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Tag: iPad (page 1 of 4)

Back to Blogging – Media Literacy

Halfway through last year, I decided to move my blogging over to Schoology. To be honest, I hate blogging in Schoology and only decided to give it a go to be on the same platform as our teachers. So, I’m back on WordPress after a weekend that gave me a jolt.

This past Saturday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the Library of Congress celebrated the 16th National Book Festival. If you have never attended this event, you are missing out. I have only attended three of these events, and I’ve really enjoyed all of them. This last one, though, was special. I drove to DC in the hopes of seeing just a couple of the long list of great writers scheduled to be there. Among them, the one I wanted to see the most was Ken Burns. Not only did I see him, but I actually got to talk to him! I asked Ken Burns a question and he was excited to answer.

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My question was, “If we are updating curriculum standards to include coding and computer science at all levels, shouldn’t we also include media literacy to make people aware of how images, video, and sound can be used to manipulate them?”

Ken Burns, of course, is a master of multimedia. He has a knack for combining images and sounds to communicate in ways text can only approximate. And while I love text, and books, and writing, I really find it most fascinating to sit in front of a screen and be moved by history.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every subject could be taught by experts that engaged their audience like the readers and interviewees in Ken Burns’s films do? Why can’t textbook publishers be more like Ken Burns and his team?

Instead of asking these things, I think the better approach is to teach our own students to create small scale documentaries to share with their peers and with the community at large so we can all be teachers and learners. You can’t create a compelling film about ANYTHING unless you know what you are talking about. Asking students to make and present a documentary is not watering down a research paper assignment. It is making it much more rigorous. It is asking students to add relevant, compelling images and sounds to to their message. It is teaching to make the kind of media they consume. And in making it, they learn to “read” it.

Yes, we read media. We decode the camera angle, the lighting, the cropping, the movement, the level of the audio, the tempo and tone of the music. And while it is all great fun when we are at the movies being entertained, it is also a great tragedy when we can’t discern what digitally altered images and sounds can make us think is true.

This year I’m working harder than ever to steer teachers in the direction of multimedia projects. We have invested so much time and money into equipping all our students with devices that are, in effect, portable movie and recording studios. We even have a bit of Ken Burns in our iMovie app. We can’t let this go unused. We have to ensure our kids can read, not just text, but everything that comes their way on a screen.

Earth Day Extended Celebration

Last Friday and today, Ms. Kass and I took the students in her Science classes outside to do a little exploration of our environment. In a scavenger hunt type activity, we made a list of concepts the kids have studied during the year and went outside to look for examples. We looked for stages of life cycles, evidence of the water cycle, erosion, pollution, and documented the organisms in our ecosystem. Over the next few days, students will share the images they made with their iPad cameras in a Schoology class discussion. We will discuss what we found, and if we have a chance, we will make a plan to clean up the substantial amount of trash we found in the woods.

Here are a few of the pictures I made of during our outings of little things the students found.

Soldier beetle

Lichen and moss

Toad

Grasshopper

Sawfly larvae

Damselfly

 

Stop Motion Cells

Mr. Summitt’s students have been learning about mitosis and they have put together really nice animations using their iPads. I have edited four of my favorite animations turned in through Schoology into a single movie.

Watch these cells divide and learn.

 

Purposeful PBL

Yesterday I walked into Mr. Rooke’s room to do something menial and simple. I walked away awed and inspired, and with a sense that we really are making a difference in our schools.

Mr. Rooke, our very deserving Teacher Of the Year, has a very non-traditional way of teaching Spanish. I’ve never seen his students filling out worksheets. I’ve never heard his students complain about unfair amounts of work, boring lessons, or tough tests. Mr. Rooke’s students go on to perform outstandingly in advanced Spanish classes, genuinely like Mr. Rooke, and treat him with the utmost respect. Mr. Rooke embeds language learning into study units that are of personal interest to the students, and that is what we discussed when I was in his room yesterday.

Students have been learning about Central America through movies, novels, and classroom discussions. They have learned about the role of poverty in the civil wars of the 1980’s, and the effects of intervention by outside powers such as the United States and the Soviet Union. Recently, they have been discussing MS-13, a violent gang that traces its origins to refugees from the civil war in El Salvador.

So, as the students are learning Spanish, they are also becoming aware of recent cultural and political events that are not covered in traditional Social Studies classes, and they are becoming very aware of how interconnected our world is. They are also learning about real people involved in events, not just learning about events in an abstract manner. This personal connection is crucial.

To reinforce these connections and foster empathy, Mr. Rooke has added another dimension to the learning. He has funds in an account with Kiva.org that the kids will award to applicants for microfinancing. To decide who gets the funds, students have selected loan applicants to research.  They are using Explain Everything and other tools on their iPads to prepare Shark Tank-style presentations for their peers. Then, as a class, they will vote on the top applicants and award the funds to them. When the loans are repaid, probably next year, the next group of students will be ready to evaluate a new set of loan applicants.

This project embodies everything I’ve always imagined for our G21 initiative. It is about the kind of learning that is not for the test. They are learning about people who live in places they have never even heard of. They are learning about the reality of life in these places. They are becoming aware of their privileged lives as citizens of the United States, and of the power and responsibility that comes with that privilege. The kids will always be able to point to this time in their lives when, as a class, they made someone’s life better. 

UPDATE: If you would like to help the students fund additional Kiva micro loans, make a donation at their GoFundMe site.

Schoology–Differentiation and Group Work

Schoology makes it very easy for teachers to assign differentiated work to students in ways that don’t make anyone feel singled out. Students can be assigned to pre-determined groups, or materials can be made visible only to specified students within the course.

Watch these videos to learn how. The first video will show you how to create groups within your courses. The second video will show you how to assign resources to selected groups or individuals within your courses.

 

 

Taking Risks

This morning I returned from VSTE and hit the ground running. When I stepped into Ms. Kass’s room to say hello, she showed me the projects the students were developing on their iPads. A few minutes later, I stopped by Ms. Potter’s office to let her know I was back in the building. The first thing she asked was, “Did you see the amazing stuff Ms. Kass and her students are doing?” Of course, I had just been there. Here is an administrator’s take on our iPad program and the learning environments it is helping us create.

 

Schoology – Student Completion Requirements

True or false: When I give my students work, they all finish at the same time.

Yes, keeping kids on task is one of the most difficult issues faced by teachers. Schoology has a tool that can help.

When you have multiple activities planned for a class period, you can create a folder with all your resources and require that students work in order, achieving a minimum score per item. Watch this tutorial to find out how to set up a classwork folder with Student Completion requirements.

Submitting iWork Documents – Schoology

If your students are using iPads, the easiest way for them to submit work is through Schoology. In a previous post, I shared a video on how to turn in Google Drive documents through Schoology. In this video, I share how to turn in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote files.

 

 

Remember the Egg?

Years and years ago, I remember watching some television sitcom where one of the characters had to care for an egg as if it were a baby. It was a school assignment designed to teach students responsibility, and I think it had something to do with babies. I really don’t remember the details.

This week I found out that this assignment has been updated at GMS to help students transition to our 1:1 iPad program prior to deployment. Mrs. Ray’s students created mock iPads out of construction paper. For the past few days, they have carried their paper iPads with them, taking them out of their backpacks in each class. The paper iPad cannot be on the floor, cannot get crumpled or stained with food, and it cannot be left at home or in a locker.

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The students are having fun, building excitement, and learning important habits.

Great idea, Ms. Ray!

Learning Through Photography

With all the talk about 1:1 computing coming to Goochland, there has been a lot of talk about inquiry-based approaches to teaching and creativity. We have moved away from discussing what apps to use and towards how to use every feature of every device for the benefit of the students. One of the features I believe is a bit underused is the camera.

Some of you know I have been interested in photography since I was in elementary school, and I devote much of my free time to macro photography with my iPhone. If I had had this as a kid… Ah… The pleasure of having a camera within reach all the time, of taking pictures and seeing them immediately still makes me smile. Our students have this now. Every student in our 1:1 pilot has outstanding photographic tools right there, every day, all day. The iPad is a camera, a darkroom, a photo-editing light table, a portable gallery. We have so many opportunities for teaching students to use photography as art, for communication, and most of all, for exploration.

Of course, having a great tool does not mean we will have 100% beautiful pictures from all kids. We must guide students, and we must learn with them.

Nicole Dalesio has been incorporating photography into her teaching practice for a long time, and she has very helpful advice for all of us in this article published in THE Journal last year.

Dalesio wants her students to learn how to take effective photographs, so she teaches them the “SCARE” principles in a little checklist:
  • Simplify: Get rid of excess objects — the water bottle on the picnic table, the junky papers — that clutter up the background; make the canvas as “blank” as possible.
  • Close/closer: “A lot of times people take pictures too far away,” explains Dalesio. Get close and closer to your subject. That doesn’t mean using the zoom option; it means “Zoom with your feet.”
  • Angle: Be creative as you’re taking your picture. Try to find an unusual angle from which to shoot. That could mean standing on a picnic table or tree stump and looking down or lying on the grass and shooting up.
  • Rule of thirds: The best compositions are often the ones where the main subject is either in the right third or left third of the image. So shift the image that way.
  • Even lighting. “You want even lighting,” says Dalesio. If there’s some kind of shadow across the face, move the camera or the subject around to eliminate that. “Usually the best time to take pictures is early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the lighting isn’t as harsh,” she notes. “Foggy days are great for taking pictures — or overcast or even rainy days.”

Here is my own advice:

  • Start small. Take pictures inside your classroom. Have kids share their pictures and discuss them in small groups.
  • Look at pictures students see regularly in posters, books, and magazines and discuss what makes them good. Also discuss how they could be better, or more to the kids’ taste.
  • Discuss how different types of photography are intended for different purposes: artistic versus scientific research, documentation versus marketing, etc.
  • Build a collection of student-created images to use in class projects.
  • Give your students an audience. Use your blog, use Edmodo, organize a photo exposition for Back to School Night, share student photographs with the team assembling the school and county newsletters.
  • Most of all, have fun. Let kids follow their own interests and curiosity and feel good about the images they capture.

Of course, as always, I’d love to help. Just email or drop in for a visit.

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