I'm off sick today so I thought I'd write about an idea I've been using in class recently.
The basic idea is which is more likely to help improve people's lives in the developing world; OLPC's laptop or the new Tata Nano.
1 Ask students if they have heard anything about either the the world's cheapest car or the $100 dollar laptop. Get students to stand up and circulate so that they can consult anyone in the class.
2 Elicit answers from the class - Write their points on the board.
3 If students have access to the internet get them to research the two choices - strict time limit of 10 minutes should help to concentrate minds. Also to avoid students just mindlessly repeating what Wiki, CNN or the BBC say, make sure they knew that at the end of the 10 minutes they won't be able to look at the computers again so they'll have to take notes.
4 Students get into groups of 2-4 and share what they've found out.
If students do not have access to the net then print out articles from here and here and do the same i.e 10 minutes to take notes then retrieve the photocopies.
5 Divide the class into two groups. Assign each group either the car or the laptop.
6 Each group has to think of as many reasons why their choice would make a greater difference to people in, say India, Nigeria or Bolivia than the other sides choice.
If you feel that this is beyond their realm of experience then use the following prompts to get them started;
How practical is it?
How can you make money with this?
How would it change a family's life?
What about the effects on the environment?
Who is going to use it?
7 Divide the students once again into groups of 2-4 and get them to argue their point.
8 Finally, ask students about their own personal opinion of these two choices.
This exercise could be used as the starting point for a number of activities;
A speech which could be videoed and put on the class blog/wiki via Youtube.
A Voicethread photoessay (in the style of a Magnum podcast).
A podcast or voice post using Snapvine.
Or they could discuss this issue with others across the world using Kantalk