What motivates us to do good?

This was what I posted on the blog for my Contemporary World Issues class today. I decided to share it here, too. Have you been thinking of essential questions to do with our reaction to the devastation in Haiti? Have you been talking about this with your students?

I have been addicted to the Haiti earthquake relief efforts. I spent much of the weekend reading news updates, blog updates, facebook group statuses, and listening to radio shows about how the world is reacting to what is happening in Haiti.

Countries, organizations, and individuals around the world are reaching out, to help in any way. A question that comes to mind for me is…

What motivates us to do good in the face of tragedy?

Some of the documents that triggered this question for me were the following:

A family’s wait for news from Haiti – I heard about this story in an interview on CBC this morning. I asked myself what motivated the journalist to help? Does it matter?

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Donate $1 Million to Doctors Without Borders – Angelina Jolie said, “It is incredibly horrible to see a catastrophe of this size hit a people who have been suffering from extreme poverty, violence and unrest for so many decades,” If that is the case, why did it have to take an earthquake to inspire the donation?

B.C. students in Haiti arrive in Canada – Are Canadians helping Canadians in Haiti first? Is that why the Canadian government is sending help?

Wyclef Jean and Yele Haiti – The website of Wyclef Jean’s Haiti Relief organization.

Here is a video of Wyclef Jean defending himself and his organization in the face of accusations of misconduct. I found it via this page at npr.

Here are some other resources:

Disaster in Haiti – CBC full coverage

Haiti Earthquake 2010 – New York Times coverage

Satellite images help focus Haiti earthquake relief

Haiti Earthquake – Day 5: Reporting with a camera

What do you think?

For those who are interested, this is what I’ve asked my students to do. It was a last minute, put together kind of assignment. I’ve put our current work in Contemporary World Issues on hold so as to focus on the events unfolding around the world in response to the earthquake in Haiti.

Start alone – Write a quick comment to our class blog with your gut reaction to the question, What motivates us to do good in the face of tragedy?

Branch out – Explore the question in your research groups. Start with these documents and then find your own. Your group will need to:

Document your resources – this means include links to any and all articles/images/video/audio etc… that you use in your research.

Your group needs to come up with a new question that springs from the research you do about this question. Sound complicated? Don’t worry you’ll figure it out :)

Present your research and your new question in an innovative way. Some ideas are:

webpageshortText is easy to use though less flexible than something like a wiki, which is easier for all group members to access. PBWorks is free for educational use and super easy to get started.

Video – you can decide how to present your ideas via video. If you choose this option you must include your resource list separately.

If you have another idea, clear it with me but please note that I will not allow PowerPoint for these research projects. Time to think outside the PowerPoint box!

Is lecture a 4-letter word? Following up a year later

Today I received a comment from Miss Teacha on a post I published almost a year ago called Is ‘lecture’ a 4-letter word? She continues our love-hate relationship conversation about lecture. I started to write my reply as a comment and then decided to post it as its own post. So here it is.

Thanks for following up on this conversation, Miss Teacha! I think the mark of a successful lecture is when you need to calm the class down, when you need to redirect their energy. Lecture is not merely a content delivery system, though it can be and often has the reputation of being solely that.

I no longer teach economics. The required course for Grade 11 has been changed to Contemporary World Issues beginning this year. It’s a course based on themes rather than specific content and I am in the middle of a section on the themes of tension and conflict using information from different areas of the world – Monks protesting in Burma; Seal Hunters in Nunavut, the Maritime provinces, and Quebec; living in the Gaza strip; living in Sri Lanka… *** (see below)

There is SO much content that if I lectured it all they would never get to the juicy stuff of developing their own definitions of tension and conflict or debating different intervention strategies. So I give them articles, music, video to read, listen to, view, and talk about in small groups. They check their understanding with me during group and class discussions – sometimes I point them to the computers for background research and sometimes I give them the background (and sometimes I even let them know that I don’t know the background very well and we research it together).

When I give them the background it may be done as a whole class exercise, where I stop activity and give background to the entire class, or to individual groups, depending on the need. If only 1 group isn’t getting something, why make others who do get it stop what they are doing?

I am finding that this kind of lecture is effective because the students see the need for it. The lecture happens because they have asked for it and not because a) it’s easier for me or b) it’s what I think they should learn. They often interrupt in order to ask questions and link what I am saying to their articles or videos or songs or however it is they are gathering their information.

So, again, lecture does not have to be a 4-letter word. Thanks to Miss Teach for following up on this conversation.

***I am lucky that this unit (we call them Learning Evaluation Situations (LES) in Quebec) has been developed for the course by a Quebec English schools support centre. It is the only teaching material for this course that has been made available to us in English so far, beyond the curricular guidelines (basically the competencies (like standards) and their descriptors). Apparently there is a textbook that is being published in sections but I have yet to see it.