Catfish Debate

virtual impersonationA few weeks ago, my GSU eLearning environment professor assigned a “Virtual Impersonation Debate.” Today, Tuesday, March 8 is the day of the debate, and I’m pretty excited and a little nervous. My team has been researching furiously, and I’m currently working on my best John B. King impression for the synchronous session. I’d love to try it with my own students; there’s very little set-up for the teacher, and students do most of the work.

Virtual Impersonation Assignment:

Debate X topic from the point of view of your group’s character. One person in each group will take the role of the person. During the debate, the other group members will feed that person information and ideas via private messaging. The spokesperson will log-in as the character, and the goal is that an outside observer would believe that these people are actually addressing the class about the topic.

Here’s the details:

Teacher Set-up

  • Pick a debatable and current topic
  • Pick people (alive, dead, fictional, there’s no limit as long as students can find information about how that person would argue that topic)
    • Good example: 1984’s Winston Smith, Sherlock Holmes, Lisbeth Salander, and Atticus Finch debate whether Apple should comply with the FBI’s request unlock the phone
  • Assign students to groups
  • Make a planning document to help students with the following:
    • Who is playing the role?
    • Common log-in name for supporting group members
    • Five bullet points outlining the character’s position
    • Three annotated links to support the position
    • Brief outline of opening and closing statements
  • Depending on the class and the students’ needs, the teacher may also provide one or two common links, articles, or resources to provide background on the debate topic

The Assignment Requirements

  • The spokesperson must argue from that character’s position
  • Two minute opening statement
  • One minute closing statement

What students must do

  • Research the person’s history, past achievements, past written material and speeches to determine his or her position on the topic
  • Research the topic in depth to not only understand it, but also to discover what parts of that topic connect with the person’s own concerns
  • Find and annotate articles
  • Give a speech

This list seems simple, but beneath there is plenty of higher order thinking skills going on:

  • Students must analyze research
  • Craft a persuasive argument
  • Determine which facts the person would know and use during the debate
  • Actively participate in the debate
  • Collaborate and plan outside of class
  • Research the other people/characters to anticipate arguments and allies

The trick to making this succeed is creating good groups and holding high expectations for students to collaborate on their own time.

That being said, I’m going to spend the next hour reviewing my notes, and probably rewriting my notes on notecards. I suspect, however, that during tonight’s Virtual Impersonation Debate, I will only use a fraction of the wealth of information we as a group have studied.

Big win for my professors.

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One Response to Catfish Debate

  1. Pingback: Debate Debrief and Results | Kinetic ED

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