a followup to an ealier post on Collaborative Learning and Teaching…

Finally, the follow up on my post from last March. (school really keeps me busy)

It’s going on 9 months since the students from my Early American Literature course completed their video essays on American literature for the class Final. To recap the project:

Given their own resistance to things new, I also decided to help them be creative for the Final. Instead of a written exam or essay, they are going to make a 10-15 minute video, interviewing people. That is, they are treating this as an experiment based on a question they have developed from our readings. I gave them a base question that I myself am interested in:  what makes American literature American? But they could also develop their own. For instance, one group is thinking about exploring the idea that, given we believe our country was founded on religious freedom (they could pull ideas from Winthrop, the Declaration, etc…),  are we really free to believe as much as we think we are? I think given the nature of the current Republican debates, it’s a great question. Some have already prepared a proposal and met with me to make sure they were clear on what the project was about as well as help them narrow down their question and possible methods for exploring it.  They are actually becoming excited (whereas at first, they let out a collective groan…).

On the day of the Final, each group introduced their video, trying to summarize it in the way that might appear on the back of the dvd case. The mood was palpably one of excitement–much like graduation. Not only did they surprise me with their different creative approaches, they surprised themselves even more so. It was one of my most favorite class moments ever.

I liked the results so much, that for my Technical Writing course this semester, I’m focusing the entire semester on collaborative work presented in a workshop style setting. We’re concentrating on the creative process and design choices. But I’ll (hopefully!) write more on their work later.

I tried uploading one of the videos (250MB) to this site, but ran into file size issues. Since all the students signed forms giving me permission to use their work for educational purposes, I’m trying to see how this will work if I upload it to YouTube first and link off of that in this post… So go ahead and give them a view–they did a fantastic job of cutting back and forth between the interviewees:  http://youtu.be/YE3QV7cWswk  (be a little patient, they have a fun opening but it takes them a little over a minute to get to the interviews)

UPDATE: The next video…

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