A new student project.

I was out sick the other day.

That’s not entirely accurate. I was home with a sick child, which is slightly different.

And, as is usually the case when that happens, I emailed my student the plans they needed for the day. I’m a big fan of that, by the way, as it eliminates the uncertainty of what a Sub might do. But I digress.

I sent the following text to my students:

English: Papers were due last night at 11:59. I’ll start looking at those shortly. In the meantime, you should have already read to the end of chapter 5 in TKAM. In class today, I’d like you to create a map of Scout’s neighborhood in Maycomb. You’ll need to do this in groups not larger than three, and you’ll need to do it digitally. I’ll leave the specifics of what you use up to you, but I do have a few other constraints:
1. Every item must be labeled.
2. Every item must have a page number where the quote describing it’s location exists
3. You must have a minimum of 20 items on your map.
I look forward to seeing these tomorrow. For homework, you’ll need to have read chapters 6 & 7.

I come from a pencil-and-paper era, so I had thoughts about students producing stuff that was analogous to that. I was thinking I’d get a stack of PDF’s emailed to me, and that’d be the end of it.

It wasn’t.

I got a few PDF’s and the like- drawings done digitally. What I expected. But by leaving the door open the way I did, I also go a few surprises. Two, in particular, were very interesting:

1. A small group of students built a Google Sketchup file that was a 3d model of how they saw the town of Maycomb.


2. A small group of students used the Eden World Creator app to build a Minecraft world of Maycomb.

I was, to say the least, blown away. The willingness and thoughtfulness my students displayed in choosing alternative means by which to fullfil the requirements of the assignment warms my heart for the following reason: They were willing to take the risk involved.

The students that chose “safer” methods have, I suspect, been trained to take the least amount of risk in order to maximize the payoff in school. It’s a reasonable technique that leads to (usually) reasonable results, but in my experience seldom leads to wild success. The willingness to risk can (and often does) lead to failure (of some sort), but with it comes the possibility- the slightest chance- of true greatness.

I guess I’m proud that I got some really good work. And I guess I’m even more proud that to whatever small degree I’ve not completely obliterated my student’s willingness to take risks in the classroom.


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