Sunday, March 20, 2011

Debate Brackets

 This lesson was inspired by the New Times lesson plan March Madness: Using Tournament Brackets to Debate Academic Questions and the academic debate game Point-Counterpoint.  The object of the lesson is to get learners to understand the value and defend-ability of the evidence that supports the main idea of a debate topic or the thesis of a persuasive essay.  The graphic to the left is used to create a graphic representation of the different pieces of evidence in a pro vs. con strategy.  The activity takes place in two parts.  First a round of Point-Counterpoint is used to create the outside brackets.  Afterward, learners break into small groups to challenge the validity of the individual ideas.  As ideas are eliminated the brackets are narrowed until two standout concepts emerge as the most defendable topics. Small groups combine as topics are eliminated until two teams are formed.


The Point-Counterpoint game is a simple conversation game played in pairs, small group, or whole class settings.  A simple statement is made that involves one perspective of an argument.  Example: "Students should be allowed to use mobile devices in schools."  In a whole group format the instructor makes the initial statement then choses one learner to give the counterpoint statement.  Each counterpoint must be supported by a piece of evidence and must, as counterpoint, oppose the previous statement.  When the counterpoint is made ie; "Students should not be allowed to use mobile devices, because they will spend time texting instead of focusing on the appropriate task." the learner that follows must make a point that counteracts the statement previously explained.  Following this example each person makes a point or counterpoint that is either connected to the topic or one of the evidence strands that emerges through the game.  Think of it as a face to face forum discussion with each person making a post in real time.  
There are a couple of simple procedural rules that need to be followed to make the game effective.  Before you begin count of within the group so that everyone knows in advance which side of the argument they will be on.  Try to start with a different person every time you play so that each learner can develop the skills necessary for arguing either side.  Vary the topic statements each time you play.  Once the game starts no one is allowed to repeat a previous point except to disprove it.  Finally do not skip anyone.  It will force everyone else to have to change sides.  If someone is truly stuck they may be helped by someone who has already made their point but they must whisper it to the player in trouble who must state it out loud.

Playing with Brackets:

If the game is being played in combination with the bracket system then the debate points are recorded on the PRO or CON sides of the bracket accordingly.  Multiple brackets can be added to the system to accommodate the number of learners in the room.  If there are less than sixteen players then the point-counterpoint must be circled around until the all of the outer brackets are filled.  All points should be recorded onto the bracket regardless without assessment at first, unless the group feels that a point is successfully disproven by a counterpoint during the initial faze of the game.  Once the outer brackets are full learners should be broken up into teams of three to four.  Two people argue for each bracket while the third and/or four players judge the short debate.  Example:  If texting and reading email were bracketed together on the CON side of the bracket above the debaters argue to see which is a more defendable reason to appose mobile devise use for students.  The judges make a mark every time they here a valid statement that supports the debaters claim.  Which ever argument scores highest moves on to the next round.  (the losing topic is not necessarily eliminated any good evidence for the losing topic that works well can be absorbed into the winners argument for the next round.)
 Depending on the level of learners this game can take anywhere from 60 minutes to several hours but it is definitely worth playing.  It can be used to prepare for a debate or as a brainstorming session for persuasive writing or as part of presentation design.  Try it yourself and see how much fun a good argument can be.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Ignite" Engagement in the Classroom

I love the "Ignite" presentation model but unfortunately many of the ignite videos are not intended for classroom use.  However,  it is a wonderful tool for teaching learners to use problem solving.  The funny thing is that the problem is inverse from that of adults using the same framework. If your not familiar with Ignite its fairly simple the speaker gets five minutes and slides are set on an automatic timer  so 20 slides change every fifteen seconds for adults the challenge comes from limiting what you have to say to the time limit.  When students use ignite it can be very interesting. Any gaps in there research or ability become very clear.  Any flaws in planning or preparation become clear as long as students practice beforehand.  The learners in my classroom like it when I use it because they know that I have a time limit and the I won't be able to infringe on their work time.

View more presentations from historyman8

Because this was designed for the Ignite framework and I have not had the chance to record it as audio or video I am simply posting my note  below per slide.

Slide 1 About eighteen months ago I took a hard look at the methods that I was using when presenting information to my classes.  I wasn't happy with the way they presented and I was board with what I was doing.  What I found very quickly was a couple of new tools: Google reader and RSS feeds, and through them I realized that the professional world was screaming for a change.  

 Slide 2 It seems that entirely too many young professionals are presenting like this.  How many of you have seen this slide or one like it.  This  is the typical slide created by a student for any type of presentation. 

Slide 3 The problem is that they aren't competing for resources and jobs with people in the same town any more they’re competing globally. So to combat this we built 21st century classrooms. 

Slide 4 And we filled our IWBs with slides like this and then we stand back and wonder why our students give boring presentations. We modeled the behavior over and over until it has become ingrained. 

Slide 5 This is the diagram of a 21st century classroom. Except that it is not a 21st century classroom. It completely lacks one crucial element

Slide 6 This is a 21st century classroom.  You as learning leader and your students as learning team or teams must interact through this technology before we can begin to call it 21st century learning.  As learning leader your job is to facilitate learning activities, not to give away random facts disguised as knowledge. 

Slide 7 All of technology in the world is not going to make students succeed. They need to be trained on the best way to use it.  This goes beyond the computer science teacher. Just as students need to learn how to read in each specialists content area, they need to learn to manipulate and output the information.  

Slide 8 Students need to learn how to problem solve through relevant projects  and display their solutions both as a group and as an individual. 

Slide 9 This is MIT’s teaching and learning lab. The last entry says it all “lifelong kindergarten” Special thanks to Chris Lehman for pointing this out and for suggesting that all classrooms need to be transformed into something better.  

Slide 10 Otherwise, we are creating these barren learning-scapes that we hated when we were their age.  Every leader needs to look back at the way the were taught and not say “It was good enough for me.”  Instead leaders need to change the way learning is done. 

Slide 11 Forget about working inside the box. Forget about thinking outside the box.  Its time to repurpose the box.  Turn it into what you and the members of your learning team need.  Make it work the way that you need it to. 

Slide 12 This is not re-purposing the box.  This is an example of presentation overload. This image actually appeared as part of the US military planning for the conflict in Afghanistan. 

Slide 13 Visual thinking accesses the most basic and largest pathways of the brain.  Yet most educators confuse visual thinking with reading. Letters and words may be based upon images but reading adds complex decoding that is necessary but not the fastest or most efficient method of information transmission.  

Slide 14 There is a difference between the verbal and visual pathways of the brain.  Think of the verbal pathway as a two lane road with information going in and out.  The visual pathway would by comparison, be a superhighway that standard instruction does not effectively utilize. (Slide provided by Sunni Brown)

Slide 15 The typical presentation does not create engagement.  They are to long and use so many bullet points that the end result is an audience that is turned off.  The typical PowerPoint presentation is not designed to be an exploration of learning.   

Slide 16 This is not just a US education problem.  A quick scan of reveals that this is a pandemic.  In order to stop it a movement must be created at the primary and secondary levels.

Slide 17 Learning leaders need to re evaluate how they measure success. Test and quizzes evaluate memorization not learning. Projects evaluate learning, and presentations based upon those projects reveal honestly acquired knowledge.

Slide 18 Hands on Learning allows students to manipulate information and increases retention and cognition 

Slide 19 When students collaborate their ideas expand.

Slide 20 So this is my drop in the educational ocean.  What are you going to do.

How to Prepare for a Presentation

I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to speak at the North Carolina State Middle School Conference on the 14th of March.  The conference is working as paperless as possible so I am going to use  this space to paste the presentation notes and slides over the next couple of days.  This is good because it will give me a chance to fill in any gaps and to repost some of the best resources as well as adding new ideas from the conference itself.

After you finish your research, the first step in presenting in Mr. Freeman's class is to plan out what you’re going to present and how you’re going to do it. There are many ways to present. You could use PowerPoint, ActivInspire, Prezi, Google Presentation, or other media. Don't wait until the night before it’s due.

Rule number one is 1 idea equals 1 slide. If you put too many ideas on the same page or slide the audience, that’s everyone watching you present, will get confused and stop paying attention.

Before you sit down at the computer and try to make your presentation plan it out. Use sticky notes to write or draw your ideas. Remember 1 idea 1 note. If the ideas too big to fit on the sticky note in marker it’s too big for your slide.

Time and space are important. Ask Mr. Freeman how much time you will have and how many slides you’re allowed to use before you start. You can explain anything in ten slides. It shouldn't take more than twenty minutes, and if you use small font the people in the back can't read the information.

Never copy and paste information. If you do it is plagiarism and that will never be tolerated in Mr. Freeman's class. Your audience wants to know what you know.

Bright colors are offensive to the eye. Don't use them like this.

The human brain reads images faster than words. When you're presenting let the picture be the backdrop for your story, but use the whole screen.

If you have more than 75 words on a page it is a document which should be printed and handed out. People learn faster through images to show them exactly what you mean. If you still need them to read give them the document separately.

Practice at home or with friends before you present. Don't be afraid to get your audience involved. They will learn more about what you're trying to teach them if they are engaged in the action. Ask them questions; just make sure you know the answers. Ask simple questions first and space them throughout your presentation.
You should know all of the information that you're presenting. Face your audience as much as possible. If you turn around the audience will think that you don't know and then they won't care.