Saturday, June 21, 2014

Make Cycle 1

I wasn't sure I was going to participate in the First Cycle of CLMOOC because of travel and other commitments, but I saw the Flipboard presentation that Kevin Hodgson put together and I just had to make something.  I've been working on plans for next year's teaching, so took Christie Hammons' idea and used Piktochart to create an introduction to use at Back to School Night. My quick attempt had a few flaws at the bottom of the chart, so I just saved it as a .jpeg on my computer and edited out the bottom of the page.  

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Elementary Educators, there's no better time to "open" up

Image courtesy of simplogist at Flickr

As part of ETMOOC, we were able to participate via Twitter in an Open Education panel this afternoon in connection with Open Education Week. In her summation at the end of the session, one of the panelists, Karen Fasimpaur made the point that for elementary educators, right now there is a critical window of opportunity when participation in the open education movement can make a big difference in elementary education. 

Currently, those of us in elementary education  are in the process of adopting the Common Core.  Yong Zhao, in his blog post "How to Minimize the Damages of the Common Core" is one of the many who has said what we all know, the Common Core itself will not be education's panacea.  It's another national "solution" with standardized testing. What it has done, however, is force educators, policy-makers, and parents to think about how we want to proceed from here.  Schools all over the country are having major philosophical discussions about the new curriculum and how teaching should change. 

Combine this ripeness for change with the access to resources the open movement has provided and there is no better time to be an educator, if districts will support their teachers with the time and resources to investigate open educational resources.

There are incredible resources available to schools for free.  For example, last year, I had the opportunity to spend time with some wonderful people at the Cebrowski Institute at the Naval Postgraduate School who, among other things, are interested in getting more young people interested in STEM careers.  Through them, I learned about Scratch, a free computer programming tool that was developed at MIT.  I was able to learn to use it by attending various workshops taught by volunteer instructors, including Kate Lockwood, from CSU Monterey Bay. 

Through this STEM project,  I also learned about CS Unplugged, a collection of free learning games developed by Tim Bell in New Zealand, that teach about computer science without using a computer.  These open resources are doubly remarkable. One criticism leveled at OER is that these resources are sometimes un-democratic.  Not only do these CS Unplugged activities teach about computer science without the use of computers, but they are available on-line in 9 languages.  We were lucky enough to have Tim Bell come to our school to give an assembly and the students loved it. What a terrific way to generate interest in computer science.

In the ed tech field in general, there are numerous freely available resources.  We are fortunate to be piloting iPads in our classroom this year.  I was initially concerned that we would need a large budget for apps, but the rate of app development has been astounding.  What is available for free has been quite surprising, as has been the responsiveness of app developers to input from school teachers.   At the beginning of the year, I was very frustrated by work flow problem with the iPads.  How was I going to manage the work that students were doing on the iPads without constantly having to check each iPad?  Now, hardly 6 months later, we are using a free classroom management system which allows students to easily upload work they do on numerous free (or nearly free) apps and submit them to me so I can view them at one time on my iPad or computer. 

Before I became involved with the STEM project and the iPad pilot, I had no particular expertise in either area, I was just interested in getting 5th graders ready for the "real"world they were going to live in.  Our current curriculum didn't cover either programming or Ipads, it was much too dated.  Nearly everything I learned, I learned from colleagues or on-line, via traditional methods (reading) or in Collaborate sessions, following Twitter, or on-line courses. 

This leads me to my main point. There has never been a better time to get personalized professional development.  It is the day of the PLN.  There is no reason every teacher shouldn't be out there learning about something that he or she is passionate about that will make that teacher a better teacher.  Everyone should participate in learning opportunities like this ETMOOC where they can learn how to take advantage of social networking to learn, share and grow. It is with this learning, collaboration and encouragement that we can genuinely make a difference.

However, we can best do this with the support of our schools and districts.  I am able to spend time on this MOOC because I teach part-time.  If I were in the classroom full-time, and were working on my extra-curricular school activities, there would be precious little time left over for the MOOC.  Teachers need time built in to their schedules to collaborate with each other and to develop their on-line PLNs.  There is so much available on the internet.  We don't need to be reinventing the wheel every time we do something.  We need to be working together and using the expertise of others.  (Thank you Sally Wilson for your list explaining how to find images with Creative Commons licenses on various sites.  My 5th graders will appreciate this.) 

I think the way we can best help our students as we head into Common Core is to have the time to use all of the amazing open resources available to us and collaborate with our on-site teachers and PLNs.

In return for all the open resources that we glean from the internet and our new PLNs, we need to heed the advice of Alan Levine and share what we have learned.  This sharing in an open and social manner will be new to some of us, me included, and may feel uncomfortable, but if you need inspiration, take a look at Alan's "True Stories of Openness" project.   I know I can do a better job with this and after reading Sherry Hegstrom's post today, I have decided to dedicate an hour a day to social media in order to develop my PLN and become more comfortable with it.  

We can make a difference and the time to do it is now.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Digital Storytelling and the Common Core

There are all kinds of reasons for wanting to incorporate digital media into the classroom, but right now the focus of most administrators is on making sure that anything new that teachers implement supports the Common Core; so, I find myself asking how digital storytelling fits in with the Common Core.

The drafters of the Common Core were well aware that in order for our students to be college and career ready they must be able to use digital media.  Just how the digital technologies relate across the curriculum throughout the grades in English Language Arts has been charted by Joe Wood, from the National Writing Project, as seen below:

Digital technology is referenced in Reading Literature, Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening,  and Writing.   This makes sense, of course, since digital media is ubiquitous for most of our students.  It makes sense to me, as well, that it is our job as teachers to make sure our students can use technology and do so responsibly, particularly since many of our students have parents who are not as familiar with computers, phones and tablets as their children are.  Wes Fryer, who is in the process of writing a book Mapping Media to the Common Core, would go even farther and argue that it would be immoral for teachers not to embrace the uses of the new digital media in its various forms.

Okay, I agree so far, but I keep asking myself where does digital storytelling fit in, and why does it warrant two entire weeks of this MOOC?  As I entered these past two weeks, I asked myself when I would add in digital storytelling.  I didn't think it would be often -- perhaps because my definition of "storytelling" was too narrow.  I hadn't yet learned about Alan Levine's 50+ ways to tell a story.  I had in mind as "storyteller" the woman in front of the library reading an Ananzi the Spider book, and that wasn't enough for the Common Core.

Now I see many ways in which digital storytelling does fit in with the Common Core.  For English Language Arts, here are some emerging thoughts:

1. We will increasingly use digital stories as a means of having students show what they have learned; for instance, we might ask students to use a screencasting app, such as Explain Everything, to sketch out a short story, including all of its parts, rather than have them write it out on a chart.  Another idea might be to ask students to use iMovie to create a short movie trailer (incorporating audio and images) that demonstrates their understanding of the underlying theme of a poem. (Reading Literature 5)

2.  Students will be creating informative and explanatory texts using multimedia  (Writing 2).  Not only will they have a myriad of options available to them for writing these texts, a la 50+ ways, but  the malleability of digital media means mistakes are easily "erased" and "corrected."  This ease of creation and revision allows for unprecedented freedom and creativity when students are enhancing their writing with images and audio.  They are free to experiment, make mistakes and try again.  Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Would Change the World, would say that both creativity and mistake-making are imperative if our students are going to thrive when they are out in the working world.

3.  There is a distinct standard for presentations that includes multimedia components (Speaking and Listening 5).  Presentation is story-telling (aha!).  I hear over and over from students of all ages,  "I hated doing that presentation in class, but we should have done even more."  A relatively simple 4-image story presented to the class incorporates technical proficiency, story-boarding, writing skills, fluency skills, and presentation skills.  We did one last week.  The lesson was great!

4.  There is a writing standard in Grade 5 that requires "using technology . . . to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others."  (Writing 6).  Creating a song parody is digital storytelling, and one well-crafted project can incorporate multiple skills.  This is where the educational fun is!  When I considered Gallit Zvi's idea of having her students create a song parody, I was struck, as she was, by the multiple skill sets needed:  technical knowledge of the apps used, cooperation of the team members involved, collaboration among team members, critical thinking, problem-solving, planning, attention to theme, attention to main-idea, story-development, audio input, video input, and more.  These projects may take time, but they teach so much.

5.  There is a distinct standard for analyzing media (Reading Literature 7). We need to incorporate time to stop and analyze media as students are becoming knowledgeable about creation.  Our students are still primarily consumers.

6.  We will still be using books in class and will spend time reading and re-reading text, but there is a significant place for digital storytelling as well.

Once I expanded my definition of digital storytelling, I needed to consider the question posed by Carolyn Durley, Can Storytelling and Content Courses Play Nice?   Maybe since I wasn't so hung up on digital storytelling being an actual story (or because our iPad pilot was originally more focused on math), I found applications with content courses somewhat easier to envision.

Here are some emerging thoughts for content courses:

1.  In 5th grade math, some of the stories that I have found most useful have been student screencasts of their processes of doing math.  One of our early lessons was one in which students created movies of each other explaining the rules of divisibility.  In order to do this, the students had to understand the rules well enough to explain them.  In the cases when they did not, it was easy for me to see where their understanding went astray.  I could write an entire series on the advantages of screencasting.  I hadn't until recently thought of it as digital storytelling.

2.  Dmackinnon shared another way to use digital storytelling with math and had students take their iPads out and photograph "Angles in the Real World."  Our class will also take our iPads around school to take pictures of angles, then mark the angles on the photos, and characterize them.

3.  One of of the things Carolyn Durley had commented on in her post that I would like to think more about is the use of metaphor.  She has her high school students in biology write a story about what they are studying, with varying degrees of success.  She comments that some students can thus find a metaphor for their learning so that it makes sense.  I think this is very important.  It is through these connections across content areas that real learning occurs.  One of the ultimate goals of the Common Core is to get students to think critically and creatively and to expand their thinking so that they can prosper in college and in careers where subjects are not compartmentalized for them.  If digital storytelling can help with that, then we should be doing it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

ETMOOC Beauty -- digital storytelling from elementary to the techno-genies

The Digital Writing session with Darren Kuropatwa for #ETMOOC this morning jolted me awake.  I was expecting a laid back session, not to find myself whisked into a virtual chat room for 5 minutes to review a blog prompt, record thoughts about it, then send those thoughtful musings to our moderator.  That was fast. 
That wasn’t all though.  Before I could catch my breath, we ETMOOCers were each sent off with our phones for 3 minutes to capture 5 seconds of beauty around us.  Then, we each sent our clips to Mr Kuropatwa.  Many of us (though not all, which was actually encouraging since I managed to spell Kuropatwa wrong  in dropittome and missed out) were able to do this.  Mr. K. used iMovie to pull together these clips and some audio with seeming ease and voila, now we can all see etmoooc Beauty on YouTube.  I’m may even be a minor viral hit.  It’s actually impressively nice and it happened in about 20 minutes. 
The movie surely made the point that our stories are more attention-getting when we add video and audio.  In addition, the collaborative session showed that, with some practice, pretty complex pieces can come together rather easily.  I was happily surprised with the way the morning turned out.
This is a spunky MOOC.  If in doubt, check out the LipDub created after the first week.   These are fun people.  I am looking forward to collaborating with them.  It’s also a group that ranges from real beginners to real techno-wonders.  Anyone can be comfortable here, so I’m happy to contribute what I can, when I can.
I decided to quickly use today’s inspiration to create a sample 5-photo story, since we will be working on 5-photo stories next week using our classroom iPads.  The students have already picked a small moment they want to memorialize from the Winter Break.  They have been thinking about how to tell the story about this moment in 5 images.  The week, they will create the images and tell the story using the screencasting app, Explain Everything. 
They will have a limited amount of time to create and publish their stories, so I limited the amount of time I used as well.  I took about 20 minutes. I had access to what my students will have: I found the first photo on my camera roll, so unfortunately it’s not properly attributed, I used an old-fashioned book for the second photo, I used Scribble Press for the fourth photo, and for the rest I used the iPad camera.  It’s doesn’t have audio and it’s not going to go viral, but it’s a digital tale of a fun moment in time.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Vertigo Haiku Deck

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

So, jumping in to digital storytelling!

I've had vertigo for about the past 6 months and have struggled with a way to express my thoughts about it. Haiku Deck has provided a good medium.

Here's my first attempt at tackling both vertigo and Haiku Deck.

As I'm an elementary school teacher, I thought I'd also add some thoughts from that perspective.

There are several things I really like about Haiku Deck:

1. It is really easy to use.

Click to add short bits of text. Click to add images from either the app or the camera roll. Click to add a new page. That's it.

2. The images are beautiful and easy to search.

Unless you choose to use your own images from the camera roll, the images gathered by the app originate from Flickr. Flickr is one of my favorite image sources because there are so many beautiful photographs there, and because they are so searchable. You can search using the searches suggested by the app or you can create your own searches. Searches can be literal, such as "sun." You can also search more general terms, such as "joy." Both will generate streams of photographs.

3. The images are all Creative Commons images that have the image credits embedded in them when the Haiku Deck is created.

I love this as a teacher! We spend lots of time in class talking about how important it is to give credit for images taken from the internet. When you create a Haiku Deck this work of proper attribution is done for you. All the Haiku Deck images have the image credit embedded in them so that when the image is viewed, the viewer can click on the CC logo at the bottom of the screen and view the image photographer and details of the Creative Commons license. This can be used in class to introduce Creative Commons licensing, to talk about proper attribution, and/or as a springboard to students creating their own image-based works.

4. Sharing may still be an issue in elementary classes since sharing is via email, Twitter or Facebook.

However, students could create Haiku Decks on a teacher iPad or on a home iPad with email. Once they are shared in any manner, an embed code is created so that the Haiku Deck can be added to a blog or website.

I'm Late, I'm Late

image courtesy of Omnitographer at Flickr

Like Alice's white rabbit, I'm late, I'm late!

I'm joining this MOOC late. I'm already behind, but I just saw a blog a few days ago that made a reference to ETMOOC and I decided I want in. So, I'm slightly out of breath and scrambling to find my seat in class, but here I am, ready to go!