Collaborative iBook Publishing

Last weekend was Edcamp Philly. On multiple occasions I have taken the train into Philadelphia to attend Edcamp. I love that it gives me time to reflect and process the ideas I hear afterwards. This time I also found inspiration on my way into Philadelphia. Can an iBook be written and published collaboratively in an hour? This idea blossomed on the train to Philadelphia; it was inspired by a session I attended at EduCon in 2014. The difference is this book will contain our Edcamp stories. Many non-edcampers question why I’m willing to give up my Saturday’s to attend professional development. I have so many reasons, but I struggle to expressively capture the Edcamp experience. In case you are reading this as someone wondering the same thing: the Edcamp Foundation strives to provide free professional development to meet the needs of teachers. There is a lot of detail on the Edcamp Foundation website. If inspired after reading other people’s stories, future Edcamp locations and dates are posted on the Edcamp Wiki.

GDrive eBook Folder

I realized that organization and structure were critical. There needed to be a system in place to collect and collaborate. Google Drive was the solution, but it needed organization. I created a single folder for the Edcamp Book, but there were subfolders for images and stories, as well as documents for organization, table of contents, and credits. I also wrote my story so I would be able to walk everyone else through the steps during the edcamp session instead of trying to write on the spot.

I was slightly disappointed that only 5 people were in the session, but I can not blame the others because of the number of great sessions offered, it was hard to choose. The people attending were good sports and all wrote their stories. I thought it could be done in 15 minutes, but it took almost 25. Because there were so few people, we skipped the edit portion. Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 7.24.35 PMWe were lucky that Kevin Jarrett was taking photos the entire time, and he publishes his work under Creative Commons on Flickr, so we did not have to labor over trying to find images. It was a catch-22, without the images the book could not be published. Instead, we spent the remainder of the session writing suggestions for our future selves or other teachers how to apply this to a classroom with students instead of adults. It was time well spent.

I would love if more people shared an Edcamp story. It does not have to be long or life altering, it could just be something funny or memorable. I have so many stories I could tell, like the multiple road trips, or the mouse in the house at Edcamp Philly 2013, or the friends I seek out every edcamp I attend … but I have already contributed multiple parts and it seems egotistical to include more of my own. It would defeat the collaborative purpose if I wrote half the book. PLEASE SHARE A STORY. Encourage others to attend a local edcamp.

Findings/reflections about the experiment:

  1. Show them an example of what an e-book could look like
  2. Provide specific directions for what they should write so the book is cohesive
  3. Make sure there a definitive roles and an understanding of the roles
  4. Make sure there is plenty of time for them to revise and expand
  5. Have them create a mind map of topics (maybe have them sign up for topics)
  6. To include images — have them start collecting images in a folder.
  7. Set up folders  — Images, Notes, Draft, Final Versions, Credits, Table of Contents. By sharing the original folder, everyone will be able to contribute and add their stories.
  8. Set up a style guide: name looks like this, title, font, etc. For younger students, create template of layout that they change and have them do File > Make a Copy.
  9. Maybe make the e-book a long-term project so maybe not tied to a particular unit of study. Great way to share work with parents and a wider audience.
  10. We found that the writing can be done in an hour, but a quality book needs more than that. With the structure in place, it would be as easy as a poster project in class but it would be shared with a wider audience.
  11. book creator appUse Book Creator app to put the story together. This would be easy for the teacher to take the pieces and arrange. The final file for the book can be published back into Google Drive and a link can be generated to share with students and parents (and easily the world).
  12. Take screenshots of completed GoogleDocs, it could even include images. Much easier to resize just the image on a book page.

Extension into my classroom:

Last summer I felt ambitious and wanted to create an iBook as a class – it was part of my summer inspiration blog post. That idea fell flat, but now I feel like it is possible and have actionable steps to make it a reality. I like my original idea, but tie it into the Five Themes mini-unit. The students already do a project that ends up taking a day or two longer than anticipated, so their efforts could be redirected to an iBook. They are proud of their work, but lack audience when they create a poster or an iMovie Trailer. The projects can be uploaded to Google Drive and made public with a shareable link. The link could be texted through Remind to parents and students to enjoy. Instant pride.

Creating iBooks makes even more sense for next year because the 6th grade will finally be part of the 1:1 initiative in the district with iPad minis. They will create resources to contribute to their classmate’s learning. Another reason it makes sense is potential switch to Google Classroom which will make managing Google Docs easier. I would create the template for the page, and they would automatically have a copy made by clicking on the assignment. It would take some time on the teacher side to compile the pieces, but it would be worthwhile. In fact, I’m almost sad there are only 1o days of school left, or I would try to fit this into the end of the school year. It has potential to be a game changer.

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Free Range Google

Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.01.07 AMNo, Free Range Google is not an official thing … yet, but it is the best way I can think to describe the part of my class where I remove the barriers and let the students wonder and search. This is counter some of the arguments on Twitter recently from my PLN, but that is why I have necessary pre-requisites:

  1. Background Google Search Skills
  2. Digital Literacy
  3. Connection to Content
  4. Objective (to learn and share … something)
  5. Teacher Engagement

BACKGROUND GOOGLE SEARCH SKILLS

At the beginning of each year the search strategy of my students is to enter the exact question they want answered into the search bar, obviously this is not the most effective. I talk with them about keywords and search parameters. As a teacher, I do not have to Screen Shot 2015-04-19 at 11.14.02 AMdevelop lessons for search skills, Google has already done that. There are also many great infographics and other resources to help students visualize search strategies, including a new one I saw this week. Search skills were a major focus of my BYOT4 Club; every meeting they started collaboratively working on the Google a Day webquest. There is skill and good modeling involved to consistently get strong and specific search results. I scaffold. At the beginning of the year when students ask random content questions that I do not know, my response is “Let’s look it up.” By the second part of the year, I entrust multiple students to search and they fact check each other. I don’t let them settle with the first result, and by having multiple students look they verify with different sources. So yes, I say “Google it” and still find it to have educational value.

DIGITAL LITERACY

Current event discussions that we have every Friday are a great chance to mix in digital literacy skills.The students officially get taught digital literacy in their computer class, but applying it in a real world setting makes their computer lessons more valuable. New sources are often biased or there are conflicting reports, especially with something as tense as the police brutality stories of late. I don’t promote the conversations, but the students deserve answers. They hear the stories on their own through media, so we talk through the hype and ask questions about the author and their facts. I do down play news stories that relate to school violence or anything sexual since they are 11 or 12 year olds, but they still ask about it when they hear. They start to use a critical eye for things they read online.

CONNECTION TO CONTENT 

Students, and adults, like Googling random things. To make it meaningful, there must be a connection to the content. When I have them search, sometimes their interpretation of the connection is less concrete than I would like, but if it helps them remember the lesson in the long run, it has value.  For example, a month later a student could still describe in detail the climate and economic activity in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada because he had searched for houses and noticed large greenhouses to supplement what they could buy at the store while still living in a subarctic climate. Pretending to buy a house led to a deeper understanding. This also works well as a preview strategy before we delve into the depths of the lesson, like searching for National Parks in a random state before we studied the states. Or the first guided search was “kids fun facts AND [ocean/continent of choice],” they were getting their own specific end results without being taught how to get there. Once we do get to the content, the students have a direct correlation and an instant connection.

OBJECTIVE

The random searching could be endless. Personally searching takes me down a rabbit’s hole, where one result leads to another question. For my students I set a finite search time. “After 15 minutes, upload a picture of what you found and a short explanation on Edmodo for the entire class to see.” They generally are not searching for information I already know, so they are expanding everyone’s knowledge, including mine. Textbooks do not connect well with pre-teen interests. Often students find the same things interesting, they love talking about what they are reading as they find it. It is such a positive to overhear the excitement of what they discovered.

TEACHER ENGAGEMENT

The ‘overhearing’ brings us to the last part: teacher engagement. While teachers do not script the search terms, they have to constantly moving around the room and prompting student thought. This is not a passive lesson. Some questions are easy “why do you think…?” “what would happen if…?” “how does this connect to what we talked about?” This is the opposite of a passive lesson; it is mentally exhausting to interact with each student and to transform their exciting search results into a tangible lesson connection. Talking to the students is easy; they are all eager to share their results, it is moving on to the next student that is challenging.

REFLECTION

Is this a worthy use of class time? Not all my units have textbook readings, and not all the readings inspire students. Some in my area of certification feel letting students discover knowledge on their own is unprofessional and almost equal to blasphemy. This is the same mindset that would change Wikipedia to prove that they are correct, and that Wikipedia can not be trusted. (side note: I wonder what percentage of intentionally incorrect changes are made to Wikipedia articles by educators trying to make a point? I would less than celebrities/politician smear campaigns and more than bored pranksters.) Should everything I use to support my teaching – websites, apps, stories, articles, etc – be peer reviewed and approved? Expensive textbooks are approved, but not always correct, especially ones as old as my students. I believe that there is value in allowing students to Google some of their own supplemental resources instead of relying solely on teacher pre-approved ones. Now is the time to learn good search skills while they have a teacher as a guide. How will district policy adapt to the rapidly changing education resource landscape? Will they trust teachers to do what is best for student learning? We shall see.

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Oh yeah! Canada

In January, I blogged/lamented that students had lost their gratitude for learning (if this sounds strange, you have to read about the situation to understand). The awesome news: Simplified Map of CanadaCanada has brought back the ‘Thank You.’ This unit has fallen into place perfectly. For the first time all year I feel like our PLC is contributing with equal enthusiasm. The test aligns smoothly with the learning (or vice versa). Students and teachers enjoy the daily lessons. The modified content has challenged and included students to the perfect extent. This unit is enriched by a relatable unit essential question. “How does WHERE you live influence HOW you live?” The students could provide factual answers before we began (I have evidence of this since I asked), but the quality and detail of the responses increased as we moved through the lessons.  I am reflecting on many of the activities we accomplished this year in class for the Canada Unit so the success can (hopefully) be duplicated next year.

A big shift was the emphasis on Canadian culture. As a PLC we created a massive annotated list of links and resources for cultural tidbits on a variety of topics. YouTube was my best friend for an entire weekend as I searched relentlessly for the perfect video clips, and in the process watched what felt like a hundred, three minute videos. There were some treasure troves with multiple videos, like the background stories from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or CANADA Explore | Explorez or Statistics Canada. General news segments were useful for concise, visually appealing reports on topics like immigration, changes in citizenship laws, and environmental issues. There were so many great choices; it is a shame that some districts block YouTube. Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 3.03.32 PMTwo non-video resources for Canadian history/cultural elements were Canadian Geographic and Canada’s History for Kids. The second source had a section called ‘History Gets Graphic‘ which are short graphic novels detailing parts of Canadian history. 

Another way I presented visuals was by layering elements with Thinglink. This is a tool I had not used much, but after the success with the GeoTerms and the Cool Buildings of Canada, I will find additional ways to utilize it in the future. The only disadvantage is the lack of display on an iOS device. Since I have a BYOT/iPad Mini mixed classroom, students could only view the information from my laptop in small groups.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 2.52.20 PMThe series of lessons would have been stale if it was not spiced up by culture. The lesson formula roughly included reading a short passage about one of the topics (population, language, climate, architecture, and economic activity) and taking notes. Students had the option of where to take notes. Many of them selected Google Slides. I had created a master template and they just had to make their own copy. Other students preferred paper. There was no reason a student had to be forced to take them one way or another. This is a slightly altered opinion. Up until last year I wanted a paperless classroom, but there is nothing wrong with students knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and a couple choosing to write on paper. An extra tree might perish, but an extra mind is flourishing.

After the notes, they would apply what they learned from the textbook and a Google search to a fictional letter. The premise of the letter was their family moved to Canada and they had to write to a friend or extended family member to tell them about the new location. Canada Letter IntroThe vast majority of the students are loving the creative freedom of the letter and ask if we are going to add to it when they walk in the room. I almost felt bad on days we ran out of time. As a class we had a great conversation about reliable search results on Google and the fact that there is so much learning beyond the textbook and even teacher knowledge. I do not know what type of events take place in [city, province], but there were lists with suggestions of the top things to do with families or newspaper articles about local events. I could point to the population density map for conversations about ecumene in Canada, but can not list the individual town populations. Google can.

Canada Letter PromptsA change from last year is how I presented the letter. Instead of just requiring students to provide information from each of the five categories, I posted questions for them to answer. The first set of questions (A.) to answer made the location more tangible. It was not just a name on a map; it had character or at least a human/physical characteristic. I had students pick a province first then zoom in on either Google Maps or the generic iOS maps to select a city. Last year students got lost by zooming in on the wilderness and not finding any listed civilization. Next year I want to show the maps with themes of amusing town names (from Canadian Geographic) before having the students pick their ‘new home.’ Canada Letter HouseThis year I formally added the house element. Last year finding a dream house for sale was a spontaneous addition for the few students who finished really early. Now it is part of the assignment, and the students are loving this while secretly learning about the style of houses and the cost of living. My favorite is the students who change the backstory of their letter to match the house – like finding a beautiful house with a large greenhouse and making that their parents’ fictional profession. The house adds a conversational point why some small houses seem so expensive or why there are limited options in certain towns. The personalized conversations with one or two students connects the learning with their interests, which only have a positive outcome. I feel that they are harnessing the genuine engagement and inteqrest into deeper understanding. They are asking lots of questions about diverse topics. I hope the understanding translates on the assessment next week.

Another big shift by necessity this year was adapting and modifying the content for students with widely varying learning abilities.  Our planning team brainstormed ways to modify writing in this heavily written unit. Clicker Sentences was suggested. I have loved the implementation of this app. It started with me writing sentences about the content – similar to the notes all the students would be taking themselves. Those sentences were transferred to the app. Now the student can easily access the content and share with classmates. The student has been successful putting together the teacher created sentences, listening to them being read back, and then reading them aloud on their own.  This has been exciting to observe. The only downfall is the price of the app, Clicker Sentences costs $30.99. Do I think it has been worth it? Yes. Would my answer change if I had to pay for the app? Also, yes.

To provide all the students real-world connections to Canada, we read current event articles about Canada. My class frequently uses Newsela for reading current events because the website automatically provides five different reading level of the same article. That means all the students can participate and read the same stories, without struggling or being bored, with the content level. I searched “Canada” and picked a series of stories that I shared through a Google Doc (bit.ly/CanadianNews). The students noticed that most of the stories related to people affecting the environment. This connected back to a prior topic with the Five Themes of Geography and Human-Environment Interaction. I appreciated that I found real articles about topics that were being mentioned in the textbook, like the oil boom in Alberta and the Polar Bears in Canada. Since the students were provided choice with what to read, I did not hear any complaining about having to read, and some students asked for more time to read additional articles.

The last infusion of technology has been a series of websites and apps that have provided review as needed: Tap Quiz World, Quizlet, Zondle, and Canada Memory Matching Game. Before the unit test, I will create a Kahoot review game, because that is a student favorite. Wow, that felt like a long ramble, but I am confident I can duplicate the activities and be successful next year.

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Twitter Turning Point

There was a single moment when I realized that Twitter was no longer the greatest thing to happen in my personal professional growth: I was sitting in the Newbie Lounge at ISTE in 2013. I was not a newbie, but it was the only plug near comfortable seating I could find. While sitting there I overheard a veteran teacher who was new to edtech and trying to understand Twitter. She deserved to be supported for stepping outside her comfort zone, but the Tweets with #ISTE13 in this hour were not representative of learning. Instead, they were inside jokes, sarcastic comments, complaints about the temperature, and a range of other distractors. They were not about learning and connecting with other educators from around the world. It was such a missed opportunity.
I have taken a few breaks from Social Media, but it has not fixed my disappointed feelings. The world continued to spin and I continued to learn. I missed some of the people who supported by struggles or challenged my comfort, but overall there was no sense of loss for my PLN. I thought that this was my personal perspective and issue, but recently I have read other blogs with a similar tone. The three that have captured my attention most are from Bonnie Stewart, Joe Mazza, and Lyn Hilt. Stewart wrote something is rotten in the state of … Twitter. The language and voice captured my attention and really drove home the message. The decline of Twitter can be linked to the decline of a passionate participatory culture. Mazza breaks down the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of current PLNs. This is the post that really helped me formulate my disenchantment into words. He posted some good questions: What makes some educators worthy of the fame and larger audience? How has our online AND offline behavior evolved since we became ‘connected’?  I miss the good old days of 2009 when I joined Twitter. Hilt had a more positive spin on the topic with Why do I need to reinvent my PLN?  But she still points out that most of our PLNs no longer function efficiently. We need to refresh those we follow to find new ideas. Twitter might not be the best platform for developing more meaningful connections. So what are the issues I see with Twitter? Self Promotion, Cliques, Inside Jokes, and Safe Conversations.

AutoTweet#1: Insane Self-Promotion. We should be proud of the things we accomplish and the reflections we blog about. There is no harm in tweeting that. It is the incessant auto tweeting that clogs up Twitter feeds. There is harm in tweeting links to old blog posts every few hours. I also don’t like teacher entrepreneurs who constantly hawk their products they want us purchase or courses they want to convince us to enroll in so they get paid. The same thing goes for blogging and promoting items you create/teach – an occasional tweet is informative, but a barrage takes away from the value of the forum.

#2: Cliques. This was a topic mentioned by Joe Mazza. Initially Twitter was a space where all educators were created newly equal. Everyone had a voice and could contribute to the conversation. However, cliques and social hierarchies have developed. It’s worse than being in middle school, and I would know, since I teach in one. Teachers can get sucked into the social order with the humble brag photo along with a education rock start. I’m guilty of this. To someone trying to create a PLN, this is a visual barrier between those in the circle and those outside. What makes a teacher worthy of thousands of followers? At one point I was accepted into the inner circle of Twitter power teachers, but I don’t think I learned as much. I also was uncomfortable with the relationships that developed within the clique. It seemed acceptable to have virtual flirtatious affairs, which would play out in real life at conferences. This is not role model worthy behavior. There are so many lists of Top <insert number> Teachers on Twitter, but this does not create a valuable PLN. Chasing a number of followers will not create a better PLN either. No one thinks being promiscuous and sleeping with more people will create a better relationship, so why would the number of Twitter followers make the connection better?

#3:  Inside Jokes, Sarcasm, or Snark. This is yet another thing I am guilty of. Also defended with the middle school excuse of ‘we were just joking.’ To someone who is new, these type of joking comments would be confusing and sometimes insulting. Every conference has them. Sometimes they are a self-defense method for dealing with conference proposal rejection. Sometimes they are mocking a failure. Sometimes they are the result of too many free drinks from vendor parties. Many times they are funny, but that does not mean everyone will understand the joke and feel welcome in the space. Edchats also have an abundance of insider jokes and sarcastic comments. Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 9.40.34 PMNormally the group is familiar with each other and the comments help them bond from a distance. However, it prevents people new to the environment from feeling included. When I respond using sarcasm or snark I try to avoid the real chat hashtag. But it still will shape the opinion of me that of my followers have.

 #4: Safe Conversations. This flaw seems out of place. Safe is normally associated with warm, fuzzy, positive feelings. Yet, when it comes to discussions of education, the same conversations being played over-and-over again are safe, boring, and unproductive. You do not try new things from being safe. Have you ever played devil’s advocate in an edchat? It is risky. Immediately you feel like you are being verbally attacked by a mob because you threatened the safety of the group. What if an outsider had a sincere question? How would the chat group react? No one’s classroom is perfect, yet we spend so much time describing the Pinterest versions of our classroom. We don’t seek feedback or suggestions for improvement because that would require admitting a flaw first. I believe it is a ‘we’ thing and not just a ‘me’ thing. When I first joined Twitter it was about gaining knowledge about everything I did not know. I was willing to try new things all the time, but that sometimes resulted in failure, and my PLN helped me back to my feet and gave me advice and confidence to try again. I don’t know exactly when the safety mode kicked in, but it has restricted the new ideas flowing into my classroom.

Contribute PLNSelf-Reflection: Am I a positive member of other teacher’s PLNs? Would I follow myself? (which sounds egotistical and links back to issue #1). I am not ready to deactivate my Twitter account, but I am willing to actively purge those who do not make me a better teacher or global citizen. I pledge to tweet with purpose. This means less re-tweets and more enriching tweets, and by more, I probably mean fewer in number. Take time to reflect on your own Social Media contributions. Would you inspire a new teacher? Is your online behavior a positive role model for students? How are you contributing to your PLN?

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Five Minute Primary Source Lesson

@TeacherToolkit

@TeacherToolkit

Sometimes I feel a slump in my lesson planning creativity. During such an occurrence I saw a tweet from @TeacherToolkit which sparked interest. The title was catchy and so was the visual outline for the 5 Minute Lesson Plan. The website (which I just used as a trial) walked through writing a lesson plan. This isn’t a process I’m unfamiliar with, it’s just something I wanted inspiration with. The prompting questions did their job and prompted deeper planning and exploration of unused resources to teach the lesson.

I started to dig out resources discovered at Edcamps and Conferences from the past. I wanted to bring Primary Source resources into the class. The Smithsonian has a PDF that overviews primary sources and provides suggestions for using them. Edutopia provided an additional 6 recommendations for Primary Sources. Neither one of these were groundbreaking, but they are useful reminders of how many options you have and how easy it is to incorporate primary sources. Now that I felt inspired, I reflected and dug deeper.

My students love looking at maps and photos, and there are an abundant set of primary sources that would appeal to their interests and transition nicely into our unit on the United States and Canada. A perfect example is from DocsTeach with a Map of the United States and Canada in 1783.

National Humanities Center has collections of primary source documents and questions to accompany them. An interesting example for my students would be the poem about life in Pennsilvania (not a typo on my part) from 1692. Obviously I spent more than 5 minutes searching for resources. But the time was worth the payout. I found an entire units worth of interesting primary source documents that would lend authenticity to the discussions we would have in class.

The Library of Congress provides guides for analyzing different types of Primary Sources. For times I integrate historic maps, there is a guide for maps . For the lesson I’m planning next week the one that will best serve is for Analyzing Photographs.

So this might have seemed like a long ramble. The journey resulted in this:  LessonStudent ChartThere were other pieces to the lesson, like the chart for students to record their findings. For the final part of the project, students will submit their guess for where the photograph is and providing supporting evidence why they think that. The answers will be compiled on a Google Form, which will allow us to look at everyone’s answers without the fear of people knowing if you were wrong.

I always have some students who finish early, so they can play the TapQuiz Maps app for Canada or the United States. I will also post additional images of Canada/the United States that they can try to figure out through the same process using the Primary Source Analysis Guides.

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The Case of the Missing ‘Thank You’

said no student everThe beginning of the school year had a unique, almost daily occurrence. A small group of my 7th period students would thank me for another great lesson. It was a great start to the year. I did not realize how motivating it could be to have students say ‘thanks’ for what most people assume is an automatic component of public education. But it was incredibly motivating. I wanted to be a better teacher for them and I self-reflected on every lesson. I can’t take credit for the genuine phenomenon; they started it the first day of school without prompting. I take pride in my lessons and believe they were a good mix of interesting and informative, but if I were a student I do not know that I would go as far as to thank a teacher. I thanked a few teachers after the school year when I realized the real world application of their content, but not for the daily lessons.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Then something changed. I don’t know what or when. This is depressing. I don’t know what caused multiple students to lose their daily joy in learning. Maybe it was my class became too predictable. Maybe it was the stress of receiving numeric grades for the first time. Maybe they felt like they were being ignored while misbehaving students monopolized class time. Maybe they are pre-teens and disenchanted with everything and I shouldn’t take it personally. I just hope it was not something I could have prevented.

There is a bigger issue. I do not know when exactly they stopped saying ‘Thank You.’ I just realized today that I miss it and it has been awhile. When did I lose some of my passion for teaching? I used to make a conscious effort to pay attention to each student, every day. Clearly I have not been doing this or it would have registered that the great students aren’t vocalizing their gratitude for their education anymore.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

I made other trivial New Year’s goals, but this is the new one that counts: I want to rediscover my excitement with teaching and make it obvious to the students. Hopefully that will spark a newfound joy in their learning. Ultimately that is more important than most of my content or my state mandated SLO. I might not know when the ‘thanks’ stopped, but it is not too late. Today officially marks the halfway point for the school year, which gives me plenty of time to achieve my goal. For myself, I want to be professionally happy. For my students, I want them to have the joy of learning engrained in them so they do not lose it as they progress through upper grades. Many teachers strive for life long learners; my plan of attack to accomplish that is to start right now.

Posted in Random Ramblings & Advice Received, Reflection | 1 Comment

Five Themes

The Five Themes of Geography is the first introduction to Geography that the students have. I wanted it to be memorable. I also want to make intentional connections back to it through each unit of the year, so it is important for students to have a solid understanding.

Notes and Study Guides:
We practiced taking Cornell Notes in class, but the success of that is dependent on the student. Even with me modeling it, some students had suspicious gaps in their notes. I created an adaptive version of the notes: it was available for any student who needed it.
I also created two visually unique study guides. The first is like a Five Themes Study Guide, definitions, and examples. It does not sound interesting, but if you cut the bottom stripes up to help study, it looks unique. The second is a Five Themes cootie catcher with four of the five themes, the fifth is on the bottom, but get cut off when you fold up the cootie catcher.
Students have a fairly good understanding of movement, region, and human-environment interaction. The location and place confuse them, not because they are complicated, but because they mix them up.

Instagram:
To make the geography personal and get the students’ attention, I created a class Instagram account (@Geo6HMS). It provides an outlet to showcase the Five Themes through pictures. I’ve had so much fun creating the images. I’m extending the visual ideas into my BYOT Club, our first meeting will be visual design elements on a mobile device. Instead of C.R.A.P. I changed the acronym to C.A.R.P.E. Diem. The ‘Ed’ is EdConnection. With creative projects, it is always important to remind students that they have to tie in the interesting elements back to the learning goal.

Project:

Last year I just asked the students to draw a picture to represent the Themes of Geography. However, this year I wanted to let them run with the project. The time required stretched from one day to three, but I was really impressed with the end results. I gave digital and non-digital options, but did not limit the students or burden them with tons of requirements. All I asked for was a visual representation of the Five Themes. Students created posters, iMovies, Keynotes, Prezis, 3D models, photo stories, and more. Here are some student examples linked and embedded:  FiveThemesSlides from Keynote and a Prezi.

Posted in Geography, Technology | 1 Comment