Learning about the African-American Civil Rights Movement recently took on a new twist at Spring Hill Middle (SHMS) and High Schools (SHHS). Thanks to 1-to-1 laptops and 21st Century technology and skills, students at the high school became the teachers for younger students, as they explored civil rights from the Civil War to 1992 in Los Angeles. In turn, the middle school students reviewed the materials and then took on the task of completing the timeline project to current day.
When SHHS teacher Nic Madelen planned to teach a civil rights unit to his junior classes, he changed up the plan from past years. Instead of lectures and note-taking, he asked his students to create interactive timelines that detailed nine key events from the Civil War to 1992. Not only were the students asked to research, analyze and detail the information but they were asked to present it in a way that could be shared with seventh and eighth grade SHMS students in the “We the People” history class. Each timeline had to include audio and video clips along with pictures, descriptions and even quiz questions.
“The scale and type of project would not have been possible previously but it is now, as each student has a MacBook Air,” said Madelen. “My goals were to take a long-standing assignment, change the dynamics and put students in charge of teaching other students. This type of exercise requires students to use higher thinking skills to create a product that can be shared with others, and it provides an opportunity for a different type of feedback.”
Student Lauren Pope agreed that this project format transformed the effort, saying, “Having to teach civil rights concepts to middle school students changed my perspective and made it a more in-depth effort. I really felt motivated knowing that seventh and eighth grade students would be learning from me.”
“The project format and web-based timeline made it interesting,” said Ellisa Bragaw, SHHS student. “I loved the medium and being able to insert video clips into the timeline. Being able to hear and see the clips made history a reality.”
The story doesn’t end with high school-created timelines being created. If fact, it is simply the cornerstone of shared learning and collaboration between SHHS and SHMS history students. This type of project came to life thanks to the shared vision of their teachers and also having the same technology, which creates a seamless process. Beyond learning more about key civil rights events between 1877 and 1992, the middle school students picked up where the older students left off and filled in major milestones related to racial issues in the United States until recent events in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore, Md.
“Many people think that racism has vanished in our country but it hasn’t,” said Meg Putnam, seventh grade student. “This project was a different and more interesting way to learn about civil rights issues. The use of audio and video clips makes it so much more real to us.”
“This project really made my students think about what is happening outside of our community and, even though society has made strides to better the issue of civil rights, we still have a long way to go,” said Jerry Hunsaker, SHMS history teacher. “I also think that collaborating with the high school classes drives my students to do their very best, as they know older kids will to see their work.”
Hunsaker continued, “There’s no doubt that the new technology in students’ hands has opened up so many more options as a teacher. It has simplified the ongoing quest to diversify the classroom in a way that was not possible with paper and pencil. As a history teacher, I know that I now have the ability to bring history to the students in a more interesting way.”
“I can now assign more relevant work to my students that includes current information about an issue with historical roots,” said Madelen. “In addition, working with the Macs offers students choices about how to use the tool. They can make mature decisions about what works for them related to their learning style.”