Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Video Book Review

What did Dr. Strange leave out?

Dr. Strange asked for an assignment idea for future EDM510 students. I had several ideas, but I finally settled on Google Education Hangouts on Air. I discovered this site earlier in the semester while doing some research for one of my blog posts. It contains numerous professional development videos from previous hangouts, or you can choose to join a hangout that is scheduled for the future. (That may be a variation of the assignment I will be describing. Actually participate in an upcoming Education hangout.) So here's my idea for an assignment...

Go to Google Education Hangouts on Air.  Explore the site and choose a video from "Past Recordings" that interests you. Watch the video and write a post about what you learned. Embed the video in your post.

"20% Time a.k.a. Genius Hour"

In this video, Kevin Brookhouser and Juan De Luca introduce you to the idea of 20% Time in their Google hangout titled "Radical Autonomy:  Giving your students 20% Time to Pursue their Passion while Learning your Content."

They explain that businesses like 3M and Google have been using this idea for years. Basically, they give their employees 20% of the work week to pursue projects that interest them. Many teachers have now begun to implement 20% Time programs in their classroom, sometimes called "Genius Hour." Both Mr. Brookhouser and Mr. De Luca have had phenomenal results with this program. Their students produced some great projects while learning the curriculum; not because they had to, but because they needed/wanted to. The students are motivated because it is a project they chose. Everyone is doing something different. Blogging is also an important part of Mr. Brookhouser's class.

I really like 20% Time, but I'm not sure it's suitable for the lower elementary grades. I don't know if they have the amount of self motivation required to work independently on a project that spans over a long period of time. I do think 4th grade and up could handle this type of responsibility. You might choose to do one project per semester. Maybe for the lower grades it could be modified to a shorter period of time. The same principles would be used, but instead of the projects running for an entire semester, maybe the time frame could be shortened to one grading period. Mr. Brookhouser and Mr. De Luca are both high school teachers.

I'd like to do more research on 20% Time in order to find elementary teachers who may be implementing this program. If you know of any good resources that may help me, please share them in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book Review

In the true spirit of "partnering," I'm going to do some self assessment. If I had the luxury of time, I would do the whole thing over. This was my first video book review, and I found it to be the most difficult assignment so far. How can making 10-12 minutes worth of video take hours?! I had a good idea of what I wanted to produce, but I wasn't exactly sure what tools ("nouns") I needed to get the product. I did some research and found some editing software that cost $100. (I opted not to purchase that.) So I decided to go with a combination of tools I was already familiar with: Google Presentations, Photo Booth, and YouTube.

I really enjoyed reading this book and found it very inspiring. While reading I actually took 8 pages of notes to reference in case I ever get the opportunity to teach using the "partnering" method. However, I did not find making the presentation and videos as enjoyable. Looking back, I can see how I could have done it better. If I had the opportunity to redo this assignment, I would prepare a speech, just like I would have done for a speech class. Then, I would make notes on index cards to refer to as I gave the speech. I think I would have been more pleased with the results using those steps. "'Ancora imparo'" Translation: "'I am still learning.'" (p. 170, Prensky)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Real v. Relevant

Brian Crosby's TEDx Talk was fantastic! Who wouldn't want to be a student in his class? It was by far my favorite of all the videos, and I had actually already partly watched it on my own the previous week because I have been commenting on his blog all semester.

Brian has so much enthusiasm and excitement for his job. That was the most impressionable part of his video for me. I also liked that he and his students collaborated with professionals and graduate students on projects. Graduate students - that's an untapped resource I hadn't thought of before! A few quotes that struck me... "We can't keep racing kids through school." "We have to go back to a notion of building schools that honor kids." In my opinion, Brian Crosby is a shining example of what all teachers should be doing in their classrooms!

Paul Anderson's Blended Learning Cycle wasn't as motivating for me. Maybe because I watched it immediately following Brian.

Because I was thinking about and connecting what I was viewing to what I've recently read in Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning, it struck me that Paul's lessons were relevant, but they weren't very real. I appreciated his method - QUIVERS, but I found it lacking. I would like to have seen students using technology to present and share what they learned with an authentic audience. The most impressive part of his video was the idea of "hooking" the students. Euler's disk was an amazing hook!

Sam Pane's Super Digital Citizen was an awesome lesson and watching the video lead to my discovery of TeachingChannel and Common Sense Media.

I noted that he had students have a "whisper level conversation" with their peers before answering the question to him. That gives everyone an opportunity to share their thoughts; not just the student who raises his/her hand. "Gallery walks" were also a great idea! I also noticed that he wasn't using the technology; the kids were. This lesson was both real and relevant!

The only drawback I could see was its lack of including the students' different passions. What if some of the kids weren't into comic books or super heroes? Maybe he could have somehow given them more choice in what character they chose to express good digital citizenship. Animal fans could have chosen a favorite animal. Music lovers could have chosen a favorite musician. It's just a thought.

photograph of a bald eagle in flight

"Students would have a hard time telling you what class they were taking," is my favorite quote from Dean Shareski's Project Based Learning. Wow! That's how it should be done! What these teachers were doing was also real and relevant.

I am a huge fan of combining subjects into one large class period. I like the idea of combining multiple teachers into the same classroom even better! Teachers from individual subject areas are collaborating together to bring meaningful lessons to the students. It's partnering on top of partnering! We need some major restructuring like this to take place in our local schools.

I also liked that students were changing their, "I'm done," to an, "I'm really proud of this." We've had those kids who put the minimal effort into the project just so they can say, "I'm done." It so much more rewarding to hear him/her say, "I'm really proud of this." It was also motivating to hear the teacher say, "We teach beyond the curriculum." The curriculum shouldn't be the ceiling. It should be the foundation that we help lay and build upon.

photograph of the foundation of a skyscraper

From Roosevelt Elementary's PBL Program, I saw how Project Based Learning could be implemented in the earliest of grades and that technology wasn't always a necessity for this approach to learning. I especially enjoyed the testimonies of the parents who were pleased with how and what their children were learning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Anthony Capps Interview Response

cartoon about standardized testing

Great question choice! ;) As I was listening to the interview, I found myself agreeing with most of what Mr. Capps was saying, but there was one thing he said that alarmed me. Before I get into that, I'd like to commend Mr. Capps for being a pioneer in his school with the PBL method. I think it's a great way to engage students and to get them learning and using technology in meaningful ways.

I don't feel really comfortable expressing opinions about PBL because I have had no formal training or experience teaching with this method, but I do see a lot of benefits to it and am very interested in learning more about it. 

Mr. Capps' answers to the questions asked were very informative and well thought out. I especially liked his response about making the connection between "not responsive students" and assigning material that was overwhelming to them. Often times, this is why students misbehave in class or shutdown. I also liked the "video pal" program that helps foster the development of a second language. Wow! That will definitely have an impact on the community and the world! Lastly, I liked that he stated the need to, "set up a community of learners." I believe this is crucial in any classroom. Students need to be taught that they are on the same team and that helping one another is beneficial to everyone. 

Now, here's my problem with the interview. I don't blame Mr. Capps for his thinking because this is the way our education system is currently designed, and, I think partly to blame, why we as a nation are falling behind in educational rankings (which I'm not sure is a fair and totally accurate representation of what's actually going on). Be Glad for Our Failure to Catch Up With China in Education.  We aren't comparing apples to apples with these tests. Our students are being educated in completely different environments in some cases.

Mr. Capps said, "Some students can handle a really open question, and they just wanna go dig, dig, dig, dig. And they know exactly how to dig, but those students aren't the ones that you really need to teach anyway."  

"Those students," are probably the brightest in the class! And, yes, they do need to be taught just as much as the student with learning disabilities. This is why I despise standardized testing. Standardized testing leads to an overemphasis on test scores and not the children. Our brightest kids are sitting in classes whizzing through assignments and basically being left to educate themselves while teachers are hyper-focused on the group of students whose scores need to be raised in order to meet the state standard. If we paid half the attention to our brightest kids that we give to the underperforming students, where would that get us? Hmmm.... No one wants to talk about it because that would be politically incorrect and "no child left behind" is/was our motto. Well, some children aren't getting "left behind", but they are certainly getting "left out" because they got it a week ago the first time the teacher said it.

Not all children learn at the same pace just like not all babies learn to sit-up, crawl, or walk at the same pace. We all mature and learn at different rates and trying to force little brains to master a skill that they are just not developmentally ready for isn't doing anyone any good. Meanwhile, star student, is sitting over there starving for the next lesson to be taught because he/she has already mastered the current standard. I don't have all the answers to the problems, but I do know we have to start making our brightest students a priority as well. They deserve just as much of our attention as the students who are struggling.

Standardized testing is doing nothing for our educational system. We need tests that show the growth of the individual student. A test that can show the achievements made over the course of the school year. Many students make huge strides in a school year and still fail to meet state testing standards. How defeating is that? Instead of being upset over not meeting a rigid standard set by the state, we should be celebrating with the little person all the accomplishments that he/she made in the school year! Encouragement, in this way, will lead to a better attitude toward learning and a stronger desire to learn which will ultimately lead to more productive members of society. Isn't that the goal anyway?

"What are the things you have learned from watching this video?" I learned that our educational system is still in need of a major overhaul, and teachers like Mr. Capps are out there trying new ways of doing things. But it's not enough. We need to make bigger changes; meaningful changes that will affect the growth of students in a positive way.

Interview with Anthony Capps

"So the experiment is?"

picture of an icon for listening

Dr. Strange had us listen to a podcast. Dr. Strange also stated in his weekly assignments...

"This is also an experiment. I failed to record the video so only the audio is available. (We all make mistakes). But there is really no need to watch Anthony and me talking. So the experiment is?"

Well, Dr. Strange, I beg to differ. There IS a need to watch Anthony and you talk. Just listening without seeing facial expressions is much more difficult than watching and listening to the two of you have the conversation. So I think the experiment you wanted us to pick up on was that of listening compared to listening and watching. 

Although I do find it easier to listen and watch compared to just listening, I think listening is a skill that we all need, and some or most of us are losing. When I taught in Texas, I was the coach for the Listening Team. The students listened to a passage and answered questions immediately afterwards. They were allowed to take notes that they thought would be helpful in answering the questions. I'm happy to say that my students worked very hard and placed at the district competition each year that I coached. I don't take any of that credit. They did all the work! I was extremely proud of them though. 

I remember doing listening activities when I was in elementary school. I found them extremely difficult then too. It's just much easier to have visual stimulation that complements the auditory stimulation. The combination leads to a better understanding, at least for me. 

I did a little research on this topic and found a wonderful TED talk about how to become a better listener. Julian Treasure: 5 ways to listen better.  

Final thought... As teachers we need to be good listeners, and we also need to teach our students the skill of listening. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

21st Century Learning and Communication Tools

The learning and communication tools available to teachers and students in the 21st century are abundant to say the least. It can actually be very overwhelming. It makes me wish there was a site that categorized ALL the tools available and gave a brief description of each and it's uses.

Tool #1
Well, I haven't found a site like that, but I did come across a site that categorizes and gives brief descriptions of several tools. Web 2.0 Cool Tools for Schools is a great place to begin! I found this site earlier in the semester while doing some reading for my Library Management course, and I pinned it to a board in Pinterest because I knew it was going to be useful at a later time. That time has arrived!

I learned how to do screenshots!

Tool #2
On Web 2.0 Cool Tools for Schools, I found several useful tools, but I want to highlight one in particular. Glogster EDU is a wonderful site! There is even a free tutorial to show you how to utilize all the features offered. There is also a free version (that lasts for 32 days), or you can choose to purchase the program. One downfall is that the higher the grade level; the higher the cost of the program. 

Glogster allows you or students to create digital posters! You can add images, videos, and texts to these posters, and you can embed them into a blog once they are complete. Students could work independently or collaboratively on these posters. 

There is also a Glogpedia, which is a collection of posters that others have made and published. These posters are categorized by subject area. Because I am in love with American history, I chose to embed a gloster about Benjamin Franklin. This is just one example of the many glogsters available in the Glogpedia. 

The cost for a 1 year subscription for an elementary teacher and 30 students is $39, which I think is a great deal for what you get!

Tool #3
Because I also love children's literature, I chose Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site. Here's a quote from the site that gives an explanation of what it offers.

"Find great books for preschool, elementary, and middle school children and teens and ideas of ways to teach with them in the classroom across the curriculum."

I believe children's literature is a great way to get little minds thinking and asking those questions we want to hear them ask! Those questions will lead to further exploration of sites like AVL and using technology to communicate what they've discovered which can then be shared with an authentic audience! 

Honorable Mentions

Citation Machine - Because there was a lot of emphasis on plagiarism earlier in the semester, I wanted to share this tool because it allows student to easily site a book or website. You simply choose what format and enter either the ISBN for books or the URL for websites! How simple is that? It will also check for plagiarism.

A Virtual Library of Useful URLs - This tool is very "useful" for students. The creator of this site has done all of the weeding. Scroll through the the subject headings (categorized by the Dewey Decimal System), and click on the topic of your choice. You will be directed to a list of several reliable and credible websites related to that topic.

Second Life Education - (...because I'm curious, and it was on that other syllabus.) I'm still trying to figure this one out. I watched this slideshare, 11 Ways to Use Second Life in Education, and I'm still scratching my head wondering if it's worth it.  By the way, slideshare also looks like a great tool!

This blog post could go on forever! I'm forcing myself to stop now!

ALEX - Alabama Learning Exchange

screenshot of ALEX homepage

ALEX is absolutely an essential resource to teachers in Alabama. On the site, not only teachers, but anyone, can search "Courses of Study" (state standards) and "Lesson Plans." You may also create a "Personal Workspace" which allows you to bookmark items and even create items such as lesson plans and podcasts. Below, I have links to some of the items I found useful on ALEX.

Courses of Study:

 Lesson Plans:

Personal Workspace:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Alabama Virtual Library

The residents of Alabama have a free resource available to them, and most don't even know it exists!

The following video is a short guide on the Alabama Virtual Library and its usefulness to elementary students, their parents, and elementary teachers. In the video, I point out some important features and some areas that need improvement. Thank you for watching! (Please, pardon my grammar. I was a bit nervous. This is my first screen recording.)