Friday, December 14, 2012

Eracism: Global Debate, An Amazing Learning Experience

I am not going to blog about the whole journey of this amazing project. You can find all information about Flat Classroom and this particular online global debate project here

You can check out my other thoughts after speaking to Dr. Zeitz from UNI earlier this week

Rather, I am going to reflect about the final championship debate for Bracket C. I want to start off by sharing an email I sent out the students who I was so lucky to work with for this project. My students were 8th grade students that were pulled from social studies for about 6 weeks to do this project. I am ever so thankful for the teachers willing to work with me and being flexible to allow this happen.

Here is what I shared with my student via email this morning. I have removed parts that are not necessary for the sake of this blog post.

Happy Friday everyone!

I have a couple of things to address and final confirmation on the debate against China.

First, team 2B did an outstanding job on Thursday! With little prep leading up the final debate this team did amazing. I am so impressed by the work and articulation of your arguments  I know you were bummed to not win, but I hope you took away some vital learning concepts and life skills. As mentioned that day, you have crafted your skill set to be able to sell your ideas or yourself when you are in the workforce, applying to college or a job! I have received several emails afterwards from teachers who attended the debate speaking on behalf of how impressed they were by you guys! Remember you were in the high school division and you held your own. Great job! I really mean that.

Second, the team 8B you debate has been finalized. It has been very difficult to overcome the 14 hour time zone difference and seeking permission for students to stay late or come early. After many negotiations we have found the following time to work. We will be debating on Wednesday, December 19th at 7:30 am. You will need to be at school no later than 7:15 am to make sure we are ready to go. This is a small sacrifice for us to make considering that this means the students in China will be debating at 9:30 pm. They will probably not get home until midnight due to transportation issues and such. They also don't get to leave school and will be at school for almost a full 24 hours. Please don't make excuses and come prepared. Let us give them a debate they deserve and make the time worthwhile. I have not heard from any of you on this team so I hope that you have been reading your scripts and slowly getting prepared. I will bring in donuts and juice. You will be done with your debate around 8:30 am so missing TA and part of 1st period. 

Some tips we received from the judges when they spoke about why we did not win that could benefit this team are

1. Impact Statement - What is our impact statement? Our slogan/motto that we want to use to drive home our entire debate? This has been missing in all scripts and has been discussed before. Think about it and see how we can incorporate one.

2. Current Affairs - a very interesting statement from a judge from another country and one that has me thinking things over as a teacher and in my curriculum. She mentioned that we need more current affairs in our research. She stated that anyone can pull from a historical text, but students should be able to show understanding of the world in which they live in. Pretty powerful and therefore if you see anything in the news that could be used bring and perhaps work it into our already existing script.

3. We need to be able to have judges feel that what we are saying is important to them. Why is what we are saying important to me(judges, you, students, the world, etc.)? Bring that passion and prove that what we speak about is urgent and important!

When debating we need to make sure we debate face to face. I think this is what cost us our victory this week. When they bring up facts or points we need to debate them directly and head on. We tend to quickly talk about a point and then resort to the script. We need to really pick apart what they opposing team speaks about.

Have a great weekend and please let me know that you read this will be here on Wednesday!

I decided to share this email because I think the information shared from judges and our experience are things that apply to life in all aspects. The examples are focused on the debate, but I always like to think big picture and figure out how what I teach can transfer to real life.

IMG_4657As a teacher I cannot get over #2 on the tips for judges. How do we as teachers bring in the real world? There is so much going on in the world how does a teacher decide what to focus on? It goes back to an old idea of mine where social studies is taught backwards. You find current events and trace the history of the event backwards and explore our past this way. I don't know yet, but I know that as we push for more global education students need to understand the world and cultures. Sometimes I think that reading about the past eliminates time to teach these broader concepts. I don't know the answer, but I am stuck on this piece.

Perhaps at this point I should step back and talk about our debate system.

First, Mrs. Hatch brought in some super power brain food to get us started. Can you start your day any better than with some donut holes?

Next, due to schedule and conflicts we all had to cram into my office. I brought my Mac in as the mic on this is very good and I don't always trust our school equipment. It never seems to work for me. We had to gather around the one computer and listen as best we could. It was not super loud, but loud enough.

These pictures speak volumes to process, learning, and teamwork involved.



These two pictures show education at a high level. We have students listening, analyzing, and trying to process new ideas and concepts in real time without much time to finalize as a team. During the short quick breaks they quickly dispersed ideas and had to quickly gather all their ideas, write ideas down and looking for that one loophole that we needed to win. It was remarkable. I sat on the floor with my coffee and just watched it unfold. I try very hard to keep my thoughts and ideas out as this is their debate. I do give them things to ponder, but never give facts or information directly.

Go to the debate -

It is bracket C.

Listen to the articulation of these students from both teams. It is amazing. I have never been part of such high level system of thought with middle school students before.

We have one more team ready to debate against China next week in Bracket B. I am excited to watch them debate and see how they argue. They are on the opposite side so it is much different in terms of thought and strategies. I hope to connect with them before the debate, but who knows. I know they will be ready and I will once again share the information and reflect as well.

I would love to hear from you about the ideas and thoughts shared in this post. What is your reaction? Do you have other food for thought? What would you like to know more about? I want to keep this conversation going because I feel like these students were pushed to a whole new level and really explored their capabilities without worry of grades and rubrics. Rather, they had a live audience that they wanted to impress and do well. THINK Global was amazing we have learned a great deal from them. It is awesome how much we can learn from other schools and students through engagements like this.

This is my first time working a debate and something like this with middle school. As a teacher I learned a great deal about myself and my teaching. I have things to improve as well. More importantly, I am excited for teaching and learning. I am now intrigued by the things mentioned above and how I can make changes to my teaching to bring these concepts to life.

I will be blogging again soon when I have time to gather my thoughts a bit deeper.

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