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!

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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.

The End of Season 3: What Game of Thrones Means to Me

ImageAnyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE fan of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF). I am also a fan of HBO programming, so it’s no surprise that the result of merging the two, “Game of Thrones,” has become my non-negotiable favorite show on TV. It’s very possible that it’s actually my favorite hour of the whole week.

My history with ASOIAF is interesting. As I mentioned, I am big into HBO and when “Game of Thrones” was announced and subsequently previewed, I knew I had to give the new show a try. One episode in and I was hooked.

I knew I would have to read Game of Thrones, the first book of the series for which the show is named after. We all know that the books are always better than movies or TV adaptations. Before I got around to starting it, I was bored one day at my former cubicle job and began looking up information about the series online. If you’ve ever done such a thing, you know that the Internet is the enemy of plot secrets. After no time at all, I knew all about the series: the characters, their stories, the twists, the deaths, the fights. Everything.

You’d think that watching the full first season of Game of Thrones and reading the Wikipedia pages of each book in the series (in many cases, taking it step further and reading characters’ pages as well), would rob any need actually READ the BOOKS. For whatever reason, I went ahead with it anyway. And so began one of the most important literary relationships of my life.

I tore through all five published books in record time. I fell in love with these fictional characters and fictional places and after reading one particular scene (a huge turning point in the third season), I sat in bed with silent tears streaming down my face for almost an hour. And I had known it was coming!

When students read the classics in school and, with the help of English teachers, analyze its literary devices, I’ve heard them wonder if books are written “that way” anymore. Do books today still give us that detailed imagery? Foreshadowing? Character development? Or, have the classics been around long enough that we (English teachers) have simply had the time to FIND these things?

ASOIAF reminds me that yes, books are still written “that way.” The writing is, simply put, beautiful. The first read gives you plot, but the re-reads give you an appreciation of the writing and all of those literary devices that can be so challenging for students to understand in school. The modern twist comes from the Internet, which is full of websites and forums where fans can ask questions and discuss their thoughts. My favorite website, Westeros.org, hosts a forum with thousands of members, threads, and topics such as “Moments of Foreshadowing,” “Favorite Lines,” and “Most Crackpot Theory.” This website gave me an even better understanding of the series’s greatness.

Of course I’m sad that season 3 of “Game of Thrones” has ended. My love of the books has overshadowed my love of the show, but the show still brings them to life. Although Martin is currently working on the sixth book of the series, my most optimistic guess for a publishing date is late next year. The closest thing I have to look forward to is October, when Martin comes to DC for Capclave, a literature convention hosted by the Washington Science Fiction Association. I bought tickets last November…

I write this post to give a little more information about myself – I’ve always been a reader, and so any book that has such an impact on my life shapes who I am. But also I want any non-readers to think about the value a book can have. As a future English teacher, my honest hope is that each student truly connects with at least one book in their life the way I have with these.

From Social Networking to Social Learning

educlippertwitterBeing assigned with Social Learning is good news for me. I love Social Networks. I have an account for almost every one, even if I don’t use them all (sidenote: I like Twitter, Facebook, Vine, and, embarrassingly, Snapchat).

I decided to go with Twitter because I like it and I know it’s the easiest/fastest way to get information that I could use. The challenge, besides figuring out how to manage two accounts without needing to log in and out of my iPhone app, is to actually GET something out of it. My experience with Twitter has been solely entertainment-based.

So far, I have spent time building my “Following” list. I’m working on slowing down my timeline scrolling to actually absorb what people are tweeting (I tend to speed through my timeline, barely reading anything). Once I am following enough people, I’ll start organizing them into categories.

I haven’t exactly tweeted anything noteworthy yet. This is another thing I need to work on, because I spend an inordinate amount of time composing my tweets, trying to word them exactly right and make them interesting.  But I did have an exciting exchange with eduClipper. Exciting meaning they tweeted at me. I love it when I get tweeted by a company or celebrity.

I once had a similar experience with Kim Kardashian, but I won’t talk about that here.

Anyway, I stumbled upon the site eduClipper, which is like a Pinterest for teachers. Since I have a Pinterest account (of course), it was easy to figure out how it worked. I love it! I find that, on Pinterest, much of their education section consists of pins targeted to elementary teachers. In eduClipper, I was able to specify my grade range (7-12), as well as other categories of interest, and so I’ve really been able to find useful websites and other resources. One hour and 10 Clipboards later, I went ahead and tweeted my happiness and got a response:

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It looks like they tweet back to most of their fans, but I still feel special. I’m hoping to help get the word out so more people will begin using this site and it will expand – I’d love an app!

PS. Follow me on Twitter @nEduDani