How can I ignite curiosity within my students?

This week’s readings do not all fit into the compelling question “What role will you play in promoting curiosity and truth?” as we also encompass compassion when using social media. I like that. I align with Butler University’s CARE acronym (Concern, Assume Responsibility, React, Evaluate and Follow up) as it strips our incognito internet personas to make us be more mindful, thoughtful and careful about what we post. Most importantly, it makes us realize the power of words to hurt or be misconstrued.

Play as Active Engagement 

I really like this idea and have first hand experience of how play can be a more enriching learning experience than a teacher talking at their students. For example, two years ago I conducted a class lesson on scarcity that involved hiding all the class chairs (leaving out 3-4 chairs for 23 students) before the students walked in. They now had to pay for chairs to use them or sit on the floor. They could bid for renting a chair for a day, multiple days or the whole week. The whole lesson focused on how increased demand and decreased availability raised prices of objects. It was a lesson that students still talk about. However, in retrospect I should have focused some on problem solving the issue of scarcity.

In the past, I have also used the UNHCR simulation game ‘Against All Odds’ for the Human Movement unit that I taught in 7th grade. All of a sudden all students knew what it meant to be a refugee. What obstacles they faced, why they had to leave their home country and the strains of fitting into a new host country with no language, job etc. It was an eye opening experience for most students.

So, the idea of making problem solving as important as finding the solution with clearly defined goals resounds strongly with me. And taking this to the social studies context, having students form different identities and write from them (historical fiction) thus encouraging them to form their perspectives is an enriching experience.

Designing simulations to mirror standards that need to be taught

I think the challenge is to take our standards and fit them into simulations, digital or physical (like the scarcity of chairs example). It is a daunting task when you take into account the multiple subjects that we all teach and it means a lot of initial preparation by teachers but less monitoring later as each student or group will start working according to their own pace.

It will also allow students to learn how to filter irrelevant information and focus on salient points of information that need to be observed, as the research paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture. 

This is the same difficulty that I have when teaching Social Studies C3 to students as they do not delve deeply enough or question data, its source, perspective or even its validity. Maybe using a website such as www.Cybernations.com might help 8th grade students the challenges of nation building and international diplomacy for the unit Peacekeeping.

We, as educators need to train our students to focus on teamwork and collaboration around ad-hoc configurations of employees due to diverse skills and knowledge. These student groups are formed, redistributed according to need and formed again. This means that students are being trained for multiple roles, taking risks when learning different skills by playing simulation games that allow them to take risks. The one advantage of digital simulations is that it allows students to take on a ‘Projective Identity’ so there is less social risk involved.

This is kind of what they will be doing in the future as careers evolve due to new technologies, needs etc.

Greatest Tool for Teachers:

I have already passed on the website http://mediasmarts.ca/media-literacy-101 to my 8th grade co-teacher for Science and Math and the Library Commons (shared by three of the ISG district schools) because it is invaluable on how media is ever prevalent in our lives. It discusses its role, structure, purpose and message for students. It also makes me want to replace the IDM (Inquiry Development Model) on propaganda that we teach in a C3 unit to how Media Affects our lives by incorporating the four lessons that are discussed here. An IDM is a short deep dive into a topic for a total of 3-4 hours.

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