Thursday, February 12, 2009
Kicking the essay in the 21st century
I have a student who is a classic example of a brilliant learner who is ill served by traditional teaching methods. A mercurial but easily distracted mind capable of absorbing huge amounts of information but at the same time one which finds it hard to stick to the determinedly linear classroom process.
Of course, we are all bound by the system we are part of and this means that we have to prepare people for exams, teach skills which as essay writing and the like. However, this doesn't mean we don't have some say in the way we do this and I think that the following idea is a good example of how we can twist the demands of the curriculum into a different shape.
Basically, the idea is that we work on our essay writing skills in a more conventional way and then use the essay as the basis for something more meaningful i.e present our ideas and arguments in the form of a video. On the most unimaginative level this could involvs just reading it to camera (yawn, yawn) but I think that using clips from Youtube, pictures off the internet and editing applications such as Windows Movie Maker (if you own a PC you already have it) to turn it into a mini - documentary complete with voice over, quotes and text.
As you can imagine the possibilities are endless. I have already done this with my students and was pleasantly surprised by the imagination and sophistication employed to convey his message. Best of all, the exercise combines the intellectual rigour involved in discursive writing with opportunities for creativity and self - expression.