What I think …

This post combines two pieces that I pulled together recently — one for a mini-grant proposal from a teaching website and another for the YPulse Wired Teaching Award (where I was a finalist).

For the minigrant, I was asked to write about what I think about “21st Century Readiness” and also, if I were to a video documenting my thoughts, what would it look like?

My thoughts:

Young people compose all of the time, although it often happens outside of our classroom. They are texting in short-hand language that some adults find unnerving. They are surfing the Net. They are creating and sharing videos. They are “reading” video games and navigating information, and then using that information to inform the “story” of the game. Some are on Facebook and other social networking sites. Unfortunately, many educators don’t view this world as composing and writing. They erect walls between home and school. But I see this world outside of school as a possibility for learning that we cannot ignore. If my students are to be ready for the future, then they need to understand the platforms and networks which are they use. A readiness for 21st Century means being taking a critical stance, understanding the world in the midst of technological change, and adapting in order to achieve goals and success. As teachers, we have to realize that the exact skills we teach right now might not be applicable in the future. But if we can educate our students on how to work with others (even in online spaces, beyond a physical proximity); how to use inquiry as a path forward towards understanding; how to use technology for their own means; and how to always be critical and asking questions, then we have done much to prepare them for the world they are entering. Readiness for the 21st Century means being unafraid of challenges that come with the world of digital media.

My movie idea:

My video story would begin with a bored student leaving school after a day of five-paragraph essay writing, and as soon as they hit the doors, they immediately take out some mobile device and the frame shows them composing a long message. We follow this young person around through the rest of the day (outside of school) as they use digital media and technology in authentic ways: making a video; using apps on a mobile device for some authentic purpose; composing and recording a mash-up song; etc. I imagine that the video story could also show a teacher opening up their eyes to the possibilities of what this student is doing, and turning to the student as a class leader to help develop a project that engages the class, so that the traditional writing activity (essay) is coupled with other possibilities (persuasive video, podcasts, etc.)

The YPulse Award asked us to contribute a short video on advice that we would give for educators when it comes to using technology. Here is my one-minute take on urging folks to get their own hands dirty before they bring a tool into the classroom.

Peace (in the sharing),

When News Goes Manga


I am not suggesting this move would save our newspapers, but some papers in Japan have started to shift towards Manga News, which converts some news items of the day into a manga-style story. I suppose this is both cultural (Manga comics are everywhere in Japan) and demographic (how to keep younger people reading the newspapers).

You can check out a website with Manga News here, although it is all in Japanese.

And Wired had an article about the shift, too. Like every other idea now in the world, there is an app for it, too.

Peace (in the news),


Sneak Peeks at student Stopmotion Movies

There’s a lot of work being done on our stopmotion movies, particularly now that I set a deadline of next Friday for completion. Yesterday, I presented as mini-lesson around using Moviemaker, including making titles and credits (use restraint, I told them), adding narration and cutting into video to remove unwanted hands from scenes.

I went through and randomly grabbed some of the raw footage so that I could share out some of the work at our class website. It’s always good to give parents a glimpse into the room (I wish my own sons’ teachers would do that once in a while).

Note: these are short movies built around concepts of figurative language.

Peace (in the raw),

Keep those video files organized


I honestly try not to take too much technology knowledge for granted with my students. But yesterday, as we moved deeper into our figurative language stopmotion animation project, I realized that a very small percentage of my students knew how to create a very basis  element of Windows: a folder.

Each day, as they shoot raw footage (later to be edited in Moviemaker), they have just been randomly saving it to wherever the computer has defaulted a folder. Which means I had a lot of: “Mr. H, our video from yesterday is gone,” and me replying, “Where did you save it?” and them responding, “I don’t know.”

This happened once too often so I set aside some precious time to go through the process of creating a folder for their work, moving video files into their folder, and reminding them that three other groups are sharing the same computer, so folders are key to organization.Then, I walked around to make sure every group (I have four classes, with about five to seven movie groups going on right now) understood the concept of their folder and how to save their videos in there.

My own lesson here is to remember not to assume anything. My students may look proficient with basic technology but it is unlikely anyone has shown them what to do.  They stumble and discover, just like we do. There is something to be said of learning by doing, but in this case, keeping video files organized in project folders will save a lot of headaches later on.

Or so I hope.

Peace (in the folder),

Come in, Come in for Day in a Sentence


It has been a bit of time since I was the host of Day in Sentence. The writing activity has been making the rounds with all sorts of blogging friends, but now it comes back home. (Also, check out the article I wrote for LEARN NC about teaching writing in online communities where I mentioned our Day in a Sentence project)

I’m going to keep things simple and traditional, at least in the gathering of your words.

  • Reflect on your day or your week;
  • Boil it down into a single sentence;
  • Post your sentence here as a comment to this blog post;
  • I will gather up the sentences and publish them this weekend in some format (still thinking);
  • That’s it!

Here is my Day in a Sentence:

I looked around my classroom yesterday and all I saw were creative movie producing teams hard at work in just about every space you could imagine and there were no signs of slacking in the bunch.

Peace (in the sharing),

It’s Hard Work, Making Movies

We’re fully immersed in our Figurative Language Stopmotion Movie Project right now, with me mostly stepping out of the way and just letting my students work on the filming of their raw videos. We’ll pull the raw footage into Moviemaker, add narration and titles, and then I will show them how to make their own music with a software program called SuperDuperMusicLooper that will keep them occupied for a few days, too (kids love MusicLooper).

Peace (in the movies),

Watching the Students watching the Duckies

I am fortunate to have a colleague on the other side of the school (and other side of the grades) who uses and shares her technology integration with our entire school on a regular basis. Yesterday, kindergarten teacher Gail P. sent out a link to the staff, saying that we could watch the incubator in her room via UStream, a live video streaming site.
Gail had popped a webcam in (near?) the incubator. For the entire day, as my students were working on their stopmotion movies, I kept the streaming video up on my Promethean Board so that the sixth graders could watch what was going on in the kindergarten classroom.

First of all, many of my students remember having Gail has their teacher, and so they connected immediately with the video, once they realized what they were watching. They began to tell some stories of kindergarten.

Second, as one class watched, a duck popped out of the egg. The energy in the room was like a wave of excitement as they all cheered and shouted. For the rest of the hour, they would regularly update themselves on the status of the duck, even as another egg seemed to cracking, too. When Gail herself and a few of her students appeared on the screen, my students shouted out to her (as if she could hear).

I love that Gail and I were connected through technology yesterday. That was pretty cool.

I’ll put in the embed code to the live stream, but Gail has to reset the video later on today, so here is the direct link to the ducks, if you are interested.

Live streaming video by Ustream

Peace (in the hatchlings),

“Totally Wired” finalist

http://mashup.ypulse.com/tween/images/logo_ypulse.gifWell, this is a nice surprise. I was informed yesterday that I was a finalist in the Ypulse Totally Wired Teacher Award.  The winner was another sixth grade teacher who has been doing some amazing things to connect kids and teachers around science. He deserved the top honors, for sure.

The award is sponsored by the Ypulse website, which provides content around kids and technology (Ypulse editor, Anastasia Goodstein, wrote the book: Totally Wired: What Teens & Tweens Are Really Doing Online); and Dell’s education division. As one of two finalists, I get a new Netbook for the classroom, so that’s pretty neat.

The site explains:

The goal of the award is to recognize a teacher who has overcome these challenges and is inspiring to both students and other educators. Dell’s support for this initiative is part of a longstanding commitment to supporting educators who lead by example, demonstrating for students the power of technology to enhance learning and achievement.

Peace (in the thanks),