Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Debate Wiki

Today I introduced my debate team to our new wiki briarwoodsdebate.pbworks.com. Since next years' topic will encompass military deployment in six different countries my idea starting off is to have a page for each country. Here I will post articles, questions, comments and thoughts. Next week in debate practice we will have a quiz game based on this information. I think this will be a fun way to help students learn the background knowledge needed for next year's policy debate topic.

I told the kids today that the knowledge they gain from using a Wiki to learn together will far outlast the crazy cases and strategies that advanced teams have. Knowledge of the topic is the starting point. Too many of my novices are trying out advanced techniques before mastering the foundations. Hopefully we can get back to the basics before next year's competition starts.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

FDR, the Father of Podcasting

FDR became president at time when the nation was crippled. It had spent the previous two years suffering in the hands of a disconnected President and a laissez-faire administration. FDR changed all that. One of the first things he did was to look around him, figure out what resources he had as his disposal and how to use those resources to connect with the American people.

He did this with the Fireside Chat. These "chats" were 5-10 minute speeches broadcast on the radio. Their aim was twofold. First, they were to educate the American people about conditions in the nation. Second, they were to raise morale, foster unity and give hope. Hope was the theme that ran through each of these. It was all about the idea that America would rebuild itself again.

This was how I explained the Fireside Chat to my Academic US History students. Each group was assigned a topic related to the Great Depression and New Deal. Their research was conducted from online research databases and they crafted speeches which I proofed and approved.

My biggest fear however was using the Audacity application. I was afraid that I would have to spend a lot of time introducing students to the application and showing them how to use it. I was afraid that it would malfunction, that it would not properly convert to Mp3, or that a host of other problems would arise. I was not even sure where the microphones were kept!

As it turned out the only thing I had to fear was fear itself. All of the kids had used Audacity. Microphones and headsets are stored in an unlocked cupboard in each computer lab. They were recording, saving and exporting to the Global folder before I even realized what happened.

As it turns out I booked too many days in the computer lab. My students are wrapping up their projects well ahead of schedule and giving us time for a rare "movie day." I think I'm looking forward to "Cinderella Man" just as much as they are!