After school today, students from both of my double-block periods came together to put together a plan to run the interview with Cobe Williams tomorrow. Just like last year, they are in charge of facilitating. Despite coming from different project groups and periods, we had a very productive discussion on the expectations, logistics and discussion prompts for our Skype session. After I collected potential interview questions from all of my students, my interview team sifted through the Google Form/Spreadsheet to come up with the following for our distinguished guest:
- Is this what you thought you were going to do [being a Violence Interrupter] when you were 15 or 16?
- Do you feel like you've tried your hardest in helping others?
- How does it make you feel knowing that you are changing a person's life and you are a role model to young adults our age?
- How can we, as students, be interrupters ourselves, without putting our lives on the line?
- Is it hard to work around people that are in gangs or be around violence daily?
- How long have you been doing this [interrupting cycles of violence] now?
- As an agent of change, what challenges have you had to overcome to be the person you are today?
- What have you accomplished in the communities that you’ve worked with?
- How did you find out about the Violence Interrupters?
- What other places have the Violence Interrupters been to? Was Danville one of them?
- What is the hardest thing about being a Violence Interrupter?
- What exactly made you turn your life around?
- What advice would you give to kids our age?
- What kind of training is needed to interrupt violence?
Over the weekend, I got an email from one of my contacts at Kartemquin Films, the documentary company behind The Interrupters, who wanted to put me in touch with other teacher-advocates who would like to build similar projects. As our trusting partnership with Kartemquin blooms, I am finding that some Chicago Public Schools are interested in partnering with my students. Similar to Project Citizen in our class last year, the one teacher who stood out is thinking of putting on a TedX event where students conduct field research and present on local issues. (How cool?! I think this would be a great schoolwide project!) She faces a culture boundary, however, in her school, because her students are hesitant about whether they can engage issues and really impact change. And the partnerships grow!
My students, not intimidated by presenting after a year in our New Tech program, will be great mentors via Skype in the upcoming weeks. And they have so much to talk about between the two projects. Students helping students: there are no fences separating our schools.
This week, we launched a modified, PBL version of Project Citizen, which aims to have "participants learn how to monitor and influence public policy. In the process, they develop support for democratic values and principles, tolerance, and feelings of political efficacy." In the past, this project has gone really well at my school. Students use the 21st century skills that New Tech has equipped them with in order to engage in important discourse about community problems. Students conducted their own field research through surveys and interviews. They made phone calls to leaders and experts. After their presentations at school (to a panel of school leaders and local officials), some even went on to present to the city council and school board. The entire project is a big deal not just for the school, but also the community. Students tackled the topics of bullying, gang involvement, etc..
My added twist to this previously-successful project was to bring in more 21st century skills. Sure, we're going to eventually write a definition / position paper, but along the way, I might get them to first critically analyze their data with a focus on how to visualize it. We are consuming more and more information visually, so I'm hoping that some production/constructivism will add a new level of understanding to the students as not just researchers but also presenters.
Infographics have become a recent special interest of mine since I became a Wired magazine fan. There are few periodicals that I read cover-to-cover, and Wired is the one I read cover-to-cover most regularly. They have a number of great infographics in their printed magazine. Some are even a series, such as the decision-making page that guides you on how to make the best of your nerd dollars, time or space. If there's one feature that I'd probably cherish on an iPad, it would be the interactions that could be allowed on Wired's mobile app.
Anyway, I've added infographics as a tease into the rubric. Previously, graphs were required for each of the survey questions, but those can be so...erm... "Excel". Now that many of my sophomores have gone through our Digital Portfolio class, I hope they will take the bait and run with the idea of using Illustrator or Photoshop to draw their audience into their field research. I plan on using examples that I draw form coolinfographics.com or infographicsarchive.com. With any luck, some Tweets might even attract their attention so I can have them run a Skype workshop on how to best build infographics (fingers crossed).