Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Here is a great interview about student produced documentaries. Watch the outside research conducted via skype on some of them. What an interesting idea.

See the class webpage.

A link for Skype in the Classroom.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Making Movies - Using Digital Texts to Document Personal Connections

This project was published on the Digital Is webpage.

In my junior level American Literature classes, we need to cover a play by Shakespeare each year to be able to meet our Common Core State Standards. Last year, however, I didn't get it done. I just couldn't figure out how to connect a Shakespeare play to one of the fulcrum texts we were already reading in class-at least not in a meaningful package that wouldn't distract for too much time.

Then, I found a great unit plan by Cindy O'Donnell-Allen and Jenny St. Romain, and I knew connecting Hamlet to Of Mice and Men with an overarching theme of resilience would work perfectly.

Next, I started to look for interesting ways to have students represent what they learned in a compact way. I was thinking of having students perform a scene from the play in groups. Yet, when I had done that in the past, students never created something worth capturing on film. The time for preparation and creative application just wasn't sufficient on my timeline. I needed something more focused.

In my reader program, I stumbled upon the Australian Theatre for Young People group, and saw their wonderfully stitched together version of the main soliloquy in Hamlet. I was intrigued. All I needed then was a way to connect it to the student's lives to make it work.

As I thought about what was really happening in Hamlet's monologue, I was simultaneously covering Joseph Campbell's ideas in other classes. Soon, I became convinced that each of my students would have had a similar moment in their lives which they could include in the film through location, setting, and reflection.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Legacy Work

This reminds me so much of the work we did with bookdrum last semester, but it takes it one step farther. I think I could incorporate this with my class this semester by showing the bookdrum site, and then saying we are going to add to it. That way, the studetns would learn all of the information that is there already, but they would continue to gather more bookmarks and make more connections to outside research. I am not sure if I would be able to add more information or not. I will have to check into it.

It does make me want to continue with the wiki idea, but just put a new motivational spin on it. "This will be used by future students. You will be helping them to understand what is going on in the book."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Treat Students as Entrepreneurs

I really like this presentation. It goes against all ideas of standardization, but it really relates to teachers who believe it is more important to teach about what makes each person into a hero rather than having students memorize a standard definition of hero.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mr. Rogers at US Senate

I love this; so simple, and it worked.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Motivation and Grades

Here is an interesting video on motivation and grades from Joe Bower. Can't see my school trying this anytime soon, but I like the reflection on student motivation.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


I have been thinking more and more about student reflections. Especially when working on big projects. Last year, I frequently suspected that my students had the feeling of, "OK, the project is done. I felt like it was exciting while we were working on it, but who cares." Even when I got students published or when we created something really unique, it felt sort of like another school project.

I would like to find a way to place these accomplishments more firmly in the realm of, "Hey, I participated in something unique." Maybe reflection is the path to this.

So, this year my big project that I am really focused on is a movie that we will make in my American Literature class. I will have students filming outside of class, and then editing it together to make a complete monologue in several different voices. More on that later.

This will also be tied to a unit on personal narratives which is really a form of reflection also, so students should be used to the idea by the time we get to the filming stage.

"... to reflectively experience is to make connections within the details of the work of the problem, to see it through the lens of abstraction or theory, to generate one's own questions about it, to take more active and conscious control over understanding." ~ From Teaching With Your Mouth Shut

What I am also going to have them do, however, is film a "making of" movie. I will explain that it will be to help other teachers be able to do a similar type of project in their class, but it will really serve as a type of reflection for the students, a way to talk about and display what they enjoy about the project.

Here are a couple of links that led me to this type of thinking. Peter Papas' article on Reflective Taxonomy and his blog including a Making Of Video. He didn't make the connection to reflective thinking in doing such a project, but that is what he accomplished.

Video Education Differences

Technology in the classroom:

An interesting video on what makes the difference between countries leading in educational testing scores and the United States. Also relevant to different ways to create video instruction.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We Video

https://www.wevideo.com/ This might work pretty well. I will have to try out the free version to see what it can do. Only 1gb of storage, but that might be enough for a small project.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Students Published

I am very happy to announce that my spring 2012 American Literature class had their work published at Bookdrum.com. While reading Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, the class gathered and formatted information about the book, the setting, unknown cultural references, unknown words, and the author, and also wrote a book review. I am so proud of the work they put into this project.

You can see their book profile on Bookdrum's Website. Included under the "contributor page" are links for student's Post Modern Multimedia Research Projects and their Letters About a Thing They Carry which were both published as missions on Youthvoices.net.

Surprises in Writing

Here are some inspirational words from a man who knows what it takes to be a writer. Lots of good suggestions for reading also.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Where is Education Going? pt. II

Here is Peter Norvig talking about the same project that Thrun was speaking of in my last post. This covers more about student motivation and why they set up the class the way they did. It also speaks about future experimentation with the process.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Where is Education Going?

Now, I first watched this movie because I am very interested in the PicoP display, but the video is actually about education and how technology is changing it. You will have to wade through the glasses and the self driving car to get there though.

What he says about education is similar to what I believe. It is not going to be long before people realize that the way to get around the one-size-fits-all problem we are encountering in education is technology. This man has achieved it at Stanford. He effectively taught 23,000 people by making recordings and interactive quizes. Those 23,000 people passed the same test he gave to his 200 students at Stanford.

I particularly like what he says about how student's feel like they learn only when they do something. "Engaged classes" in the traditional, lecture-based class are frequently only truly engaging for a few students; the majority simply watch the lecture and the few interactive students. When you do projects, however, everyone feels like they are doing something, and while they feel like they are doing things, they take the information and apply it. That is around minute 17.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dance, Cross-lateral Movement, Multiculturalism, and Technology

Lots of things to think about here. I have been reading about using cross-lateral movement in the classroom to stimulate higher levels of thinking. This makes a strong case for a connection with technology also.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Media Studies Movies

For this project, students had to include product placement, greenscreen technology, some film shot outside of school, various types of shots, and a complete story. Most of the filming was done on phones, and the editing was done on iMovie and Windows Live Movie Maker.

The project started with creating storyboards for various scenes in the movies.

Once the movies were finished, they entered them into the Youtube's Your Film Festival Competition.

On the last day of the unit, we viewed all of the movies in class. We also voted on which film was the best. Students asked if the winning team could remake their movie using everyone in the whole class to help make it better.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Shelly Wright - Flipping Bloom's

Sometimes when I read something, I am just overwhelmed with the simplicity of the message. It makes me wonder how I lasted this long without ever reading anything like it before. The article from Shelly Wright was one of those moments for me.

In the article, Shelly describes how flipping Bloom's Taxonomy can make the classroom so much more project oriented and engaging for the students. Basically, she starts projects with the synthesis or creation part, and then backtracks through analysis and the other levels of Bloom's to arrive at knowledge. This makes so much sense to me.

Two things I feel deserve another moment to reflect upon are the value this style of teaching places on student's inherent abilities both to create and to reflect. If you run a class like this, you have to walk into it thinking, "Come on, you guys can do this. I know you can." Then, you also have to incorporate the act of reflecting on what the students created and on how they could improve it based upon their analysis of master texts.

This article makes so much sense to me. Thinking in this way will allow me to refine my practice in several of the units I struggled with this year.

See it at Shelly Wright's blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Post Modern Multimedia Research Projects

My American Literature class created Post Modern Multimedia Research Projects in coordination with the book The Things They Carried. They researched a question that was interesting for them, and then used Movie Maker Live to combine perspectives on that question from the book, from interviews, from music, from movies, and from any other source they could find. The results are very open and very connected. I am very impressed with the whole class. All of the results are posted on Youth Voices, and I will embed a couple of examples below.

While the movies worked well, and the students were very engaged with them, there are a few things I would change next time. First, I would schedule in some work with movie maker before hand. Perhaps have the class work in groups to make something. This would minimize the learning curve, and it would also allow for more experimentation with techniques like layering in audio tracks. Second, I would require the use of proper MLA citations in the reflection as well as a bibliography in order to meet the state standards for research papers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Information for Students

Children should experience their successes and failures not as reward and punishment but as information. - Jerome Bruner

Flowing Data

I have really become fascinated with flowing data presentations, and I am wondering if anyone has incorporated this into their classrooms. I wonder if it has progressed to a point where students could easily create presentations on data sets they are interested in. Here is a talk by Hans Rosling.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Convert youtube to wmv.

Here is an online tool that works as well as desktop versions for converting youtube to various video formats. Just like Zamzar, but downloads from the url for you.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Bryan Stevenson on Incarceration and Social Justice

Another great speech reaffirming how dire this situation has become. I also really like this video because the speech incorporates at least three very specific stories in it to illustrate what he is talking about. This is a skill that fits well with lessons on narratives or letter composing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Raisin in the Sun Graphic Novel Lit. Analysis

As a form of literature analysis, my American Literature class created graphic novels using Make Belief Comix and Issuu. In the project they included thoughts from the characters that were not represented in the play itself as well as a prediction of where the characters would end up ten years later--after the civil right movement and the reactionary rise in incarceration.

This worked, but was not perfect. I think the project was confusing as students were unclear about how to represent what the characters would be thinking about outside of the scenes that were happening in the play itself.

If I were to do it again, I would have students jump into the site early on to get used to how it works. Maybe I would have them simply represent what was happening in a scene they enjoyed and then send the slides they create to my evernote account just as a way to monitor comprehension while we are reading.

Then, the final project could be more focused on creating a well developed graphic novel scene to represent their character analysis. I would probably leave it more open as to where they place the scene. Could be a deleted scene from the book, or it could be a scene set in the future. Regardless, they would need to reflect on one character, and then show how the events in the book shaped their life in some way. This is where the real analysis could shine through.

Gender Studies Magazine Covers

For this project, my Freshmen English students created a magazine cover that incorporated their understanding and research of gender studies. We used Glogster to create and display them. You can see the full sized versions with the drop down menu from the Glogster Logo. The top one incorporated research on Disney's use of gender bias, and the bottom one reflects research on the issues surrounding women fighting on the front lines.

Technology Integration Prezi

Here is a prezi I put together for a professional development day presentation on why it is important to integrate technology into your educational practice. Click the forward button once to get it to load. You should be able to pan and zoom freely afterwards on the parts too small to see.

Friday, February 24, 2012

One aspect of teaching that is not understood enough is motivation. Many have studied the effects of motivation in the work force, but I wonder if these same concepts hold true in a classroom?

Randall Robinson on Incarceration in the US

I have been doing a unit on social justice with my freshmen. One fascinating aspect of the conversation that I wasn't expecting relates to incarceration in the United States. This is a growing phenomenon, from 250,000 to 2.5 million over the last 40 years, grown from implicit bias which we can no longer ignore.

The statistics are mind boggling.

Michelle Alexander & Randall Robinson on the Mass Incarceration of Black America Part 1 of 2 from Democracy Now! on Vimeo.

Michelle Alexander & Randall Robinson on the Mass Incarceration of Black America Part 2 of 2 from Democracy Now! on Vimeo.

Clay Shirky: How social media can make history

This sums up what I am trying to do in my Media Studies classes. I also like his talks on collaboration and SOPA. He was talking about this back in 2005.

Patrick Awuah on Educating Leaders

Friday, February 17, 2012

Social Justice Unit Graphic Novel Research Project

For this unit on Social Justice, groups of students in my Freshmen English classes hand drew graphic novels in which they presented thier research by creating a story of a person who has suffered some form of prejudice or stereotyping in their lives. In each story they focused on how these characters could be rebranded as heroes.

We then scanned the drawings, inserted them in a powerpoint, published as a pdf, and uploaded to issuu.com for the final presentation.

Research News Article via Blog

I was invited to participate on Youth Voices, a student blogging site created by the National Writing Project in New York, and excitedly created a project for my Media Studies classes.

Students created a list of questions they were interested in, researched this topic from two sources from the internet, and created a News Article to present their information. Then, they uploaded their work as a blog discussion.

Paul Allison, the director for the site, liked the project, and allowed me to created a Mission from it for other teachers to use. All student's work from the project is featured and linked on the left side of the page.

Classics Academy

Wow, this is what I call learning.

Monday, February 6, 2012


This is a way to text message students and parents.