always be about enthusiasm, engagement and enjoyment.  Besides, we should also be teaching our students resilience and that life isn’t always about being happy about what we are doing.  In other words, to occasionally just ‘suck it up’.

    As I enter my seventh year of teaching I can look back and reflect how much my teaching methods have expanded, much helped by the IT resources provided by my school.  I can see how students are more engaged, self-directed and enjoying my subjects.  However, it has occurred as I have become more confident with the content.  I am more willing to experiment with methods when I have my feet planted in knowledge.  Also, with the time saved by already having gained the knowledge I can spend time on developing new ways of teaching it.  Too often we forget, particularly with new teachers, how long it can take to learn content.  We  need to reduce teacher stress, particularly in the early years.

    I am a passionate teacher and this works well whether I feel strong in a topic’s knowledge or not.  The first time I taught Society and Culture I was thrown into it mid-semester during my second year of teaching and had to scramble to stay ahead of the students but the students and I still enjoyed it.  The best lessons were when we were entirely off topic, but that will have to be the subject of a different post.  The second time I taught Society and Culture I changed one of the optional topics and said to the students that we’d be learning it together.  I was only able to do this because I had proven I had enough core knowledge in the subject to give the students confidence that it was going to be a positive learning experience.

    Balance is a word I use frequently.  Teachers need to have a balance of content and pedagogy training.  I just think we need to be more aware of how they go hand-in-hand.  One is useless without the other.


  6. Keeping it Real

    9 January 2010 by shartley

    When I started teaching six years ago, having previously been in the corporate world, I was keen to show students, particularly in Business Studies, the real world, beyond the textbook.  The students were bemused by my approach of constantly showing via the web how real businesses and other institutions actually operated.  The textbook is great for providing neat answers in the structure of the syllabus, particularly for exam preparation, but for real life learning we need to go far beyond the books.  Textbooks are ideal for students who are good at memorising and regurgitating information for exams that are merely a passport for the next stage of study in life.  Not that this works for all subjects.  In Economics I keep telling my students that memorising the textbook will only give them a mark up to 80% because they need to demonstrate analysis and informed opinion to achieve any higher.  However, education at all levels should be about learning for life and about life and not be just about final results in the HSC and equivalent ‘finals’.

    Real life now involves various forms of social media.  I joined Twitter at the start of 2009 but didn’t actually participate until about half way through the year.  I also use Facebook but purely as a social network.  Twitter is my professional network.  At times it is overwhelming due to how much knowledge other educators in the world have about various web applications and how to use them in the classroom, plus the time they have to post about it, not only on Twitter but through blogs too.  I often feel guilty that I am merely a Twitter trawler since I retrieve so much information from it while giving very little back.  When I do give back, it sometimes feels I am speaking to a void, but not for long.

    The biggest impact Twitter has had on my classroom so far is an idea I had to connect students in my Society and Culture class with Vietnamese students to help them with a case study they were doing on various aspects of life in Vietnam.  Through the retweets of some of my followers and the consequent passing on of names of teachers in Vietnam I was connected with a teacher in Hanoi.  He established a blog where my students and a class within his school introduced themselves to each other before my students asked questions relevant to their case study.  It has been very exciting to see the project start to unfold.  Two of the Vietnamese students expressed very different opinions about the role of power and authority in both schools and government within Vietnam in response to a question from one of my students.  It showed my students different perspectives that they could never learn from a textbook or an official information website.  At the moment we are keeping the blog private since the students are still learning about appropriate use of blogs, not that there have been any problems to date.  However, it has stalled momentarily due to Australia’s summer holidays.  I’m looking forward to the return of school to move it along further.  This is the third time I have taught this unit but it is the first time it has sparked a desire in me to visit Vietnam.  The personal touch really does have an amazing effect.

    The same class also has a public blog to maintain a journal for their Personal Interest Project.  It opens up an opportunity for them to receive feedback about their ideas.  Again, Twitter has been the means for finding the few people who have provided some very constructive thoughts for my students.

    The next exciting project that has come from Twitter was purely by accident in the last few hours.  I was merely thinking out loud and feeling silly for posting it at all when I typed in exactly the maximum 140 characters: Thinking about teaching research methodologies by having Yr 12 students film 30 sec demos of each method with target audience of new Yr 11s. Within minutes a teacher from the USA sent me a direct message offering his 14 year old students as a target audience.  We have set a date for late February for my students to have the videos ready.

    I am constantly astounded by the connections I make and this is despite having fewer than 150 followers, a small number compared to some of the educators I follow with 1000s of followers.  Through Twitter I also discover new resources, many of which I won’t ever use but some I will and as a result my students will also expand their learning.  I can spend hours every day just reading posts and the weblinks they contain but I need to just opt in and out as I want and not become obsessive about it.  I had a few weeks over Christmas where I didn’t do any work for school so I also chose not to touch Twitter either.  I came back refreshed.  I once showed my Society and Culture students how I use Twitter and one asked, “Do you ever sleep?”  I laughed and said I didn’t sleep enough but asked if she reads everything posted on Facebook, her main online social medium.  She doesn’t.

    Twitter is an amazing resource helping me to create an environment of authentic learning.  In just over two weeks I will be back in the classroom after a long summer holiday, armed with new ideas and excited by the prospects they hold.  Stay tuned to see how they go.


  7. Developing ideas for researching and writing a PIP (HSC Society and Culture)

    7 November 2009 by shartley

    As a follow up to the previous post I need to comment on how the students’ ideas for their Personal Interest Projects (PIPs) are progressing.  They are all thinking about their possible topics or further refining topics they like.

    As part of the final PIP students are required to include a log to demonstrate their progress.  This year I have introduced a blog http://saclife.edublogs.org/ to not only keep a journal but to interact with educators and other interested people so they can understand that they are not simply undertaking a school project but taking on a task that could be highly significant to many.

    I am absolutely delighted that only 24 hours after I promoted the blog on Twitter and Facebook an educator from the USA has commented on each of the students’ posts and blogged about it too: http://vestaltech.edublogs.org/2009/11/06/global-exposure-dont-our-students-deserve-it/ .  There are also a couple of comments from an ex Society and Culture student who is currently studying journalism at university.  I hope that this process continues to grow and students thrive from the experience.

    So check it out to see the many ideas being developed and please provide comments to encourage the students along.

    http://saclife.edublogs.org/


  8. Stimulating ideas for researching and writing a PIP (HSC Society and Culture)

    23 October 2009 by shartley

    The main challenge when starting the Society and Culture HSC Course is motivating the students to (1) choose a topic for their Personal Interest Project (PIP) and (2) start working on it.

    My objective for today’s lesson was to stimulate students’ brains to think about what they could research for their PIP.  I used some creative writing exercises from The Writing Experiment: Strategies for innovative creative writing by Hazel Smith (2005, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW, Australia).

    • Students were asked to choose a colour and then write the word followed by a word with a sound association.  Eg green ghost, green grain, green read, green knee, etc
    • Students were then asked to do the same exercise with an abstract noun, such as truth.
    • With the same words chosen above, associate them by meaning.  Eg green blue, green sick, green grow, green amateur; truth false, truth real, truth language
    • Next was a leapfrogging exercise: eg Greenpeace, peace talk, talkback, backdrop
    • In the above exercises the students were given 1-2 minutes for each.  I then gave the students 5 minutes to choose either the colour or abstract noun and do any random word thought flow, leading to wherever it took them, not to think about it, just do it.
    • From this list of words the students were to match five adjectives with five nouns, whether they made sense or not.
    • At each stage some students shared what they had written.  In the last exercise they were asked to see if they could find a common theme in their words.  One found heat and environmental themes.  All lists revealed interesting thought processes.
    • I then broke away from Hazel Smith’s exercises and showed photo streams from Sydney Morning Herald and TIME.  For three photos students were asked to write about anything the picture stimulated.  It could be more lists of words or proper sentences.  One photo was of a polar bear shaking water out of fur at a zoo in Berlin.  A student wrote about prison, fear, photos flashing, and so on.
    • From any of the above exercises, students could choose any word or theme that they found interesting.  They were then given 10 minutes to freely write on this word.

    It was fascinating to see the themes that evolved from these exercises.  Most students now have a better idea or at least some idea of what they could research for their PIP.  The student who started with a polar bear trapped kept this theme going.  The one who started with the word yellow is now thinking about researching climate change effects on communities.  Another has gone from a photo of a helmet of an F1 driver to a concept of teams and topics like self-identity realised through team sports.

    The students thought it was a weird activity at the start but once they relaxed with the concept, they completely engaged with the exercise and had fun.  Best of all they are thinking.