Thursday, April 14, 2011

Using Prezi for Civil Rights Timelines

Background: I’ve always felt uncomfortable covering the Civil Rights Movement as a cohesive, singular movement that was distinct enough to be in its own unit. The reality is that the movement that took place in the 1950’s and 1960’s is so well-embedded throughout our entire modern American History course. For this reason, I developed a timeline assignment where I asked students to pick a start and end date, and then ten important events to go on a timeline of the struggle for the civil rights of African Americans. I always found it interesting to see what events students picked out. Lastly, I asked them to pick one event, do a bit of research and then analyze its impact on the “Civil Rights Movement” as a whole. Still, my focus in this unit was previously just on the civil rights of African Americans.

Changes to my instruction from TAH: After listening to Dr. Keyssar’s lecture at a TAH seminar last year (fall 2009) I began to consider the idea of a constant struggle for voting rights that has no clear ending or beginning. This idea translated to my teaching of the Civil Rights Movement. Last year I asked students to define the idea of civil rights and then based upon their definitions, create their timelines. We discussed “unalienable rights,” rights mentioned in the Bill of Rights and even health care as a possible civil right. I also created a Photostory that presented broad ideas about the fight for civil rights in our country. We watched the Photostory and then had a lively class discussion. Thus, the timelines my students created last school year where not just of civil rights for African Americans. Some students included women, workers, Native Americans, disabled people, and gay couples.

This year’s lesson: I found my changes in instruction last year to be very effective in engaging students in the Civil Rights Movement unit. I knew I wanted to keep those changes and the timeline assignment as I was heading into the unit this year. After attending the TAH technology seminar (winter 2011) I was anxious to try out the use of Prezi in my classroom and realized I could possible do it with my timeline assignment. The problem is, as I’m sure many of you can relate to, is that I didn’t really have time to teach my students how to learn a new type of software during class time. Our school is really focusing on the idea of creating 21 Century Thinkers who “are capable of living and working in a global society.” (Wilmington High School Mission Statement) Keeping that in mind, I decided to challenge my students to learn how to use Prezi on their own. I left it open as an option so they could create their timelines on paper or online through Prezi. The “carrot” was getting extra credit for using Prezi with the stipulation that they learned in completely on their own. They could ask for help before or after school but not during class time. I felt comfortable doing this because using Prezi was only an option and they would be rewarded with extra credit for taking on this challenge. I also created a sample and showed them it in class so they could get a sense of what it was and what I was looking for.

Results: Of my 42 students in two classes, 38 of them chose the Prezi option. Of those 38, only one of them came outside of class for extra help. I did give them one class period to work on it and I showed them how to make their Prezi public and get the link, but otherwise, I let them work and monitored it, but did not help them learn how to use the software. They did not seem to have any issues and found it easy to work with. My students posted their links on a google doc so they could access each others and we did view some of them in class. Unfortunately, I did not have enough time class time to do formal presentations.

Reflection: I was amazed at my student’s work. When we pulled up their presentations in class, a lot of the questions were about how they used certain features of Prezi. Most of them were able to learn the software better than I had! As for the content, I was surprised at how many of them focused on Gay Civil Rights. WHS has a Gay-Straight Alliance and many students took part in Day of Silence Project for LGBT awareness. I think there might be a correlation with the efforts of our GSA as well as increased national media attention to this issue. Our students are definitely becoming more aware of the struggles of our LGBT population. I do have some ideas for improvement for next year’s lesson. First, my students were asked to write an analysis of one of the events on the timeline. Not all of them put the paragraph on the Prezi which is what I wanted them to do. I also want to emphasize that Prezi does not have spell-check (to my knowledge) so I would recommend my students write their paragraph in a word program and then copy/paste or (and even more practical in my opinion!) proofread their work carefully. There were lots of typos in their work. I think there could be some differentiated instruction of this assignment. For lower level students or students that need more structure you could assign them a focus (ie. African Americans, women, Native Americans) and have their paragraphs be a description of the event. For higher level students, you could challenge them in their analysis to link the event they are focusing on to two other events on the timeline. Some of my students did that on their own, but I think I may make that part of next year’s assignment. Lastly, I would love to have enough class time to view all student work. My students were very excited to show off their work and I do believe it is a worthwhile endeavor.

Connection to National Historical Thinking Standards:

Standard 1: Chronological Thinking

A. Distinguish between past, present, and future time. B. Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story. C. Establish temporal order in constructing historical narratives of their own. D. Measure and calculate calendar time. E. Interpret data presented in time lines and create time lines. F. Reconstruct patterns of historical succession and duration; explain historical continuity and change. G. Compare alternative models for periodization.

Standard 5 : Historical Issues-Analysis and Decision-Making A. Identify issues and problems in the past.

Click here to view Prezi’s that resulted from this assignment.

Below is the Photostory used in class

1 comment:

  1. Tracey:
    I'm glad to read that your students were able to learn Prezi on their own. Maybe I can offer it as an option in the future. I had a small group ask me if they could use it for a formal presentation project on the Reconstruction Era a few weeks ago. It went great, but they had learned the tool previously in another class. It is nice to be reminded, however, that many of our students (not all, but many) are perfectly capable of teaching themselves and each other.

    Nice work!