I’ve taken a leap this year in both the history courses I teach. Instead of meticulously planning an entire semester during my summer, I’ve decided to let students determine where we go and what we learn. My reasons are simple:
1. There’s no possible way to ever cover ALL the history of even a small topic.
2. Why should MY interests determine what students learn about? I need them to learn skills, not topics. Why not have them learn those skills learning about something they actually find compelling?
So instead of planning a semester this summer, I simply amassed a series of resources. These resources were, in some cases, content found by me, but more often than not they were resources in the form of twitter accounts. I collected as many twitter accounts as I could find that were relevant to our class topics, then asked the students to create an account and follow those handles. For the first two weeks of school, we’re simply going through all the research about our topics to decide what we’re interested in and what we need to know about to understand this topic (in doing so, we’re incorporating the first step of the design thinking process). From here, we’ll decide (a) what else we want to study, and more importantly, (b) why we think it’s important to know.
As a teacher who considers himself very organized, this is terrifying–not knowing what we’ll be doing in a few weeks is not how my internal calendar works. But one of the key goals I have for myself as a teacher this year is to be more willing to not let my pre-existing rules for how “education” is supposed to work get in the way of real, actual learning.
And so we go…