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Creating an effective and provocative Pecha Kucha

As part of doing inquiry work with young people, it is important that you, yourself as a teacher, have had experience doing the kind of authentic tasks you ask of your students. This shift in thinking about the nature and purpose of education calls for a redefinition of commonly-used terms in educational discourse. For instance, rigour is most often understood as imparting more sophisticated information to students. However, for Rosenstock (2011), principal of High Tech High, a school devoted to authentic discipline-based inquiry, rigour involves “being in the company of a passionate adult who is rigorously pursing inquiry in the area of their subject matter and is inviting students along as peers in that discourse” (2011). The key distinction is between learning about a field of inquiry and taking on the ways of knowing of the field of inquiry. Rosenstock wants kids “behaving like an actress, scientist, documentary filmmaker, like a journalist. Not just studying it but being like it” (2011).

In assigning the Pecha Kucha assignment I wanted you to engage as a teacher scholar in an area of inquiry that needs addressing within the Social Studies teaching profession in Alberta. By assigning the Pecha Kucha format I sought manageable "enabling constraints" that integrated technology in a way where you could hopefully deeply and in a sophisticated fashion respond to the inquiry question you chose to pursue.

In order to model this process and hold up my own work to scrutiny I have written a Pecha Kucha script. As you are reading it consider, based on the criteria we created together (which I have worked with a bit), how I could enhance my presentation. Before doing this, however, let's look at  some things to think about as you enhance your own script. 

As we developed our assessment criteria is as follows:

Insightfulness of ideas

-The presentation explores original and insightful ideas in response to your research question reflecting current research in the field.

How to achieve success: Draw on research and literature in the field reflecting the insights of people who have been thinking about these questions for a long time.

Avoid predictable ideas that are obvious and would require no research or deep thought. Your ideas should be original and insightful not banal and commonplace.

Exploration of inquiry question:

-The presentation demonstrates an extremely deep and original exploration of the topic with a profoundly thoughtful engagement with the research question.

How to achieve success: Ensure to explain and define key terms drawing on scholars and researchers in the field. Use sentence frames like: According to citizenship expert David Smith goal-based education refers to “quote from his work.”

Avoid introducing an idea like authentic assessment or goal-based education without clearly defining and explaining what this means. Focus on taking up three ideas rather than taking on a whole bunch which you won’t be able to properly elaborate on or explore.

Flow and Coherence

-Thoughts and ideas explored in the presentation flow from one to the next and are coherently bound together in a logical progression or sequence. It is clear throughout the presentation from the introduction, through the body, to the conclusion, the nature of your inquiry question and topic.

How to achieve success: Within the body keep tying back to the research question to remind the viewer why you are telling them these new things. Connect ideas together through long transitions such as Not only does engaged citizenship require that we ____ with young people, it will also be necessary to _____.  Specifically, _______. According to ____ “quote from a credible source.”

Avoid: sounding 'listy' and just go from one idea to the next without reminding the viewer why you are telling them this.

Supporting details/Practicality

-Each of three big ideas taken up in the presentation is comprehensively supported with exceptionally powerful evidence. There is ongoing evidence of practical possibilities for how these original and insightful insights could be applied within an elementary classroom context.

How to achieve success: Ensure to support any claims you make with research. If you make a claim that taking on citizen action projects tied to issues of concern in our community will increase student engagement can you find evidence to support this claim? If you introduce a big idea from the research, quote the researcher to support your explanation of why this is an important idea to address in relation to your research question.

Avoid: superficial and overly general supporting examples like we could help kids plant trees in the community. Use an example that has actually occurred and explain what the kids did. Avoid generalities and abstract examples. Evidence should be specific, grounded in the literature and reflect things that have actually happened.


The piece from the opening to the end draws you in. Watching this presentation was time well spent.

How to achieve success: 

-Don’t lose your voice in the piece. It is not merely an informational piece but one that should engage the audience.  Ask rhetorical questions the viewer might ask. 
-Use vivid imagery and show; don’t tell wherever possible.For example, instead of saying there was a flood in Calgary that devastated the city, describe this. After a deluge of rain, the Elbow and Bow rivers overflowed their banks sending a raging torrent of water into large sections of the city. Many homes and buildings had water coming in right up to the second floor leaving thousands of Calgarians homeless. 
-Use powerful verbs and adverbs to enhance the level of writing. 
-Adopt language that is precise and original. 
-Intersperse some short, punchy sentences alongside longer, complex ones.   


Let’s judge mine using a four-point scale based our five criteria: 

  • Insightfulness of ideas
  • Exploration of inquiry question
  • Flow and Coherence
  • Supporting details/Practicality
  • Engaging/Interesting

1. INTRO: Recently Alberta Education introduced a policy initiative asking teachers to engage social studies through Aboriginal and Francophone perspectives. Specifically, the program asks teachers to help students“appreciate and respect how multiple perspectives, including Aboriginal and Francophone, shape Canada’s political, socio-economic, linguistic and cultural realities.”[i]

2. A recent study that I conducted examining the ways teachers in Alberta are taking up this call published in the last issue of Canadian Social Studies demonstrates that many educators in the province are struggling with this curricular initiative. However, before proceeding to discuss how educators might meaningfully, and richly take up this curricular mandate in their classrooms,

3. I want to first consider the question: Why would an understanding of Canadian citizenship and identity require students, as stated in the Alberta program, to appreciate Aboriginal and Francophone perspectives, experiences, and their “particular needs and requirements.” To answer this question it is necessary to briefly highlight some of the political, historical, and constitutional developments in this country

4. that provide the context for why we as social studies teachers in Alberta need to meaningfully engage issues of identity and citizenship through Aboriginal and Francophone perspectives. BIG IDEA #1: The first point that needs emphasizing is that Canada is not (pause), nor never has been (pause), a unitary nation-state similar to that of the United States or France. Within this model a dominant national group –elite decedents of English settlers in the US or Whites in South Africa ––

5. have used its power over the state to privilege its own language, culture, history, and even in some cases, religion.[ii]Specifically, anyone who did not belong to the dominant national group was subject to a range of nation building policies meant to either assimilate or exclude them.[iii]

6. As outlined by the political theorist Will Kymlicka, within the sphere of education, nation-building policies include the creation of a national system of education accompanied by a standardized curriculum, whereby the dominants group’s language, culture and history became the national language, culture and history.[iv]

7. Although settlers from the British Isles including Scots and English attempted to create a  unitary nation-state, due to a series of historical, political, and constitutional developments, Canada deviated from this model in one important respect. (pause). Since its founding the Canadian federation has involved a historic partnership, unique to only Switzerland in Western world that has given significant power and autonomy to a minority national community-the Quebecois.  The reasons for this can be traced back to a decisive British military victory over the French near Québec City in 1759,

8. which caused France to cede most of its possessions in eastern North America, including New France, to Great Britain. Wanting to avoid rebellion on the part of the French habitants and greatly outnumbered, the British government enacted the Québec Act of 1774, which was unique for its time in that it gave significant authority and autonomy to the Québécois.

9. This included guarantees that the Québécois could practice the Roman Catholic faith, use the French language in public institutions, and retain French civil law in private matters within Québec. Later, these accommodations were expanded in the British North America Act of 1867, where authority over language and education were devolved to Québec at the provincial level.

10. Today, through control over culture, immigration, and language, Quebec possesses significant nation-building mechanisms to ensure the continuation of their unique Francophone identity and language into the indefinite future. As outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada is a bilingual state that guarantees that all Federal agencies must be accessible

11. in French and all Francophone peoples, regardless of where they live in Canada –– numbers allowing –– must be able to access French language education. In this way Canada has never been a unitary nation-state, but, rather, a multi-national state. As a consequence, unlike the US Canadian 

12. identity cannot simply privilege one singular national identity as defined by descendants of British settlers. ‘We’ as Canadians must acknowledge and appreciate the distinct place of Francophone peoples within the Canadian Federation.  

13. BIG IDEA #2: Now one might so, ok, but aren’t the Quebecois first and foremost Canadian-one among many other minority groups and identities in the country like Canadians of Chinese or Sikh descent. The answer to this question is no. New arrivals to the country and what Kymlicka calls national minorities are not the same.

14. To paraphrase Kymlicka, the Quebecois, like Aboriginal peoples are different from new arrivals to the country in that they are a community sharing a distinct language and culture, who lived, and continue to live, in a defined territory that then became part, often by war, but sometimes through agreements, of a larger state.

15. Because national minorities had their own unique form of governance and distinct identity, prior to the formation of the state, within a multi-national governing framework like Canada, the government seeks to ensure that national minorities are given sufficient autonomy and control within their traditional territory so they can retain and promote their unique identity into the indefinite future.

16. This is not to say that immigrant peoples don’t deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and made to feel a part of the community of Canada. However, it does mean the kinds of accommodations and respect minority peoples should receive goes well beyond providing special programs to help them better integrate into Canadian society. As reflected in the Alberta social studies program minority nations in Canada deserve a level of recognition and respect.

17. BIG IDEA #3-AHH RUNNING OUT OF ROOM. In claiming Canada has promoted significant rights for national minorities, it is extremely important to emphasize that Aboriginal people have had a very different relationship the Canadian government in comparison to the Québécois. Because of the long history of this relationship and the diverse numbers of Aboriginal nations involved,

18. it is difficult to do justice to the question as to why we as Canadian citizens should, as I stated in a recent article, should ensure that Aboriginal people, communities, and their diverse perspectives be an ongoing part of how we take up issues of citizenship and identity in our social studies classrooms.

19. However, two key points are worthy of note. One thing the program is trying to do, as I stated in my recent article, is “restore Aboriginal communities, and their diverse perspectives to a permanent seat of national deliberations around the future of the country”. Quebec has a seat at this table; it is now time to renew the historic partnership with Aboriginal peoples.

20. In doing this we can redress the horrible wrongs that nation-building policies had on Aboriginal people including the Residential school system that sought to, as Duncan Campbell Scott, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs stated, “kill the Indian in the child.”[v]

21. In renewing this partnership, it will be necessary to acknowledge that the land we currently live on and the benefits that we as Canadians have accrued from the gift of being born in this country is a direct result of legally binding, constitutionally guaranteed, agreements between Aboriginal peoples and the government. Stretching back to the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that provided the framework of nation-to-nation treaty agreements, we as Canadian people are treaty people living on treaty land.

22. CONCLUSION: As with Francophone peoples, by helping students reimagine the nature, place, and role of Aboriginal peoples, communities, and their diverse perspectives within the Canadian federation, teachers can thereby realize the spirit and intent of Alberta’s Social Studies program. This combined with engaging Francophone perspectives in the curriculum will mean we enter into a story of the country that includes a historical foundation resting on three distinct founding nations. 

This post first appeared on I Can't Believe A Kid Did That: Powerful Examples Of Student Inquiry Work, please read the originial post: here

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Creating an effective and provocative Pecha Kucha


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