Engnology

Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Archive for the ‘English’ Category

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!

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Written by sfarnsworth

August 18, 2011 at 8:08 pm

In Response to “Lost Generation” … and Todd

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I was discussing the poem, “Lost Generation”  with my friend Todd Vogts, an educator from Kansas.

I was first introduced to this poem at the Buck Institute that I attended for my work with #IACoPi .

Todd took the discussion we had and blogged about it, so I thought I too would blog about my reflection on the poem:

When I first heard this poem I thought it was just another frightful account of the current generation and all the problems they face in the future. From the overworked, divorced adult they are destined to become, to being labeled as a generation that is “apathetic and lethargic”(line 29), the future is less than bright. The message was clear and straightforward, painting familiar images using familiar words. This all culminated at a logical, if not a bit cliché, last line, “And all of this will come true unless we choose to reverse it”(line 32). “Hmmm, well this is good,” I thought but nothing extraordinary, until the reading acted upon the command of the bold faced type and started reciting the lines backwards.

When read in reverse, the poem offers a rebuttal to the negative views society places on the current generation. The speaker offers images of hope where there was once despair.  In fact the first line reads, “There is hope.”(line 1). And everything that turned the reader’s stomach into knots the first read through now offers a fist in its place. This generation is one of fighters, out to prove the world wrong. To change the perception of bleakness to light!

But beyond the amazing reversal of the message, the form of the poem was unexpected. The structure of this poem was equally as surprising. I was engaged and inspired. I had never seen something like this and thought of the difficulty it must demand to write this type of poem well. I also like the audio component and would use it after the students read once to themselves, seeing if any picked up on what to do at the poem’s end. This would be a great way to introduce poetry and I am going to use it next year.

Out of curiosity I learned that this poem was originally created for a contest sponsored by the AARP. Young people between the ages of 18-30 had to create a video describing how their lives would be at age 50. Johnathan Reed created this video which placed second in the contest in 2007. According to Wikipedia, this poem was inspired by the political advertisement about Argentina entitled “Truth” http://youtu.be/lFz5jbUfJbk . I think this would be not only a good starting point for a poetry unit, but also a challenging and engaging model for the students to emulate.

Written by sfarnsworth

June 28, 2011 at 2:59 am

#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

#iowaish Trip to Sweden

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At the beginning of the school year I had no idea my year of focusing to connect students globally would include a trip to Sweden. Now back just 2 days, I have had a brief time to reflect on the trip, connection, and collaboration that began back in October with @john_noonan and the students in his Philosophy class at the International School of Helsingborg. Last week, Cari Teske, myself, and 5 senior students flew from Chicago to Sweden.

We had an educational and fun trip which was led by the careful planning of Mr. Noonan. Students had a myriad of experiences from museums, castles (including the one that inspired Hamlet), a Picasso exhibit, European Soccer Match, spent time at the school, and lived with host families. Students tasted local cuisine, navigated through the city with public transportation, and appreciated the cultural diversity that surrounded them!

While much hard work and planning went into a project and trip like this, providing an opportunity for students to connect globally through technology has given them, and me, an experience of a lifetime. A small connection on twitter turned into friendships that across continents. Teachable moments were plentiful on the trip, but the most satisfying thing to come from the whole experience was the students’ desires (from both countries) to connect face to face and creating a plan to make it possible. The students returned with a satisfaction that anything was possible, from traveling to a foreign country to being on their own next year for college!  Next week I will have the students write a reflection and post on this blog… but will leave you with a few pictures of our travels! For more about the project checkout our website IOWAISH

At the reception

Philosophy class

A view of Helsingborg (walking tour)

At Hamlet's Castle

Written by sfarnsworth

March 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Global Connection Update (#iowaish)

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Time is fast approaching for our trip to Sweden to meet the philosophy class that we connected with last semester using various social media forums. In March, 5 AP Literature students, myself, and Cari Teske (BCLUW librarian) will depart from Chicago and spend 9 days in Helsingborg, Sweden. This opportunity stemmed from a twitter connection and a desire to connect students globally. Mr. Noonan, a philosophy teacher from the International School in Helsingborg, and myself designed a unit focusing on the understanding of Existentialism and its application to “The Stranger” written by Albert Camus. Although there are many things that will be modified for future use, students gained more than the initial education goals we set at the beginning. The students not only gained an understanding of a difficult philosophy, but also learned to collaborate with others thousands of miles away with differing opinions using technology. The social aspects were the most surprising gains that we as teachers didn’t expect. Students found they had more similarities than differences and added each other on facebook, twitter, etc; becoming fast friends while learning how to use social media for personal and educational uses.

When opportunity presented itself for a chance to meet our “new classmates” we quickly sought parental approval, board approval, and community support. This once in a lifetime trip will bring the connection full circle. We plan to spend time at the school, participate in a Model UN, tour Hamlet’s Castle (a play we also read), visit IKEA headquarters, a trip to Copenhagen, along with experiencing the culture and people of Sweden.

We have started a website to track our progress – Iowaish.net

Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be planning a trip to Sweden this year!

Connecting Cultures, Continents, and Classrooms – a testament to the power of 1:1 laptops in the hands of students and teachers!

Written by sfarnsworth

January 5, 2011 at 9:24 pm