All the kids came back! Well to be fair their parents had paid tuition and they all had their own reasons for being present. We spent less time going over technologies and more time on content. We even had our first discussion. My one student who was connecting from Missouri had some internet problems at his end but I will follow up with him today on the phone (he left his cell phone at home).
We spent most of the morning considering the lead up to writing the US Constitution. A short video reviewing the issues in the years following the American Revolution led into an examination of the three main plans brought to the Pennsylvania Convention. In small groups students compared the features of the plan and then began to examine the Constitution. The students quickly realized that this work --their first assignment-- was going to be bigger than they could complete before we went our separate ways at noon. I helped the groups discuss strategies for working together. While not every student knew about google docs, by the end every group agreed to use it to complete their work. Beyond that two groups set up cell phone dates, two others (including the boy without his phone) agreed to use Facebook's chat feature. Nothing earth shattering here except that for 5 of the students using Facebook for school was a new concept!
So why start with the Constitution when the focus this first week is the time from the French and Indian War through to the War of 1812? The Constitution creates an important pivot in history. Students can follow threads from it back in time and make connections forward. The documents surrounding it, Madison's notes, the Federalist Papers, writings from the Federalist and Anti-Federalist are challenging. I wanted to be physically present to work with students and assess their ability to handle some of the most challenging documents we will approach together. Now I have a sense of my students strengths, weaknesses and strategies for handling challenge. I know who is going to fly, just need encouragement and directional pushes from me, who is going to need a fairly supported and scaffold-ed approach and who is somewhere in between.
Before we broke up for the day we discussed the challenges they felt they would face going forward. I asked them to be very aware this week as they work through the readings, forum and wiki to consider their own learning style and what they will need to create meaning for themselves for this first 50 years we are covering.
Our next collected meeting will be in Adobe Connect next Thursday. Until then they meet asynchronously. I will be checking in via SKYPE with each of them before then.