Showing posts from 2010

Life Lessons from Paul Revere

My freshman honors students complete a long-term research project during the second semester that approaches history from two directions. First, they are providing a bit of biography of a key figure from the American Revolution. Second, they have to demonstrate an understanding of the themes of the revolution as a whole by explaining how that one person affected the direction of events. The result of the project is a 10 minute documentary complete with images, music, and student narration. After reading David Hackett Fischer's Paul Revere's Ride , I confirmed that Paul Revere should definitely remain on the list of historical figures that students may choose for the project. The trick for the students who chose him last year was to sort out the mythology from the scholarly historical evidence. David Hackett Fischer’s book is definitely a source I will lend to the student(s) who select Revere this spring. He articulates the truth about Revere with eloquence and evidence, somethi

Lexington & Concord: Blood Spilled Between Brothers/Enemies

The Revolutionary War was a bloody conflict between men who had once been loyal to the same government. Over time, they had grown apart until it seemed as if they were not even speaking the same language. The truth is that they did speak the same language. But while they used the same words, those words started to have different meanings to the men and women on either side of the wide Atlantic Ocean. If I were to teach based on passages from Robert A. Gross's The Minutemen and Their World , I might choose the following passages and propose prompts that required the following analysis: The search-and-destroy operation was largely conducted with restraint – perhaps because British officers, appalled by the break-down of discipline and by the bloodshed at Lexington common, were determined to avoid further incidents. In the town center an officer demanded admission to Timothy Wheeler’s storehouse, where numerous casks of provincial flour lay. Wheeler readily let them in. Playing the ev

Wordle One-Upped: I Tagxedo-ed My Blog

Upon the suggestion of a friend and colleague who commented on a previous post , I went beyond Wordle and "Tagxedo-ed" my blog! Thanks Danja (a.k.a. @MagistraM on Twitter or read her blog, Magistra's Musings ) I like the newest large word: LEARNING! Now that one makes me happy. What makes Tagxedo better than Wordle? You can decide design the word cloud color scheme, word font, cloud shape, file size, and more! You don't have to create an account and you can add a bunch of words or put in the URL of a blog or website. There is a cool part of the website called " 101 " that has 101 ways to use Tagxedo. I can think of at least 20 off the top of my head, but even if you aren't a teacher it is a great tool! Enjoy!

I Wordled my Blog!

Wordle is an easy-to-use tool that can help teachers and students analyze primary source documents, poems, blogs, or anything else that contains text. I have used it with my students before, but a video blog that Howie DiBlasi tweeted this morning reminded me to check it out again. This is how Wordle works: Once you enter the text, Wordle creates a word cloud that makes the words used most often appear more prominently. I thought I would Wordle this blog, to see if I am truly addressing the topics I set out to address when I started it: history, politics, and technology in the high school classroom. I have to admit that I was pretty happy with the results: Click here for a larger view . The Results that Made Me Happy students : The fact that "students" is the largest word means that I use that word the most. It also means that it seems to be the primary focus of most of my posts. This thrilled me because it means that I truly have followed through on my goal of putting stu

Great Questions

Teachers often complain that students are only driven by physical needs and their shallow desire to bring their GPA to the highest number possible. We want our students to have their physical needs met before they enter our classroom, so they are ready to embark on the 1 hour adventure we have planned for them. We want our students to be excited to learn the content, because we are passionate about teaching it. As a result, we sometimes tire of calling on a student who has raised his/her hand only to hear questions like: Can I go to the bathroom? Can I get a drink? Does this count? How much is this worth? I left my binder/homework/book/calculator/sweatshirt/fill-in-appropriate-item-here in my locker. Can I go get it? I was out yesterday. Did I miss anything? In an effort to lift my own spirits and remind myself of the natural curiosity my students have, I decided to sit down and write some of the great questions I have heard lately. Here are some examples of great questions my student

Restoring Sanity... in the Public School Classroom

I have been reading some of the bloggers' reactions to John Stewart's rally in Washington D.C. this past weekend. Stewart always adds quite a bit of humor to his liberal-leaning presentation of the news. He was joined at the rally by his dubious conservative counterpart on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert. Here is a short clip of the opening festivities: While the introduction is comical, it is delivered with intelligence and sharpness that have made Stewart a success. This is exactly what young Americans who are still interested in politics, despite the anger and mediocrity with which the talking heads deliver it to us on network news, are searching for. Despite the stereotyping, young Americans do not require everything to be entertaining (well, maybe some of them do). The larger point is that the political parties that run the elections and government have become farther and farther apart, leaving most young Americans standing in the middle trying to decide between two

MassCUE = My Cue for a Fresh Start

I have to admit that I have neglected my blog in recent months. My excuses are typical: I got caught up in having summer fun with my toddler, I was busy with beginning of school year planning, and the autumn seemed to get away from me. I can't believe it is almost over. So I have to thank MassCUE and the TGL2 Conference for inspiring me to make a fresh start. Now that I have had the opporunity and honor to attend 3 educational technology conferences and present at 2 within the past 6 months, I have some reflections. Presenter & Attendee : I learn just as much as a presenter as I do as an attendee at ed-tech conferences. (But being a presenter makes the whole event a bit more stressful.) You can check out my presentation if you click here . I will post more about it soon! Idea Versus Reality : I leave conferences with a lot of energy and ideas. I use some of them right away and they stick with me. Other ideas, especially those that involve my desire to get more of my colleague

The Difference is the User, Not the Tool at BLC10 Day 3

My third and final day at BLC10 ( Building Learning Communities 2010 from November Learning ) brought yet another valuable message that will sure have an impact on my teaching: Web 2.0 tools don't make the difference, it's the user strategy that makes the difference. Class Blogs Darren Kuropatwa (see @dkuropatwa on Twitter) hosted a workshop called A Day in the Life . He talked about several ways that he allows his students to create their own academic content online that is related to his class. While he used many tools, he brought it all together to a central blog to share it with the world. The quality of the student entries on the blogs improved over the course of the year and the class got more and more visits . As a teacher, I have seen class blogs that teachers use to post their own lessons and handouts and other information, but they never let the students themselves control the content. Mr. Kuropatwa allows the students to run the class blog. This is why his worksh

Give Students the Power at BLC10 Day 2

Today at BLC10 ( Building Learning Communities 2010 from November Learning ) the theme of the keynote and workshops I attended seemed to focus on providing students with an experience that blends classroom interaction with online participation. When students learn through face-to-face discussion AND online interaction, they are empowered to create and publish their own new ideas. Why We Need Classroom AND Online Interaction Dr. Michael Wesch (see @mwesch on Twitter) started the day with a keynote address that ended in a standing ovation. Those of you who are reading this post and are educators yourselves know how difficult it is to get faculty meeting full of teachers to be enthusiastic about a speaker's message.... imagine that situation multiplied by 5 or 10 or 25 (depending on the size of the faculty you work with). Dr. Wesch brought a room filled with hundreds of teachers to their feet. He showed various examples of how user participation on the Internet can lead to change an

Tearing Down the Walls at BLC10 Day 1

The theme of the Building Learning Communities 2010 conference from November Learning seems to be: TEAR DOWN THE WALLS OF YOUR CLASSROOM Four different presenters followed this same theme. Here are my reviews of their workshops throughout the day. Create and Share Video Games! Today's keynote speaker, Dr. Mitchel Resnick , demonstrated Scratch , program from MIT that allows users to create cards, posters, animations, video games, and lots more. They can then share their creations on the Scratch website and encourage others to build on, or remix , their work. Most of the work on Scratch was created by kids, like this one about a girl who hates alarm clocks . Dr. Resnick's biggest message was that taking what others create and then making something new out of it or even contributing to it causes a new kind of learning. Not only are children creative when they remix, they are collaborative. Click here for his paper on Scratch and how it fosters learning . "The Smartest Perso

Tech Ed in America Started in 1778... at Valley Forge

Tech Ed is a big part of many successful and inspirational teachers' classrooms. But who in American history was more successful and inspirational than George Washington? While he was not necessarily knowledgable in the technology of war, he knew how to find the diverse groups of experts he needed to educate his men. This post is about two of those Revolutionary technology expert educators. Revolutionary Tech Ex pert #1: Daniel Morgan Morgan knew how to party, but he also knew how to handle a new kind of weapon in a new style of warfare. At General Washington's request, Morgan commanded a unit of 500 elite sharpshooters. Their weapon was a long-barrelled hunting-style rifle. The innovation in the design were grooves inside the barrel that spun the shot as it exited. This American technology made Morgan's marksmen accurate at distances that doubles to range of the British musket. He took already talented frontier hunters, and made them into lethal sharpshooters that the seem

Blueprint for Educational Excellence

Teaching is about passion, creativity, and caring about the well-being and happiness of your students. Through the keynote speakers and workshops available at the Blueprint for Education Excellence National Institute , this message was clear. While the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence organization has a fantastic reputation for encouraging teachers to impart 21st Century skills alongside their content, this institute seemed to cement that mission in a real an tangible way. Each of the workshops I attended taught me something different and relevant in my classroom, and yet all of them can be used in conjunction with one another to produce something better. Here are a few examples: SMART Toolkit 2.0 Activities and Anti-Bullying Culture On Friday I attended two sessions that are seemingly unrelated. In the morning Alan Jacobson, from the Riverside Trauma Center , hosted a lecture and discussion on Cyber Bullying. In the afternoon I was fortunate enough to be a part of a session about

Facebook in the High School Classroom

Let me start this post out by saying that I love Facebook . I check and update Facebook daily. It has provided me with the opportunity to get in touch with people from high school, college, and law school that I otherwise would not have maintained relationships with due to our busy lives and families. But.... I have always been wary of keeping my personal Facebook life separate from my online professional life (like my Twitter page , my blog , my Podbean page , and email contact with parents and colleagues). The Webinar Well, I participated in a webinar yesterday that opened the door to the possiblity of using Facebook with my students in a safe, responsible, and efficient way. Click here to see my notes from the webinar . Benefits of Using Facebook With Students Why should we use Facebook to communicate with our students? Students (who must be 13 or older according to Facebook's user policy ) are already checking Facebook at least once per day. Although there are exceptions, they

April Fools' Day & Media Literacy

I was looking for something fun to do with my high school classes today. After a little searching, and some help from my PLN on Twitter, I found this: Yes, that's right, you are seeing a woman harvesting spaghetti from a tree! The BBC broadcasted this story on April 1, 1957 as a joke . The kicker is that spaghetti was not a commonly consumed dish in the UK at the time. It was rare and considered a delicacy, so many had never given thought to how it is created. As a result, people all over the UK were fooled into believing that spaghetti does, in fact, grow on trees. Click here to see the short video new story that BBC aired that night. Further reading an investigation of the web page revealed some first-hand accounts of people who were fooled by the ruse. Here are two of my favorites: I remember it well, I was five at the time, and watched this with my dear old Dad. Mum was out for the night. We were taken in totally. Very pleased with ourselves that we knew how spaghetti was pro

Weaving With Web 2.0 in the History Classroom

My graduate class and cohort are winding down. Our last in-class project was a reflection on the integration of Web 2.0 tools in our class and curriculum. This was a labor of love. I thought I would share my project with all of you. Part 1 : My presentation began with a 4 and a half minute video I created using Photostory. It is a statement of my pedagogy now that I have taken this class. While I was primarily focused on content before (with blogging and research integrated into my curriculum) I now feel that my responsibilities go beyond the history itself. Web 2.0 skills have become an essential part of my classes. Part 2 : I decided to aggregate some examples of student work into a single website . I pointed out a few of these projects as examples of the integration of a few Web 2.0 tools throughout the year. Part 3 : Since I wanted the presentation itself to be an example of Web 2.0 technology, I added a feedback page . My hope is that some, or maybe even all, of you will write you

Twitter and #PTChat

As a member of Twitter ( KerryHawk02 ), I have participated in several #EdChats. But this past week, on Wednesday night at 9pm, I participated in #PTChat. It is a discussion about parent-teacher communication and the role of parents in the education process at school. Some of the participants were just teachers, some were just parents, and some were both. It was really interesting and eye-opening.The moderators are @Parentella and @ShellTerrell . I have been following both of them for a while and found them both through participation in #EdChats. Here is a taste of the conversation, from KerryHawk02's posts (my posts): The part of the conversation I liked was that it wasn't all positive. Many people posted issues involved in parent-teacher communication. Some of problems discussed included working v. non-working parents, child care for parents of other young children, and teachers talking to parents as if they are students. All of these are real issues that are not easily solv

Technology, Teaching, and Tradition... Are They Compatible?

Will Richardson , the beloved author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts... , recently posted an interesting, and somewhat troubling, anecdote on his blog. His blog is called Weblogg-Ed and the post is entitled Reality Check . It is compelling, and yet brief, so I'll post the entire text here: Recently a school administrator shared a story that reminded me why I need to spend more time talking to more people outside of the echo chamber. She said that a group of parents had requested a meeting to discuss the methods of a particular teacher and his use of technology. It seemed this teacher had decided to forgo the textbook and have students write their own on a wiki, that he published a great deal of his students’ work online, that he taught them and encouraged them to use Skype to interview people who they had researched and identified as valuable voices in their learning, and that he shared all of his lectures and classwork online for anyone, not just the students in his class, could access

The Power of Wikis In/Outside the Classroom

A little over a month ago Anne Low, an 8th grade teacher at Parker Middle School in my town, and I had the idea to help ease the course placement and transition process for 8th graders by hooking them up with 9th graders. Although I now teach high school, we taught 8th grade history together at Parker for the past two years. We noticed that students get a lot of information in a formal way (through presentations from RMHS administrators and guidance counselors during the school day or through evening meetings at RMHS that are expressly for incoming feshmen) but they never get a chance to really ask the questions that make them the most nervous about high school. Questions like... I think I have the choice of going into all honors classes for my freshman year. Do you think I could be able to do that and still have a social life at the same time? I heard there are different lunches for each grade. So is there some freshmen in a lunch with a few kids from each age? And how many kids are i

Marblehead: Connecting Me with Alan November

Ellie Freedman, RMHS principal, shared this video with us, her faculty, after attending a session with Alan November over February vacation and listening to his ideas. I was intrigued by the setting November chose for the video. November juxtaposed the history of Marblehead, Massachusetts with the need to assign class work and projects that all students to be contributors, not just workers in the classroom. I worked at Marblehead Veterans Middle School as an 8th grade social studies teacher for 4 years prior to coming to Reading. I'll admit the connection is tenuous, but it was enough to help me recognize many of the narrow colonial streets and coastal landscapes in the video. Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo . Based on this video (and a complimentary article by November you can find if you click here ) we have both learned a few things from our time in Marblehead: Technology for technology's sake is NOT an imp

Two Great Ideas for Using Podcasts in the Classroom

Podcast Use #1: Allow parents to hear, from their child's own mouth, what went on in class today. " So, what did you learn at school today? " Now parents will actually know the answer to the question before they ask at the dinner table! My F block honors freshmen started researching various topics related to slavery in the American colonies during the 17th and 18th Centuries. Here are the results of their preliminary research today. After allowing them one class period to research certain online databases and the online textbook, I asked one representative from each group to talk about an interesting fact they learned today. Using a digital voice recorder, iTunes, and Audacity (an audio file editing program) I pulled their recordings together into a podcast. I posted this on our Edline class website and emailed a notification home so parents can check it out as well! Powered by Podcast Use #2: Provide students with step by step audio-visual instructions fo

A Week in Paradise... WITHOUT the Internet

Over February Break my family took a trip that we have been planning for an entire year. We rented a beautiful three bedroom, three bathroom home in the mountains of Breckenridge, Colorado . There was even a hot tub on the deck for us to enjoy while the snowflakes danced around us in the steam coming off the bubbling water. We could take a short shuttle ride to the chairlift each day, and ski right to our door each afternoon when our legs were finally too tired to carry us down the mountain any more. We had everything we needed... full kitchen, washer and dryer, even a crib for my little daughter. And yet... there was no wireless Internet connection. I can't tell you how many times my father said they words, "We could look it up if we had wireless!" He actually called the property management company and complained contending that wireless Internet access should be considered a basic amenity in resort accomodations. Finally, on the last night my brother worked a little mag

Making 17th Century Absolute Monarchs Fun... with Google!

My Personal Challenge I have been working hard to teach my students research and technology skills this year. My freshmen have learned: - to read and summarize information from several sources; - to create an annotated bibliography using Turabian format; - to look up and use images from Creative Commons without violating copyright; - to use Google Scholar to find reliable scholarly sources for research; - to create a Google account and share editing privileges with multiple classmates; - to link Google Presentations with Google Documents. My goals for the rest of the year are for my students to be able: - to properly quote and credit primary sources with endnotes; - to write a research paper with a strong supported thesis; - and to create a documentary with PhotoStory. I think they can do it! My Latest Challenge to My Students Here is their latest research project using Google Applications: They had to create a lesson, complete with visuals, a handout, and optional multimedia on an a