I am honored and excited to run a guest post by Ilana Zadok, a colleague, and a talented and innovative educator. Ilana and I have worked over the past two years on a project that supports student led learning of the Revolutionary War. Without further adieu, enjoy the article.
by: Ilana Zadok, 8th Grade Educator
Gone are the days of teachers at the front of the room telling students which pages to flip in the History textbook for the sake of memorizing dates and facts.
Here are the days of the teacher facilitating learning as students conduct independent research to become mini experts on a topic and then collaborating grade-wide to create a digital book using the app Book Creator.
After receiving mini lessons on research, newspaper article writing and design and layout 8th graders set out on a month long journey to learn and discover the events leading up to and including Revolutionary War. This wasn’t an iPad lesson to enhance a unit.
This was a project that through the use of technology supported learning by the students for the students.
Let me explain.
The timeline was divided and each pairing of students chose an event. They were responsible for researching their event taking into account the various perspectives of the time and referencing authentic primary sources-this is in line with the Historical Thinking methodology of teaching History which is the backbone of this class.
Each group was responsible for the creation of a 7-9 page digital book using the app Book Creator which included:
- 2 student written newspaper articles highlighting two different points of view. For example, one article was from the British perspective while the other was from the Patriot perspective.
- 1 image per page
- 2 uses of original audio
- 2 original videos
- A 5 question assessment which matched the creators goals for understanding
- A design and layout that stayed true to the time period and considered the emotions being evoked in the content.
Students were encouraged to make very thoughtful choices as to how the various parts worked to enhance their overall message. They understood that each piece had to serve a certain purpose. They were pushed to articulate what that purpose was.
After 1 week of research and 2 weeks of creation, the students were ready to combine their books.
For the next few days, each student individually with headphones in their ears focussed and interested read through the digital book created by their peers.
In order to hold the students accountable for the content, each student wrote 3 level 3 QAR (Question-Answer Relationship) questions for each mini book in which they had to show that they were thinking about the text.
The students then began the process of reflection in which they gave feedback to their peers for each book in regards to design, layout and content thoroughness.
Lastly, they wrote paragraphs assessing how the process of using Book Creator impacted their own personal learning.
This unit was a success! Book Creator allowed the students the room and flexibility to bring their interests and talents to the table. One student used an animation app to fulfill the video requirement, where another student created a piece of music to fulfill the audio requirement. They extended their research to learn about the clothing, food, and more. They were able to give each other compliments and constructive criticism that was based on the language used in the mini lessons. And, they showed content knowledge.
To highlight the success, here are two of my favorite anecdotes:
One student asked if I’d consider offering the combined book to next year’s class as their textbook. That showed me that he had such pride in his work and felt that the quality was worthy of substituting other resources.
But my ultimate measure of success was a shy boy who struggles to learn came over to me weeks after the completion of the project to thank me for the experience of creating the iBook. He said that he feels that he really understands the Revolutionary War period because of it.
Thank me for learning??!! Didn’t see that coming.