The Graduate Manifesto of George Cassutto

Developing World History Modules

The major challenge before me as we started module development was my unfamiliarity with the World History II curriculum. My expertise had developed into US History and Government rather than World History. My area of specialty is the Holocaust, and Twentieth century World History was my area of concentration during my undergraduate studies, but I was unfamiliar with the scope of the SOLs in the area of World History from the Renaissance onward. During our early classes, I was assigned tot the World History II team, which had two other members. Only one of us was actively teaching World History II at the time. So for my partner and I, we had to face something of a learning curve both in the area of developing on-line modules, and in filling in the gaps in our World History knowledge.

I often find it true that one of the best ways to learn a topic is to teach it. In developing activities for the introductory Geography unit, the Discovery and Exploration unit, and the World War II unit, it was necessary to do the research on the content, locating adequate web resources, and then utilizing our creativity in developing compelling and interesting learning activities that could be assessed by mentors as they guided students through the on-line units. Each standard within the topic's SOLs receives at least one "background builder" activity so that there is no question that the SOL was covered in the student's work. More importantly, it is imperative that the student incorporate the basic elements of knowledge in respect to the components of the module into the culminating activity, known as the Challenge.

[I]t is imperative that the student incorporate the basic elements of knowledge in respect to the components of the module into the culminating activity, known as the Challenge.

One of our team members was already familiar with the COPLS structure, and she gave us insight as where our on-line course structures could be improved. This is where the major paradigm shift in on-line teaching and learning had to take place. The old structure of having kids conduct research using the traditional methods and having them place their projects on-line had to be suspended since there is no place for student publishing in the Virtual High School community. Rather, the mentor becomes the audience, which at first glance, seemed limiting to me. If the student's work reaches a high quality, it seemed only right to me that the students be able to share it with the  world. Instead, the student forwards work on to the mentor. It is the mentor who assesses and comments on the product, guiding the student to a better understanding of the topic. The mentor does not necessarily give answers to the student, but rather, in the true spirit of education, the mentor leads the student to an understanding of the topic. (Daloz, pg 244). 

Creating activities and questions that help the student build upon basic knowledge is step one. Then the mentor and the student work together to investigate the constellation of issues surrounding a given topic. The mentor resources of any given module may or may not contain answer keys to any activity, but they must provide the mentor with a set of guidelines whereby the understanding of student can be shaped and developed. The content of the work submitted by the student might be the central focus of discussion among other on-line students, but for the most part, student work is not created for general consumption.


 There is No "I" in Team