My Technology & Civilization students studied Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. One student in particular really wowed me on his final exam. Here is his final exam project:

The school wikispace holds the complete Tech & Civ final assignment along with the rest of the class’ work.

This was the first time I’ve taught Technology & Civilization. My plan was to turn a high school computer technology class into a study of one of my favorite books. I chose Guns, Germs, and Steel for two main reasons: 1) there are plenty of available materials, including a documentary and 2) the globe and history-spanning scope could provide something of interest to nearly every student.

Along the way, students learned the following computer-y goodness (a partial list):

  • Getting to the point, tight editing, cutting the dissembling
  • Putting together short films with Windows Movie Maker
  • Posting to YouTube
  • Narrating pictures with VoiceThread to tell a story or teach
  • The importance of outlining first, writing second, then recording audio last
  • Wiki editing on Wikispaces
  • Collaborating on Google Documents

A Whole New Adventure

My next course will be based on A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. I’ve written about this idea twice before: My Whole New Mind and A New Kind of Great Books Course.

What did I learn from Guns, Germs and Steel?

  • Provide a copy of the text to each student that they keep after the course. Underlining and making notes are two ways to exert ownership and I want the students to own this material.
  • Go on more field trips. Tech & Civ ventured out only once — to buy foods made from some of the earliest domesticated crops at the local Trader Joe’s. It was a blast & I can be sure those students will remember just how old flax, millet, and spelt are.
  • Plan shorter assignments. My students respond better to 2-4 days per assignment/project rather than the 2-3 weeks I originally designed for.