I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I signed up for the Age of Exploration course. I like doing multi-media projects, so a major factor in my choice was definitely that I’d heard the course was project-based, but other than that I didn’t have a clue what this course would actually be like. I’ve only had three weeks of real class so far, but it’s definitely exceeded my expectations. We spent the first day of class solving mysteries from the disjointed clues given us, and our amazing teacher Mike managed to connect that to the mysteries of Modern World History. I’ve never really enjoyed history classes before, but I walked away from that first day thinking, “Hey, this could be different”.
Most history courses I’ve taken before were full of rote memorization, frantic last-minute essay work, and stressing out about tests. I love that this class (so far!) seems really laid-back, letting you learn at your own pace. We just finished our first project, a presentation given in pairs on a specific era of Modern World History. My partner and I researched The Reformation, and we found that the essentially “free” time in class really helped us get to stuff done. I know so many students (myself included) who are extremely busy during the school year, and being able to do some of our homework in class rather than 10:00 at night is really a relief.
The project itself was also really fun. I have a rather bad habit of spending hours on the computer perfecting my presentations, making sure the pictures are in exactly the right place and the overall effect is the way I want it, but this project gave me an outlet for my creativity. I turned my mild perfectionist tendencies into a way to make sure that our presentation didn’t bore the audience with block text, and I think it turned out pretty well. I like that the somewhat open-ended assignment gave us an opportunity to play to our strengths and show our individuality. The presentations in my class showed a huge range of different ideas and interpretations, and it was obvious that everyone took their own spin on it.
A running theme in this class so far has been student-teacher cooperation, and the partnering pedagogy as described in Marc Prensky’s book “Teaching Digital Natives”. Our class is built around the idea that students and teachers should work together, and a little more freedom in the classroom is not necessarily a bad thing. This is definitely a different learning environment from what I’ve experienced before, but so far I really like it. I feel that giving us the task of being responsible for our own learning will help us grow and mature as learners as long as we take it seriously. Although I originally signed up for this class because I thought it might be easier, I’m finding that I like the challenge of essentially teaching myself. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store!
“Teaching Digital Natives”: