Monthly Archives: April 2012

Learning Log – Final Reflection

As this course draws to a close, I have to say that I am amazed by how much I’ve learned about ways I can use technology in the classroom. Prior to this, I thought I was doing pretty well with technology. I’m a frequent user of the Promethean Board, I tried to incorporate YouTube videos and cartoons I found online to make class a little more interesting, and I had even experimented with digital storytelling a little. But now my eyes have been opened to all the ways I might employ technology as an educator.

First, I’ve thought a lot about how technology can help me as a professional. I can use blogs and tweets to get my name out into the professional community as an innovator and dedicated educator. I can also create and share Diigo lists that others might find helpful. These are all important ways to boost my online presence in a positive way. But to me, I am compelled to keep using these technologies for the information I can gather. No, I don’t plan to leech on to the system and just take, take, take from others who put themselves out there. But I am so invigorated to see just how many fantastic teaching ideas I can get from doing something as simple as scanning Twitter here and there. I think one reason many educators leave the profession after a few years is a feeling of isolation and an accompanying loss of enthusiasm. I can’t imagine that teaching will ever feel dull with such a constant influx of new ideas and inspiring stories.

I’ve also learned so many ways to not just “hook” students with technologies like Voicethreads and Screencasts, but to reach all different types of learners. We’ve talked a lot about differentiation over the past few years at my school, but we’ve all struggled with the “how” of it. How can we make it happen? How can we find the time? The resources? I’ve discovered through this class that the resources are out there. Yes, the tools do require a time investment, but once I’ve created a Diigo list of resources (video, print, visual) for one topic, I can use that list time and again with many classes. I can also continue to add to and modify the list to suit the audience or changing times.

I also love the vision of a different type of school that may be coming in the future. The more I hear about the idea of a “flipped” classroom, the more curious I become. What if students didn’t really attend a typical class? What if they just met in communal meeting areas to work on group projects, while teachers created digital content and held more informal study sessions with smaller groups of students? What if? They are thrilling ideas!

For my final assignment, I created the lesson plan that can be found here. This is my fledgling attempt to create a lesson that takes place more virtually than face-to-face, and my biggest challenge in writing it was trying to focus my ideas. I’ve been exposed to so many technologies that I’d like students to learn as well, but I had to scale back and realize that I couldn’t cram EVERY online tool into one lesson. As I result, in this lesson, students will collaborate on Wikispaces. They will watch an online tutorial that I created in Screencast through the wiki, and they will also use Diigo to make and annotate a list of resources. See? I just couldn’t limit my enthusiasm to only one technology!

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Learning Log – Wikis

Welcome to the wonderful world of wikis! I’ve spent a good amount of time over the past few days learning about how wikis can be used in the classroom to support student learning. I’ve discovered that they are amazing tools for collaboration and, from visiting, several classroom wikis, have gotten several ideas of how I might use wikis in my classroom. Here are some descriptions of what I found:

Miller’s English 10

Mr. Miller’s English 10 Resource Wiki is full of information that would help any student in his class learn more, understand more, and enjoy the class more. When I visited, the front page included a Prezi presentation about A Midsummer Night’s Dream, an essay test question, quotes to study for a test, and links to several homework assignments related to the play that students completed on the class wiki. Miller also lists some essential questions that he uses throughout the course.

I was really impressed by how focused the wiki is. It’s well-designed and not too complicated. The idea of Essential Questions that carry throughout a semester would be enormously helpful to students in that they would help them see the connections between texts and the real world relevance of the texts. The homework assignments that Miller posts also support students in their learning, as they tend to be tasks that bridge the gap between the world of Shakespeare and the 21st century student. For example, in one assignment, students are asked to write about a connection between a song lyric and an idea in the play. This wiki could also help support students’ learning because it’s a great place for parents to go for information about what children are learning in Miller’s class.

Ms. Cohen’s English Class

Ms. Cohen uses this wiki as a space for all her classes: AP English Language, AP English Literature, and Pre-IB. This, in my opinion is one of its strengths, as it allows students to see what is happening in other courses and make connections between courses. In addition, it allows Ms. Cohen to be efficient – she can post information and resources that apply to all class in one central spot, then post course-specific information on each class’s individual page. Another strength is the “Discuss!” area of the wiki. Here, it looks like you participate in a live chat or request a time to set up a live chat with Ms. Cohen (and maybe other classmates). This level of accessibility could really help create a climate where students feel comfortable approaching their teacher with questions, concerns, and ideas. Another way Cohen seems to use this wiki to create that climate is by announcing that she is seeking nominations for the “Mizcees,” which are awards she gives to deserving students.

Hogue’s Classroom Wiki

It appears that Ms. Hogue uses her classroom wiki as a space where students collaborate on projects. When I visited, the site seemed very clean. By this, I mean that on the front page there wasn’t much more than a “Current Projects” heading with “English 11 Salem Witch Trials Webquest Reports” written underneath. In the right-hand navigation, I found links to the Webquest Reports that students completed in small groups as well as directions for the assignment. Now, I don’t know if Ms. Hogue still uses this wiki, but it helped me think that, for some students, visiting a wiki or other online space that was crowded with links and assignments and videos and images and other items – well, it might be confusing. I know I have some students, especially some in my inclusion classes, who would be overwhelmed by a wiki with too much going on. I think the lesson here is to know your audience. If I decided to use a wiki with that inclusion class, I’d probably try to make it as clean and simple as Ms. Hogue’s.

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Social and Collaborative Media

I just finished creating a presentation using VoiceThread, which is an online presentation tool that has great potential for use in education. Through VoiceThread, teachers can create interactive online lessons. It allows users to present material in a variety of formats (text, audio, video), thus fitting the different needs and learning styles of a variety of students. The platform also provides a model of an engaging technology tool, as it enables students to contribute their own responses in writing, or through audio or video.

The presentation I have created should show you some of these features. In addition, it explores some of the ways educators can use social networking tools like Diigo and Twitter in your classroom.  Please let me know what you think!

Networked: The Potential of Social Media in the Classroom

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Learning Log – iGoogle

I recently discovered iGoogle, which lets users customize a homepage to suite a variety of needs. The picture above is a shot of what’s on my iGoogle page right now. Here are a few of the gadgets I’ve added and how I hope they’ll make my life easier and more interesting:

  • To do list – This should be useful for obvious reasons. I’m a big list-maker, and if an item isn’t on the list, it doesn’t exist in my world. Don’t be fooled by the lack of items on there right now; I just hadn’t started transferring my paper list when I took this screenshot.
  • Google Reader – This tool helps organize all sorts of content from various online sources. It’s comparable to my own personal news feed. Here, I’ve subscribed to lots of education-related feeds, like the New York Times Education section and The Learning Network.
  • Literary Quote of the Day – Everyone needs a little inspiration, and the gives me a quick daily dose. I’ll probably end up saving some of my favorites and sharing them with students.
  • Weather – Most high school teachers leave for work before the sun comes up, and we need to know what to wear at that early hour, right?
  • Twitter Gadget – This links to the people and publications I follow on Twitter. Easy to just stop here and pick up inspiring tidbits and ideas without having to separately log on to the Twitter web site.
  • I also have a Google News feed to help me keep up with current events, a calendar gadget, and a link to Epicurious, which features recipes, because I like to cook and need new ideas for dinner!

Overall, iGoogle strikes me as a useful organizational tool. It offers easy access to new information and ideas through the Twitter, Google Reader, and news-related gadgets. I could see myself bringing some of the interesting/relevant articles to the attention of my students, so in this way it will support their learning. Being able to stop at this one page for all this information is efficient and can help me, as a teacher, stay informed and current with what is going on in the world of education. The more efficient and informed I can be, the better position I will be in to teach well. It will also help me be a valuable member of the professional community, because I will be able to forward useful information to my Twitter and blog followers, and bring ideas to my own colleagues.

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Learning Log – Goodreads

I just created a bookshelf in Goodreads to support IB English 12 students in their in-depth study of poet Elizabeth Bishop. We study her writing style very closely, looking carefully at her topic selection, diction, syntax, and other distinguishing characteristics. To receive an IB diploma in English, one of the examinations is an oral exam. For this exam, each individual student is handed an excerpt of about 20 lines from an author or poet we have studied in-depth (not all students receive the same excerpt or the same writer). The student is then given 20 minutes to carefully read and mark up the excerpt and prepare an oral commentary on it. Following this, the student meets with me alone and speaks for about 12 minutes, explaining the purpose of the excerpt, its structure, and how it fits into the larger work. The student analyzes and interprets the details, and compares the poem to other works by the same author.

It is an intimidating assignment. Those who do best are those who have really studied the author and know him or her inside and out. The bookshelf I created above should help support students in getting to know Elizabeth Bishop and her style even better. I would ask students to check out one of these books from the school library or local library. I would allow students to stray from this list, but ask that they share any additional titles so I could add them to this bookshelf. I would then create a group for the class so we could get together and discuss additional insights students gained from what everybody read.  This would really help these students prepare for this oral examination.

There are a few other ways I can think of to incorporate Goodreads into my teaching. I noticed that there are some groups for things like short story writers and that some even have contests. I could encourage students who like to write to join these groups or even just assign students to join one of these groups so they can give feedback on others’ writing and see peer review modeled outside of a school setting. We could also create our own writing groups. I think Goodreads can help students select books for independent reading; I could create bookshelves and recommendations for different genres. Students could pick up suggestions from classmates if each class member had their own Goodreads page with recommendations. Finally, I might be able to use Goodreads when students were completing a research assignment. Perhaps they could create a bookshelf for their topic and share it with me; I could then help them narrow down their choices and even help them locate the books in the library (either a school or community library).

What ways will you use Goodreads in your classroom?

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Sliderocket Characterization Lesson

I just finished using Sliderocket.com to create an interactive presentation on characterization. I started with the idea that when I teach Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried in English 12, I like to spend some time reviewing characterization so that my students enter the novel thinking about how and why O’Brien lists the things the soldiers carry in the first section of the novel. I want them to understand the tools an author has at his disposal to create characters. This lesson is something that I could use in any of my English classes. I could go through the presentation in class with students, or I could ask them to view the presentation in a lab or as homework. Here’s the presentation, with some thoughts on creating it below.

If you’ve never seen or used Sliderocket before, you might want to watch this tutorial I created using Screencast.

I have to say that I loved using Sliderocket to create this presentation. I spent a lot of time exploring some of the bells and whistles of the program (such as the delayed “entry” of certain portions of the slide), and I got excited about incorporating other Web technologies like Voki and xtranormal in the presentation. I also think the Flickr assignment at the end will be a nice extension of this lesson. I had a lot of fun creating this presentation, and I hope you like it, too!

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Learning Log -Flickr Slide Shows

Visual literacy is an important part of the Montgomery County Public Schools English 12 Curriculum. For the purposes of this curriculum, the authors expand the definition of the word “text” to include video, images, web content, and other non-traditional formats. When we watch films or parts of films in class, I consider it vital to get students to consider how each choice a filmmaker makes influences how the audience experiences the movie. As such, we talk a lot about the effects of music, camera angles, and lighting as we are watching. As an introduction to the idea that camera angles, the type of shot (wide, medium, or close), and lighting can be manipulated to create certain effects, I created  this Flickr Slideshow.

In class, I would use this at the beginning of a film unit. I would project the slideshow on the Promethean Board and ask students to consider the feeling evoked by each image. I would probably have students write down a word or two for each picture in a notebook, then have them discuss their responses to each image with a partner before leading a whole class discussion. Hopefully, consensus would emerge, leading to some new insights about how we are manipulated by a director’s or cameraman’s choices. Students could then apply this new awareness to additional visual “texts” as we encounter them in the unit.

This lesson would help students achieve mastery of the following MCPS English 12 standards:

Standard 1: The student will comprehend and interpret a variety of print, non-print and electronic texts, and other media.

Standard 2: The student will analyze and evaluate a variety of print, non-print and electronic texts, and other media. 2.1.2— Analyze stylistic elements in a text or across texts that communicate an author’s purpose; 2.1.4— Analyze and evaluate the purpose and effect of non-print texts, including visual, aural, and electronic media.

An extension of this activity would be to have students experiment with their own digital cameras (phone cameras, digital cameras, or even ones on loan from the school) to see what effects they can achieve using angles and lighting. They could work with partners and create their own Flickr slideshows to share with the class.

Works Cited

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Learning Log Flickr Galleries

I wanted to create a pre-reading activity for Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, so I put together a gallery of images relating to Paris, Spain, bullfighting, and drinking. Essentially, I would use this to activate prior knowledge and as a prediction guide. Students would be given a link to the gallery along with a worksheet with the name of each image and the following instructions:

  • Look at the set of images. For each picture, write down one word that comes to mind when you see the image. Name a feeling, emotion, descriptive adjective or other association. Do not repeat your response from an earlier image. For the final image, write a three- to five-sentence prediction for the novel based on the following questions: Besides bullfighting, what do you think the novel will be about? What topics or themes will the novel treat? What do you think the characters will be like? Be prepared to share your responses in class discussion.

Then, after students have had time to respond, I would use random calling methods to elicit responses to each image as we looked at them again on a Promethean Board. We would also discuss and record student predictions for the novel and return to them either during or after reading to see how their predictions match up with the actual story. One thing I wish I could modify about the Flickr gallery setup would be to make it possible for students to comment on each image directly on the Gallery page without the comments appearing under the original photographer’s picture. I just think that if I were the photographer and saw 75 or so one-word student comments (3 classes’ worth) under my image, I might be a little confused and annoyed. Does anyone have a way around this in Flickr?

Overall, David Jakes’ article on “Using Flickr in the Classroom” gave me the best ideas of how to use this technology in my teaching. I love the idea of a virtual field trip or tour through the settings of a novel. This is certainly something I could see using as I introduce books to students. One drawback might be that the images were taken fairly recently; if I am teaching a novel set in the past, I would have to get creative regarding how I incorporate both current images and those that are contemporary from the time of the novel. Perhaps we could compare images found elsewhere of 1920s Paris, for example, with Flickr images from today, though I am not sure how/why I would do that to fulfill curricular goals. Maybe I could use an activity like this to help students see the thematic relevance of what we are reading.

As usual, I’d like to think about how to put students in the driver’s seat when it comes to using this technology. In the past, I’ve assigned students soundtrack projects as a culminating activity for a novel. With Flickr, I could assign a gallery project. Students would assemble a gallery of images that best represent the novel. Of course, the project would include a written component in which they explain and justify their choices in order to demonstrate understanding of the novel’s plot, themes, and characters. Flickr seems ideally created for this; in the Gallery function, I noticed that the creator of each gallery can include a written explanation of why each particular photo was chosen.  Students could then view and comment on each others’ galleries.

I’ll end this post for now with a couple of questions:

  • Do you know of a way to make it possible for students to comment on each image directly on a Gallery page without the comments appearing under the original photographer’s picture?
  • How would you use Flickr in math or science classrooms?  I’m studying to be a school librarian, and have a lot to learn about ways to incorporate these Web 2.0 technologies in non-English/Social Studies classes!

Works Cited

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