Field Placement III
At my field placement the 8th grade girls have been spending each class working in the same group on a series of projects. It wasn't until this placement, however, that I realized the projects were all interrelated and revolved around the same core. The girls chose their own groups and decided on a research topic that interested them, then together conducted empirical research by surveying their group of subjects (i.e. classmates.) The girls first entered this data into Excel and then designed it into an aesthetic graph/visual representation. At my most recent placement, they used the "green room" in the back of the computer lab to record and present their findings.
Some data projects included: favorite Starbucks drinks; favorite vacation spot; which eyeshadow goes best with which complexion; favorite Broadway show. There's obviously a lot of socioeconomic dynamics at play here (i.e. the assumption that everyone in their sample group will have seen enough Broadway shows to have a favorite) and part of me just instinctively cringed a little when I saw these bright, developing girls with so many incredible resources at their disposal choose to talk about eyeshadow.
I originally wasn't sure how I felt about the value of teaching these girls Excel, etc, but now that I see it all fits in with a theme for the larger trimester it's easier to justify the excel unit.
On this particular day the girls were (as usual) quite rowdy as they “finished their projects” by spinning around on their chairs and online shopping. However, on this day it was imperative that the background noise be kept to a minimum because otherwise the girls would not be able to record their videos correctly. (Due to the classroom setup, groups had to record the videos one at a time.) Though Dr B asked them a number of times to keep their conversations to a whisper, this was of course difficult to implement, since I’ve never sat in on a class where it seems like she has a strong control over the class/students behavior. (She’s been such a kind and welcoming teacher for me, but the students definitely know that they can walk all over her.) At any rate, as one group was recording their video, the one of the girls in the other side of the classroom shrieked, thereby rendering the group’s “tape” unusable and making them start over again. It was an inconvenience because this was the class where they had to all finish their videos because there were only a few more classes left in the trimester. Dr. B left the “green room” and returned with the girl who had shrieked. The girl looked mortified and issued a truly moving, heartfelt apology to the other group (presumably at Dr. B’s encouragement). She apologized for causing their group any frustration and jeopardizing their final outcome. It seemed like she really did feel bad about her actions and I could tell it seemed to weigh on her for the rest of the class—she didn’t give Dr. B as much grief as the other girls and tried to cooperate more.
While it’s not directly related to technology, I thought this dynamic was worth highlighting. I’m not sure what the pros and cons of a teacher really intervening and encouraging a student to apologize to another peer are (especially because these girls are in the 8th grade). But this “education of the student’s moral fiber” rather than the “education of the student’s technological competency” is the first time I’ve ever seen a student really listen and respond carefully to Dr. B.
I’m not sure if this is because they feel that their emotions, grade dynamics, or personal, accountable personality and social habits have higher stakes than “just” a technology class or if it’s because it felt more personal in a way, but I thought it was worth dissecting further.