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Student Engagement Captivates Me

By Ivy Waite

Student engagement captivates me.

Why is it that certain elements of our culture are able to draw in our students so easily, while others are often ignored? How can teachers take advantage of those things that captivate to engage our students in the classroom? 

We can - if we are willing to think creatively.

During the first term of the school year I had the privilege of teaching the inaugural class of the World@War elective here at CSS. History, of warfare in particular, has always been a very popular topic among my students (mostly male). As a topic that I am also very passionate about, I decided to combine the demand for history with avid interest in popular media representations of the war to give rise to this completely independent, inquiry driven course.

Students were challenged to propose projects that had to be focused on a major conflict from recent human history (500 years), and had to include the following media types as resources:
• Documentary Film
• Period Film (from the time of the conflict, if possible)
• Feature Film
• Variety of online resources (full MLA works cited list required)
• Video Game (Call of Duty series, Battlefield, Minecraft, etc.)

Students worked in small groups (3-4) to determine the focus of their project, and to complete the proposal. It was up to students to decide what the guiding question of a project would be, and to focus on what their essential understandings would have to be in order to answer their question.

The trimester flew by. Every second day my room was filled with students watching films on their laptops with headphones, editing the footage from their own gameplay to use in their documentaries comparing the real Battle of Stalingrad with the campaign challenge from the game Call of Duty World at War, and pouring over research notes on the tactics used throughout the Korean War. Other students chose to take a different direction and looked at genocide in Rwanda, French Revolution, and the history of weaponry throughout the two world wars up to today.

The following video was created by one of my students whose excitement and demonstration of deep understanding were brought about by the possibility of bringing his love of gaming, and historical topics not covered in social studies (but on the History Channel and in Hollywood) into the classroom.

Battle of Stalingrad: Reality vs. Call of Duty World @ War

I was anxious to explore the idea of using popular media to engage students, and during the second term, I decided to again challenged my students to read and review five novel; however, after some serious thought about media literacy, and the realities of what media students are choosing to consume, I decided to allow them to review the campaign story from a video game that they were currently playing or planned to play. The results have been outstanding. Videos expertly pieced together using scenes from the game to support a mature critique of multiple aspects of the game have been entertaining and exceptionally well put together.

The following video is one example of the reviews that have been submitted thus far.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare Three Review

Exemplary learning truly does occur when we incorporate curriculum meaningfully and seek innovative ways to engage our students!!!

For more information on the place of gaming in the classroom, check out this page on my personal blog Creative Craniums: "Learn A Little: Articles to Chew On - Gaming in the 21st Century Classroom".

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Ivy, in sharing your story about the enthusiastic engagement of your students in this creative learning experience you demonstrate how you were as a teacher actively engaged as well, in the process. I believe the true measure of learning and teaching is the level of engagement of the students and the teacher. It was great to share the student video clip documentaries. I appreciate your reference to your personal blog which provides more examples of the place of gaming in the classroom. Garry McKinnon

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