Before its official launch earlier this semester, the Prof. Hacker blog had a number of interesting posts this summer about things ranging from blogging in the classroom to how to mentally prepare for a new semester. One of the most compelling posts for me had to do with a pedagogical technique that the author, George Williams, referred to as “students showing their work.” Not only did this technique make a lot of sense in the high school classroom where I have the good fortune of working with small classes, but it also made sense in terms of getting students to learn about argumentation, evidence, commentary, and how to organize information into sub-categories.
I’ve used this technique around four or five times already this year and it has continued to be a successful way to structure class in a manner that engages students actively. The technique has worked particularly well for helping students argumentative develop stances in response to essay-style questions, but this week I also realized that it can function as a sophisticated form of a K-W-L Chart.
So, in order to justify my purchase of Mino HD Flip camera at the end of the summer (it was such a good deal on Woot. How could I resist?) I made a brief video explaining the activity in terms of this particular question and covering student responses to it. Our discussion served not only as an interesting insight into what students remembered from their fifth or sixth grade social studies classes, but it also sparked an interesting discussion about the way in which our culture chooses to enshrine and portray these ancient civilizations.
What other active learning techniques have proven especially effective in other classrooms? Certainly, this one is very low-tech and unfortunately not paperless, but I think its a good way to spark discussion and a structured examination of a topic or argument.