Holocaust Wiki Project…so far

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I’m currently in the middle of a big project in my world history class. I thought I did a pretty good job “summing” it up there – especially considering the time of day. In addition to ranting and raving about various issues, I had hoped this blog would allow me to do some critical reflections on this and other lesson plans. When it is all said and done, I’ll be co-writing an article with one of my SDSU Ed Tech profs, Bernie Dodge.

So I’m going to have a discussion with myself here, please don’t be alarmed.

While the project isn’t officially due for a week, today was the last day I had the computer lab scheduled. The two classes doing the project spent eight one-hour periods in the lab. During that time they were to first create their background, research possible branches for their simulation, and then put their simulation into the Wiki. I tried to stick to the WebQuest model with a specific task and a process where all the needed links were provided.

Overall I am pleased with the progress. Some groups are doing great, some not so great, but that is to be expected. The classes have mixed abilities and, more importantly, mixed levels of motivation. I have seen a handful of kids who are usually not involved in the class or don’t do any work really get into the project. I have also seen other groups who I thought would do better waste their time in the lab. Only four of about thirty groups actually finished today, but after viewing their products I recommended a series of additions to increase their grade.

Hurdles

Complexity – One of the most difficult parts of the project has been trying to get the kids to wrap their head around it. I had them creating their branching simulation on paper (Inspiration would have been better) so they could visualize where they were and where they had been.

Historical Accuracy – Doing this project on the Holocaust is risky. This is a subject that cannot be taken lightly. I know that there are many out there who will criticize the topic. The project I did before this, the Children of the Holocaust WebQuest, stirred a spirited debate on a couple listservs a few years ago. However, I also believe that the students are more invested when they looking at the story of individuals, otherwise we get bogged down in facts and statistics. The students are being graded on historical accuracy so they are accountable.

Decisions vs. Results – Another core part of this project was having the decision points be about making choices. Many groups had a hard time differentiating between results and decisions. What I had to do is them to pretend they were going through their simulation, would they choose to be sent to a death camp? They might make a choice that results in their family being sent to a death camp, but who would choose that? Plus, many, if not most, did not know the true nature of those camps until it was too late.

Country Specific – One thing that is much different from my Children WebQuest (which is more generic) is that I wanted them to create the story from the perspective of a family from a specific country. I picked five countries, provided country specific topics and crossed my fingers. At this point in the project, I think this is probably the weakest link (no pun intended). What I am seeing thus far is not as specific as I had hoped.

The Wiki – After they finish laughing at the word Wiki – which occurs almost every time I say it, they get a confused look. When I equate it to Hotmail or MySpace or LiveJournal, then they perk up again. I provided them specific directions as to how to use the Wiki and how to link their pages together. Most groups got it and those who are having a hard time are also having a hard time with the project as a whole.

Enough for now. I blog about it again once it is done.

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