Monday, January 25, 2010

Radio Days: WebQuest

So after researching the many WebQuests for our previous assignment, I found one which I thought did a great job of exemplifying true inquiry. This webquest ( focused on having students learn about the role radio played in the days before television and how the TV shows we watch and enjoy on a nightly basis would have been broadcast only across the radio waves. Because of this, sound effects were added in to help the listener use their imagination to an even greater degree, and commercials were used throughout much as they are today except in purely a listening format. In a way, this presents an even greater challenge to marketers to make their product memorable in the minds of listeners when they cannot see the item.

Not only do I feel that this challenges students' current view points and prior knowledge of about how radio and media works today as compared to the past, but it also has clearly defined roles for each student involved with individual research required as well as group work and analysis to prepare for their own radio broadcast. Each group consists of 3 people (script writer, sound effects editor, and publicity). The webquest gives a basic idea of what each person is going to have to do to complete the task, their own radio broadcast; but the real meat of the project is completely left up to the students. They not only have to create what their person would have done in conjunction with the radio broadcast, but they are required to research what others in these careers have done.

As a drama teacher, we have had our students work on creating commercials in class, but this now seems to be at such a simplified, surface level. This webquest requires a greater deal of "inquiry"on behalf of the students and I believe it truly impacts their worldview and knowledge of media and sales. This is a webquest that I am definitely going to recommend and present to my fellow specialists, and it will be interesting to see the final results and whether or not they make as much of an impact on students as I feel it has the potential to do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Internet Resources: Fact or Fiction

I will be completely honest from the start and say that one of my greatest weaknesses in regards to my teaching is having the students use the internet for any purpose outside of the practice room. With the looming deadline of concerts on the horizon and knowing parents and the administration judge most music learning from these performances, research as learning takes a back seat. Having said that, I will go by comments that I have gathered from fellow colleagues and teachers throughout my teaching experience.

A general music class was assigned a project to research a famous African American musician and create a story board on their life and musical skill. For the written part of this project, I helped the general music teacher with grading. After about 3 reports, the teacher did an interesting thing. She typed the musician's name into Wikipedia and started reading. 95% of the time, the students' writing was copied exactly from Wikipedia.

I know many others have talked about the need to teach students how to research correct and appropriate sites, but I think this task becomes a bit more difficult when given a person or project in which they have little or no background knowledge. Although the purpose of the project is to give the students a deeper understanding of the topic, this is where I believe it is necessary to have students and adults alike look at numerous sources and search for areas of similarity and differences. In this way, students will be forced to go beyond merely one site, not only for information's sake but for validation of that information as well. If a student finds five internet resources all stating the same "facts", they have a much greater chance of having found correct information than if they merely grabbed it from one site and wrote their whole paper based on this.

When one considers the wealth of information available on the web, I think we need to take more time having the students wade through this wealth of information correctly and efficiently, and the amount of information will actually serve to help the students commit true research. If students are ever to be "trusted" on their own with internet research, they must begin to understand how to evaluate the information on their own and not merely have a teacher say "these are the sites you should look for information on". What have we taught our students (upper grade levels) if we limit their ability to explore?

I believe that the old days of opening up encyclopedias or educational journals are gone as these resources can be quickly found online. The only thing left is to educate students with how to wade through the sea of information available to them which will only get larger as time passes.

For some additional information on how to evaluate websites for yourself and your students please check out: