Sunday, February 28, 2010

Have you tried these tools?

Last weekend, I attended Learning2.0 up in Loveland and heard Amy White talk about some tools she uses in her classrom. I showed these to my students as soon as I got bakc Monday morning. They wanted the tools to all be in one place so they could come back and find them. SO... resource of things that help with web 2.0 applications (go look at the e-learning tab) -Marilyn Western’s Technology Tips for Classroom Teachers presentation and summarization of reading make a video from images- (every time you create something, you get points)-create own people and scenes; more time consuming than Xtranormal. going beyond Powerpoint –show relationships between three ideas/symbols/pictures Kaleidocycle
make your own photo collage –create posters
create posters with photos post reading of novel.


PowerPoint- illuminated texts- animate words to come alive with words or phrases in text
Great idea for poetry!Select text and animate text using animate feature

Garage Band-podcasting and music –could use for interviews (Audacity and Finale Notepad)
(Create a song for the character in the novel- make sure to couple this with narrative and reflection about creating piece)

iMovie- digital storytelling instead of personal narrative (Photostory? Moviemaker)
make the example with video, stills, and voiceover so kids can see all those elements

What Have We Learned or What Haven’t We Learned? Where Are We Going?

After a long and drawn out approval process, our 9th grade Honors students were able to read Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother after reading George Orwell’s 1984. Throughout the novels, we completed a multitude of chronological charts connecting the years of 1920-1950 to the book 1984, and 1950-2006 to Little Brother. We wanted kids to examine the events that might have influence these authors to write their novels. All along we asked the kids to think about “What have we learned or what haven’t we learned from these two novels? And given that information, where are we going as a society?”

Every activity during this 8 week process built upon our students formulating an understanding of those questions. From watching videos about MIT’s 6th sense, Google Googles, and Karl Fisch’s 2020 to reading about full body scanners and laptops being used to track student’s home life. We also brought in guest speakers from our History department who talked with the kids about the events surrounding WWII that would have influenced Orwell and post 9/11 legislations /actions that influenced Doctorow. We even had kids figure out the connections between Ned Kelly, The Chicago 7, and our protagonist Marcus Yarrow(can you figure that one out?). Towards the end of the unit, we had the kids write about Ben Franklin’s quote from 1759, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Upon completion of reading both texts, the kids were challenged then with writing a paper defending their answer to the questions “What have we learned or what haven’t we learned from these two novels? And given that information, where are we going as a society?” that wasn’t a traditional black and white paper, but a Wikified Research paper.

As a previous student wrote:
In most English classes, inventing new verbs is reserved for confused students. However, in English 9 honors, wikified has become a universal verb penned by none other than the teacher herself…. A WRP, or wikified research paper, is made on [and this year we added Google Sites] and allows students to link to resources within their papers, along with embedding various images and videos within their papers. This concept broadens the research paper from words on a piece of paper to a worldwide published work that includes interactive and supplementary elements which help define and support the student’s thesis.

As the students composed thesis statements defending their view point, we taught them about the wonders of wikispaces and Google Sites showing them the difference between publishing a paper for their teacher to publishing a paper for the world. There is a whole new level of engagement and responsibility in writing a paper of this magnitude.

Throughout the writing process, the students were challenged with composing something that was meaningful and relevant to their take-aways from the novels. Some students felt we have learned nothing as a society and continue to fall into the same traps Orwell and Doctorow identify such as blind acceptance of the truth, inability to decide for oneself, lack of trust in government and others, and the overwhelming power of technology. Others feel that because of Marcus’ role in Little Brother and Winston’s role in 1984, that we are learning not to blindly accept what others say and that everyone is empowered to challenge the system.

The students were also asked as a result of their learnings what will happen to us in the future. This part of the WRP could take any form: traditional paragraph, podcast, poem, video, etc…. If they could imagine it, they could create it. I think this is the part of the paper I have enjoyed more than any other. The kids are challenged with creating their own interpretation of a world which they have a greater role in. As they progress through these influencing years of learning, they are creating a future which could mimic their predictions, or challenge the future they see.

At the end of the writing process, the students turn in their wiki work and arrange for a assessment date with Maura or I. We grade their papers together talking through what the student’s intended in each paragraph as well as what we take away from their writing. The writing process comes alive at this point with the ability to walk each student through their thoughts clarifying confusions and appreciating their willingness to do something different. With each paper, I am able to see a clearer picture into my students’ writing mind reflecting back on their growth and seeing the amazing possibilities that lie in front of them. It is so powerful to sit next to each kid while commenting on the creativity of their work and feeling their personal pride in a job well done. Their exuberance at showing their teacher, and I would even guess the world, their thinking is inspiring.

I would encourage you to look through their work as well giving them feedback.
Period 2
Period 5

Friday, February 19, 2010

To: Texas From:Colorado re: 1984

Sometime during first semester, the date escapes me, Christian Long put out a tweet looking for someone to collaborate with his Texas students regarding 1984. Karl Fisch forwarded the tweet along to me, and so began our venture into Long’s World of Learning-Texas and Colorado style. Maura Moritz, my partner in 9th grade Honors, and I were going to have our students read 1984 at the end of first semester, and end at the beginning of second semester. Following this reading, our students were going to read Cory Doctorow’s response to 1984, Little Brother. Along the way, we were asking the students to think about “What have we learned or not learned in the 60 year span from Orwell to Doctorow? As a result, where are we going as a society?”

Working with Christian is like jumping into the Alice’s White Rabbit Hole- you just never know where you are going, but it is an adventure along the way. Christian and I spent a few Skype sessions with Maura planning out what our collaboration would look like. More importantly, the ability to exchange ideas outside of our department was refreshing. Christian has such a passion and stream of consciousness about his love of teaching and learning. To sit and talk with him is to take in all that it means to be a great teacher. Quite simply, my mind hurt when we would finish talking.

And so the plan became that quite magically all our teaching hours aligned. Christians’ period 2, 3, and 4, matched with our period 2, 3, and 4. We decided that since our students here at AHS had read 1984, they would lead Christian’s classes in a propaganda discussion. The kids planned a day of small group discussion focusing on various aspects of propaganda. Their planning is here and website they created for the discussion is here.

It is really interesting to sit back and watch the kids take over. There are those kids in class that are the planners/ organizers, those that are creatively minded coming up with all sorts of ideas, and then there are those that are along for the ride. Initially, the kids broke up into small groups planning what they were going to teach Christian’s kids. This worked out well and was well orchestrated. When the day came, their plan was that Christian’s kids would rotate between their small groups learning about a different facet of propaganda from a variety of kids. The plan was great, the implementation was more challenging. At least I can say for once, my kids were the guinea pigs and Maura’s got the benefit of our experience.

The technology allowed for some problems between the Texas to Colorado connection. One set could hear, and another couldn’t or one group could access the website, and another couldn’t. We set-up the classroom so that the kids were far enough away from one another each group having a computer with built in webcam that allowed them to Skype into Christian’s classroom in Texas.

The second day went much better- our kids led a large group discussion with Christian’s kids asking them to bring together all they had seen and talked about from the day before. This was a fun exchange of ideas regarding the purpose of propaganda (is all propaganda negative?), rights and responsibilities, safety and security, etc…

I think going forward some things we need to change are:
1- I think fewer groups and more time- maybe having two groups lead the entire class for 15 minute blocks of time.
2- Need to build in set-up time for technology: kids work out Skype difficulties day before so Skype is ready to go, kids all try website ahead of time to make sure all have access, etc...
3- Kids need to be better prepared to lead discussions. My kids had one or two questions, but didn't know how to work through problems with discussion or lack of responses. Kids need a wide depth and breadth of questions to ask. I guess this just proves not everyone can teach! Kids also need various means of delivering information when website doesn't work.
4- Less laughter from kids, more focus on professionalism and responsibility of task. Kids can have fun while still being academically challenged.

Maura’s classes went really well. I am glad we were able to have this intellectual exchange. The power of collaboration far outweighs and of the technical difficulties. I was amazed at the shift in my students from being learners to teachers and watching them struggle with how challenging it is to teach and engage your audience. I know they walked away with a new appreciation for me, and I walked away with a new collaborator- Christian, thanks for this opportunity and here’s to many more.

Changing the World ala Diigo

Part of the ninth grade curriculum is for our students to write a persuasive research paper where students apply their composition skills to a five paragraph essay. Last year with my student teacher, Mr. Ruggles, we changed the focus of the paper to a Change the World paper.
This year, we started the paper writing process talking about issues in this world that were injustices or wrongs that have been committed. These could be as simple as personal issues (curfew laws, child abuse, drug abuse) or complex as international issues(blood diamonds, world poverty/hunger). I wanted this paper to be very different for my students. We had spent the better part of first semester perfecting the paragraph with strong topic sentences and we had spent some time working with thesis statements. I wasn’t so concerned about the formatting of the paper, but helping my students find something they were passionate about and then helping them DO something about it. The paper was just a means to the end of creating an action plan. As they constructed their paper, they had to be thinking about how to solve this problem and then what could they personally do to Change the World.
After brainstorming and learning about proper internet search techniques from our library media specialist, Mr. Murphy, I asked Karl Fisch to come in to introduce the wonderful world of Diigo to our kids. Karl came in and presented about the organizational and collaborative nature of this tool. We had a group set-up for our entire class so that when one kid would bookmark a site, his bookmark would be shared with the entire class. The kids had the capability to collaborate on researching and sources, rather than be seen as “cheating.” – they were going to help one another succeed.
Another benefit of using Diigo was that all the information for the boys was stored online. As they read through articles, they could sticky note important information, tag the source with reminders as to where this valuable piece could support an argument in their paper, and most importantly, stay organized. No matter whether the student was at home or at school, as long as they could log into Diigo, they could access their sources.
As the students organized their papers, they were asked to create thesis statements that identified the problem, but then also identified a solution or two. Throughout the paper writing process, the ability for the kids to access the sources was so helpful. I think I would make some changes to this process in the future:
1- I would have the kids use Google Docs as a composition tool. Too often, paragraphs were lost or misplaced. I think this would parallel well with Diigo in that everything is available to the student wherever they go.
2- I need to stress the importance of not just Googling quotes about the topics. After finding sources for their papers, some kids would just find any quote that dealt with their topic rather than focusing on the research work. If they were arguing about global warming, they would just Google “global warming quotes” and use whatever came up, rather than facts and data that would support their opinion. I think a change to the rubric would help eliminate this problem.
3- I would like to get more kids to write their papers as Wikipapers. I think this is so important for writing in the 21st century. I don’t want their papers to be limited to my reading, but for everyone to see what these kids are thinking about and what they want to change. I need to work on this. After presenting Wikispaces and Google Sites to the kids, only one took me up on the offer.
4- I have to find a way to make kids better editors of each other’s work. This is something I have struggled with all year long. We do musical chairs editing (which if you have never tried is the best thing), but the kids are not either capable or focused enough as to what to edit. We walk through the papers step by step, and I have done example editing with them, but they don’t seem to follow through. I want them to develop this quality but am unsure beyond modeling, and reinforcing expectations how to get them to be better.
At the end of the paper, the kids were asked to develop and implement an action plan where they are going to personally do something about their problem. This is my favorite part of this whole project. The kids aren’t just writing a paper, but trying to change the world. They are actually doing something that is meaningful, relevant and personal to them. I have kids talking to news channels, emailing ESPN, Sports Illustrated, writing letters to congress, volunteering at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. You name it, they have considered it. With their final paper, they turned in their action plan as well. I asked the kids at the end of this whole six week process to reflect on the paper, Diigo, as well as the action plan. Their thoughts are posted on the class blog. It’s a start, and I know I will make changes next year, but these kids are beginning to see that the change all starts with them.