The Ed Tech Experience

Going into this class, I didn’t really have expectations. I knew that I wanted to get a little more comfortable with the technology available to me, and to gain an understanding of the possibilities of a higher tech placement. This course was helpful to me on both counts. I really appreciated the focus on easy to access online tools, because even in my placement those were useful to me, and I feel like I know that cool things are out there, and that many of them are pretty easy to work with and access.

I especially liked the focus on Google tools, because literally every school in the vicinity will have those available. I gained a better working understanding in the tools I’m already familiar with, which was super helpful. I especially like the my maps and google notes possibilities, which I wouldn’t have considered using or exploring before this course.

I was really interested in everything about this course, but the way our schedules work forced me to spend  less time on it than I wanted. I would love for it to be a required course for juniors, who still have hope and energy for things other than their student teaching placement. I feel that if I had taken the class earlier, I could have engaged more with everything and been more creative and interested in embracing the project based learning model.

Featured Image: “Psychedelic Jellyfish” by Paul Tomin on Flickr

Immigration Unit

With candidates like Marine Le Pen and policies like Brexit cropping up internationally, and much national focus on immigration and border control, immigration and the human rights issues that surround it are topical and relevant issues for all groups of students. I’m a big proponent of using my platform as a teacher to promote social awareness (regardless of personal opinion), and English/Language arts is particularly well suited to helping students build this kind of empathy.  Reading, absorbing, and analyzing literature is as close as one can get to living through the experiences of the author and the situations they are writing about.

One particularly excellent text about immigration, that I hope to teach in my classroom wherever I land, is a wordless graphic novel called The Arrival, by Australian artist Shaun Tan. Despite being wordless, it manages to convey incredibly sophisticated themes that are politically neutral, since the story is visual fantasy and is not set in any particularly identifiable time or place. Because of its neutrality, it allows readers to connect with the characters without necessarily conveying blame, or causing the reader to become defensive. Students experience along with the characters the displacement and loss of leaving a homeland, the adaptation to new customs and places, and eventual reunion with family. It’s fabulous.

An excellent tech tool to go along with this text is the Metrocosm World Immigration Map. In much the same way that The Arrival removes the otherness of immigration through the sympathetic characters, this tech tool normalizes immigration by showing that people are coming and going from nearly every country, and that immigration is a global process rather than an isolated perceived annoyance.

Featured Image: Graphic Novel illustration by Laurence Hyde retrieved from Flickr

Flipping English

English/Language Arts lends itself really well to the flipped model, and teachers often do it pretty naturally within this subject. Students often do their reading and writing, the most focused activities in the discipline, as homework. One reason for this is that there isn’t enough time to always do these things in class, and another is that having students read and write at home leaves time in class for activities such as discussions, activities, and peer editing.

Learning objectives: 

Students will  compare and contrast Macbeth with its screen adaptation, Throne of Blood. 

Students will compare the relative aspects of film vs written drama.

Flipped/Blended Elements:

Students watch Throne of Blood at home and take notes about the plot and differences between the version they just read and the film they are watching, as well as the visual techniques Kurosawa uses.

Active learning strategies: 

Viewing the film, forming opinions, collaborating in groups, writing debate cases

Lesson Flow: 

Students read Macbeth aloud in class the previous week. When finished, assign students to watch Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood at home over the weekend.

In class, students create Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting the film and reading generally. Decide, as groups, which telling of the story is more effective, and write a simple debate case that argues their side. Groups will then debate the effectiveness of the play vs the film adaptation.

Benefit to Students: 

Using the flipped strategy, students have the opportunity to watch a film adaptation that they may not have time for if we tried to contain everything to the classroom. By removing this time constraint, students had time to work together and really dig into the material collaboratively in class.

Image Source: “Macbeth and Banquo Encountering the Witches” from Wikimedia Commons

Mapping Literary Adventures

For this project, I chose to use the My Maps feature of Google Maps to chart Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War. With this tool, I was able to place points at important locations, and in another layer, I included the pathways in the order that Odysseus visited them. This tool allows students not only to visualize the distance he traveled, but also to actually add up the approximate distance with the tool’s included distance measurements.

This tool also allows you to add images  and descriptions to the location points, further enriching the experience. I have added an image and description to the first point on the map as an example. If there was a way to have students editing this, it might be a good group or individual activity to have the students create descriptions, or identify important information to create a more complete representation of Odysseus’ (or any literary or historical) journey.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/embed?mid=1Jow5aTbmFS3px03RS9NBYHtb4sY&w=640&h=480]

Featured Image Source: “The illustration for the humorous book The General History Edited by Satyricon” by Alexander Yevgenievich Yakovlev accessed from Wikimedia Commons

 

An Ode to Not Answering the Same Question 1000 Times

I like the idea of building a set of classroom reference screencasts to answer questions that always come up. For example, how to correctly use semi colons, or how to use whatever program I’m asking them to work with. Slidecasts would also be ideal to for students who are absent, or, since I don’t lecture often, I could make them to review certain topics before a test. However, I will also have to put this information together in other ways so students without access to technology can view it. While it is a good resource that will save me some time, it’s not an ultimate solution.

I see many cool possibilities for student screencast assignments. Student how-to videos can potentially have a bigger impact on their classmates than teacher instruction, and students benefit not only from learning the content, but also up their tech literacy in the process. Language arts isn’t the most friendly subject for screen casting, but I could see grammar, research or figurative language explication topics working.

Despite all the good, there are some challenges around technology access that could potentially complicate the process. Screen casting necessitates a quiet space to record, and if everyone is in the classroom doing this with laptop cart computers, things are going to get pretty loud. Also, with the shift from Macbooks to Chromebooks in most schools, the quickest and easiest way to do this is no longer possible. In a school like mine, where there are no laptop carts, this is not going to be possible at all.  I think it’s a great tool, but may be better used as a project option than as a required activity for the whole class.

I made a screencast that explains how to use parenthetical citations in essays. I chose to do this because I am eternally doomed in Tartarus to answer this question over and over without a single student remembering what I say.  It was pretty easy to do, and I would definitely use this tech tool again for review or some short little explanation like this.

Featured Image Credit: Psychedelic / Abstract Cat by Callum Hoare on flickr

 

Creative Commons Quest

My AP Lit students have a Chaucer unit coming up, so I thought this week I could use the Creative Commons search opportunity to gather some resources.  I was honestly pretty unfocused about it so I’m not sure it will all be helpful, but the process of gathering data was super easy and I think I found some things I can actually use.

The Creative Commons search tool was great because of the quick access to different types of media. I found a few classic images of Chaucer/depictions of the travelers on Flickr. There were also a lot of photos of a boxer and a chameleon, ostensibly named Chaucer. Cute, but not exactly what I was looking for. I found more useful images on Google images. The Internet Archive was the most useful resource for this dusty old topic. I found PDF versions of the Middle English and translated versions of the text, which is really useful because we have less than a classroom set of books.  I also found an audiobook version, which, while terribly voiced, could be really helpful for struggling readers and my busy seniors in general who are traveling to work etc. I wish I could have found better video sources, but I see how it would have been easy to do so if my topic was something else. Overall, it’s nice to use things that I know I have permission to use.

I chose OneNote to store these resources. I found the program perfectly serviceable and easy to navigate, but not particularly exciting. I like that organization was really clear with the different sections, and that you could add different file types etc, but it would take some getting used to for me to curate things this way. I get the point of having everything in one place and accessible from any device, but in my world my devices are more reliable than my internet connectivity, so I need to change my living situation and my mindset before something like this would be fully useful to me.

Here’s a link to what I came up with.

 

Image Credit: The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer edited by FS Ellis, Kelmscott Press, 1896 by Kotumi_ on Flickr

 

Expectations, Realities, Possibilities

While my personal relationship with technology could be considered contentious, I do not want to carry that attitude (or my bad luck in ending up with manufacturer defective technology 80% of the time) into the classroom. I understand both the need for and vitality of finding new ways to engage students with technology as it becomes more deeply integrated into our schools and daily lives. I find the potential for collaboration, project based learning, and creative problem solving through technology very exciting.

My current use of and access to edtech is pretty limited and traditional. I regret to say that my daily use of technology is pretty much showing videos and presentations and using the document camera. I know there are ways to be creative with English and technology, but without everyday access to computers it is easy to fall into doing things the paper/pencil/book traditional way. There are several computer labs at my school, but there aren’t any iPads or laptops or Chromebook carts that can be brought into the classrooms. Most of the time we can go to a computer lab, but there isn’t guaranteed access if the teacher doesn’t book the day.  If they do get access, students may have to use different computer labs if the teacher can’t book the same one several days in a row, which can cause some confusion.  Sometimes it can be good to get students out of their routine and into new spaces, but it would be more efficient to bring the technology to our space so we could rearrange the room into table groups  to work collaboratively and have easy access to classroom materials. Teachers all receive a Macbook, have a document camera in their rooms, and are able to check out things like cameras and recording devices when needed, but that’s about it. 

Despite a lack of daily access to technology, there is a push from the administration to be as paperless as possible. They encourage teachers to use programs like Google Classroom for assignment submissions and sending information to kids and parents. They are no longer investing in scantrons, so they want teachers using the testing features of Synergy in their place. This is a good idea for multiple choice tests in theory, because the students get immediate feedback and the program adds the scores from  right into the grade book. However, it is difficult to solely implement those methods without 1:1 access to tech. Students have to use personal phones or computers, so students who don’t have them are at a disadvantage. Plus,  it makes it difficult for teachers to monitor what they’re doing and muddles the already unclear cell phone policies.  

I’d like to learn how to more creatively use the resources I have available to me, as well as understand a little more about what possibilities exist outside of those resources. I want to be able to function in the tech landscape of whatever school I end up in, and use what I have to enhance the language arts experience. I also hope to learn  a bit about how to be an advocate for equality of access to technology–for example, how would I find grant money, and how do I make myself or my school a competitive candidate for that money? I’m excited for this course and the open-ended possibilities we can explore together.

Photo Credit: The great growling engine of change- technology. Alvin Toffler by  Kate Ter Haar on Flickr