Thursday, January 15, 2015

Serial in School - Update

When I first started this unit on the Serial Podcast, I hoped my students would be engaged. I hoped they would be troubled by the injustice. I hoped they would take away a greater understanding of how the court system works. 

This week, we finished up Episode 12. It's been a wild ride following the ups and downs of Adnan Syed's case. Serial in School: Episodes 1-6 are detailed here on the blog (Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6). Here's a quick update on how we covered the remaining episodes: 

Episode 7: (The Opposite of the Prosecution) Students took detailed notes in their Case Logs. We stopped the podcast regularly to discuss Deidre Enright and The Innocence Project. 

Episode 8: (The Deal with Jay) Students doodled on large pieces of paper while listening to this episode. Each subsequent class added more doodles. I had one student who was convinced Adnan was guilty. After this episode, he definitively changed his mind. 

Episode 9:  (To Be Suspected) Students took Case Log notes for this episode, as it contained a lot of very detailed information. We paused it many times to talk about the judicial system. Most of my students only knew what they had seen on TV (ok, I'm in this group, too - I learned a lot from this podcast and following Rabia Chaudry). For example, we had never thought about the utter mundaneness of court proceedings How you could be sitting there for hours, days, weeks - and not be able to defend yourself against outrageous charges. How you would need to maintain an air of decorum, because even a sigh could be misinterpreted. 

Episode 10:  (The Best Defense is a Good Defense) THIS episode was killer. My students were livid with Christina Gutierrez. They were angry at Kevin Uric. They were shocked at the negligence of Adnan's defense. They were disheartened by the news that the mistrial could have been the difference between Adnan's acquittal and conviction. Again, the students took picture notes. 

Episode 11: (Rumors) While this episode was light on any actual information pertinent to the case, it was a good discussion starter. We paused to talk about "Besmirch" and how very powerful words can be in racial perception. Perhaps what angered my students the most was the way the prosecutor talked about Adnan as a Pakistani, rather than as an American. These insights give me hope for the next generation. 

Episode 12: (What We Know) I told students that they were getting a listening quiz on this episode, because I wanted to ensure good notes. Students went back to their Case Logs and added information for Don, Josh, and Deirdre Enright. Some of my classes listened to this episode on January 13th - the anniversary of Hae Min Lee's tragic death. This led to discussions about the reality of this series - Serial is not simply an engaging story, but a true saga with real people. We talked about journalistic integrity, and Sarah Koenig's professionalism throughout this process (especially when contrasted with The Intercept's interviews). 

Midterms are up next. I have exciting plans, but I don't want to share too much in case my curious students find this blog post before exams! After exams are over, I will share more about how I incorporated Serial into the History midterm. 

To conclude: After listening to the podcasts and discussing recent developments, my students are 100% convinced that Adnan should not have been convicted for the murder of Hae Min Lee.  

One more thing before I finish - BIG NEWS!!! Rabia Chaudry responded to my email, and we are trying to work out a time for her to Skype or Hangout with one of my classes. I think this will add another level of reality for my students. What an amazing opportunity! Thank you, Rabia.