Explorers of the Caribbean: a 21st Century Lesson Plan

One thing that I like about my CEP 810 class is that rather than focusing on any one technology that “every teacher must use” (that will as likely as not be obsolete in another five years), we are identifying the overarching principles that make students effective technology users. In her book Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom (2011), Renee Hobbs identifies five of these “core competencies” as the skills to access, analyze, create, reflect, and act. 

With these competencies in mind, I designed a project for my Spanish 3 students that would stretch their (and my!) limits of knowledge, language and technology use: my students would research, write, design and share an infographic (using Piktochart) about the Spanish-speaking Caribbean – in Spanish, of course.

 

Here are the materials that I used:

And here is an example of the final product!

Infographic Example - La esclavitud hatiana
This one is actually my example, since I don’t want to share my students’ work without permission, but they did a great job!

 

This project required four class days, but the time was well spent in giving my students the opportunity to develop as explorers and producers. Besides, as Bransford, Brown and Cocking suggest in How people learn: Brain, mind, experience and school…learning cannot be rushed; the complex cognitive activity of information integration requires time.” (Bransford, Brown and Cocking, 2000, p. 58). 

More importantly, how well did this project address Hobbs’ core competencies?

  1. Access. Students researched their topic online, guided by the open-ended questions who?, what?, where?, when? and why? 
  2. Analyze. Students analyzed and synthesized the most reliable and relevant information for their audience.
  3. Create. Students created infographics using Piktochart.com, complete with text and pictures.
  4. Reflect. Students reflected on what made some web tools better for our purpose than others (wordreference.com vs. Google Translate, Wikipedia vs. academic sources, etc) and how to use them most effectively.
  5. Act. Students shared and responded to one another’s infographics in writing and in conversation.

As a 21st century teacher, I was pleased that this project pushed my students to develop as digital learners and producers. As a language teacher, I was pleased that this project pushed my students to express original ideas in Spanish, and to better use language technology tools to do so. And as a history nerd, I loved seeing my students engage with new perspectives and learn about cool things! While there are still a few bumps that could be smoothed out (How can I have them comment on others’ work online and hold them accountable for it? How can I have them reliably access and turn in documents digitally rather than on paper?), both my students and I really enjoyed this opportunity to explore the Spanish-speaking Caribbean.

 

References

Bransford, J.D., Brown , A.L., & Cocking, R.R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

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