Monday, November 28, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Long before my Epic Romeo and Juliet Project, the first major project I created was during my student teaching 10 years ago. I thought it would be a great idea to do a mock trial in my class after reading Huck Finn. I wanted to have the students put Mark Twain on trial for being a racist. At the time, there was some more uproar across the nation on whether or not Huck should be taught in schools. We had discussed the topic in class and I thought this would be a great way for students to explore both sides of the issue and make up their mind.
As I look back at the project (and ahead as I prepare to bring it back), I notice all of the things that made this project work that lead to deep understanding. Here are 5 major parts of Project Based Learning that make it valuable to the classroom.
1. OWNERSHIP is key. For this project, the students were not listening to me on why Twain was or was not a racist, they were showing me and the rest of class what they thought. They were invested in winning their argument. They knew that their work was going to determine if he was guilty or not. Although I gave the assignment, the students were in charge the rest of the way. It was their project and they wanted to do it win. When students feel they own what they are doing, they will work harder. When the audience is larger, they want to impress everyone. These are not crazy ideas, they are the results of owning the work they are doing. OWNERSHIP is a major factor in the value of PBL.
2. CREATIVITY is the another major part of the PBL and is closely linked with OWNERSHIP. Students were allowed to be creative in their work as a lawyer or witness. Witnesses needed to stay within character, but could add their own elements on the witness stand. Allowing the students to create gives them a bigger sense of OWNERSHIP.
3. Another part of the PBL is the COLLABORATION. Students were working with each other trying to decide the best plan of attack. Witnesses would meet with their lawyers and discuss how the questions they were going to ask and how they should dress. The Jury worked on group projects researching the previous public opinions on Twain and his writing. Students were sharing ideas freely with one another. I had three sections of American Lit at the time, so I had three trials running. Lawyers would help others in the other classes and trash talk the opposing lawyers as well. It was all in good fun, but the collaboration had students working hard with one another to accomplish this goal.
4. Depending on how you set up your project, CRITICAL THINKING, is also an important part of PBL. With my Twain Trial, students needed to think about both sides of the argument. Students needed to prepare their witnesses for potential cross-examination questions. They needed to anticipate problems each witness presented and be prepared to counter them. In a world were homework can be tedious and memorization rules supreme, PBL is a great way to get kids thinking critically.
5. Lastly, Project Based Learning has to be FUN! It seems obvious, but I have seen many projects that are very tedious. They have kids go through the motions and leave very little room for FUN or CREATIVITY. Projects are a chance for students to break the regular routine of reading and writing in some classes. Most kids are excited to do a project because they finally see it as a chance to express themselves in a format other than a test or essay. The FUN comes from the freedom students feel. Working with their friends (COLLABORATION), taking charge of their learning (OWNERSHIP), solving real problems (CRITICAL THINKING) and allowing students to create (CREATIVITY) all lead to the students learning in a FUN environment.
Next week, my students will be creating their own Transcendentalist Society. My friend and I tweaked a lesson from Gwen S. Price. I'm excited because this will be the first major project my students have done this year and they will be using the iPads for the first time. My kids are excited to get to work on the project and I can't wait to see what they create. I look forward to sharing their work with all of you.
If you have any thoughts on bringing PBL to your classroom, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Friday, November 25, 2011
I wanted to share some quick thoughts on some apps I have been playing with lately.
iAnnotate PDF - $9.99
I really like this app. I have been looking for apps to use on my iPad since I knew I was getting a class set and this app has been very useful. It allows the user to take any PDF and annotate it freely. You can use a variety of tools to highlight, underline, strike-through and even stamp. Once you are done annotating the document, you can save it with the annotations and email it to yourself or others. I like the app because it would allow students to annotate pieces I send to them and they could send it back to me with their thoughts.
The app also allows for Dropbox integration which I love. I can pulls documents from Dropbox and annotate them and send them back to Dropbox. I recently uploaded my class list to the app and used it to enter in grades while I check writing assignments. After I had completed all of the checking, I was able to quickly reference the grades on the app and enter them into the online grade book. I can keep the PDF there and continue to annotate it over time. I have found it to be very valuable.
The app might seem a bit pricey, but I think it is a fair value for how I want to use it and how I hope to use it in the future. If you are looking for ways to annotate PDFs of the go, I suggest you take a look at iAnnotate PDF for your iPad.
The Tower Pulse - Free
For those of you who do not know, I am a co-adviser to the the school's new online newspaper, The Tower Pulse. We started last year and have picked up steam this year. I help on the tech end of the paper and my co-adviser works on the journalistic end. It's been a great marriage and the kids have turned out an amazing product. I thought it would be cool if I could turn the paper into an app for the students to download for free to access the content on the go. After some searching, I found UppSite.com. UppSite takes your WordPress site and converts it into an app. It will create a free Android app and help you set up an Apple Developer account so your app can be made available on OS Devices. I already had a Developer account, so I was able to create Android and Apple apps. After two weeks, the app was ready to go on all devices. The kids are excited and I cannot wait to see how many people download the app. If you have a WordPress site and are looking to create an app, take a look at UppSite.com.
Charlie Brown Christmas - $4.99
This cartoon is one of my all-time favorites. There is no question about it. I love every part of this cartoon. I stumbled upon the app looking through the store and downloaded it without question. That is not the wisest of decisions for app purchasing, especially at $4.99, but I was not disappointed. It is the complete story told by the original voice of Charlie Brown and has all of the original voices from the cartoon. It is the complete cartoon with many different interactive elements. My son, Leo, is only 6 months old and he was mesmerized by the app. He would touch the screen and turn falling snow into giant snowflakes or touch one of the Peanuts characters and they would dance or talk. He loved it and that made the app priceless in my mind. If you loved the cartoon growing up, you will love this app, and so will your kids. Here is a video from the creator of the app with more details.
I wanted to share some cool apps I've been using the past few weeks. I will have some more app suggestions in the near future as my class set of iPads sees more action with the students. I hope all of you have a great weekend.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I want to thank everyone who has nominated me for awards this year. I appreciate all of the support all of you have given my silly site. :-)
- Best individual blog - The Tempered Radical - Bill Ferriter
- Best individual tweeter - Steven Anderson @Web20Classroom
- Best group blog - Connected Principals
- Best ed tech / resource sharing blog - iLearnTechnolgy - Kelly Tenkely
- Best new blog - Erin Klein - Kleinspiration
- Best twitter hashtag - #edchat
- Best teacher blog - Upsidedown Education - Amanda C Dykes
- Best librarian / library blog - Shannon Miller
- Best School Administrator blog - Lyn Hilt
- Best open PD / unconference / webinar series - #edcamp
- Lifetime achievement - Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman1)
Ross Cooper wad one of the winners of the Adobe Edu Awards this year and I had a chance to interview him about his winning submission, Ross Cooper, Ross Boss Projects: Pinball Wizard. I did a post on Ross and his awesome Pinball Wizard Project earlier this year because I thought his project was very interesting. Take a look at what he had to say about his winning project and some other things he is working on this year.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
In the next few days, I will be rolling out a class set of iPads. Below are 5 apps that will be essential to making this pilot work.
Dropbox is going to be key in having a class set of iPads. I had all of my students set up Dropbox accounts using their school email addresses at the very start of the school year. I created a shared folder that all students have access to. I placed all important documents in there for students to access. It allowed me to make only 180 paper copies all year and half of those were permission slips to use the iPads. Students will be able to access all documents I place in the shared folder on the iPad by logging into to Dropbox. When students create new documents or take pictures, they will be able save them in their Dropbox account. I also created shared folders with individual students that will allow them to submit assignments directly to me. I can check them and drop them back without others seeing the graded work. In a shared environment, the app allows for easy logging in and logging out. Another great aspect is that students will be able to access all of their information from a computer or on their own devices. Dropbox allows access to documents from anywhere there is Internet access. It's perfect for my iPad pilot. Without Dropbox, I'm not sure I would had pushed for the class set.
As students do research for various projects and essays, Evernote will be a great tool for them to store websites they want for later. Also, it will be a great place for students to take notes in class. They can easily categorize information and notes in different notebooks and freely share those notes with other students. Evernote allows for web access as well and that will enable students to access their information from home or their personal mobile devices. Like Dropbox, Evernote allows students to access their information from anywhere. Information needs to be easily shared in this collaborative endeavor and Evernote is a great tool that allows this happen effortlessly.
Although a separate app, I will add Evernote Peek here as well. It's a wonderful add-on for students who are looking to study their facts and vocabulary words.
My students will be engaged in the back channel on a regular basis. They will be using #MrPAmLit for their tweets and I can't wait to see what the stream looks like with all of my students using Twitter. Not all of my students have an account and they will not be required to get one, but I do know I have students that cannot access Twitter from their phones and they are excited to use the iPads to tweet. The students will be able to add their account and will need to delete their accounts at the end of each class. That will take some getting used to, but it will not be a large obstacle in using Twitter in class.
I have banned Power Points in my classroom and have encouraged students to use other presentation tools. Prezi Viewer will allow students to create Prezis at home and view them on the iPad. Even better, students will be able to present their Prezi using the Apple TV connection I set up in my classroom. No longer will students have to log into my teacher station, email the presentation to me or bring a flash drive that may not be compatible with the school desktop. Prezi Viewer will allow all students to present quickly and easily.
It might seem simple, but it is a must have. If I want students to quickly search for information, I will need them to use their Google App. I had students create Google accounts using their school email at the start of the year, so this app will allow students full access to their Google Apps. This was a nice bonus to having students create Blogger accounts. Whether my students are doing research for a project or working on a Google Doc, this Google App will give my kids access to information and tools that will allow them to be engaged in their work.
These are just 5 of the apps I intend to have my students actively using in class. Stay tuned for more details as I pilot this class set of iPads in my American Literature and Composition classes.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
- 3.0 MP digital images
- adjustable gooseneck
- auto focus
- LED light
- internal microphone
- SEN switch (adaptation for students with special needs)
- Measures 20"H
Three technology tools in one, yet so affordable! Easy-to-use digital projection camera is also a web cam and photo/video camera. Great for students’ multimedia projects across the curriculum or whole-class demonstration of manipulatives in action, book pages, science models and more. Document student progress for assessment, then upload files to digital portfolios or share with other educators or parents. Connects via USB port to use with your PC (XP, Vista, Win7) and is compatible with your interactive whiteboard. Boosts students’ 21st-century skills and helps you reach beyond traditional teaching methods.
The software that came with the Luna was easy to instal and very easy to use. I really mean it was easy. The set up was simple and my computer recognized the camera without a problem. I was able to project a book for my class and I was able to record and play back some annotation.
I also connected the camera to Skype and everything looked and sounded great. The flexible neck also made it very easy to turn the camera around to see my room. Hearing voices from further back in the room was tough, but bringing students closer is not an issue for my classroom.
The picture looked great on my screen and I could easily move objects around without much of a delay on the screen. I was very happy with the picture quality.
The only real issue I had with the Luna is that it is NOT Mac compatible. That makes me sad as a Mac guy. In 2011, most products, especially for schools, should work on dual platforms. For me, it made it impossible for me to take the Luna home (It is very easy to take around because of its compact size.) and work with it for class. That is the one strike against it from my point of view.
The price is a bit high for a product that does not work across two platforms, but it is still much cheaper than most document camera and webcams combined. If you are a PC school and you have a PC at home, this would be a very handy addition to your classroom.
Sunday, November 6, 2011
The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum Beach and Lani Ritter Hall
I had a blast at this session. Sheryl is a very passionate person and I could see that she sees the importance of teachers integrating technology into the classroom and that the Connected Educator is something every teacher should strive to be if they are going to meet the students where they are.
One of my favorite parts of this session was when Lani Skyped into the session to talk about her work on the book. What came out of that conversation was that this book never touched paper before it was printed. Their collaboration took place using Google Docs and was submitted online when complete. These two educators were modeling what a collaborative and connected educator looks like, and it looked great.
There are so many great tools out there that allow educators to connect and share. I've been lucky to have made some great connections over the past couple of years that has allowed me to grow as an educator. My Romeo and Juliet project would have been impossible a few years ago if it were not for the collaborative tools available today.
I love the idea of Connected Educators working hand in hand to great a world wide learning environment for students and teachers. The more we can connect students and teachers to ideas from all over the world, the better off the world will be in the long run. I would recommend picking up Sheryl and Lani's book, The Connected Educator, and sharing it with your friends.
The conference closed with some prizes and recognition of teachers and other educators that are making a difference in their schools. I love prizes, but I love recognizing educators even more. These were people that were nominated by their peers and created a video showing why they were so valuable to them. As a teacher, I do not do the stuff I do in my district or with my students to be recognized, but when it happens, it is a very nice feeling.
I was to sure what to expect heading to AuthorSpeak. A conference where authors talk about their books could seem like an endless infomercial, but it was the exact opposite. I was able to see some educators talk about learning. There were great conversations before and after sessions that I would never be able to have outside of this conference. While I might not have been in total agreement with every author in every session, my thinking was challenged. I like to be challenged and this conference offered that for me.
I was able to hangout with some great friends and talk education, it just educational technology. Best practices were discussed and new ideas were shared. Connections were made and learning took place. I feel like I picked up a few new friends along the way as well. I was very happy to go to AuthorSpeak and want to fit it into my schedule. I hope to see many of you at AuthorSpeak2012 October 30 - November 1.
Did you attend in person or virtually? Leave me your thoughts here.
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Here are my thoughts after attending #AuthorSpeak Day 2.
Motivating Students with Carolyn Chapman and Nicole Vagle
This was a very high energy session that made me think about student motivation, but my motivation. The feelings I carry into a lesson can easily be transferred to students and even other staff members. I like the idea of letting students have more of a say in the lesson building process and that will help increase motivation if students feel a sense of ownership. Connecting with students on a personal level also will motivate students. That sounds weird, but their is some truth to that. Students want to work with teachers they know are invested in them. Lastly, there are many factors that are out of the control of teachers, but its important to focus on the factors teachers do have control over. If the focus is on the other issues, it is energy sapping and everyone loses.
Communicating and Connecting with Social Media with William M. Ferriter (@plugusin), Jason T. Ramsden (@Raventech) and Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal)
This was a great session with the amazing presenters Eric, Bill and Jason. I am a better teacher for having been to this session. Every person should follow them on Twitter and read their blogs. They are simply awesome. (Was that a good shout out Eric?)
In all seriousness, this was a great session that focused on the value of Social Media in the school system. The news tends to focus on the bad side of education. Social media allows schools to control their PR and highlight the amazing things students and staff do every day. Being in charge of the message is key in today's world and Social Media allows schools to do that. People do not travel to websites to search for information. They want Facebook pages where the important information is right there.
Social Media can allow people to grow and expand their PLN in ways that will challenge their thinking and help them grow as professionals. Learning and growing should be the goal of every educator and Social Media plays a valuable role in accomplishing those tasks.
Twitter, in particular, is a great tool to connect with educators from all over the world. I think it is important to interact with people and share ideas. I have had so many great interactions on Twitter that I cannot imagine not having it in my teacher toolbox. Twitter allows me access to some of the most amazing minds in education. My ideas on teaching have been challenged and I'm better off because of it. Long story short, get on Twitter.
Creating a Digital-Rich Classroom with Meg Ormiston (@MegOrmi)
I love Meg! She is just a ball of energy. She has a passion for integrating technology into the classroom. This was one of the those had to be there session because she was sharing great idea after great idea. She shared some web-tools (Jing being one of my favorites) that can help any teacher create exciting lessons. She really showed how important it is to start to create lessons that focus on how kids learn not how we want them to learn. Brining digital tools into the classroom will engage students and allow them to take ownership of their learning in new and exciting ways. I recommend you pick up her book.
Personal Learning Networks with Will Richardson (@WillRich45) and Rob Mancabelli
This was an excellent session. Here are some quotes I tweeted during the session.
Learning is more than walking around the living room trying to memorize facts for a random test.
Teachers are everywhere!
Information is not for kids, it's for everyone.
Schools still act like the majority of people on the internet are predators.
Transparency is key in 21st Century Learning
It was a great session where my fingers could not keep up with the greats bits of wisdom shared by Will and Rob. Making connections with educators is how we are going to change education. The more voices that speak up, the better the chance we have to make an impact on education reform. PLNs are a great way and making positive steps toward changing education and I think Will and Rob did a great job sharing their ideas.
Thursday is the last day for #AuthorSpeak and I will be sad to go, but I have met some great people, made some new friends and will know that the learn will not stop at the end of the day.
See you later.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Today was a whirlwind day of learning for me. I've spent the last hour or so trying to collect my thoughts and think of what I wanted to share and the one one word that kept coming to mind was change. Change not for the sake of change, but for sake of the students in our classroom. Here are the various sessions I went to and my thoughts on them.
Keynote with Daniel Pink
Before the conference, I really did not know much about Daniel Pink. I had heard about him and knew he was an author. Other than that, I really didn't know what to expect. I have to say that I was very impressed with his speech and motivated to make some changes.
The part that stood out to me was when Pink talked about creativity. A study was done with artists. They were asked to create art. Some of the art was whatever they wanted it to be and the other art was very specific commissioned art. After all of the art was made, art experts were brought in to evaluate the pieces of art. It turns out the experts ranked the non-commissioned art higher than the commissioned art. The commissioned art was equal in technique and skill, but the non-commissioned art had that extra something. The results did not really surprise me. It seemed to make sense that people perform better when they feel ownership over their work. This seems like common sense, yet we seem to expect less from our students. It really made me think.
I am a big fan of project based learning and have seen the positive impact it has had on my students. However, the projects are still based on the curriculum. The kids do not get to choose the topic of the project, just the project. What if I gave the kids the chance to spend time exploring the topics they want? What if I used the Google model and gave students 20% of the week to work on something that is important to them? Would I see even better results from my students if they felt like they owned every aspect of the learning process? This is something I really want to explore this year.
Another part Pink talked about was that Merit Pay doesn't work. Duh.
Building a Professional Learning Community at Work - William M. Ferriter and Parry Graham
This was a great session. One of my favorite things was that Bill starts out with telling the crowd what the outcomes of the session are going to be. It's a very simple thing to do and I need to add it to my presentation tool box.
We talked about emotions in PLCs. When Bill asked for some emotion words in their school regarding PLCs, the word frustration was mentioned. I would have to agree with word. I feel the biggest thing I have experienced in the PLC process that has been going on for 8 years in my district is frustration. Nothing has been accomplished in using PLC time in 8 years. Thing that have been accomplished have been tossed aside for other ideas. We spent 8 years on common assessments and do not have one because they are changed year to year for "tweaking". We have no data and things seem to just never get better. We are currently working to renew the PLC process in our building, so we will see where it goes.
Back to the session, the expression of emotions made me feel better because I did not feel alone in my frustration. PLCs can work, but everyone needs to have buy in and the little bits of progress need to be celebrated. That is something that I feel was great to take away. There will be times when it feels like a PLC is sitting in neutral and the smallest bits of progress need to be pointed out and celebrated to encourage the groups to keep working. I really look forward to bringing that idea to my building. No matter how small, progress is progress and needs to be celebrated and encouraged. I was very happy that I attended this session.
Mobile Learning Devices with Kipp Rogers
I'm getting a class set of iPads in my class in the next week or so and I wanted to see if there were some cool things I could get from Kipp. I met him the night before and he was such a nice guy. That might seem random, but I feel that people that I have met that are nice in person tend to give awesome presentations. Kipp gave the best presentation of the day for me. He was engaging and used the tools that he was talking about. He had us using Poll Everywhere and scanning QR Codes from the projected screen. I learned that you can text Google any question and Google will text you the answer. Crazy! Some of the ways he suggested using cell phones were not new to me, but I'm sure they were new to many people in the audience. The session was engaging, light and a good time. The 45 minutes blew by and I was sad to see it end. I recommend picking up his book Mobile Learning Devices if you are using them in your class. You will not be disappointed.
Teaching the iGeneration with William M. Ferriter and Adam Garry
I've already raved about Bill (@Plugusin), but he deserves another shout out. He talked about engagement in the classroom and admitted that his tests scores where lower than the teachers down the hall. I do not know of any person, especially someone speaking to educators who he needs to trust him, that admits to that fact. What it showed me is that he is dedicated to his work and does not judge himself by test scores. I admire that. I have felt the same way with my projects, but it was something different to see someone stand in front of a packed room and say it.
Bill uses Kiva.org with his students to show them the difference between developed and developing nations. Kiva is a site that connects people with developing nation citizens who need loans for their business ideas. Bill's students formed a club, made presentations and have raised over 4K for Kiva. I tweeted that it makes me smile on the inside when I see students passionate about projects involving social good. I was talking with Eric Sheniger in that session during one of our breaks to discuss what was covered about what kids are learning. The presentation showed story telling skills and understanding of music and audience, but there was something else. Empathy. I feel this is something students need more and more. Caring for others outside of their bubble is something all people need to do, but it is something that needs to be instilled in kids at a young age. I feel that could really help solve many of the problems we see later in school. This was another excellent session where I felt empowered to make a change.
I said the word change at the start of the post and it is still in my mind. I do not want it to just be a word. I want it to be an action. I want to do something. Daniel Pink said that it is not possible to change an entire school district or state by yourself. However, it is possible to make something a little bit better every day. That is my goal. I want to make something a little bit better every day. Who's with me?