Friday, March 30, 2012

Since Everyone Else is Doing It... My Comments on the 20 Shot Film

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I loved, loved, loved the 20 shot film assignment. I had a huge internal debate in order to decide whether or not I would do this with a class of my own. I went back and forth for a few days and eventually weighed the pros and cons.

 I guess the pros have it. I do think I would complete this assignment with my future students.

When I finally saw the result of our storyboarding, collaboration, and filming, I was pleased, excited, and amused. I think that high school students generally will enjoy this assignment if given the appropriate instruction (just as we were given a 30 minute lecture about angles and shots). The process might be a little scary for future teachers. I would be worried about their film's appropriateness, the students' access to technology, and their availability to shoot. Many students are involved with extra curricular activities, so I'm sure that picking a meeting time outside of school wouldn't be ideal. Of course, they could use in class time to go shoot around the school building, but that poses other problems to consider.

 I have faith, however, that the kinks can (and should) be worked out.

Cardboard Village

This is a noneducational story, but I figured I'd share anyway.

Last night, I participated in the Cardboard Village. Basically, organizations (or people) sign up and build a cardboard house in the quad (the house can only be made with cardboard, tape, and tarp). The house has to be occupied at all times in a 24 hour time period by various members of the group. Participants are only allowed one blanket per person (no pillow, no cell phones, no space heaters). Additionally, there is no food allowed in the house. Basically, the "homeless experience" (or as close to the homeless experience I'll get as a non-homeless person) knocked on my door.

I answered.

As I was in my cardboard box, colder than I've ever been in my entire life despite the fact that I wore layers and layers of clothing, I felt weak, defeated, powerless, hungry, and uncomfortable. I tried to go to sleep, but I couldn't because I was shivering so badly. I tried to text (on my banned cellular device), but my hands were so stiff, even through two pairs of gloves. So... I sat there. For hours and hours. Miserable. And angrier than I've ever been.

I guess the moral of the story is that good things can come from anger. If something really, really, REALLY ticks you off, fight it. I know I am.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rice on Education: American Dream on Verge of Collapse

"Condoleezza Rice on Education: American Dream on Verge of Collapse: If America doesn't reform education, security and upward mobility will suffer, she warns"

 This article was posted on Google News a few hours ago and it's interesting. It's hard to imagine some of the immediate results of what could happen if American education does not reform (and really reform... not just pretend to "reform" like it has been doing in the past). Many educators and politicians are worried about the United States falling behind "educational powerhouses" like China and South Korea. I haven't looked enough into this myself to know how legitimate the opinions in this article are. Still, I think it's a frightening prospect and I thought I'd share.,0,3654983.story

Teach for America + the World = WorldTeach

When I was on my cruise, I met so many people in my age bracket from different countries. One of the things I brought up during our many conversations was education. Most of them were in general agreement; the state of education in their native countries was sub par (if not otherwise deplorable).

So, what did I do when I got home (besides recover from a week of tomfoolery)? I Googled it.

What do I have to do to be able to teach abroad? I'm already in the Ireland Student Teaching program, but this is just not enough. I think that there are tons of people in the world I would love to teach, even through a volunteer program, who, in return, could teach me as well. There are so many cultures, religions, languages, and experiences that I am eager to know about.

What I found was an organization called WorldTeach. They take certified teachers on yearly or semester-long volunteer trips to different areas in the world.I don't know very much about it, but it seems similar to Teach for America. Just internationally. And without pay.

But challenging and rewarding? Most definitely.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Storybird, Anyone?

I just fell in love with this thing called Storybird. It is an interactive digital storybook website. Basically, you write your own book online using text and images. You can flip through the final product, share it with friends, and read the Storybirds of others (because they are sometimes really cool).

The website itself is really safe. Storybird emphasizes "niceness" and they will terminate the accounts of people who use the site for political or religious expression, explicit content, or ideas that wouldn't be appropriate brought up around eight-year-olds. Although this is limiting in some ways, this is a really good idea for the classroom.

As a lesson, this assignment can fit all ranges of students. Very simple Storybirds can be created comfortably by struggling students and more advanced students can create Storybirds like the one under the link posted below. This can easily be a lesson that is differentiated, fun, and educational, should you choose to use. I invite you to read the Storybird below. I thought it was profound and poetic, and I'm sure that this can be incorporated in the classroom regularly.

Revisiting Tumblr

In our last class, Tumblr was presented as a digital tool to use in the classroom. And, frankly, I feel like it got the "shaft" (I love you girls). As a former Tumblr user (I just don't have time anymore), I can see plenty of ways that it can be used in the classroom educationally, and many other ways that it can be regulated for content and made safe for student use.

First, the idea that Tumblr is a "less organized version of Pinterest" (as it was presented) kind of has to be deconstructed. Every website has things in common; from the "liking" of Facebook, to the "thanking" of scoop, to the "hearting" of Storybird. Still, these websites endure because they have enough that is unique within themselves and users enjoy some particular aspects, which keeps the website flourishing.

When you "Pin," you capture and share "all the beautiful things you find on the web" (Pinterest's own words). When you Tumble (?), you share "all the beautiful things you create/write/record/produce/film on the web". You create original thought. For example, my Tumblr houses poetry and short stories I've written, anecdotes of personal experiences and ideas I decided to share with friends, pictures from vacations I've went on, videos I've put together for class projects, and even papers I've written for class. Tumblr is a blog site; a more visual, user friendly, highly social blog site at that. It can do many things that Pinterest cannot, and vice versa.

As far as safety goes, you see posts by people you follow. If the class, regulated by an educator, is only allowed to follow each other with the educational blogs they make, then I don't see content as a problem. Students (for the most part) won't post anything that they won't want their teacher reading. It's that simple.

Students can't find anything on Tumblr that they can't easily find in a Google Search (even though some schools block Google content, it is very easy for kids, who are way more tech savvy than administrators, to get around that). That is why it is up to the teacher to build an environment of respect and rapport with students. Let them know what you expect of them and consequences for publishing inappropriate content with Tumblr (as you would with any other digital tool you use in the classroom because students can just as easily pin an inappropriate picture on Pinterest, right?). That is the chance you take with all digital tools, not just Tumblr.

I think that Tumblr can be used in the classroom. In this class, we blog with Blogger, which is generated for an older audience. Tumblr is more visual and easier to navigate because it is generated with a younger audience in mind. If we can use Blogger in our college class and blog twice a week about whatever interests us, I think it could be a great assignment for secondary students also.

There is a lot more that can be done on Tumblr than I can explain in this blog. So, check it out!