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

Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century

ImageOverall, I felt excited about this PBS video which “explores how exceptional educators are increasingly using digital media and interactive practices to ignite their students’ curiosity and ingenuity, help them become civically engaged, allow them to collaborate with peers worldwide, and empower them to direct their own learning.”

Five different programs are highlighted, but I was especially taken by the Digital Youth Network in Chicago. This in-school media arts program  established a partnership with the Chicago Public Library to open up  “YouMedia,” which is a space just for 9th to 12th graders. This space gives the students access to tools to create digital media based on their passions, such as music, photography, and graphic design.

I was impressed with the kind of equipment they had and all that the students were able to make from it. But what was most encouraging was the students’ enthusiasm about their work and their commitment to it. Students describe the creative process the they go through to come up with their product – in other words, their learning process. Having the ability to channel their energy into something they care about keeps them out of trouble and allows them to grow.

By using digital media, learning is going beyond the traditional school setting and the students are responding positively towards it. I’ve seen this already in the classes around here – though not to the extent of these programs since the level of technology isn’t as available. I think even those resistant to the influx of technology in education would be impressed with what students are able to do, as shown in this video.

Standard for the Semester

What standard are you using as a target of focus this semester? How can you link activities for different learning styles to this standard?

Over the course of grad school, I’ve pretty much focused in on 9th and 10th grade when creating unit and lesson plans. To change things up a bit, I chose a standard from 8th grade English for this class:

8.2 The student will develop and deliver oral presentations in groups and individually.
a) Choose topic and purpose appropriate to the audience.
b) Choose vocabulary and tone appropriate to the audience, topic, and purpose.
c) Use appropriate verbal and nonverbal presentation skills.
d) Respond to audience questions and comments.
e) Differentiate between standard English and informal language.
f) Critique oral presentations.
g) Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work.
h) Use a variety of strategies to listen actively.

This standard easily lends itself to activities for different learning styles. For either one big or several small projects (individual and group), students can have a choice of what kind of presentation to do. They can either do graphic design work, make videos, hold debates, give speeches, create cartoons, create a forum, create a marketing piece, write a song, etc. A challenge would be to make sure the presentation matches the content of their project.

The students can post their final products online or present in class. After that, students can respond and ask questions. This can be done in class, or as the “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” article suggests, have them post comments to a forum.

Since this is a broad standard, it may need to become more targeted as the class goes on or slightly adjusted depending on the assignment.

“Giving Reluctant Students a Voice”

ImageThe article “Giving Reluctant Students a Voice” (R. Redekopp & E. Bourbonniere) reinforced many ideas I already had regarding student participation. While student teaching, I quickly learned that every class will have its guaranteed participants – for better or for worse. You can always count on these students to ask and answer questions during discussions. This does always indicate, however, the students’ understanding of the topic. In fact, through exit slips, writing prompts, and other writing assignments, there would be students who I knew could add so much to the class but would not, for whatever reason.

Throughout my high school and college careers, there were a few professors who were already trying to generate discussion in different ways outside of the classroom. The technology for this was still somewhat limited, with the teachers relying mostly on Blackboard’s discussion board – a bulky and nonintuitive device for questioning and responding. With all the tools available for online discussion these days, teachers should make use of them to give each student a chance to participate. Like the article mentions, some of the least active students can give some of the best insights.

Even so, I think it still important to encourage in-class, oral discussion. I believe students should practice voicing their opinions in a clear, concise way. They should also be able to answer questions, something they will need to do in college and job interviews. The challenge, then, is to create an environment where students feel comfortable speaking up and are respectful of others.

A Blog That Works for Me

As an assignment for my ED 554 class, I was tasked with reading and responding to a blog related to education and technology. Luckily, a list of blogs to choose from was given.

I consider myself fairly up-to-date with technology and the Internet. Social media came about when I was still in high school and the Internet was being frequently used in my classes. After college, my communications major led me to jobs working with the Internet, mass emails, online registration forms, etc. All of this has shaped me into the kind of person who seeks instant gratification when surfing the Internet. I want to find what I need to find, and I want to find it fast.

Thus, my blog of choice became Richard Byrne’s “Free Technology for Teachers.” Even without looking at the content, it already had a good chance at being chosen. After a semester of student teaching with no income to show for it, anything that is “free” grabs my attention.

The organization of this blog helps me find what I need without spending too much time reading long paragraphs of text or resorting to CTRL+F. The top menu lets me find what I’m interested in with headings like “iPad Apps for Schools,” “Google Tutorials,” “Free Guides,” and “Alternatives to YouTube.” With enough time on my hands, I could probably find all of these resources on my own. But, it’s nice to have it all in one spot.

Again, my Internet personality dictates that I first have a specific need/desire for something and THEN I go find it. But these menu headings were enough to entice me to see what I COULD find when the time comes. I was pleased to see more headings, images, and brief descriptions, letting me know where and what was available. I also like that much of the content (like the Teacher Guides or Google Tutorials) provides information that can be applied to many classes and lessons and not just in one specific instance.

The useful, easy-to-find, well organized, and FREE resources earned this blog a spot in my Bookmarks Bar.