The question on the blackboard caused no real concern whatsoever; immediately students started to discuss what they were interested in learning about Modern Asia. I had one student record all of the ideas on the board. At first, it was a geographic tour with students naming countries we could study. After that we got some more thematic ideas. It was actually pretty easy. Once we had a board filled with ideas, I asked students to make a list – which of the proposed topics interested them and which did not. There was definitely overlap – looks like we will be investigating organized crime and Pol Pot as it first two topics.
The blank stares and silence came when I asked them how they want to learn. One student suggested watching documentaries. Another said research. Neither answer is completely satisfactory. This is the next frontier – helping students envision the different possibilities for learning and determining which might work best for the topic and what combination might produce the best learning. On the one hand, lesson planning is part of my job; on the other hand lifelong learners do not have teachers along for the ride planning their learning. This is the area where we will be working next – merging skills and content in meaningful and engaging ways. I want students to contribute to the how, not just the what. Next class, we will start talking about what qualities get someone on the worst dictators in history lists. Then, we will look at a slideshow of photos from Time about Pol Pot’s regime. Next we will compose a list of questions and then set about finding the answers. After that, we will see. Stay tuned.