During the short week leading up to Easter I decided to assign a lesson that tied into the recent Weekly Reader topic of the Titanic. I assigned each of my students to create a creative report on a disaster in history. With a rather ghoulish gusto, my students were reading up on the Great Peshtigo Fire (still the deadliest fire in history and only a few hours from us!), the 1918 Spanish influenza outbreak, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and the Dust Bowl.
And in typical fashion, my initial hopes were dashed when nearly each one decided to represent all that they had learned as a PowerPoint presentation. ARRG!
I like PowerPoint, but I think it is the diorama of our era, telling very little and only used because it is so easy to churn out. The biggest complaint I get from the higher grades is that, if given the choice, students always pick the easy way out and go for the PowerPoint. So I decided that enough was enough. No more PowerPoint. I pointed my students in the direction of this great site that had over 150 ideas for book reports. Before long. students were making board games (chutes and ladders in the triangle fire) news reports (on the San Francisco earthquake) and stop motion movies (on the dust bowl). A rap video was also made to describe Spanish influenza complete with a beat provided by Avairy Roc. Which led to this exchange:
“Mr. Briggs, what rhymes with pneumonia?”
“Hmm…Ammonia. Can you work ammonia in?”
“Sure! If you don’t want pneumonia, wash surfaces with ammonia!”
Technology can make life easier, but just because it allows production to happen at a faster rate does not mean it can increase understanding or encourage creativity. Sometimes it’s working within the rules that forces you to make the best of a bad situation and increase creativity.