Thursday, January 31, 2013

Puppets = Engagement

Puppets in education are a great idea.  Teachers can use the puppets to model question asking and promote critical thinking.

Stewart, the kids say he looks like me 

Pi Turnstyle, my 3rd puppet
So the question of the week is "What's with the puppets?"  and it is a fair question.  I was working with some finger puppets recently and started figuring out the green screen video program.  I have turned to puppets because I like puppets and someone has to be in these videos.  I came up with a fun concept the "Tweet of the Week" staring Candide Cow.
I have to say that I really enjoyed making the video, but I have worked with more expressive puppets (sorry Candide).  I asked youtube to teach me to make muppet style puppets and I have been working on them non-stop for a week. Here is the short playlist I built. 

The next step is to roll out a Julius Casar puppet project. I plan on having the freshmen film an all puppet cast Julius Caesar.  My pedagogical goal is to get them to work with the text as much as possible.   While the puppets are performing the students will have the script in front of them so that they will be actively reading and thinking about the text. The goal is text work and the puppets are a tool.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Building Your PLN CO-llaborate

I have been so busy building my PLN I have not taken a moment recently to share my journey. As I get to know people I love hearing about what they are working on, and often I find we have overlapping projects. Some of the greatest work I have done online has been the result of connecting with people and accepting invitations to collaborate.

As a teacher I have worked in small progressive environments that encourage teachers to work together and this has been a great experience, but imagine pulling a partner from a pool the size of the internet! I have met some great teachers who have done just that.

The #coflip crew is an amazing COllective of teachers working together to implement flipped instruction in a meaningful way. At the center of this COllective are Andrew and Cheryl. Andrew on the east coast and Cheryl on the west, they plan together each night and they have developed a great supportive community around flipping and collaboration.  We just Launched a website to share the great work that we do:

Another group I am enjoying Collaborating with is my podcsating group. Jeff Bradbury has brought together the EducatorTech podcsat. Jon Samuelson, Jeff Herb, Jeff Bradbury and myself talk about technology, implementation issues and sometimes llamas.  You can find this work on

Twitter is full of invitations, be on the lookout and respond with a "Yes. . . and."
The other evening after the had launched, Cheryl sent an email out to the group and ended with #bettertogether. It warmed my heart.

Give it time, but think about it, collaboration is higher order stuff in the world of social media development.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Challenge = Engagement

high school student engagement, classroom management, #edchat, #patue
you can't assume engagement
The other day I was talking with a colleague and he was talking about all the work his students have to do before the semester's end next week.  He described the final projects and presentations the students are working on.  My question in response was "So what are you doing for your own engagement." We spend so much time focused on student engagement that it is worth a moment to examine our own.
Certainly as a teacher I have a number of external motivating factors, like my desire to stay employed.  I am motivated by my goal of helping students become better writers, but I have to admit I really enjoy being inspired and learning alongside my students.
For curriculum design this means I work in broad goals and change the "how" of reaching my goal sometime even between sections of the same prep on the same day.  I keep myself constantly working with new ideas about which tools I will ask the students to use to meet the learning objectives.
student engagement in middle school
Engagement can depend on environment
My learning objectives have remained largely unchanged through a period of rapid tech integration.  By making sure I make choices about which tools to use in class based on meeting my learning goals, I can maximize my time and energy.  It seems to always come done to a race to learn as much as we can before June.
I keep myself in the game by learning new tools and developing new challenges, how do you do it?  Drop a note in the comments.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Connected Teaching: A Daily Workflow Model

Step One: Get a great idea of a tool from Paul Blogush.
I loved his post on using having his kids make RSA style videos.  In fact, I have thought about this post daily since I read it.  I love the idea of a video and then a voice over because it lends itself to writing at all stages.  The novelty will make the project engaging and the tech variable on my campus (BYOD with many mac laptops) makes this possible.  If I ask the kids to bring their tools, almost all show up equipped.  For those without, we have a lab and the project is in groups of 3-4 students.  (not all roles are tech-dependent)

Step Two: Have a good accessible source of content that you need the students to know and "own" as much as possible.
The Objectives this week include some direct grammar instruction.  There is an ongoing debate as to the efficacy of direct instruction of grammar, and the choices I have made for the freshmen reflect careful consideration.  Drop a comment if you want to hear more about that.  For this project we are using a book called Sentence Composing for High School by Don Killgallon.  I like this text because of the way it focuses on the function of the part of speech more than the name.  The exercises in the book move towards independent writing referencing models.  The explanations are clear and the examples are all from published works.

Step Three: Forget to Plan
Knowing that grammar was on the menu, I forgot to finish planning.  I walked into class, put the Journal prompt up and realized I had never figured out HOW I was going to get my students to know and own this grammar work.  I thought of the RSA video and I created an assignment.

I have given each group one of the grammar lessons.  The group will be working in class to develop an RSA style video for their grammar skill (appositive phrases, participial phrases, prepositional phrases).  The goal of the video is to make the selected grammar concept clear through illustrations and examples.  The sentences used should be a combination of your own sentences and the examples given in the book.

Step Four: Try it Yourself!
I made this video to help my students optimize success.

 I would have liked this video to be error free, but I don't want the kids to worry their product to perfection. We are working quick, in broadstrokes and loving acknowledgment of the process.

The plan is that over the next few days they will script, shoot, and narrate these videos.  I will post the gallery here when they are done.

. . . . . Days later. . . .

So The kids have finished their videos and I have a playlist on YouTube.  I even reached out to Don Killgallon and his wife to let them know what my kids were doing with their book.  Don's response was great and he asked if he could share the videos with a class of pre-service teachers he is working with.

The next step is designing the second half of the learning experience.  Each student is familiar with at least one of the lessons.  Now I will ask them to use the youtube playlist to learn another type of phrase and write a paragraph using that type of phrase to describe the video they learned it from.