TEDxWarwick: Doug Belshaw – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies

ImageI love TED Talks. I watched “TEDxWarwick – Doug Belshaw – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies” because I am familiar with the idea of digital literacies and wanted to see if there was anything else to know.

Much of what was said was known to me, like the idea that digital literacies are constantly changing and even the examples of memes and lolcats. I did appreciate Belshaw’s introduction to digital examples using the analogy of menus and menu navigation. Basically, menu systems require logic and can be problematic, causing a barrier much like the barrier for getting started in the digital world.

The iPad menu (for example) lowers that barrier because it is easier to use. I love this example, because I love Apple and Steve Jobs. This specifically reminded me of a part in Steve Jobs’ biography where he described how a child from a third world country approached a man with an iPad and was instantly able to pick it up and use it – it was that intuitive.

For digital literacies, then, skills and ideas cannot be used forever due to its changing nature. They should focus on interests and intrinsic motivations in order to be used and spread by people. For me, this is especially true in regards to being a teacher. I consider myself fairly up-to-date on technology today, but that doesn’t mean I always will be. It’s important to keep up with changing digital literacies and use them effectively in the classroom.

Back from Travels!

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It has been several weeks but I am finally back and settled in from all of my travels. I went from Pittsburgh to Erie to Barcelona to Amsterdam, all within 2 weeks. 

I think traveling is important. I consider myself lucky to have had the chances to see visit incredible places…but there are always more! Barcelona and Amsterdam were beautiful and I was able to see historic sights. One of my favorites was, of course, the Anne Frank house. I figure as an English teacher, there’s a pretty good chance I’ll teach the book eventually and having been to the house I feel like I can understand it better. All in all, a great trip! But I’m always happy to be home.

I’m not very productive about taking and posting pictures. My camera died so my pictures are scattered among family members’ cameras and iPhones. I do have the one posted above. This is the sight from our balcony in Barcelona. 

Podcasting…

ImageAfter reading the Learning Connections article “Enhanced Podcasts: A New Twist on an Old Tool,” got me excited about another tool to use in the classroom (this is a recurring theme). Podcasts, in the way this article describes, are definitely something I would use in the classroom.

However, I’m not as sure about podcasting for professional learning. I’ve participated in countless webinars (mostly for work) and have found them to be useful. I would tune in and out as I needed to and I was able to get work done at the same time. When I was actually interested in the webinar, I was even happier to participate and learn something new.

Browsing through the podcasts on the Edreach site, however, did not excite me as much. Perhaps it’s because I’m pressed for time this week (which I imagine will often be the case as a teacher) or maybe it’s because I’m not in professional learning-mode, but I could not find anything I was willing (or able) to sit and watch for an hour. And maybe simply watching won’t work for me. During webinars, there are often notes and/or PowerPoint slides provided to follow along with. There is a function to type in questions and often the moderator surveys the audience. The podcasts didn’t seem to be as interactive and lacked a “follow along” feature.

I probably shouldn’t judge podcasting as professional learning based on one website and definitely not based on my current lack of need. But, as I mentioned, using podcasts in the classroom for projects and maybe even lectures is more interesting to me. Just as long as they are not too long!

Reaction to the Flipped Classroom

flippedTo be honest, the last couple of times I have heard the term “flipped classroom,” I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. I knew it had something to do with podcasts or videos but I didn’t know what it all entailed. This short video told me all I needed to know.

As with most new things, I was immediately excited. Of course this will work! It’s a great idea! A little tricky logistically, sure, but what a great direction to head in ESPECIALLY for high school.

So I took a look at the blog The Flipped Classroom: Pro and Con by Mary Beth Hertz to better understand both sides. As I suspected, the logistics of a flipped classroom might be problematic. But this blog goes on to explain Why It Matters,” to which she says:

The primary reason is because it is forcing teachers to reflect on their practice and rethink how they reach their kids. It is inspiring teachers to change the way they’ve always done things, and it is motivating them to bring technology into their classrooms…As long as learning remains the focus, and as long as educators are constantly reflecting and asking themselves if what they are doing is truly something different or just a different way of doing the same things they’ve always done, there is hope that some of Dewey’s philosophies will again permeate our schools.

Well said. It’s exciting to have the technology to explore these kinds of options. I doubt, in my first year of teaching, I will be able to completely adopt this method. However, I think I owe it to myself and to the students to try it at least once and see what happens.

The (Digital) Brothers Grimm

Produced with PowerPoint, PhotoStory, and YouTube. Digital Storytelling by my classmates lmdawson82, learningthroughrebeling, and me.

DEFINITELY useful to learn about digital storytelling. This project can be easily used in the classroom, especially in English classes. It isn’t too difficult, would expose students to new applications, and would appeal to students who aren’t as strong in writing.

Project-Based Learning

ImageThe Nuts and Bolts of 21st Century Teaching,” a blog post written by Shelley Wright, details her experience with project-based learning for a Holocaust unit. I’ve heard about similar experiences with teachers using project-based learning, but I especially liked the one described here.

During student teaching, I did an introduction lesson for Night by Elie Wiesel. I wanted to give the student background information about the Holocaust and WWII but I figured they didn’t need a lesson about dates and events. They probably knew more specifics than I did! Instead, I decided to focus on the question “Could the Holocaust happen again?” We looked at propaganda techniques used by the Nazis and compared them to techniques used in advertising today. The lesson went well and I can understand why these students chose to look at this aspect of the Holocaust for their project.

I would love to incorporate project-based learning in my classrooms. My only concern would be the open-endedness of it. In my experience, students are hesitant to believe that there are no guidelines or directions about an assignment. They often ask for specifics even if you didn’t want to give them. However, if the project is proposed to them in the right way, I think they could overcome their initial uncertainty and take advantage of the opportunity.