When one thinks about interaction in educational
settings where computers are in use, one tends
to assume that the interaction taking place is
between the computer and the person working at
the computer. An assignment appears on the screen.
Subsequently, the person watching the screen responds
to the question and discovers from the screen whether
his or her reply was correct or incorrect. Interaction
refers to much more than this in The Big Myth. Assignments
can only be completed if students work together, and
the presentation of results occurs in front of the class
or they are communicated to students at other schools
(in principle anywhere in the world). The computer provides
the "input" for a learning process, and offers the opportunity
to present results via internet. But the actual learning
process takes place when students are engaged in discussion
with each other, when they are solving problems and
when they are preparing a presentation. In this manner,
The Big Myth fits into the tradition of cooperative
The Big Myth has been designed for lessons in which
students can work in groups of 3-5 persons. The assignments
are best completed through the cooperation of these
group members with each other.
Each group has a computer with internet access at its
disposal. There are sufficient other materials in the
classroom (such as crayons, paper, sheets, simple musical
instruments, glue, scissors, cardboard, costumes). The
students should also have access to a library or a media
The teacher creates the groups for each The Big Myth
session, and assigns various roles and tasks. These
roles and tasks can be assigned and labeled as follows:
Facilitator/ Team Captain
· Makes sure that everybody understands the task
· Makes sure that everybody in the group participates,
and also, for instance, that the person using the computer
does not "surf" independently of the others
· Represents the group if it has a question for the
· Organizes the group presentation
· Makes sure that the group works on time, and according
to plan Material manager
· Makes sure that the group gets all the materials it
needs (including computer print outs)
· Makes sure that all the materials are cleaned up after
the assignment has been completed (this does not mean
that this person needs to clean up everything him/herself
but that he/she organizes this activity)
· If relevant, this person fills out the group questionnaires
or work sheets
· Finds all the information necessary to complete the
· Works with the computer and the printer Mediator/Negotiator
· Makes sure that there is a positive atmosphere in
· Mediates is case of conflicts or disagreements
These tasks can be assigned differently for groups of
four, for instance by giving the mediation task to the
There are three types of assignments that are
associated with each myth:
A-assignments are aimed at information processing.
The main goal is to be able to make links between
the myth, on the one hand, and the corresponding culture
and religion (pantheon), on the other hand.
2. B-assignments are aimed at preparing classroom
presentations. They have been created in such a way
that it is clear that the myth has been understood
within the context of culture.
3. C-assignments are aimed at individual reflection
concerning what the students have learned, as well
as suggestions for further activities.
Traditionally it is the teacher that transfers knowledge.
He/she is the most important source of information.
In The Big Myth all the information the students will
need can be found on the website and the internet.
This gives the teacher much more time to observe the
learning processes that are taking place among the
students and to assess what is being accomplished
by groups and individuals. Within the philosophy associated
with Complex Instruction it is important that students
are appreciated for what they can do, and to express
this appreciation (positive feedback). The aim is
to increase the status (trust in each other's capabilities)
of students and their self-esteem.
The teacher can make a selection from the various
A-exercises, depending on the aims for using the Big
Myth, before moving on to the B-assignments. The exercises
can be downloaded as such, or they can be adopted
for one's own purposes and then printed for the group
that will be working with a particular myth. Printing
the exercises can prove easier for the group work
since each student will than have his or her own copy.
Before the first actual lesson the teacher makes it
clear to the students what the objective of the lessons
is: to study and compare a variety of creation myths
and cultures (this can take place within the framework
of subject areas such as creative writing, literature,
religious education, history, language studies and
"integrated culture education". During this introduction
the teacher refers to the "big idea": "How do people
from different cultures view themselves, the world,
and their origin". We would also like to suggest that
the students look at site itself in order to familiarize
the students with the structure of the site.
We suggest that the content of first assignment should
be to ask the students the following:
- What story or stories do you know about the creation
of the world and human beings?
- Where does this story (or stories) come from?
- In groups, working together, try to complete these
stories as much as possible. Make sure that the following
questions are addressed while doing this:
- What was present "in the beginning" ?
- What did the world look like?
- What happened next?
- Who were the first people?
- What is their relationship to the creator (or creators)
of the world and humans, and what is the creator's
(or creators') relationship to them?
Once the various groups have been able to reconstruct
one or more creation stories they can share their
findings with the rest of the classroom. They can
also compare their stories to written texts if available
(often this will be the old testament in Europe and
in the United States).
1. Group roles and individual tasks
This can take place by hanging up a large sheet of
paper in a visible spot in the classroom. The sheet
lists the various group roles and the tasks of group
Preparing the orientation
In Complex Instruction, which this series of lessons
is based on, each lesson begins with an orientation.
The goal of the orientation is to:
· To introduce the topic of the lesson, and/or to
refer to what was covered in the previous lesson
· To discuss the assignments with each other in order
to assess what skills are necessary to complete the
assignments. The teacher also emphasizes that students
need to cooperate since nobody has all of the skills
mentioned, but that by working together the students
can accomplish a great deal.
· To talk about the tasks that the students have been
assigned, based (among other things) on the experiences
from previous lessons.
the Big Myth
· Giving the orientation
· Helping the students to start and complete their
· To allow for the presentations to take place
During the group work the teacher is especially:
1. Organizer and manager
The teacher is responsible for creating the composition
of the groups and the distribution of tasks. Subsequently,
the teacher delegates responsibility to the groups.
In other words, the teacher makes sure that everybody
sticks to his/her role.
· The teacher makes sure that a question posed by
the facilitator is indeed the group's question.
· If uncertainty exists regarding the assignment the
teacher initially asks the facilitator to attempt
to clarify the instructions.
· The teacher makes sure that only the material manager
collects the materials. The material manager is held
responsible for these materials.
· Time management and planning issues are discussed
only with the reporter.
· If there is too much disagreement or tension then
the teacher will approach the mediator.
Of course, the teacher is responsible for helping
groups that get stuck or fail to function properly.
When difficult questions arise the teacher does not
provide ready-made answers, but instead asks questions
that get the group back on track.
3. Observer (watching what the groups are doing right)
It is important in Complex Instruction that the teacher
responds to what groups and individuals do well. This
means closely observing what is taking place in each
4. Evaluator (giving feedback) The teacher responds
to the behavior of the students, based on what is
observed. This can occur during the group work, but
also during the presentation. The feedback is concrete
and based on a description of what has been observed.
and after the presentations
The teacher especially fulfills the function of evaluator
here, both of the process (based on his/her observations
during the groupwork and on the experiences of the
students) and the content. At the end of each lesson
the teacher tells the students what will be discussed
in the next lesson (which will be relevant again during
the orientation that takes place in that next lesson).
After a number of lessons, in which the students have
worked with the various exercises, students can be
asked to compare the various myths that they have
studied, in order to look at similarities and differences.
Another option is to ask the students to write their
own myth and to mail this to the project webmaster,
to read the myths of other students or to start a
discussion about their views and experiences with
students from other schools (in the chatroom).
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Intercultural Studies, Volume 7, nr 3.
Batelaan, P. & Van Hoof, C. (1998) Leren respecteren.
Cohen, E. (1994) Designing Groupwork. Strategies
for the heterogeneous classroom. New York: Teachers
Gardner, H. (1993) Frames of Mind: The Theory of
Multiple Intelligences. (10th anniversary edition)
New York: Basic Books.
Johnson, D. & Johnson, R. (1991) Learning together
and alone: Cooperative competition and individualization.
Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
R. (1985) Cooperative Learning: Applying contact
theory in desegregated schools. Journal of
Social Issues. Vol. 41, nr. 3.