Course edtec 570: Advanced teaching with technologies

Artifact Senate Confirmation of a supreme court nominee TCL

At the time I created this tele-collaborative lesson (TCL) with Jason Barclay, Judge Sonia Sotomayor was going through the United States Senate confirmation process on her way to become a justice on the Supreme Court. As an AP US History teacher, Jason wanted to use this current event to teach his students about the process of confirming a Supreme Court justice. We thought this would fit very nicely as a tele-collaborative lesson due to the biases that are associated with different regions of the country.

The two main goals of this project were to,

  • Educate students about the Supreme Court confirmation process.
  • Create opportunities for students to explore the effects of regional and political bias on the confirmation process.

To achieve these goals, two AP US History classes from different parts of America would participate in VoiceThread discussions based on political cartoons, then research three essential questions with other students in their own class, and finally connect face-to-face with each other by taking part in a Skype debate about the essential questions.

VoiceThread is a web application that allows users to respond to media (and each other) by voice, by drawing pictures, or by typed messages. We chose to use this software to present students with political cartoons that satirized controversial aspects of Judge Sotomayor’s confirmation. Then we asked students to respond to the VoiceThread discussion by posting a statement, response, or question (SRQ) about the cartoon. This served as the students’ first ‘meeting’ with each other and as an exploration into the many views regarding the confirmation of Sotomayor.

The greatest strength of the World Wide Web is the vast amount of information it puts at your fingertips. We put this information to use by providing students with videos and articles that demonstrated the various viewpoints associated with Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings. Students would work with classmates to research the pros and cons of each essential question in preparation for the Skype debate with the other class. Finally, the classes connect using Skype and hold a debate about each essential question. This would provide students the opportunity to meet each other face-to-face and discuss the issues as they viewed them through their respective regional viewpoints.

Planning this project impressed upon me the importance of choosing media and applications appropriate to the goals of the task. We chose to use VoiceThread, internet research, and Skype because they helped students to learn about an important part of American government in a deeper way. Students were able to compare their research-based opinions with the informed opinions of students from a different part of the United States resulting in a rich, meaningful learning experience.