The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching

“This is why we do what we do here. You’ve done your research; now you need to build something that matters.”

I was so excited to read this, because I have been struggling to find a way to express my exact feeling about technology in the classroom. Lo and behold, that expression has already been stated! In the article linked above, sixth grade teacher Shelley Wright talks about a project she did with her students about the Faces of the Holocaust. The reason I love this quote so much is because I think it demonstrates how technology can only take you so far- it is crucial to remember that a student must also do their own thinking and their own creating. I was not surprised to hear about how uneasy her students were with this part- again, I feel like too much reliance on technology (find a website, print the website, make a poster- bing, bang, boom? Where’s the actual learning process here?) limits students’ ability to use their own brain and start from scratch. This article demonstrates that even thought it might be intimidating, it is possible, and I encourage more teachers to take Ms. Wright’s approach and implement it in a way that fits the needs of their own classroom.

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Evolution of Get Lucky

I heard this cover on the radio this morning, and I absolutely love it. This YouTube artist has taken one of the singles from Daft Punk’s latest album and remixed it throughout the decades. He does a great job of keeping the spirit of the original tune, while blending elements of different 20th century pop music styles and themes. To hear the original, click here.

While I was listening to this song, I got an idea for a class project. In a nutshell, students take a specific historical event and imagine how it would have happened in other historical contexts. For example, how would the Founding Fathers have gone about writing the Declaration of Independence in the Roaring 20’s? Or amidst the political and social whirlwind of the 1960s? It would be a challenge for students to reevaluate their knowledge of not only the historical event itself, but also the time period in which they are placing it. Obviously we already had a country and a Constitution and a President in the 1960s, so what elements of history would need to be rewritten to fit their story?

I could see this project being done in the upper elementary grades or in an English or History class at the secondary level. Students could break into groups, script and storyboard, and create a video as a final project. A rubric outlining the specific historical research that must be included would be provided, and could even be created collaboratively between the teacher and the students.

What do you think, Internet? Have you seen this (or something similar to this) done before in a classroom? Can you think of any other fun ways to combine history, english, and technology?

My first ever attempt at photo editing

My first ever attempt at photo editing

Try to contain your jealousy. I know, these skills are unparalleled. Especially the horse.

I just discovered a photo editing website called Pixlr. The site was initially overwhelming, but my coping mechanism for situations like that is to find a few steps that I can do well, then repeat them over and over until they are second nature. At this point, I can “lasso” a chunk of an image, copy it, and paste it onto another background. I did this for several pictures similar to this one, and when I started on Zorro, I decided to go a step further and experiment with actual drawing- hence the horse.

If you squint your eyes and pretend Zorro has a back brace and the horse is wearing a black bag over his head, then it almost looks like a legitimate piece of photo editing. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Some musings about timed tests

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I would be highly surprised if anyone reading this has never been given a timed test- whether it’s as simple as a math fact quiz or as intense as a final exam, I think we can safely say that we’ve all been there. I am currently enrolled in a six week semester at my local community college, and the midterm exam we took today got me thinking. It was 50 questions, multiple choice, and the professor set a timer for 30 minutes as soon as he walked in the door. Not exactly an unheard of amount of time for a 50 question test, but what was concerning is the fact that he didn’t wait for everyone to be ready, he just set the timer and let it run. Students were scrambling to their seats, looking for pencils, verifying directions or instructions- does this sound like an appropriate setting for a learning assessment? Even though I felt fairly confident about my knowledge of the subject matter, I felt anxious and uneasy given the fact that I was constrained by time. I found my eyes blurring over and more than once, I had to force myself to go through the motions of reading the question and filling in the answer. Had I not been restricted by the relentless tick, tick, tick of the timer, I probably would have finished in the same amount of time, but without the anxiety and blurry eyes.

After the exam, I did a quick Google search to see if I could find any research confirming the pros or cons of timed tests. Many of the studies I found did indicate that students do not perform to the best of their ability when a test is timed. In many ways, it goes against what I have been taught in my graduate classes about how to check for understanding and to assess students’ learning.

What do you think, Internet? Are timed tests okay in some situations? All situations? No situations?

Scoop.It- My new obsession!

Scoop.It- My new obsession!

As if it wasn’t hard enough to keep myself focused and motivated to finish everything I need to do for a Master’s and teaching license (in the midst of beautiful late spring weather, no less), I have now found a new and glorious form of distraction. Luckily, this distraction is not entirely superfluous. It is a social learning website called Scoop.It, and to say that it provides a wealth of information is a major understatement. Similar to Pinterest in layout and design, Scoop.It goes a step beyond the concept of “click the pretty picture and find a recipe/DIY craft/guided reading lesson” and integrates research articles, blog posts, and tutorials. Now yes, I’ll admit that Pinterest has these as well, but what I like about Scoop.It is the fact that as you scroll down your “board”, you can actually see the title of the article and get a quick snapshot of what it’s about, eliminating the Pinterest custom of clicking on the picture to find out where it takes you.

The search feature on Scoop.It is another reason I rank it above Pinterest. One of the frustrations I encounter on Pinterest is the fact that my search results are limited to pins with words in the description that match my search keywords. Pins with no description are essentially left out, and any seasoned Pinterest user knows that you can get away with writing a description by hitting the spacebar or typing a period. On Scoop.It, you create topics which interest you and add keywords to broaden the search range. Scoop.It provides you with suggestions based on your interests, and as I said, “wealth of information” is an understatement. I searched for “iPads in education” and Scoop.It brought me 17,082 results (or “scoops”, as they call it).

So far I have created five topics on Scoop.It ~

Technology in the classroom
Guided reading
Writer’s workshop
Math centers
Classroom management

I have several “scoops” on each topic, and when I have more time, I plan to sit down and peruse them all at length. For now, I will have to exercise a bit of self-control and limit myself to graduate school-related scooping, but I can already tell that this website will be an incredibly useful tool for me and my future classroom.