"Little Rock Nine, Integration 0?" complements other Black History Month activities sponsored by Pacific Bell Education First. In addition, it makes the most of an interactive lesson provided by The Museum of Television & Radio to schools with ISDN-based videoconferencing. You may want to find out more about this program.
"Little Rock Nine, Integration 0?" is a type of class activity called a WebQuest, an inquiry-based activity that uses Internet resources, collaboration, and scaffolding to promote critical thinking. You can find out more about WebQuests at Bernie Dodge's The WebQuest Page or ozline.com's WebQuests for Learning site. Little Rock Nine breaks new ground in that the role and group phases more clearly lay out strategies for promoting the kind of transformation of knowledge that is the heart of a WebQuest.
Tips for Using this WebQuest
Many teachers are becoming increasingly versed in creating and using WebQuests. For those new to the strategy, your role as teacher is to act as coach, supporter, facilitator, and, as David Jonassen suggests, "perturber." As a learner-centered activity, helping students move through their own cognitive processes will keep most teachers busy. Emphasis should be placed on making connections among prior knowledge and new learning, on accenting process over making the one true product. Yet, because demonstrable learning is the goal of every classroom activity, a rubric has been supplied that teachers and students may use or modify as desired.
Ideas for Allocating TimeLittle Rock Nine, like most WebQuests, offers a framework that teachers and students should modify based on local factors such as curricular needs, time available, access to the Internet, reading ability, motivation, etc. These issues then determine the key variable: how to group students into roles.
On a continuum, one student could conceivably take on every role in a WebQuest and complete it working solo. While possible, this isn't optimal because part of a WebQuest's power is having students discuss and debate the answer to the central Question based upon their areas of expertise. New perspectives and unanticipated objections can create the cognitive "a-ha's" that make learning fun. Additionally, the time required for one student to complete a WebQuest would make it a semester-long independent study.
On the other end of the continuum, one whole class could take on only one role, then work collaboratively - via email or videoconferencing - with other classrooms adopting the other roles to complete the group solution. Because some students might fall through the cracks in terms of responsibility to their team, this also is probably not an ideal situation. But if a main goal is collaboration and time is limited, Little Rock Nine could probably be used by 3 - 6 classrooms of students over the course of a few days with quite compelling discussions.
The middle road, and perhaps the ideal, is to have students or pairs of students work from the perspective of each role. If the subject matter and reading levels are challenging, as is often the case when using Web-based materials, then pairs of students might lend needed support. An added benefit is that if one class divided itself into 3 - 6 whole groups (comprising each of the six roles), then multiple solutions would be created that could be compared, thus getting even more learning from the activity. From past experience, completing a WebQuest in this manner can take between 1 - 3 weeks depending on computer access, student experience and homework assignments.
In summary, choosing how to implement any WebQuest requires reflection on many factors as well as determining which key learning goals to promote: individual research and thinking? collaboration? appreciation of diversity? technology use? face-to-face skills? etc. Use the framework, keep the focus learning-centered, and explore the process as you go.
Special Note about "Transformation Builder" Forms
"Little Rock Nine, Integration 0?" uses a series of interactive forms called "Transformation Builders" to prompt higher level thinking during the role and group solution phases of the WebQuest. This is a new feature designed to make the cognitive tasks at these junctures more overt and scaffolded.
It's understood that no interactive form can replace a mind engaged in self-directed questioning, however, experience has shown that many students need an extra boost when it comes to completing critical thinking tasks. To this end, Transformation Builders and guidelines for choosing them were created. Explore the graphic below for a quick look.
It's assumed that a considerable front end investment is required to crest the learning curve involved in understanding the strategies, attaining a comfort level with the interface, and figuring successful ways to help your students master using the forms. However, we believe that if students can internalize these strategies, they will have some very powerful critical thinking skills under their own control. So we're thinking the investment might be worth it. Let us know.
Given this learning curve, the teacher's main role, again, is facilitation. The scaffold support pages are available to students, but most likely teachers will need to process the background information for each strategy to help students with the concepts. More examples and simplifying terminology for each audience will be needed because no online activity can hope to know how to connect and communicate with your students as well as you can.
Finally, a word should be said about the output of the Transformation Builder forms. A first try will probably generate something that seems hopelessly garbled and cryptic. Let students know the idea is to go back to the form repeatedly to smooth out the wording. Once the wording is clear, they can assess whether it expresses their thinking accurately. The purpose of the Transformation Builders is to jumpstart thinking and generate a first, not a final, draft. Students can save or print the contents of the small pop up window to polish it.
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