Friday, February 27, 2015

Hosting a Webinar

                Taking the idea of using the internet to help in education, I took the biggest step and created a live show of myself.  This was not done lightly, as I struggled with the legal and logistical issues of broadcasting myself.  I undertook this action for two reasons, the first being that with the proliferation of this technology it was fairly easy to accomplish and it could prove to be a real benefit to students who are absent or unable to attend class.  The second reason being the true driving force of this activity as students who miss a day are usually lost when they return.  However, by being able to go back and view the actual lesson/lecture that was delivered in class they would be able to catch up with no problems.
                With this in mind I used a website called LiveStream which makes the process of broadcasting yourself incredibly easy.  Now I have to admit that I did not actually broadcast myself live, I actually recorded the video and then uploaded the video to the website.  The reason being, that I wanted to have an authentic lesson that I was teaching and I also wanted to respect the privacy of my students, to achieve this I did a video recording of my PowerPoint with my voice over the top.  This is what the Khan academy does with their lessons, which I have found informative and interesting to watch.   By also focusing on just the PowerPoint and my voice I did not have to worry about accidentally including a student’s face.  I was also able to capture the dynamic of teaching in front of a class and the questions that are raised in the actual recording. 
                The biggest challenge that I faced in the creating of this was trying to get the volume correct on the recording.  My first few tries I was either so soft you could not hear what I was saying or the other extreme of so loud my words were distorted.  I also had the microphone battery die during the recording, which I did not notice until I went back afterwards and listened to the recording.  Basically, it all came down to just using the technology and being comfortable with what I was doing.  The actual process of uploading the video on the website was easy and did not require any new learning.  In fact everything about the website LiveStream is simple and easy to use.   From the ability to upload a video, which I did, to the ability to stream directly off of a connected device, everything is basically a simple click with the mouse to get you what you want.  This website also offers this all for free, you can pay to have more options, but for my purposes the free account worked just fine.
                Honestly, I do not think that I will live stream my classroom anytime soon.  The recording aspect that I did for this assignment is definitely something that I am considering on doing on a regular basis but not the actual live stream.  With the CIPA and COPA and all of the privacy issues that involve students I just do not feel comfortable having a camera recording the happenings of the classroom.  For me personally I just do not believe that I have enough to say that would warrant a live stream.  While I love the technology and the possibilities that it provides, I just do not see myself using this in the future.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Attending a Webinar

     As I move deeper into my understanding of the benefits of Web 2.0 resources I decided to attend a Webinar.  There were two difficulties I faced in finding the best one to attend.  First I really wanted to attend one that was interesting and worthwhile to something that I was currently struggling with.  Second, as I live on the West Coast finding one that was not while I was teaching or driving home to pick up my kid actually proved to be a bit of a challenge.  When all was said done I attended a Webinar from simplek12 on launching an iPad program at your school.

      This Webinar was a 30 minute discussion between two people about the six steps that you need to go through to successfully launch an iPad program.  These two people did a great job clearly explaining the required steps and providing helpful advice and suggestions to avoid some common mistakes.  The true weakness of the show was that it was just 30 minutes and the presenters did not have time to respond to questions or interact much with the audience.  It was just at the end of their time that they discussed questions or even acknowledged there was an audience listening to them. 

      Despite this, there was a great deal of useful information that could be learned and this is something that I will definitely look more into.  I would recommend anyone who is looking for creative ideas or teaching strategies to look into a Webinar as people from all over can collaborate and create truly amazing things.  I actually found it really helpful to be seeing exactly what they were talking about on the screen and it provided me with an idea of how I might use this with my students.  I have found that often times students who are absent during a PowerPoint lesson who review the material on their own really do not get the main idea.  If I could record myself teaching and then post that it could be beneficial to students.  This seemed a very successful strategy for this Webinar and one I want to look further into. 

      For students, a Webinar could be a way for them to teach a mini lesson on a topic and then post to the class website.  This would allow them the freedom to do whatever they would like for their lesson, without the pressure of the class staring back at them.  Also, by giving them the flexibility to incorporate other mediums into their lessons they will be able to really show their level of understanding. 

      Regardless of your level of comfort with this technology and learning style, Webinars are something that can offer a huge benefit to anyone.  By having students attend, participate or create you are encouraging them to be global learners who can contribute to world with their views and ideas.  As the world shifts more towards one that is constantly connected, the ability to navigate this new way of doing things is one that our students should participate in or even lead.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

7 Day Photo Challenge Recap

                As I started this process the idea of having to take a photo every week seemed daunting and almost impossible.  What photos am I supposed to take?  Who wants to see what I produce?  It was not until I came up with a theme for my photos that I actually became excited about the seven day photo challenge.  With the idea of the Cold War in mind I started looking for ideas that would creatively express the changing state of this idea.  For each day of this challenge I took a number of pictures and then sat down the next and picked the one that I could make allegorical references off of.  This assignment truly was an opportunity to analyze and really develop my understanding of the Cold War.  For this I choose to post the pictures and descriptions in chronological order because they are telling a story.  I know that it really should occur in reverse order, but for this idea and descriptions I just did not think it would work.  After completing this process, this is definitely an activity that I want to use with my students and I hope you can see the educational benefits that it presents.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Social Media in the Classroom: A unit example

In teaching it is often helpful to see how another teacher has put together a lesson our outlined a unit.  I know that by working with my team, the lessons and learning that takes place is greater than if I were trying to do everything on my own.  With that in mind, I would like to share with you a unit that incorporates social networking and the benefits that can be achieved by using this often controversial, but academically worthwhile technology.
Unit goals/objectives and resources
                My unit is designed for a high school world history class, and focuses on World War 1.  The basic overview of the unit is to allow the teacher to have immediate feedback of the student’s present level of understanding and for them to work together to make more informed decisions.  To achieve this, the students will be posting a daily blog, answering and responding to discussion questions and participating in a class debate, all of which will be done online.  Students will also be expected to track their learning through the use of I can statements that are related to the day’s academic goals.  This will be accomplished through my class website which is hosted by Haiku learning.  All of the activities I will be discussing are possible on third party platforms that are available to use for free, which means that if you want to use this idea, it is possible even without the Haiku platform.  This unit will target two Common Core standards WHST.9-10.6 and RH.9-10.2. WHST.9-10.6 states that students will, “Use technology, including the internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, while RH.9-10.2 asks students, “Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide and accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.”  The unit will also be based around my districts history standards; these can easily be changed/adapted to fit your districts standards.
                I have included the Daily Learning sheet for this lesson.  On it you will see the daily lesson as well as the learning target for each student.  This also provides the student with a series of I can statements in which they are expected to track their learning throughout the unit.  I have also included each of the blog post topics the students are expected to answer and the warmup/discussion questions the students will work on each day.  Assessment for this unit will be based off their answers to their blog and discussion questions as well as their participation in the two debates.  Rubrics for blog posts and discussion questions are located at the bottom of those documents, while the rubric for the first debate is on the debate assignment guidelines.  The second debate is different and will be completed using an audio recording program called audacity.  These files will then be uploaded to the class website and the debate will take place digitally.  The guidelines and rubric for debate #2 are linked also.
Project Description/Overview
                This unit is designed to teach the students the causes and history of the First World War.  Throughout the unit the students will be using different types of social media to enhance and think critically about their learning.  The first day of the unit the students are creating a web page based on a character that they are assigned from one of the major countries that participated in the war.  This persona will be used throughout the lesson to complete the student’s blog entries.  Days two through four will provide the students with background information for their first debate.  This debate will have the students debating the true cause of the war based on the four main causes.  Days seven and eight again provide the students with background information on the impact of the war on the people of the main countries.  This leads the students into the second debate which covers who is really responsible for the start of the war.  Finally, the last two days of the unit are used for the students to complete their understanding of the war and then to formulate their answer to the overreaching learning target for the unit, understand how WW1 defined/changed the world.
Use of Social Media
                Throughout the lesson the students will be writing a daily blog that covers issues that were covered in class.  The day before the test I will randomly assign a student a fellow students blog to peer assess using the rubric I will also use to assess them with.  Three times throughout this unit the students will also be having an online discussion.  The goal of both of these activities is for the students to be able to gather a different perspective on the war and teach other.  On the days of the debate prep, days four and eight, the students will be using google docs to create their platform for the debate.  This will allow the students to all work on the same document throughout the period and then continue to work and edit their assignment at home.  As you will be able to see from the screen shots of the web page I created for this assignment, the students will be posting their debate opening statements to the website.  The students will then listen in class to those students that blamed their own country, based off of their character that was assigned the first day.  We will follow the debate format from the first assignment, but this one will be done entirely online, and will not include the conclusion.  Without the use of blogs, discussion boards and online digital resources this unit would be impossible to accomplish.  The ability for students to interact and teach each other is what makes this unit a dynamic and fluid learning experience for the students.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Seven Day Photo Challenge

This week I have decided to take on the photo a day challenge, but also to make it fit in with education.  With that in mind I will be posting a photo a day, for seven days, that fits with the theme of the Cold War.  Each image that I post, will relate to the cold war in some way that I will explain with the commentary associated with each picture.  I hope this inspires you to take up your own challenge, or make it an assignment for your class.
While a picture of a birthday party, I choose to make this my first photo in my cold war series because it represents the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of World War 2 in Europe.  Hitler was dead, and what would emerge as the two superpowers of the world where not fighting but instead celebrating the start of what they thought would be a long lasting peace.  As the nations distanced themselves from this joyous moment the memories of the meeting at the Elbe River in Germany, they were left to deal with a world in which both nations could destroy the other with nuclear weapons. 

For my second image I took a picture of a cement wall with a see through railing on top.  This image was selected because it symbolizes two things.  One it shows the way that the two superpowers dealt with each other despite the good will they all felt at the end of the Second World War.  The other is for the obvious connection with the Berlin Wall and the way that this problem clearly illustrated the new relationship between the nations.  We can see what the other side is doing on the surface, but the vast majority of what each side was doing is hidden from view.
This image of a broken gutter shows how the talks between the two nations are broken which will lead to turmoil and global problems throughout the coming decades.  A simple fix is all that is required to make this system work again, but because of circumstances nothing is getting fixed.  It is a similar situation with the two superpowers at this time, both sides know the situation is broken yet neither is willing to make the simple change to fix the issue.  Countless lives could have been saved if either side was willing to make a concession or stop being so prideful.
This image of a tree laying on its side shows the height of the Cold War and the turmoil and damage that it caused.  While the image itself does not depict damage, the possibility is there.  From the Cuban Missile Crisis to the Vietnam War, the superpowers fought each other through third parties.  The tree was a casualty because of its poor root system, which could not stand up to the wind that came through.  Just as the third world nations of the world fell to the influence of America or the Soviet Union.  As each nation fell, the destruction they created was locally terrible, but made little impact elsewhere.  During the Cold War, when the superpowers flexed their muscles, it was the small powers that suffered as shown in this image.
Despite the turmoil that was created through the military actions of the Cold War, the superpowers did talk.  This image, which shows a group of my students sitting around and talking, illustrates the attempts that were made by both sides to avoid a nuclear war.  These talks could represent a number of different occasions throughout the Cold War, but I will say this is representing the SALT talks of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  It was during these discussions that the true horrors of a nuclear war were discussed and actions were put into place to limit the arsenals of the two superpowers.
As the nations entered the 80’s the vitriol and animosity of the earlier years was fading away as the two nations faced a new political world.  This image of melting ice cubes shows how the cold war tension was thawing out as the Soviet Union started to collapse.  Though the Cold War enemy of communism was no longer the ever present threat hanging over the heads of America, the nation’s still kept their individual identities as shown in the picture.

This final image of my week long photo challenge is of the American flag blowing in the wind with a grey stormy background.  While America emerged from the Cold War as the lone super power the world around America is anything but sunny and peaceful.  In today’s world the threat is not from the one nation over there, but instead from the random organization or person.  While America stands strong it is aware that at any time one person could bring the nations to its knees, just as one person can lower this flag.