Morning Podcasts and the New Class

    I started podcasting in my car on the way to school. This is the one time that I am completely alone during the day. Barring a hideous accident that threatens life and limb, nothing is going to interrupt me and my thoughts. So, I started thinking really big. I started talking about the future of literacy and then meandered into convincing every teacher to pick up a laptop and start blogging with their classes, I have finally settled on constructing better schools for the current generation (You).

Yesterday I began my podcast by asking myself about the current Graduation Requirements. Are all of these things really essential if many of you will never need to know how to explicate a poem or find the derivative of cosine. We are building students that are all alike. How will you ever stand out in high school, college, or life if we are merely creating different sized versions of the same student. So, I started thinking about what the real graduation requirements should be. I came up with these skills as essential, the ones that all other content can be filtered through:

  1. Collaboration, and building upon other’s ideas
  2. Writing for specific purposes
  3. Creating and pacing your own learning
  4. Thinking critically and coming to evidence-based conclusions

But what kind of classes do you take in order to get these skills?

Well, I am proposing that the first class that would get at these new Graduation Requirements would be a class in Collaborative Writing. This class would consist of personally selected projects that involved research, writing, revision, and a huge dose of communication. All students would set up two ways of writing/publishing their work: a wiki and a collaborative document editor. The wiki would be used mainly for research and idea generation. The students, working in teams, would start pulling resources together and linking and writing about them on their wikis. They would also be doing the scholarly writing on their collaborative document editor (like Google Documents). In order to generate more ideas, they would hold weekly podcasts/interviews that measured how they were doing on their projects. They would post these so that all students in the class could see just what others were doing in order to accomplish their writing goals. We would also set up a space and time for students to interview experts on their topics using a blog, a skypecast, or a simple e-mail. Throughout the class, the students would constantly be revising their definition of collaboration in the 21st century, aiming for a class definition that gets at all of the skills they think will be useful later on in life.

Obviously, this particular class needs some fleshing out, but I think that it would be one worth taking and worth teaching. I believe that more writing and thinking would get done in a class like this than in any two composition classes. And I think that is really the point.

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