Archive for February, 2013

Sticky Notes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Charts have always confused and alienated me– I really struggle with creating them. Charts in English, especially, never made any sense to me; visually structuring words that way into bubbles and columns really bamboozled me. To be honest, it still does. In my writing process, I have never benefited from structural charts, so I never made them. However, now that I will teaching others, who really would/could benefit from such structural aids, I realized that I really need to start trying to understand and build them. Here’s my attempt to create a diagram of writing an essay. Although there is room for improvement, I must say I feel accomplished in wrapping my brain around creating one without the aid of found-examples (I resisted that urge!). This was a good experience because it made me aware that my weaknesses are not everyone’s weaknesses, which is to say: I will not be teaching myself.

I had fun fiddling around with Padlet. My wall is a silly, non-academic topic, but I can see how it could be used in the classroom. In my fake-classroom, I would use Padlet as a sounding-board for students to post their “personal opinions” of the books we read. Not only would this be a creative and non-graded outlet for students to express their (strong) opinions, but this could also serve a classroom management purpose; if a student yells out, “Ugh! This book sucks!” (which happens), then at least I could redirect him/her to the proper and appropriate avenue for them to express such a thought (but let’s find a better word for “sucks,” please.). I could also see myself using Padlet as a “democratic space” to make classroom decisions, this way students could think and express themselves in an individual space, but then see the collective feedback of their classmates. OR (I have one more) Padlet could also be used at the beginning of the school year; I think it’s a neat idea to have students find the kinds of projects they would like to do, and then you take those projects and apply them to your content. This way, the students have ownership over what is expected of them.

Needless to say, I liked the Padlet thing. The reason I like it so much is because it’s simple, easy to use, but gets the job done. These are also the reasons I like Twitter. I believe it a valuable skill to be able to get to the point, to fit more meaning into less space. Not only is this a critical thinking skill, it’s also just a practical one; in an interview, how successful would a rambling applicant be? Besides, this is how our Digital Natives are communicating already– short and sweet– we might as well meet them halfway. School is boring enough, and these are simple, fun things that would really make school a little more bearable for students.

To Flip or Not To Flip?

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Wow! I am seriously considering this Flipped-Classroom thing! This is exactly what John Dewey discusses in Experience and Education! The flipped classroom allows for the class time to be used for creating real experiences in which students are interacting, creating, and actually doing something. Lectures, which are boring but sometimes necessary, can be stopped, paused, rewound, and revisited at the students’ convenience and patience-level at home. Personally, I like to think of myself as a successful student, but I would love the opportunity to stop and start lectures at my will– I just need little breaks sometimes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In addition, think how this type of classroom experience would affect school relationships– teacher and students, student-to-student, and even teachers and other teachers– I feel like school would become a less stressful space, and transform into a place that everyone looks forward to going to. Instead of associating school with boredom, students would see the school building as a place of fun and connection and creativity energy.

I decided to pretend that I currently have a flipped classroom. This fake-class is an 11th grade English class, and we are currently working on college admissions essays. Our in-class activity was completing a brainstorming worksheet individually, which is just a series of personal questions that ask the students to reflect on their experiences, and then doing a pair-and-share. Following the pair-and-share, students will conduct mock interviews: one student as college admissions counselor and the other as a prospective student. The “counselor” will have a sheet of set questions to ask the student, and then after one interview round the students will switch positions.

The “homework” would be a 5 minute lecture from me (the teacher) about writing the introduction paragraph for an admissions essay. After viewing the lecture, students would be required to view sample essays and listen to my Vocaroo recording that goes along with it. Students would be asked to come to class the next day prepared with notes and observations on these sample essays, and we would launch into writing their introduction paragraphs and peer-workshopping them in class. It’s a cycle! See? I love this stuff.

Cyclical learning is a cornerstone of John Dewey’s philosophy of education; or, to use his words, ““experience lives on in further experience” (Dewey, 1938, p. 27). I couldn’t have said it better myself. I love this flipped classroom format because it allows for learning to happen in a circle, rather than in a linear fashion; there is no beginning or end, just a continuous experience. I hate to seem self-important, but I couldn’t help but think to of a blog post I wrote in my first education course (Foundations with our own Dr. Coffman). The post is entitled “My Teaching Philosophy,” and in it I describe how cyclical learning is important to me; I don’t want to teach the school year as “the beginning, the middle, the end,” but rather an ever-renewing opportunity for growth and creation– like recycling. Besides, when you’re always focused on the end, you never learn how to appreciate the right-now, and that is no way to live (inside or outside of school). My mind is really churning now, I appreciate the inspiration.

References

Dewey, John. (1938). Experience and Education. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Creating a Video

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

I am currently in the process of creating my Animoto curricular music video (just about halfway done), and here is my predominant thought while finding usable images, documenting them, and uploading them onto Animoto: I will never do this again. Right now I work part-time (about 25 hours a week), and I feel like I barely have time for this, so I can’t imagine that I’ll have time to fiddle around with Animoto when I’m working 40+ hours a week teaching full time. HOWEVER, I do think it has instructional merit, especially in terms of allowing students to express themselves creatively, so I would absolutely have my students use this program to make 30 sec videos (for free!).

Honestly, if I didn’t have to find copyright-friendly images and document them, which we all know can be monotonous and time-consuming, I would be having an absolute blast creating this video (being responsible can be such a bummer, right?). I would love to have students use this tool to respond to major themes in novels, I think the visual and textual connection lends itself well to a summation project like that. From the instructional perspective, I’m using Animoto to create a video to generate interest in a book that the students are about to read (in this case Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451). I figured if I was going to take the time to make this video, I would do something that I could actually re-use in the future, and Fahrenheit 451 is unquestionably part of my student reading list. So, frustrations aside, I really see the value of Animoto (perhaps a bit more so than Scratch).

I also took the opportunity to re-vamp my LinkedIn page this week. As silly as it sounds, fiddling around with LinkedIn really made me self-reflect; I already had a LinkedIn account, but I had previously used it when I was working full time as head trainer at a personal training studio. My picture was one of me in fitness clothes, and all my skills and experience were fitness training related. Going through and changing that picture and adding skills and experience made me feel good– certain and satisfied and mature. I’m still a little skeptical about the effectiveness of LinkedIn, but then again, I’m skeptical about most things.

Lastly, I love Twitter. I love Twitter because it requires skill to do it well. Sure, you can tweet “I love puppies,” but that’s not a very good tweet and not many people will follow you. However, if you really take the time to consider your tweets (question to yourself, “what is tweetable?”) and make your message clear and concise, then the people will follow. Some argue that tweeting encourages bad writing skills– using text-speak, emoticons, etc.– but I actually disagree. I think all writing practice is good writing practice, regardless of spelling, because the first (and most important) step in writing is thinking. Twitter lends itself well to responding to the process of something– long-term projects, road trips, even watching a movie. What if instead of having students fill out boring worksheets about in-class movies, we just allowed them to “live-tweet” the movie? Assuming the tweets are school-appropriate, I think the students would get a lot more out of it and maybe even pay attention! Trust me, I’m an expert on students watching movies in class… I’m a substitute. More than anything else we have experienced throughout this course so far, I am most certain that I will be using Twitter in my future classroom.

Technical Difficulties

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

It has certainly been an enlightening and humbling week for me. As a Digital Native, I enter into new technological situations with a lot of confidence; one of the main reasons I’m taking this online course is because I thought I would have “no problem” navigating the technical aspects of it. Well, I was wrong.

Let me start with the custom search engine. Creating the search engine was easy enough; I made mine Walt Whitman oriented, keeping in mind a project in which students would work in small groups to present different kinds of research about the same Whitman poem (historical context, biographical context, references within the poem, and literary theory). I entered in a bunch of reputable sites and created my search engine– this went smoothly. Once finished, I received this code to copy and paste to create my custom search bar:

<script>
(function() {
var cx = ‘017423852869033909725:nn_xy0-cvtu’;
var gcse = document.createElement(‘script’); gcse.type = ‘text/javascript’;
gcse.async = true;
gcse.src = (document.location.protocol == ‘https:’ ? ‘https:’ : ‘http:’) +
‘//www.google.com/cse/cse.js?cx=’ + cx;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0];
s.parentNode.insertBefore(gcse, s);
})();
</script>
<gcse:search></gcse:search>

As you can see, I have no idea how this works or if this code even works within a blog. I made a couple attempts using different browsers with no avail. After a few frustrating trials, I default to what I know how to do, which is create a link: My custom search engine, take 2.

And THEN I tried to put this link into my Google site professional portfolio. Again, there was much trial and error. At first, I tried to hyperlink one of the X’s in the standards matrix, and I didn’t have much luck with that. Instead I created a subpage at the bottom, which looks like this:

Standards Matrix - Allison Crerie_1360424667146

 

 

 

 

After feeling accomplished for a moment, when I clicked on this link to see my finished product I see this:

Custom Search Engine - Allison Crerie_1360424888271

Needless to say, I decided to walk away from my computer at this time. Although now that I’m revisiting it, I think I may see what went wrong. An important part of learning is making mistakes, after all.

Speaking of making mistakes, now let me tell you about my Scratch projects. Yes, plural. I made two because my first attempt was so absolutely terrible. Here, I’m not ashamed, I’ll show you: My terrible Scratch project.

I’m also not ashamed to admit that that project took me about an hour and a half to make. My first mistake was not watching the tutorial videos, because I’m a digitally-entitled 24 year-old who thinks she can excel at anything on a computer. So instead of stopping to ask for directions, I continued to be lost. Initially, I was just going to turn in that terrible project with a shrug of my shoulders and a “well, I tried” sentiment, but then it started to bother me. I kept thinking about Scratch, kept thinking that I could do better, that I should have watched the tutorial videos, and so I decided to give it another try: My slightly better Scratch Project.

My frustrations this week illuminated an important point for me: education is a journey. I am still a student, after all, and this experience helped me realize the importance of failure. Coincidentally, I ran across an article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail.” In it, the author (an experienced educator) discusses the importance of failure in education and in life; people need to face challenges in order to grow and mature, she says: “year after year, my “best” students — the ones who are happiest and successful in their lives — are the students who were allowed to fail, held responsible for missteps, and challenged to be the best people they could be in the face of their mistakes” (Lahey 2013). And this week, I experienced such challenges first-hand. It really bothered me that my first attempt at Scratch went so poorly, and even though I was busy this week, I made time to re-do my project to make it better. It reminded me that education isn’t supposed to be easy and it is also not supposed to be boring, but it should be challenging.

References

Lahey, Jessica. (Jan. 29, 2013). Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/01/why-parents-need-to-let-their-children-fail/272603/