Engnology

Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Posts Tagged ‘Technology

#Iowaish – Connecting Iowa and Sweden

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What began as an off -the- cuff request on twitter has snowballed into a collaborative project connecting BCLUW AP Literature students with students from The International School of Helsingborg in Sweden. Each year I teach Albert Camus’s “The Stranger” and struggle through the lecture, questions, and discussions over Existentialism. At the beginning of the school year I met John Noonan a philosophy teacher in Sweden. I approached him for help and a possible guest lecture spot, but after many discussions we decided to connect our students for a collaborative lesson.

Starting in early October, students have connected through twitter(using the hashtag #iowaish), blogs, and Skype.  October 12, will be the first face to face meeting between the two schools. Throughout the next couple of weeks, students will identify characteristics of Existentialism, participate in a Skype video lecture on Existentialism given by Mr. Noonan, and apply their understanding of the philosophy to discussions, readings, and blogs. In November, students will be placed in small groups with members from both the BCLUW AP Literature class and ISH Philosophy class. Collaboratively, they will defend an argument based off of a question posed by myself and Mr. Noonan. A debate will conclude the project.

The 2009 -2010 school year was the first year of the BCLUW 1:1 laptop initiative. The ISH is also a 1:1 laptop school, making the collaboration and connection accessible outside of the walls of the school and hours of the typical school day. Having an opportunity to collaborate with students other than their normal peers, plus with a diverse group such as the one found in Mr. Noonan’s International School, cultivates an understanding of different countries, cultures and opinions. The collaboration increases the writing, speaking and debate skills of the students by constructing an audience other than the typical teacher they interact with daily. The project has already exceeded expectations and the students are looking forward to future connections and the final project.
I will update this blog periodically with our progress!
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Written by sfarnsworth

October 12, 2010 at 3:26 am

Connecting Students through Video Project

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Every year I teach “The Lady or the Tiger” by Stockton. I use this piece as part of my short story unit; the ending leaves the final decision up to the reader. This ambiguity provides the perfect opportunity to teach narrator and voice. I have the students write their own endings blending their imagination with elevated vocabulary and a consistent voice that parallels the piece. Last year I took this lesson a step further with the new laptops our students now used in all classrooms. After the endings were written, they broke into small groups and selected one to create as a silent video. They could only use music, sound effects, and text. Their actions and minimal words had to convey the intent to the audience.

This year we did the same reading and project but with a slight twist. We partnered with a Van Meter freshman class who was also reading the same story. I still had the kids write their endings, form small groups and select one, but instead of creating a video from their own writing they exchanged with their counter group in Van Meter. They students were excited about the collaboration and it showed in their stellar projects. Finally, a Voice Thread was created to share final projects between the two schools. Voice Thread allows the students to leave comments in various forms and it was quite simple to upload multiple videos.

Students this year were more conscious about their writing knowing that it was going to be read by and performed by people outside of their own school. They also enjoyed the ideas that emerged from the other students, had fun collaborating and creating a final projects, and were anxious to see how the other students interpreted their writing.

Although it took a little extra time for Shawn Hyer and I to develop this lesson, the benefits were great, the students were excited and engaged, and this story will forever be something they remember because of the interaction they had with the piece.

Written by sfarnsworth

September 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Pleasant Surprise

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Tuesday marked the beginning of my sprint, not literally, but metaphorically. Along with introducing high school to the freshmen, I now was in a race to catch them up with all of the essential skills needed to manipulate their new classroom tool – the laptop. I started off basic – photobooth, to ichat, to transferring documents. That is where I lost them. By the end of my first freshmen class, I was frazzled; half of the students had the rules I transferred, and half were still trying to figure out how to access their downloads. At the end of the day I was exhausted, even after the extra help that showed up in my other two freshmen classes (some of the seniors I recruited who had study hall). I smiled, the only thing I could do to keep from crying, and realized how little the freshmen actually knew about technology. Sure, they all used it everyday, but they used technology to listen to music, facebook their friends, or search the internet. I had a lot to teach them to maximize the learning for the rest of the year. Wednesday started, and in bounced the freshmen, excited to come to class, eagerly unpacking their laptops. Today we would move to organization and manipulating a Pages document. I was about to begin the lesson when a student raised his hand and asked to share an i-movie he created the night before. Shocked, because we hadn’t even touched upon that application yet, I agreed and sat back as he hooked up his computer to the projector.

Wednesday I left with a smile and a new inspiration for a post!

Written by sfarnsworth

August 27, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Posted in 1:1 School, Students

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Reflections Year 1 of BCLUW’s 1:1 Initiative

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I am an English teacher at a 1:1 high school (all students grade 9-12 have laptops provided to them by the school), and although planned to blog the entire first year of implementation, life carried me away and the year ended as quickly as it started – with no blog. Now opportunity and a little time, plus nudging from my PLN (Personal Learning Network), has brought me back to my original goal of blogging.  So here it is, number one, a frightful consideration… how will I be perceived? Will anyone even read my thoughts? How will blogging transform me as a teacher?

I begin my maiden voyage with a reflection of the first year of 1:1 (Collaborative notes from an end of year staff meeting)

Successes

1.  Each staff member found personal success with implementation in their classroom and tools for their particular curriculum area.

2.  Staff agreed that the students were responsible and took excellent care of their laptops. ( we all chuckled at the memories of  the mobile lab issues that we  used to face – not charged, missing computers, check-out nightmares)

3.  Students were more organized! Opportunity to teach appropriate use of social networks.

4.  Leveled the playing field – everyone had the same opportunities and tools.

5.  Higher level of creativity in assignments and projects.

6.  Other student leaders emerged, not just the typical ones.

7.  Less paper use.

8.  Classrooms without walls, communication with students and staff increased.

9.  Student engagement outside of regular school hours increased, especially in areas of student selected interests such as Blender, Youtube channels, etc.

10.  Finally, students commented on how it was now “fun” and “engaging” to come to school.

Challenges

1.  It was difficult and scary to give up control.

2. When is the best time to use in class – not just a novelty tool, but one to enhance the learning.

3.  Learning all of the new tools available. (this is where consistent PD helps)

4.  Must be specific with expectations.

5.  Getting the students up to speed. We were surprised how much they didn’t know. (folders, labeling, cameras, audio, etc.)

6.  Planning next year’s role-out.

7.  Continuing with the same vision without losing the excitement and drive, unity in faculty, and pushing students to evaluate their usage.

Advice

Finally, the staff reflected on advice they would give to other schools interested in implementing 1:1.

1.  Visit other 1:1 schools and bring a group including – teachers, administrators, board members, and STUDENTS!

2.  Must have the infrastructure in place to support the needs of all students in every classroom. (wi-fi, projectors, etc.)

3.  Enthusiasm is contagious, don’t let a small group of nay-sayers hold back what is best for the students.

4.  Must have sustained professional development. (We are bringing Apple back this year as well)

5.  Kids are kids, they will push limits, play games, get off task, etc. but you wouldn’t take away all the books in the school because someone was reading when they weren’t supposed to, would you? Sometimes they need a break!

6.  Finally, you are still in CONTROL of what happens in your classroom – classroom management!

Written by sfarnsworth

June 29, 2010 at 1:50 pm