I have a friend, Julie Akaret, who is a documentary filmmaker, and she is working with a professor at Mount Holyoke College to develop a website called What’s the Big Ideas? that will help teachers introduce basic philosophical ideas through the use of Hollywood movie clips and network television shows. Right now, they have content up there around bullying and lying, with additional topics to come.
The other day, as my students were finishing up the wonderfully different novel, Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise, we were tackling the idea of lying, so Julie visited our class as we unpacked what it means to lie, when it seems OK to tell a lie, and when (as with the book) a person using their political power or government post to tell a lie for personal gain. My students really got into the discussion, and the film clips we used at the What’s The Big Idea? site (from Liar Liar, Jaws, Freaks & Geeks, Seinfeld, and Breaking Away) perfectly hit on a lot of our discussion points.
See this sample:
All the materials at the site are free (thanks to a grant) and I encouraged Julie to develop the topic of Environmental Ethics next, as I personally would love to use that part of the site for our environmental writing unit, and I think that the connections between media, writing and science could be a benefit to a lot of teachers now considering shifts into the Common Core curriculum. I also like that each video clip has an introduction to the concept, and sets the stage for the video. Julie is also developing handouts and resources related to the content for teachers to use as guides.
What’s The Big Idea? is worth your time and another way to engage our students in critical thinking skills that moves beyond the black/white of important issues by leading them into the grey area, with movies and television shows as another way to engage them in these important conversations.
This is the last in a series of three podcasts that captured a conversation I had at a local elementary school around technology. Part one was Monday and it covered topics of outreach to the community and student engagement. Part two was yesterday and it delved into ideas around digital literacy and equity issues.
The final part of the podcast moved into our expectations of the future (and how to prepare our students for the unknown), considerations of the effects that technology might be having on young minds, and even the divide between formal and informal language (and therefore, the audience you are writing for and what that does to your writing).
This is the second in a series of three podcasts that captured a conversation I had at a local elementary school around technology. Part one was yesterday and it covered topics of outreach to the community and student engagement.
The second part of the podcast revolved around what we mean by digital literacies for young people, how this school (like mine) is shifting into interactive boards and what that means (or doesn’t yet mean) for the classroom, and then we moved into a really important part of the conversation: the idea that schools has an imperative to provide access to technology for ALL students and how equity has to be part of our conversations in schools.
Tomorrow, the last part of the podcast will be shared, and it covers some views around writing and ideas around how the modern world of media and technology is shaping our young people.
As I have mentioned in a few posts, I have had the privilege of working with some teachers at another elementary school in the past month through the work of the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, and I spent one whole day there recently, modeling some activities and exploring some ideas with the staff. At the end of the day, I sat down with the principal (Mike), the technology teacher (Liz), the literacy coach (Stephanie) and a lower elementary classroom teacher (Lauren) to talk technology for the school’s podcast feature on its website.
It was one of those great ideas for wrapping up the day, and we had a wonderful conversation that touched on a lot of different areas that relate to technology and learning. The school just posted the podcasts (the hour was wisely divided up into three shorter sections) and I asked the principal if I could grab a copy, and share the conversations out for others. He willingly agreed, and encouraged me to do so.
So I am going to be sharing out the three parts of the podcast over the next few days.
The first part of the podcast revolves around student learning and engagement, and I sought to define digital storytelling a bit (since that was a focus of the day). We also chatted about how to use technology as a school to reach out to parents and the community. The other classroom teacher, Lauren, has her young students now using Twitter to broadcast to family what is going on during the day (no more: “nothing” to the question of “what did you do today?”) We also touched on the idea of moving technology right into the classroom, and not having it seen as a separate unit of instruction.
I hope you enjoy the podcasts – the second part will get published tomorrow, followed by the third piece on Wednesday. Even though I was there, and talking, it was only when I went back and really listened did I realize just how much ground we had covered in our conversation.
Yesterday, I wrote a bit about how the new TED-Ed site was experimenting with ways to remix, flip and otherwise redo their own lessons and video content, and since I am curious about new tools, I dove in and gave it a try. The tool is set up around a video, but you have quiz questions that are set up (with video helpers if you get stuck), some open-ended discussion questions (or you can make your own, as I did), a space for additional links and resources, and a final thought. I found it incredible easy to use, and it seems simple to adapt for my own needs.
Actually, the lesson I ended up creating is the second variation of a lesson I created around Shakespeare and insults — the first one had a word (ironically) that I wasn’t comfortable with in one of the quizzes, and you can’t edit a flipped lesson once you publish it to the site. So, I redid the whole thing. I still don’t think I will do THIS lesson with my sixth graders (we do a variation of the Shakespearean insult, though). But, I have some seeds of thinking going on now.
I’d like to invite you to give it a try. I’m still not sure if this is something I can use with my students (as I am still not sure of the whole flipped idea), but I am open to exploring it more and figuring that out. Certainly, the remix tool is easy to use, and looks great when you are done. And, I think you can even pull in YouTube videos and more as content to your lesson. It’s a great way to curate information in a TED package, and if viewers are logged in, you can track their stats as they move through your lesson. (The need to log in is what would stop me with my students, since they do not have their own email accounts).
This is pretty cool, and I am trying to figure out how I can use all of the features of the new TED-ed site with my students. I’m still not certain of the whole “flipped classroom” model, but perhaps this kind of site (that allows you to not only access amazing videos but also curate your own) might be a way to experiment a bit with the idea.
I had one of my classes yesterday work collaboratively on creating a picture book story with Storybird (I am using it this morning with younger students in a school I am visiting). My sixth graders sure had a lot of fun with their story: The Giraffe Who Made His Way Home. I had the site up on our Interactive Board, and they were using the pen to choose images and then we “talked” through each element of the story. I had to guide them a bit around a “plot” because they would clearly have gone off in a lot of directions (note to self: remember that for today).
What I like about Storybird is that the story is inspired by the art, and not the other way around. This is a different kind of writing to be doing, particularly for students. Most of the time, they will come up with a story, and then be asked to illustrate it after the story is written. Storybird turns that idea on its head. This can be tricky at times (if there are not enough good images to use) and also inspiring when you see the artwork collections.
Here’s what I noticed:
The collaborative storywriting forces cooperation, and ideas need to get fleshed out by the group. Some students deal with this better than others. In the end, I guided discussions on each page of the story as best as I could and then helped them reach consensus and then we moved on.
I kept talking through (modeling) how I envisioned their story might be going. “What will happen next?” I asked a number of times, and when I knew time was running out on us, it was “how will Bucky get home?” What I was really saying is, it’s time to tie up the loose ends and finish the story.
The students had a lot of choices for art and there were no disagreements when one chose a piece of art. Instead, the chosen piece immediately sparked ideas. “What about if …” is a phrase I heard a lot. There was also a lot of laughing and giggling at the artwork. That’s a good sound to have.
I could see using this collaborative activity as a guide for reinforcing story development, and then having students work in teams or by themselves to develop their own story. I’d have to think more about how the pre-writing activity might happen, since the story is dictated by the art. Maybe a writer chooses the art, puts it in sequence and then does pre-writing from there.
And although our collaboration was in physical space, I see an option in Storybird for collaborating on a book project with someone else on the site. That might open up the doors for some other kinds of writing partnerships.
I did check out the “teacher information” at Storybird and it seems like they have a pretty decent model for setting up a classroom account, and giving accounts to students. There is a free version, which has some limits, and a paid version.
I was struggling with a way to gather up links and resources for an upcoming day of presentations at a local elementary school. I remembered Livebinder, so that’s where I have collected much of my resource links now and I will be sharing the Technology Presentation binder with the school when I am done.
Later this week, I am going to be spending the day with another elementary school in the region, working with students in some classrooms while teachers observe and then presenting to the whole staff later in the day. My presentation is about digital storytelling, which is a great theme for an entire school to adopt, and about how digital storytelling builds on much of the learning already underway and connects to our new state curriculum standards (ie, Common Core).
I’m going to be showing how to use Storybird to create picture book stories with some first and second grade teachers (and a classroom of students) next week, so I figured, I better get back over to the site and remember how it works. It works like a charm, of course, and is so easy — which is why I think it will be a good interactive use of technology for the lower grades.