360degrees in the Classroom

The different sections of 360degrees (personal stories, dynamic data, the timeline, and public forum) allow multiple entry points for students with varied learning styles. Both the content and structure of the site provide material for semester-long courses and individual classes in the areas of English, history, math, political science, the arts, computer technology, and service learning. 360degrees' multimedia approach allows for innovative ways to strengthen students' skills in analysis, interpretation, research, writing, and collaboration.

1. Social history and multiple perspectives:
Whose stories are recorded in history books and whose voices are often left out? Use the linked personal stories of Cristel as the basis for a discussion about historiography and the ways multiple narratives can shape the interpretation of an event. The timeline serves as an additional reference point for social movements throughout history.

2. Memoir and autobiography:
The audio diaries of John and Cristel broaden the discussion of personal stories as told through film and literature. Their stories invite discussion about the ways in which people interpret their lives and create compelling stories.

3. Data and percentages:
Compare and contrast incarceration rates by race to illustrate the importance of numeric representation. How do the incarceration rates of a fixed number of people compare with overall population numbers?

4. Photojournalism and the new meaning of images:
In an era of photoshop touch-ups and fast moving images, how do we believe what we see? 360's multiple perspectives and exploration of personal space spark discussion about authenticity and the use of new technologies.

5. Community planning:
By using the 360 community maps as a template, students can create their own community profiles. As they analyze the strengths and needs of their community, they evaluate the economic and social impact of particular policy decisions.

6. Debate skills and making a case:
The 360 timeline, graphs, and stories spark heated discussion and provide the hard data for debates on topics like juvenile justice, the death penalty and mandatory minimums. Participation in the public forum allows students to test their debate skills with others who may have very different opinions from their own.

7. The philosophy of justice:
Exploration of the timeline allows students to trace concepts of justice from 600 C.E. to the present and helps students to contextualize abstract theories in the immediacy of current events. How has our understanding of justice changed or repeated itself over time?

8. Web design for social change:
In what ways do new web technologies contribute to or detract from site content? 360degrees serves as a case study for "form-follows-function" discussions and provides a good introduction to web applications such as QuickTime VR, Flash, and databases.

9. Journalism and the role of interviews:
What techniques do journalists use to elicit genuine responses and interesting stories? 360degree audio diaries contribute to discussion of "subjectivity", political agendas, and the impact of editing. Using the template of 360narratives and Prison Diaries, students can develop their own print and audio stories.

10. Introduction to law and the criminal justice system:
360degrees provides a fresh and dynamic illustration of criminal justice institutions, laws, and processes. A look at Cristel's story gives background to a discussion of juvenile justice policy, while the site's Theory of Punishment quiz encourages students to reconsider the impact of certain incarceration policies.

freshman composition
Using 360degrees as a Writing and Critical Thinking Tool in Freshman Composition:

As a teacher of Freshman Composition at Hunter College, I required my students to participate in the pilot of the Social Action Network (the online curriculum for 360degrees). There were many benefits, both direct and indirect, to using this website in a writing class. The students learned how to use the web and personal interviews as research tools, and how to focus an ongoing, abstract discussion into a final argument paper. Some students who didn't speak much in class became very active participants online. Some developed relationships with the facilitators and even went to them for advice on their research papers. The students also developed relationships with participating students from other schools. Most importantly, many of my students told me they really enjoyed discussing the criminal justice system and participating in the online project throughout the semester. They were around the same ages as Cristel and John, and the personal narratives meant much more to them than faceless stories and statistics. Almost all the students said that the semester made them think much harder about the criminal justice system and that it really changed previously held conceptions that everyone in jail is a dangerous criminal. They also began to think about what creates healthy communities and to question the political policies and social programs that affect them.
Maria Finn, Hunter College of the City University of NY