Thursday, July 26, 2012

21st Century Class Unveiled

I feel a tremendous sense of gratitude toward Steve for introducing us to the amazing array of tech tools that we can now draw on to make our classes truly engaging and interactive. In this class, we had a taste of what's possible in terms of creative ways to communicate information and concepts. As a result, I feel far more confident and ready to build on my understanding of research-based strategies and theories, which we learned over the last two years, and meld them into well-constructed lessons that seamlessly integrate technology. Great goal, right?! Until I master anything, the process is obviously complicated, prone to glitches,and by nature somewhat stressful because of the professional need and personal desire to be effective and capable. Critically, this class revealed that the technology vista is rapidly changing, so I just have to jump on the roller coaster of constant change and adaptation because that's what's required in today's teaching profession. It's exciting, challenging, and unpredictable.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Clay Yourself Avatar

Thinking about ways to create characters using technology, as opposed to that traditional format of paper and pencil, I found Thought you all might enjoy it! If you're wondering, this is the character Jazzy, an eye witness to a shooting.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Students Demand Technology

This article speaks to the necessity of keeping technology current and creating access for all. The students profiled in this article were at a conference demanding that policymakers wake up to the necessity that they--students from poorer school districts--need devices in school that enable them to learn effectively. Without better technology and more of it, they contend that they'll never be on an equal footing with their peers who come from families or live in school districts where technology is easily accessible. They are, of course, correct. What is significant about these students is that they organized themselves, raised the money to get to the conference, and spoke with conviction to the adults who make decisions that impact them. They are the generation who demands to be heard, and is capable of being heard because of technology. The entire educational paradigm is shifting because of technology; and adults and students need to be working together to maximize its advantages. It's the New World. Like these students suggest, education will remain relevant if they are given the tools and support from adults in classrooms that enable them to succeed outside the classroom.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cell Phones in Clear View

Sitting in the back of classrooms over the last 2 years, I've watched countless students text and play games while teachers drone on about some topic or another. Most striking to me last spring was watching four students, who had been doing something on their phones, quickly put them aside when the teacher turned to grading tests using clicker technology, which immediately created a bar graph showing the percentage breakdown of selected answers on their multiple choice exam. Everyone was engaged, talking, debating, questioning. The energy level went from flat to electric. That was clearly the power of technology to enhance learning and to engage students using a method they found compelling. Their cell phones offer the same opportunity. The question is really what types of technology best push learning forward. If you can integrate their phones, which are pivotal part of their existence, into classroom learning, you can begin to open their minds to the fact that your subject is relevant outside school.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Digital Story: Storybird sings a love-lost song What a magical journey! Storybird, the site that allows you to create books using art from hundreds of artists, is radically different from 20th century publishing. Yes, you can follow the traditional format of writing a story then adding images that propel the plot; but you can also conceptualize stories based on the artwork, which is what I did. I started off exploring Animoto, Prezi, and Movie Maker to create an introductory piece on myself. However, I was drawn to Storybird because art and books are my passion. I first explored creating a story based on "joy." I opted however to go with "love" after finding my magnificent goth girl, created by an illustrator known as CreepyCuties. This character resonated with me, which made me realize I could develop a story based on how the art moved me. As someone keenly aware that much of the public views art as a static, irrelevant medium, I was thrilled. I'd love to use Storybird to introduce students to writing, but also the power of art and the individuals behind it. CreepyCuties has a website, accessible through Storybird, featuring her ghoulish creatures in such things as comic strips. I don't need to "create" the example when I have access to such a broad range of quality work. My job is to sift through what is worth presenting, then let my students follow wherever it takes them creatively!

Monday, July 9, 2012

YouTube's Cultural Icons

You know the YouTube personalities have taken on a higher level of social and cultural significance when The New York Times starts praising their work. "YouTubers" by Rob Walker, The New York Times Magazine, July 2012, was a fun read because my kids follow YouTube's biggest stars, including Ray William Johnson, Smosh, and Mystery Guitar Man. Confession: One of my favorite moments in a busy day is when one of my kids shows me Johnson's latest episode. Yes, it is sometimes crude and almost always punctuated with lewd language, which makes it completely inappropriate for young kids and never appropriate for school; BUT, he's funny and smart! These personalities are the voices kids are turning to for current events and timeout from homework. The article explores how YouTube is evolving as a creative medium, its emerging stars, and its growing prominence, which is elevating it out of the subculture our students already know.

All that's Real then Contrived

I was first exposed to the process and rationale of altering photographs in 1994 when writing a feature article on a chef. The photographer assured me that the food photos would be crisp and vivid, better than the real thing! Frankly, I had that "duh" moment, when she told me food photos were routinely color enhanced because they didn't present well otherwise. OK, made sense; but, it had never occurred to me that the lush green salad with sparkling slices of grapefruit weren't the magic of Mother Nature. Flash forward to 2012, and enter the world of constantly changing photos and images. What's real? Common Sense Media's lesson "Retouching Reality," for grades 9-12, is a splendid exploration into the conceptualization, and creative and ethical issues involved in altering images. And because students have grown up in a world where photos are splashed all over the Internet and routinely photoshopped, there isn't a sense that original images have a sacred right to be preserved and protected. Nonetheless, seeing is believing. The activities in the lesson involve such activities as voting if a photo is real or fake, and altering a photo through a website linked to Flickr. It's a lesson that could be molded into any discipline, because photos drive perceptions, create opinions, cause an emotional reaction, even alter the course of history. Critically, it's a lesson that allows students to be front and center, either showcasing their own work and/or their opinions.