Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Pro's of a Media-Infused Presentation

As I thought about creating my media-infused experience using the Discovery Education Board Builder I was a bit overwhelmed with the amount of possibilities that I was provided with.  How can I make a truly unique assignment that is focused, content specific and allows students to respectfully and ethically assess a topic?  As I examined my curriculum I decided to focus my lesson around the end of World War 2, more specifically the Yalta conference.  By providing students a scenario in which the foundations for the future of the world were being discussed the need for respectful and ethical considerations need to be considered.  As the students have learned, it was the failure of those two ideas at the end of the First World War that led to Hitler and the other dictators rise to power.  As Howard Gardner states, “The biggest threats to ethical work are posed by broader trends in society.”  (Gardner, 2008)  The Yalta conference allowed the powers to correct the mistakes of the past and lay the groundwork for a more peaceful future.
                By using the Board Builder I am able to better provide situations and assignments that work to develop my student’s respectful and ethical minds.  This is made possible with the ease at which media can seamlessly be integrated into the presentation.  If I were only able to provide written words from secondary sources, the author’s biases and assumptions would be hard for the students to assess and ignore.  However, by using images and videos which could be primary sources, the students are free to assess the material free from the influence of others.  In turn, it allows me as the educator to craft questions and experiences that truly allow students to assess genuine situations and pose authentic reactions.  Providing students the academic background information from which to build their decisions, and provide respectful and ethical assessments.  By building upon past knowledge, Treaty of Versailles, the students will understand the moral decisions that were made at Yalta based upon the images and videos on the Board Builder.
                With the ease of constructing these Boards it will also be possible for students to construct their own situations with diverse types of media in which ethical situations can be examined.  This would allow the students to take ownership in their learning and examine situations through a different lens.  By examining ethical dilemmas the students will become more well-rounded people that will hopefully make the decisions that benefit the masses and not those that cut corners and help just a few.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Views for the Future

  This is just a short video that I recorded that discusses my plans on using Howard Gardner's 5 minds going forward.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

How much collaboration should really occur inside the classroom?

I recently came upon an interview by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay in which they talk about their flat classroom initiative.  Basically what the term means is that people from all over the world work on the same lessons to create a collaborative project that would not be possible without the input and different perspectives from another group.  The focus is on collaboration and the use of Web 2.0 resources to shrink the world and come to the realization that in today’s society; even those people on the other side of the world are no farther away than your rival school down the road.  This idea however would not be possible without a deep understanding and respect for other cultures and traditions.  Without the respect to put aside differences and perhaps due something that is different than the way it has always been no true collaboration can occur.  Howard Gardner, in his book 5 Minds for the Future, talks to this when he states that humans are born empathetic to the needs of others. “Infants in a nursery see or hear the distress of another infant; they signal their awareness by whimpering or crying themselves.” (Gardner, 2008) Yet, as humans develop this empathy for others can either be fostered or curtailed leading young adults to have a, “Fixed attitude toward others,” that is basically set for the remainder of their life. (Gardner, 2008)  It is this window when a person’s attitudes towards others is still fluid that education plays a roll.
In the classroom we have the responsibility to teach students to be prepared for the future.  At few jobs does that mean working by yourself with no input from others.  As Julie Lindsay stated in her interview, “I think that’s one of the great things about this project [flat classrooms] too, it mimics what your life is going to be like in the business world or once you are out of college.” (Flattening Classrooms) It is the ability to have people from diverse backgrounds work together for a common purpose that allows for truly great things to occur.  As the world continues to shrink, in terms of communication, it is vital that students know how to work with others and be respectful of differences of opinions and cultures.  It is with that in mind that I would like to share a project that I have created that I hope will foster collaboration amongst my students inside and outside of the classroom.
The overview of the project is simply to work as a team to re-elect one of the last five former president of the United States of America.  As a group they will be responsible for creating video advertisements as well as posters and lessons about their President.  Where the collaboration comes in is that each group is dependent on each member to learn and present information about one of the four other presidents that are part of the project.  As a team they will work together to create unique and collaborative resources to share with the class as well as with other students throughout the school.  As the end of the project, the students will be viewing the work from other classrooms, as well as sharing their own work, to determine who the school would re-elect.  While not a flat classroom project, the amount of collaboration and respect that needs to be shown to others definitely fits the criteria of what I have discussed here today.  As a teacher of the 21st century I feel it is vital to have students work with their peers in collaborative projects regularly.   “A person who is determined to do something constructive with his life needs to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to love him.” (Gardner, 2008)  By being respectful of other differences in collaborative projects, my hope is that I will be preparing my students for the world they will be entering after leaving my classroom.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

Flattening Classrooms and Engaging Minds with Global Education: An Interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay on Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from 146 PM - 189340-DiscoveryTranscripts/508 Unit 6 Intro Flattening Classrooms & Engaging Minds.html?ou=188324

Friday, April 10, 2015

Spotlight on Stategy

    I recently came across a great teaching resource that I feel would be a great tool for teacher to use is a variety of different teaching situations.  However, instead of just describing the strategy to you, I created an informational page using a website called Smore.  I hope you find this strategy useful, because I really think that it allows your students to be creative and also keep them tied in to the content that you teach.  So, please click on the link to learn and explore my spotlight on strategy, They Said What?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How is creativity viewed by students?

                As I progress throughout my masters course work I am constantly thinking about ways to better incorporate technology into my lessons and projects.  Yet, I am left wondering how effective is this use of technology and do the kids even want more technology in the classroom?  This use of technology allows for the students to present their knowledge in ways that are more creative than what was ever possible before.  Again though, do the students want more creativity in the classroom?  With that in mind I decided to ask some of my students how they felt about technology and creativity in the classroom.

                To understand this I first asked some students what they value in my classroom.  After assuring them that I was not trying to trick them and was genuinely interested in their opinions a few students really started to open up.  In regards to the first question that I asked them, student R responded that they liked how creative I allowed the students to be in regards to their projects and that assignments were not always the same thing over and over again.  This allowed this student to demonstrate their understanding in a way that was comfortable to them and not just in a specific mold that was forced upon them by me, the teacher.  While everyone had an opinion on this particular topic, most students mirrored the response of student R.  It was the next question that I asked that got the students truly interested in sharing.

                The second question I asked was what they would change about their learning environment when it comes to digital media and technology supporting creativity.  The most passionate response was from student M who stated, “Creativity is important but there needs to be structure in the project.  Not just do anything, but a little bit of guidance.”  This comes from a recent presentation that the students had just been asked to complete.  The guidelines were simple, make a 5 minute presentation about a lesser known civil rights leader that is creative and uses technology.  However, a PowerPoint presentation will not allow you to receive an A because it is not creative.  The freedom that I provided the students was apparently too much as most of the struggled to come up with ideas that were creative and also helped with the classes understanding of their civil rights leader.  Another student stated, “Creativity needs to be included in the class, but it must be structured in a way to provide some guidance.”

                After hearing these responses from my students I was struck by a saying from a superhero movie that I had recently watched with my son, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  While technology is ever present in these students’ lives and provides them the opportunity to be creative and passionate about whatever they are interested in, it is too much of a good thing.  Creativity needs to be encouraged in the classroom but it must be structured and have guidelines around it.  Without these guidelines the students are left feeling overwhelmed with possibilities and lost in the creativity potentials allowed to them.  However, as a teacher I want them to feel a bit of stress and see what they produce when they have all the possibilities of their creative mind available to them.  Taking into consideration what my students said, I will definitely try to provide more guidance as to what is expected of them during projects, but it will definitely be a balancing act of providing guidelines for the students while also allowing them the flexibility to be creative in their work.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Creativity in the Classroom

                I recently watched a TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson in which he discusses the role of creativity in our schools today.  The basic premise of the talk was that our educational system today is built in a way that kills creativity.  This assessment of education is built on a few fundamental principles that are universal regardless of where you grew up or even when you grew up.  The main idea being that education was started during the industrial revolution in order to educate people for the jobs back then.  These jobs emphasized math and language while downplaying the arts, a structure that is seen today in all schools.  Just look at the standardized tests that students have to pass to graduate, they revolve around math, English and science.  Yet as Sir Robinson points out, these same qualities that were so vital during the industrial revolution, are not what is valued today in the workforce.  Simple routine tasks are being outsourced to other countries or replaced by computers or machines.  In today’s work place, it is the creative mind that is valued and paid, the exact opposite of what is valued in schools and universities. 

                So, do schools kill creativity?  The simple answer is yes, and they are highly effective at it.  However, the blame cannot be placed squarely on the teachers and administrators of the different districts.  If it was there fault, surely by dumb luck some school district would think outside of the box and emphasize the arts or do something different than all the other districts.  No, the true fault lies with the states and federal governments that create graduation requirements tied to disciplines that are no longer valued outside of academia.  I am not advocating that math, science and English are not valuable because they are incredibly.  Yet, how can a five year old be referred for special ed three months into kindergarten because they can’t read?  The reason, student’s today need to complete so much schooling and work by the time they arrive in high school to be prepared to take a test that will determine if they can graduate that will assess them on two things.  The some of the intelligence of a person is not two things, yet that is how we determine the quality of their education.

                How then can this be fixed?  Sir Robinson states it quiet simply by saying we need to educate the whole child.  To accomplish this we must remember that education is diverse, dynamic and distinct in all people.  What one student excels at, the next struggles with it more than anything and has learned throughout their schooling to hate.  As teachers we need to encourage the creativity in our students, by exposing them to different media and ideas.  I implore you to allow students the freedom to present information in different ways and to allow students to be themselves and use the technology that they have grown up with to be a part of their education.  By allowing the use of digital media, teachers are allowing those truly creative students the ability to express their knowledge in a way that is truly them and not in the mold of everyone else.  While crafting a good essay will get you far in school, how far will that take you in the workforce?

Friday, March 27, 2015

Bringing It All Together

                With all of the great resources that are available online today there needs to be a way to organize them, and provide this information to other people.  With this in mind I found a website called eduClipper that does just this.  Below is the page that I created for a unit on World War 1.  What is great about this particular site is the fact that you can search there extensive database of other peoples pages and add content that they have already found, which is how I stumbled across the two images of boot camp.  You can also upload your own content, like the PowerPoint presentation, or link to videos or other websites that you find.  Once you have created the page, you simply need to share the page you have created.  Once you have shared your page anyone else can then add content, making this a dynamic experience in which multiple people are working together creating a resource that will benefit everyone. 
                This World War 1 page was created to provide students with background information and as a resource for students who might have misunderstandings of what was covered that day in class.  By no means is this a comprehensive coverage of the war, yet it would be able to give students an overview of the entire war so that students could determine how the days lessons fit in overall.  I believe this resource could be very valuable to some students who struggle fitting all of the pieces together for units.  Besides, who doesn’t like to take some time off and watch some videos?