Current Events has always been a topic teachers, especially social studies teachers, want our students to be up to date on and have depth of knowledge. The injection of current events can be done very well or very poorly. I have seen and done both. When Current Events are introduced because they are topical, relevant to students lives and interests they become powerful experiences. When they are another thing students have to do as homework they tend to loose meaning. The magical moments for current events is when students enter your classroom and want to talk about something they saw on the news, okay let's be realistic, they saw it on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc. and they want to know more. They have opened the door to making connections to their lives. GRAB this moment, don't pass it up because you have to cover content. TAKE this time to engage students, and make connections. ALLOW them to discuss, ask questions, and answer many of the questions before you take over or steer the conversation.
This Week's Topic is on Current Events. I have pulled a few examples of events happening that I think are interesting to me and want to see others ideas and most importantly how you could connect these to lessons or activities in your own classroom.
I realize each of these topics could be the focus of a week's discussion. If there is interest in discussing these more, please express that to me and we will continue the conversation. In the wake of the recent events, I felt compelled to bring these topics forward and welcome discussion. I know we won't all agree on how to present these topics, or have the same ideologies on the topics, but I think they are necessary conversations. I do not want to inject my own bias into these conversations, but honestly I know that will be difficult because I am looking at a nation that is fractured and we need to have heavy conversations to move toward unity.
Q1 Whose Lives Matter
There is a debate over whose lives matter, or matter more. We have seen #Blacklivesmatter in the wake of the shooting deaths of African Americans. This has lead others to start the movement for #AllLivesMatter which has sparked controversy. Some believe that each movement misses the others point. Those opposed to All Lives think it glosses over the fact that there are injustices against African Americans in particularly. Those who support All Lives feel it brings us together and includes #BlackLivesMatter movement. Then there is a third movement that has come about because of a growing response to the frustration over violence against citizens where some have perpetrated attacks on Police so we see the rise of the #BlueLivesMatter in support of Police.
Question - How can we broach this subject in our classrooms in a way that leads to civil conversation and results in positive change? My fear is it degrades into a shouting match, or we sing kumbaya and in the end nothing changes. I don't expect the world to change after our conversation, but that our students move forward as change agents. They are impacted in a positive manner to at least step up and begin difficult dialogues and confront ideologies that are in opposition to their values.
Q2 Immigration and Border Security -
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This quote comes from Emma Lazarus' sonnet, New Colossus and is written on the Statue of Liberty. Immigration has been a debatable issue since the time of the earliest explorers. Did the Native Americans really want Europeans to come to their homes, steal their land, give them diseases and declare war that almost annihilated them? Did America accept immigrants from all over the world with open arms? Did America ever create sanctions, immigration quotas or other restrictions to limit immigrants from coming to this country? People quickly forget our past as we look at the issues of the present. America has not lived up to the credo on Lady Liberty. We are not a tolerant nation. Sorry I don't usually share my opinions in posts, but we don't accept differences well. We are fearful of change and give into Fear Mongering quickly and easily. We have seen this fear emerge in recent examples of Immigration scenarios: Syrian refugees being rejected by governors throughout our country citing the potential threat of terrorism, Mexico where under President Bush we spent $49 billion to build a wall that covered 700 of 2100 miles of the USA Mexico boarder, or the current rhetoric to ban all Muslims, an entire religion from entering this country. In the end we have to find a balance between national security and living up to our national values.
Question - How do you open the debate between national security and non-discrimination, prejudice and intolerance? How do we provide opportunities for real discussion about immigration that goes beyond political sound bytes? How can we provide information to help students learn about the issues without the Fear Rhetoric? How can we discuss immigration and break down stereotypes? How can we bring in outside ideas and opinions?
Q3 Presidential Elections - Campaign Finance - our 2 Party System -
Our founding fathers warned us of a issues of dividing into a two party political system. As I watch the campaigns and the beginning of Convention season, I hear things that are troubling to me. I watch the Democrats shuffle support from Bernie Sanders someone who was looking to truly shake up our country with what some would call radical ideas, to Hilary Clinton the establishment candidate who has been investigated for mishandling of classified documents. On the other hand you had 16 candidates on the Republican side which whittled down to Donald Trump. This wasn't without controversy as you saw Ohio's delegation leave the convention floor yesterday and multiple attempts to force a vote for alternative candidates during yesterdays opening session. Trump has a party that is not currently united behind him. Many cite his language and views towards certain issues including the banning of all Muslims as reasons they are reluctant to support him. However in the end you see a unifying force in both parties - "A vote for the opponent would be the worst thing ever." Is that really what our nation is reduced to? Are we really forced to vote for who we see as the lesser of two bad candidates? I am not trying to call them bad, but the conversation seems to point to the idea that even though I don't like the candidate for my party, I will do anything to defeat the other party. What has gone wrong in our system where there isn't a unifying candidate that brings people from multiple walks of life together as the way to move us forward? How has our nation become so polarized? Why do we identify with political parties and not think for ourselves? Why hasn't the make up of our political leaders really changed in the centuries we have existed as a nation? We still are controlled by rich white males by and large. There are a few that don't match that description but let's face facts. Our nation's leaders, if not made up of the top 1%, are among the wealthiest people in our country. We do not elect the average American to represent us. We re-elect members of congress 92% of the time even though they have an 11% approval rating. I have heard our system is broken, but then saw a great tweet yesterday, the system isn't broken, it has always been set up this way. It has been set up to allow some into power and deny others.
Question - How do we teach students about a democratic society where everyone has a voice and power when history and reality don't fully live up to these ideals? Is our system broken or was it created to provide power and influence for some while disenfranchising others? How do we get students involved in the process and show them they do have value, voice and the potential to make change?
Q4 Violence, Terrorism, and War -
America has been at war as long as many of our students have been alive, however their lives by and large aren't markedly different than before the 9/11 terror attacks. We don't see nightly reports on what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, there isn't rationing initiatives, a draft, or frequent protests like there were in past wars and conflicts. Our country is still fairly prosperous however we have been mortgaging that prosperity from China for well over a decade and totaling trillions of dollars. I have had several conversations reminding my oldest daughter that we are still militarily involved in several countries because she doesn't see or hear about this in her normal daily activities. What she and I have been discussing more frequently are the acts of Violence in Ferguson, Baton Rouge, Milwaukee, Minnesota, etc. These events spark lots of conversation about gun violence, human behavior, laws, morality, and many other topics. What I have found troubling is the way these events are portrayed in the media. The perpetrators of negative acts are always identified by name, often location sometimes to where they live. The media however only identifies race and religion when they are non-white offenders. I didn't hear what religion the Uni-bomber or Timothy McVay were, but you know anyone who is a Muslim is quickly identified. A little tangent here but we also see that with Teachers, I recently saw a story where a woman was charged with a crime and they identified her as a "Former teacher." I thought why did they have to make this distinction? She wasn't a teacher when she committed the action, so why is that information pertinent? I don't hear of the doctor, lawyer, electrician, small business owner so readily identified by their profession. So why does the media choose to identify some and not others?
Question - In this time of the 24 hour news cycle, how do we help students be informed citizens? How can we help them examine the information and investigate further? How can we create a population that doesn't believe the 30 second sound-bytes and begins to ask their own questions or seek out other sources of information before believing what someone else tells them or the read or view on social media? How can we limit bias in the media and politics, especially when it is harmful?
I don't think this is in the same league as some of the other topics this week, but it has been trending. It appears Malania Trump gave a speech at the RNC convention that has striking similarities to Michelle Obama's 2008 speech. I saw one post that stated 22 of 26 or 28 words from a passage were the same between the two speeches. I saw lots of comments and conversation about this the day after the speech was given. I know we talk to students about plagiarism and shake our fingers or fists at them and lecture them about how bad plagiarism is. I find myself struggling to find real examples that demonstrate the ills of this practice beyond copyright.
Question- How do we teach students about Plagiarism? How could we use examples like what happened during Melania Trump's speech last night to help students understand what is Plagiarism and why they should care? What lessons can we all learn from the example of the speech?
Q6 PokemonGo - Chuck Taft - Bretzman Group
The Following is a post from Chuck Taft I received today as part of his work with the Bretzmann Group - a group of educators working to transform education. I thought it fit right into our discussion of current events as I have seen a multitude of whacky and wonderful experiences for those using Pokemon Go. I have downloaded the app and used it briefly, but by no means am an expert. However I have seen some great ways to implement into education.
Unless you have been in total media silence over the past few weeks, you obviously know about the latest phenomenon in mobile technology – Pokémon Go. It’s been on headline news, in entertainment, on traffic warning signs, and everywhere in between (including tech ed newsletters). People young and old are flooding locations to capture elusive Pikachus and train their monsters to power up and battle others ion locations in their community. While the debate about the app will continue, there is no question that it has become one of the most engaging technology platforms of recent memory. How popular is the game? In a very short time, it has become the biggest mobile game in history, with well over 20 million users.
Is there a way for educators to integrate the game into their classroom or utilize aspects of Pokémon Go to engage and challenge their students in critical thinking and collaboration? Let’s find out as we try to catch ‘em all!
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, Pokémon Go is based on the very popular Japanese media franchise that centers on fictional monsters called Pokémon, which humans try to capture, train, and battle against others. The franchise appears as comic books, video games, and a very popular trading card game. The Pokémon Go app combines the game with augmented reality and GPS technology, as players search for Pokémon in the real world and try to catch them in their mobile device through the camera function. Players then try to train their Pokémon and increase their power in order to battle against other Pokémon in locations across the nation and world. How popular is the game? In a very short time, it has become the biggest mobile game in history, with well over 20 million users. The official Pokémon Go website provides an excellent overview, and iMore provides a great guide to the game.
Educators have been chatting about the game since its release in early July. Where can this game fit into the curriculum? While Pokémon Go probably wont replace an entire unit of study or single lesson, there are some possible uses in and out of the classroom. The game utilizes a great deal of data, and students can develop data literacy skills as they collect, analyze and present statistics through different methods. The mapping and GPS technology offer a way for integrate geography skills as students walk around community areas and follow instructions using the compass, making decisions about location and routing. Students can construct a narrative or story about their Pokémon Go adventures, developing their storytelling skills. The app can also set the stage for discussion about digital citizenship, collaboration, and healthy competition. More ideas for classroom integration have been shared online lately. Teaching Ideas offers multiple ways to use Pokémon Go in the classroom, Kae Novak from ISTE compiled a variety of ideas about education and the game, and Education World comments on how the game is perfect for summer learning.
There are additional inherent aspects of the game that we can apply to our classrooms. The gamification concept of Pokémon Go is very engaging for participants, and students could be challenged to “collect” curriculum items such as vocabulary words, elements, or historical figures. They could rise in rank and gain additional powers and items. We all know that the thrill of the chase is a powerful motivator in and out of school. Movement is key to the game, so teachers can have their students go on quests (digital or not) to change the dynamic of a lesson or class. The use of augmented reality and GPS in Pokémon Go can be transferred to the classroom through other apps, including Aurasma, Chromville, and StarWalk.
Will Pokémon Go still be a craze when school starts up in the fall? Certainly, and Erin Oh from Common Sense offers some ideas for managing the use of the app in class. We can channel the positive components of the game to increase the critical and creative thinking of our students in an engaging manner. Let us know how you use the app (and other mobile games) in your classroom!
Question - Why is Pokemon Go such a phenomenon? What makes it so addictive to people? How can you utilize Pokemon Go or the elements of GPS, virtual field trips into your classroom? What can you use to create these experiences for your students?