Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Let the Deception Begin!

     As a liar, I decided, lying should be more than just to reinforce the content, it should be a life lesson or reinforce a skill whenever possible. Early on I wanted to give them an important classroom and life lesson, so I decided to focus on the all important skill of research.
     My class, on the second day, was as anxious as a group of freshmen could be for a history course. To get the ball rolling I created a PPT with nothing but lies, which I ran in class and even elaborated on some of the points to make the material more believable. After the presentation I said to the class, “ when you go home, check out the information from the PPT making sure everything is kosher, then study because there will be a quiz tomorrow on this information.” Deep down, I had a hunch they would go home and not check any of the information (I was right). Think about it, why would they go home and check the information, they got the information from a teacher, right? He wouldn’t lie to us, right? Ultimately, why do more work considering the teacher said the quiz would be on this information? (their first mistake)
     The next day my class came in ready for their first quiz of the new semester, motivated to get off on the right foot academically. The quiz was 10 questions and they had 10 minutes to complete the quiz. At the end, I asked the students to exchange quizzes to grade them for quick feedback. I read the first question and answer, a couple of students immediately said, “But you said…” at which point I abruptly cut them off and asked them, “Please hold all questions until the end.” A look of bewilderment came across their faces and I continued. Question two, just light grumbling. Question three, heads looking back and forth at one another in disbelief. Question 4, the students cracking factious smiles, it is clear the smiles are meant to mask the anger of getting another question wrong. This continued until all 10 answers were read.
     Now it’s time to ask the extremely loaded question, “Any questions about the quiz?” With the hands up I called on one young lady who said, “Yesterday, you told us there would be a quiz on the notes and I answered all the questions based on the notes, but all of them are wrong…” I interjected with, “I told you to go home and check the information to make sure it was kosher and then study up because you will have a quiz on this tomorrow. If you checked the information you would have realized everything from the presentation was a lie with the exception of one point which wasn’t on the quiz. I told you on Monday that I am a liar! Yet despite that emission you believed everything in that PPT was true and didn’t check the information, did you? ” I explained to the students, “Just because I’m the teacher doesn’t mean I’m always right nor is what you read in your textbooks, hear on the news, etc. always right. As students and historians we need to be critical of this information. Historians need to be great researchers and at this moment I can safely say as a class you are great note takers but we have some work to do as historians.” After seeing the light of not doing their own research a student politely asked, “Is this quiz going to count?” and I answered, “of course it does!” (gotcha again!)

Research is important to being a historian and a citizen.(Always challenge what you hear or read, fact check constantly..) We will be bombarded with information in many different forms everyday, as historians and citizens it is our job to research and always seek the truth!

Next Post: The Next Day


Catherine said...

I had an interesting experience convincing a student (one of my best science students) that a website had false information in it. Finally, I located a link that revealed that the web page was actually an art project designed to fool the public with its convincing graphics and details. The student couldn't believe I was able to see the lie so easily. What you are doing is a very important lesson in today's world of information overload. We need to be very good at revealing the lies. Great idea, Jason!

Mr. Bennet said...

I'd love to see that website. Can you post a link to it?

Catherine said...

The website is http://www.genpets.com/index.php Really disturbing! Genetically engineered pets! The Snopes site explaining it is http://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/genpets.asp

Try following the links and you'll see how realistic the web site is.

jheiser said...

Thank you Catherine for sharing! As I liar I find students not only expect it but are becoming more comfortable with challenging me the "content area expert." Its been refreshing to get debate and discussion on these points rather than accepting what they hear is true.

Anonymous said...

To be clear, I want to preface what I'm about to say by saying that I have absolutely zero problem with your approach, practically or morally. It's creative and challenging, both hallmarks of great teaching.

Now, for my own part, I encourage my students to think critically and flexibly by telling them that, at best, I am always presenting them with only partial truths. Instead of rattling their cage with lies, I try to openly confront them with the convoluted, paradoxical nature of all the things we think we know.

Different paths to the same destination I hope, and I also hope that I am being as successful as it sounds you are.

Thanks for the thought-provoking post!