We’re in the middle of our Digital Life unit, and yesterday, our lessons were all about passwords. We talked through the importance of secure passwords, and watched a CommonCraft video about the topic, and then my students did a writing prompt in which they were “hired” to come up with secure passwords for their teachers.
They then had to “test” the hackability of those passwords with the How Secure is My Password site and use our class blog to submit their password recommendation for me. Students used a variety of methods, including mnemonic devices, things they know about me and other strategies. Even I am not sure exactly what the thinking is behind all of these passwords, but I find it fascinating to look at. (And I should note: the word cloud generator stripped out a few symbols here and there, and divided up a few suggestions that had symbols in the middle, so what may look like a basic word in this cloud is probably missing a few parts or was part of something larger).
More importantly, I hope they have a better grasp of how and why to create powerful passwords for the online spaces where they go and roam. There were more than a few eye-opening ideas that they had never thought about nor had anyone ever talked to them about passwords.
Each year, I present my sixth grade students with what we call the State of Technology and Digital Media Survey. The idea is to get a snapshop of their impressions and to get a glimpse of their use of technology, particularly outside of school. This year, for Digital Learning Day, I put the results into a Voicethread and narrate some of what I see.
I used these results for conversations this week around the idea of digital lives, digital footprints and digital citizenship as we launched into a new unit around technology. (By the way, if you want a copy of the survey, here is a template from my Google Docs. Feel free to steal it, remix it, use it as you need.)
But I invite you, too, to add questions and observations to the Voicethread. Make it a conversation. Do the results of my students resonate with what you know about your students? (Note: I teach sixth grade, so these are 11 year olds). Haven’t used Voicethread before? Now’s the time to give a new tool a try.
I finally got the time to watch The Watsons Go to Birmingham movie last week with the two classes who read the book earlier in the school year. The DVD had been sitting on my desk but finding the time was difficult. Still, I wanted to see what the folks at the Hallmark Movie Channel did with a book that I love reading and teaching, and students were eager to see the movie version, too. So, we did.
I could quibble with some of the changes made to the Christopher Paul Curtis story and some of the casting choices and other things, and we did quibble in our post-movie class discussions, but I understand a bit about the need to make changes to a novel to fit the screen. The one thing I was disappointed in but wasn’t surprised by was the removal of the vision the kids have of each other in times of danger, of each becoming the savior of the other in times of trouble. We talked a lot about that missing element in class. Oh well.
Overall, I enjoyed what they did with the story. Most of all, I was very much pleased with how the producers brought in archival footage from the news of the day (1964) in Alabama, as it really sets the tone and stage for the unfolding of the story as the Watsons visit the south. The scene of the famous church bombing is chaotic and emotional, and I found it hit the right notes for my students to feel compassion and fury, and to understand Kenny (the narrator) a bit more as he searches for his younger sister.
Also, I give high praise to the movie folks for making the Children’s March a secondary storyline, with the Watsons’ cousins telling how they are marching with other children in protest. The book never mentions the Children’s March. The movie uses that event in a way that gives the story a different emotional feel, particularly when Byron (the oldest brother, a troublemaker) sees it as an opportunity for him to make a difference and make his parents proud of his actions.
Overall, the movie fits in nicely with the teaching of this powerful story of growing up in the era of civil rights and racism, and how our families are the center that holds us together. The movie gets that right, time and again.
Peace (in the past),
PS — an interview with Christopher Paul Curtis about the adaptation of the book:
(I love this word cloud)
Although I continue to invent and publish a new word every day for the #Nerdlution (round 2), that initiative was inspired by my students’ work around invented language (as part of our study of the origins of the English Language). The other day, they used our wiki site to begin adding a word of their own (and a podcast of their word) to a 9-year project to create an online dictionary of invented words. I’ll share that out some other day. For now, check out this prezi with a few words and I have embedded the podcasts of their voices right into the prezi (just click the play button).
Flocabulary has a great musical resource available for remember Martin Luther King Jr. and honoring the Civil Rights movement. Along with the hip hop song that brings in words and imagery into the flow, the group provides a set of lyrics you can print out. Whenever I use Flocabulary and their mad rhymes, my students pay attention. The site even has a classroom view, allowing the video to come into center focus. You can’t embed the video in other sites because Flocabulary sells subscriptions (and periodically, makes resources like this one free).
Our sixth graders recently finished up a Peace Poster project with our fantastic art teacher, and now the posters are all over the school. It’s such a great way to infuse art with a social message, and get young minds thinking of the world in global terms.
Here is a collection of some of the posters:
Some projects just seem to connect with students, and our Imaginary Peaceful Land Brochure project is one of those. With lessons around informational text and creative writing, with a focus on our school’s role as a Peacebuilding Community, students create an imaginary place and then design a brochure. I particularly love the maps they draw, which brings out a different angle of creativity in students.
I am going to be writing more about this lesson around reading and writing diagrams for my blog (Working Draft) over at MiddleWeb soon, but here is a diagram that I shared with my students about the saxophone, as I modeled how to draw a simple diagram. Their assignment has been to create their own diagrams, as we talk about ‘reading’ different kinds of texts and information sources, including diagrams.
Our school theme this month is about “respect,” which turns out to a tricky concept even for sixth graders. It’s not as concrete as our theme of “kindess” from last month. We had a long conversation the other day about what respect might look like, and then I had my students go into our comic site to create ideas around respect. Here are a few:
We are working on a synthesis reading/writing activity, in which students are writing persuasively about whether or not cell phones should be allowed in school. Your first impression might be that they would want them, but surprisingly, that is not the case.