Introduction to Black Studies

Activity Overview: 

The teacher utilizes the Iowa Communications Network to teach an Introduction to Black Studies class to students at Waterloo West High School, Moravia High School, and Waterloo East High School.

The students will review what they have learned so far in the Introduction to Black Studies course. This will help both the students and the teacher discover what information has been learned and what needs to be reinforced to promote better student understanding.

Students will gain historical knowledge and topical knowledge of Black studies to help them make decisions about what role they should play in society in regards to race relations.

The teacher utilizes the Iowa Communications Network to teach the class Introduction to Black Studies to students at Waterloo West High School, Moravia High School, and Waterloo East High School. 

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.) 

Procedures: Curriculum Standards

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators
Students review terms and concepts they have learned during the unit, so far. Social Studies: High School I, c, e, f; VI, a  Grades 9-12: 10
Students discuss a video they viewed and a newspaper article they read about racism and racial stereotypes. Social Studies: High School I, a, c; II, e; IV, a, b, c, e, f, g Grades 9-12: 10
Students discuss the historical importance of black intellectuals, and how perceptions of blacks have changed over time. Social Studies, High School I, a, d, f; II, a, b, c, d Grades 9-12: 10
Students are encouraged to consider the roots of racial stereotypes, and to consider ways to eliminate stereotypes. Social Studies: High School I, e, f, g; IV, a, b, c, e, f, g; VII, b; X, c Grades 9-12: 1, 2, 3, 4


Iowa Communications Network

The assessment tool that I use is fairly subjective. There is a lot of essay writing, two and three page papers, because my teaching style lends to that type of assessment. In addition, there is also a time lag working with students in different locations. This allows me to read their assignments and get them back to the students with quality feedback. In addition, because most of our curriculum is topical, essays allow the students to express their opinions and knowledge on these ideas very easily.

Ray Dial, Teacher and Administrative Assistant, Waterloo West High School, Waterloo, Iowa

This unit would take about seven days to complete. The activity we completed today is about halfway through that unit. We were looking at the 1960’s and 1970’s in terms of the Black power movement. We also skipped ahead to examine where we are now in America in terms of race relations. The students will need to write a comparison/contrast paper to see if what went on in the 60’s and 70’s with the Black Power Movement helped us to get where we are with race relations and where we want to go or if it was a hindrance. 

I have not taught this specific activity before, but I have previously taught this class. It’s always interesting to talk about stereotypes and watch as students realize that Black people have stereotypes just like white people have stereotypes. The students eventually feel comfortable talking about race relations and asking questions about these issues that are sometimes difficult to discuss.

The Iowa Communications Network, which is a fiber-optics that every public high school and many colleges and universities in Iowa are connected to, is what allows us to have access to other students. It assists me in teaching this course to a wide variety of students at multiple locations. We use PowerPoint software throughout the unit. We also use a lot of videos. It is nice to have so many large monitors because it allows every student to be close enough to a TV to have a clear picture. I will periodically stop videos we are watching to discuss what they show and talk about how that relates to what we are studying. 

Population: 68, 747 (Waterloo)
104, 892 (Waterloo/Cedar Falls Metro Area)

Profile of District Students: Waterloo, Iowa Community Schools
Total Enrollment         10,248
Minority                      32.1% 
White                          67.9% 
African-American        27.2% 
Asian                               1% 
Hispanic                      3.45% 
Native American          0.46% 
Free/Reduced Lunch    51.1% 
Special Education         15.5% 
ESL                               7.9% 
Title I (disadvantaged,   4.8%
based on socio-
economic needs)

Today’s teaching strategy was chosen because I needed to do a quick assessment and I didn’t want it to be a paper and pencil assessment. I wanted to hear from the students in their own words what they’ve learned and what they think about the issues we’ve been learning about. I wanted to be able to probe the students’ thoughts more as they answered discussion questions. We typically do not do a lot of small group discussions because there are some limitations with the technology to be able to get to each group and quickly refocus everyone and stay in control. So, usually if we are going to have a discussion like this, I lead and it and we all work together. This allows students from each site to participate.

(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

The students experience Active Involvement as they respond to a question I ask or to comments made by their classmates. I am working to encourage my students to respond to each other even more.

One of the advantages of this particular style of discussion is I can zoom in on one specific student and do quite a bit of follow up. I can rephrase the questions and give them many opportunities to express their ideas. This allows me to give all of my students Frequent Feedback

The students are beginning to see the relevance and the usefulness of our subject matter. They are using what they are learning about stereotyping in their everyday lives and now feel more comfortable talking about racial issues with their peers. This shows they are developing anAppreciation for the content of this class. 

Classroom Management in the ICN is a little more difficult than in a regular classroom. I am connected to a seven foot cord, so I cannot use proximity control with my students. Because I am broadcasting to many sites there are many little techniques that are not effective. Most of the refocusing and redirecting has to be very formal so the students at different sites know who I am talking to. Also, our building rules are different, so students at one site are allowed to behave a little differently than students at other sites. That makes it difficult to be consistent at times. I have set up certain guidelines, especially concerning how to properly use the equipment and the students respect those guidelines. I also walked the students through the operations of how to use the ICN early in the semester, so they understand how everything works and what is expected of them.

The students are different at each site. There are about four or five that are very vocal and comfortable speaking up. The students at Moravia and East High tend to be a little more quiet than the students at West High. The students at West High are probably the most vocal because I can see when they are understanding and into what is going on. I can call on them and ask them to share their thoughts with the rest of the class. 

This activity has changed tremendously during the past three years that I have used the ICN. At first, we wanted really strict and tight control. Students were not allowed to come late or leave the room once class had started. Eventually we realized we’re not on TV, we’re still teaching just like people do in every other classroom. Now I’m able to be a little less formal and have given the students a little more freedom with their movement. That has allowed me to choose different activities that involve discussions. I have learned how to be comfortable using wait time with students in different locations. They know I’m going to wait for someone to answer, so the students tend to speak up more and get involved.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology