Engnology

Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Archive for the ‘collaboration’ Category

Buddy Day Spring 2012

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On March 1st, BCLUW High School students hosted a buddy day with their elementary friends focused on Dr. Seuss’s birthday and Read Across America Day. Each high school room chose a different Seuss book to have as the focus for their room. I chose “Oh The Places You’ll Go” – one of my all-time favorites.

While eating our lunch, I shared the book through my Apple tv and ipad app which allowed students to listen and view an animated version of the story. Many of Dr. Seuss’s books are apps! After lunch, each buddy pair chose a section of the text to illustrate. With the help of their high school buddies, the second graders chose parts of the sections to read aloud for the imovie we were going to create. Applying a number of different activities to the piece with a variety of learning styles targeted increased learning, connection, and engagement. Students were listening, reading, drawing, and speaking all in one activity. We worked on fluency and pronunciation of the words to prepare for the taping of their part.

The following imovie was created from the students’ work and voices.

On a side note, and an idea from Mary Ascher, the second grade class is actually that of my son’s, and so I am going to save all of their drawings, writings, and videos and give to them for senior gifts.

Written by sfarnsworth

March 6, 2012 at 6:56 pm

“You Never Know Unless You Ask” – Skype with Poet Taylor Mali

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As a bell ringer during the poetry unit, I share with students one of my favorite poems. This helps to showcase different poets, forms, poetic devices, etc. Tuesday began with Taylor Mali’sWhat Teachers Make” and a few other poems of his. The students fell in love with his boldness and play on words. He was a poet that they immediately connected with; speaking about school, relationships, typos…

Throughout the day I noticed tweets to Mr. Mali  from my students and much to my surprise he responded back to them. One of my students (I have labeled the “Queen of Social Media”) suggested he skype in with our class. We were all shocked and pleased when Mr. Mali agreed, stating to the student, “You never know unless you ask.”

Mr. Mali skyped with the students the following week. He spent time answering questions, inspiring students, and connecting with the kids. At the end, as a surprise, he sent them all a copy of his poem, “How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog” and recited it for them. A memory that we all reflect upon fondly.

Top Things Students Learned:

1. Poetry is COOL!

2. Twitter and other Social Media connects you with experts/world.

3. You don’t know unless you ask…

The next day the students were abuzz talking about skyping with Mr. Mali weekly, other people they wanted to skype with, understanding the power of technology to connect them to the world! This experience is one they will never forget, and they joke about telling their own children one day how they met Taylor Mali.

One of the highlights of my career!

Written by sfarnsworth

March 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Cross-Curricular, Project Based Learning: BCLUW Mock Trial

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For the past five years, on the day before Thanksgiving break, the BCLUW senior class holds a Mock Trial as a culminating project at the end of a cross-curricular unit designed by myself (English) and Josh Ehn (Social Studies). This unit is designed to provide students an understanding of how our legal system works, as well as job prep skills. The government side of the project is taught by Mr. Ehn who also decides the roles each student will play and the court case to be tried. Students interview for positions from judge to jury members highlighting the skills and qualifications they have gained in high school that makes them the best candidate.

In English class, students create resumes based on real information, a necessity for graduating seniors. They also learn the fine art of writing a letter of application in hopes that their words and experience stands out in order to receive an interview. Finally, with the help of teachers and community members, each student is given a time and location for an interview.

This is a fantastic Project Based Learning example that helps blend learning from different departments. Students are challenged to express their skills on the resume, and the interview provides much needed experience with a bit of added pressure. We want to thank the following community members for donating their time to support BCLUW students: Shane Tiernan, Darla Ubben, Doug Benjamin, Denise Hoy, Mike Payne, and Jayne Katzer. It was another successful trial, the students had fun, and the defendant was found GUILTY… Next year we are looking for challengers, any school interested?

Written by sfarnsworth

November 28, 2011 at 2:34 am

Remembering 9/11 – A Lesson in Empathy

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This year marked the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and while I distinctly remember the events that unfolded on that tragic day, my seniors were only in second grade and recall scattered fragments or nothing at all. During a group skype call between the teachers of the blogging community (5 schools where students blog/comment enhancing engagement and widening audience to promote writing) we decided to create a collaborative lesson plan to teach our students empathy, citizenship, and patriotism with the end product in the form of an imovie.

Building a foundation of the tragedy with resources found on the NYTimes Learning Network Blog; teachers @eolsonteacher, @shawnhyervm, @Bev-Berns, @toddvogts, and myself  shared videos, pictures, and reflections with students. We then allowed students to explore the plethora of links found on the blog and report back to the large group their findings. What happened was an emotional connection to the day that most had a disconnect with because of age. Empathetic stories of victims, family members, and heroes were retold through the voice of our students. One student even stated, “I have not thought about or viewed footage from that day for so long, I can finally understand what happened and how horrible it was.” As teachers, this type of response is music to our ears. We want to help mold a future generation of insightful, empathetic citizens who will lead our world in the future.

The next day we used a strategy taught by @KirsteyEwald during an experience while taking the Iowa Writing Project (a division of the National Writing Project). Students wrote answers to prompts on sticky notes which were then complied and edited to form a poem. Each school had different questions ranging from “How do you define America?” to “How can one honor the lives lost during the attacks?” Each student spoke their line and placed an image of their hand into the project. Teachers shared the movies using dropbox culminating in one movie written, spoken, and illustrated by the students!

Students proudly shared their video with family and friends. It floated around facebook and was highlighted in local newspapers and on local news stations making the Anniversary of September 11th more meaningful.

Written by sfarnsworth

October 6, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Amazing QR Race Staff Kick Off

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BCLUW kicked off the 2011-2012 school year with a staff QR code race organized by new principal, Cari Teske. The staff was grouped together and “raced” around town in search of QR codes that were placed at local businesses. At each business location we had to do 2 things: 1. take a picture of technology in the workplace, 2.  interview bosses on the qualities they looked for when hiring.

Why this worked:

1.Movement – we, as a staff, interacted and physically moved. We didn’t sit and listen in lecture-style manner.

2. Purpose – connected with businesses to see the technology they used and qualities they look for when they hire.

3. Applicable in classroom – this exercise could easily be adapted into the classroom. In fact, when I have students participate in a writing marathon this fall we will mimic this activity.

4. Fun – Learning can and should be fun, even for adult learners.

Top qualities businesses look for when hiring:

1. Communication Skills

2. Appearance/hygeine

3. Punctualality

4. Integrity

5.Personality, ability to get along with others

How many of these are measurable on the state tests? But….. how important are these skills?

Cari used QR Treasure Hunt Generator  to organize and create the codes.

Written by sfarnsworth

August 19, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Travelling the Globe with a Twitter Connection

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A twitter connection has provided another opportunity for the students at BCLUW. I met Aaron Cretin on twitter a few years ago, and in person at the first Iowa 1:1 Conference in 2010. A few weeks ago I received a Direct Message from Aaron asking if I would be interested in discussing a possible connection between my students and his brother, Brian Cretin.

Brian and I met at  Applebee’s where I listened to his college and career journey, his local connection, and his plan to travel the globe this upcoming year!  As I sat and listened my mind raced with possibile learning experiences for my students, from having them consider ipod apps essential to travel, to Google Earth walks in Thailand.  Brian spoke with excitement as he told me how he was introduced to International travel in college. By sharing this global  journey with students, Brian hopes to inspire the students to consider possibilities and opportunities available to them.

Along with skype calls and blog discussions, Brian is also capturing his travel through photography. His web-site, View From A Cretin  showcases images from past travels. Creative writing opportunities  will flood the senses of the students as they start their journey in London and travel to Thailand. From there, Brian will decide where his travel takes him.

Organically, the connection will grow throughout the year. The students will guide the learning tailored to interests on the country, cultures, and travel.

Thank you  Aaron for the connection! And thank you Brian for the opportunities you are providing to the students of small-town Iowa as they view the world with you!

Safe Travels and Skype you in a few weeks!

Written by sfarnsworth

August 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

#bcluw and #pekinpanthers Collaboration

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I met @MrHadleyHistory at the IACoPi meeting a few weeks ago. He is a passionate, history teacher at Pekin High School, a small school in Iowa. During our conversation he commented on the need to connect with other history teachers in 1:1 schools. I immediately thought of @Mr_Ehn, a innovative social sciences teacher at BCLUW. Since we were at a conference in Des Moines, their introduction happened via twitter.

A week later, we were both back at our own schools, the news of bin Laden’s death broke. I was skyping with my friend @eolsonteacher (my favorite person to gain inspiration and excitement about teaching from) and she shared that she was planning a lesson to co-teach with her social studies teacher the next day based off of the events that transpired. It was one of those teachable moments that is hard to pass up.

Inspired by Erin, I reached out to Mr. Ehn and Mr. Hadley about a project we could do cross-curricular and also involving both schools. Mr. Ehn thought of creating written reflections from interviews the students would conduct. Here is a simple break down of the project and examples of tools we used:

1. Google Docs – we created a list of a slice of the world’s population we wanted the kids to interview. The list contained all genders, races, ages, occupations, etc. Students signed up for a person they would seek out to interview. Students were not allowed to interview someone they spoke to regularly, they had to go out of their comfort zones and use resources to find someone to interview.

2. Google Docs – a document was created listing the requirements of the projects and a list of initial interview questions. We wanted the interview to be organic, inspired by the conversation taking place and so we spent a lot of time discussing this concept. Description   (Google Docs. is an easy way to collaborate between students and schools)

3. Skype – During the introduction of the project to the students we listened in on each other’s classes and added to the discussion taking place in the classroom via skype. It is always inspiring to “watch” a colleague teach, skype allows this to take place easily and also in other classrooms outside of your own building. Skype also helps to provide a co-teaching aspect that we wanted for this project.

4. Fishbowl – Mock interviews were set up to model to students the interview process. Students used TodaysMeet to record important concepts to remember while the mock interview was taking place. This backchannel allowed students to take collective notes containing information they would use when conducting their own interviews. It was projected on screen so that I was able to see the real-time thinking taking place. It also allowed me an opportunity to break character and address, clarify, or add to information the students were recording. The students love this type of collaboration, plus it was an easy way for the two schools to share interview tips.

5. Potential Interview Candidates – Students used all different connections to line-up potential interviews. This was the most challenging aspect of the project for the students. Very rarely do we require students to talk to people they don’t know. Students used family, friends, teachers, twitter, facebook, skype, phonecalls, emails, etc. to connect with people around the world.

6. Reflections – 2 models were written by myself and Mr. Hadley showing the students how to take interview answers and transform them into a reflection, weaving in their own thoughts as well as direct quotes from their notes. Students used phone, skype, email, and face- to- face means to collet their information. One of Mr. Hadley’s students recoreded his interview on his laptop and shared it with the students. Video

7. Linoit – students skyped and used Linoit during the middle of the week to discuss progress, share concerns and contacts, and update each other on their reflections. At the end of the project, students will skype with each other sharing a few of the stories written.

8. Final Product – Students are publishing their work using bookemon. A compilation of their reflections are uploaded to this site creating an on-line book with an option to purchase.

Read our Book Here –  Impressions on US

Written by sfarnsworth

May 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm