Course 5

The Revolution of Revolutionary Biographies

Realized that I never posted a link to our Middle School U.S. Revolutionary Biography lesson. The format is not UbD, but it is similar and it is the format we use at our school. The steps we have taken have been outline in previous posting, which I will also link to. We continue to work on the lesson, however now that we have time to breath a bit we are also playing catch up in other areas as well. In small schools like ours we were many hats and only have one head! I’ll get back to you with some finished products in the near future!

The links below take you through some of the steps and thought processes from the start of the lesson to where it currently stands. You could also scroll down on the blog and start with the posting titled “A Life Preserver Please!”

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Link to Lesson Plan:

Revolutionary Biographies Lesson Plan

For Rubrics to the lesson check out Diana’s Blog:

Diana’s Blog

Feel free to ask any additional questions that you might have!




Course 5

Life Preserver III

Unfortunately this year spring break came a week earlier than most schools that tend to coincide their breaks with the EARCOS conference. The Friday before break was also another lost day with most of LA/SS class time getting eaten up by an exceptionally lengthy community time at the start of the school day. Needless to say we are officially really behind schedule.

Students did get some work down however. Final biography drafts are almost all complete. That being said there are always exceptions! A few students moved into the peer editing process and were able to give some nice feedback to each other. The goal for Monday is to have all students complete their peer editing so that we can send them off to Mary Dodson Wade for some valuable feedback!

Some real peer reviewing going on here!

Once we have Mary’s comments in hand our kids will be able to finalize their bios. In the meantime students will be able to continue to search, create and transfer visuals into the selected tools for presentation all the while keeping in mind that their target audience will be K-2 students here in Rumbai as well as at our sister school in Duri via Internet. This is an exciting part of the lesson for me. I am looking forward to seeing what tools they’ve opted to use for their historical biographies. What new tool that they may have discovered and we all get to figure out how it all works for what we need it to work for!

More to follow…

Course 5

Life Preserver II

Life Preserver Cont…

With Mary Dodson Wade’s visit over and the foundation set, Diana went to work presenting the biography project to her middle school LA/SS class.  My plan would be to come in as much as I could in between play rehearsals. Since I was not one to be teaching the writing part my primary focus was on assisting kids through their technological endeavors.

Introducing historical biographies

Before the lesson began Diana and I were looking at ways in which we could incorporate technology. The kids had been shown a number of presentation tools throughout the year including, vuvox, voicethread, Comic Life, voki, storyjumper as well as others. These would all be options to the students, but my hope was that some students would be able to locate their own tools. Tools that might better cater to their target audience of K-2 students. I had high self-fulfilling hopes of learning about something new from our student with this option for self-exploration.

The students/teacher list of tech tools grows!

The larger issue for Diana and I became the aspect of collaboration with the outside world. Mary had already physically graced us with her presence, but perhaps she would be willing to continue this little experiment of ours virtually. Diana composed and sent of an email to Mary asking if she wouldn’t mind taking on the roll of editor so to speak. Students would send off their final drafts along with a lovely thank you note to Mary who would in turn offer the students suggestions prior to “publishing” their final drafts. Originally we had planned to only share in person the finished stories to our K-2 students and virtually with the middle school students at our sister school in Duri, three nauseating and bumpy hours away. Then it occurred to us why not let our kids present them to the K-2 students in Duri as well. It would require us to work out some logistics seeing as our students would potentially be using a variety of tools. Skype may work for part of the presentation, but not all. Perhaps screen share would work. Needless to say we needed to wait and see what tools the kids final settle on using and then get out fantastic Tech Coordinator Barry involved!

In the meantime Diana and I would continue to facilitate. Guide the kids when guidance was needed and make sure that they stay the course due to our limited timeline. I was already seeing how easy it was for them to get sucked into one site without exploring others.  So for now students are busy gathering relevant data on their historical figure, finding or creating images to use and ultimately deciding what tools would work best for their presentation.

Stay tuned…

Course 5

A Life Preserver Please!

Here I am in the midst of a school year like never before and less than a month to go before having to present to my cohorts in Bangkok. Everything seems to hit at once this year and this spring was downright brutal. Within a two-week time frame the school was buried with student-led conferences, progress reports, science fair and for me, I was deep into spring play preparations, which was rapidly approaching. I already knew that I would have to abandon any idea of creating a project in my specialty area of art. Those classes had already given way to music and performing arts for the show. It was time to jump on to somebody else’s coetails (betcha’ haven’t heard that one before!). Fortunately for me my lovely wife Diana is also in the program and happily agreed to join forces with me for our final. We bounced several ideas off each other, including working with our friend Chuck in Portland who is a web and graphic designer as well as with our friend and high school teacher Debra in California. Unfortunately neither of these ideas would come to fruition due to the time we had left allotted and with the ship rapidly sinking we were sure to be going down with it. Then out of nowhere a life preserver was thrown! A life preserver in the form of author Mary Dodson Wade.

Mary Dodson Wade contacted our tiny school in the middle of Sumatra and asked if we would be interested in having her visit and speak to our students. It turns out that her husband is an engineer who happened to be presenting a workshop in our neck of the jungle and Mary frequently accompanies his on his business travels. This seemed like too good of an opportunity to pass up for our middle school students, regardless of all the happenings. It also presented Diana and I with a direction for our project.

Mary Dodson Wade has been writing for a number of years now with her first book being published in 1984. Since then she has written over 50 titles, most of which are biographies focusing on important characters in American and Texas history. Although Diana wasn’t planning on teaching biographies until later in the year, this seemed worth pushing forward for.

MaryDodsonWade at Internation Schools Riau

Mary presented to our middle school students on March 8th and 9th. Unfortunately I was tied down with elementary play rehearsals, but thanks to technology I was able to watch her presentation later. Mary gave a lovely overview of the process she goes through in the writing of her biographies. Where the ideas first come from, the thorough research she puts into each subject, finding the tiniest, yet intriguing little details. What was nice to hear her talk about and really emphasize with the kids was the importance of checking the authenticity of their sources. We have talked so much about citing sources and checking the validity of where the information actually comes from throughout this CoETaIL program and to see this real world connection was great. Mary continued by discussing the actual writing process to our kids. Making sure they understood that they not only needed to include the pertinent parts that make the person important in history, but also the ones that are going to really relate to their target audience, which in our case is K-2 students. She then discussed the many drafting processes her stories would go through, much to the chagrin of our students. Yet again here we were getting a real work connection and answer to that age-old middle school question “Why are we doing this?”

Mary’s visit was brief, but nonetheless set us on our way! The students were eager to get started on their own biographies and Diana and I were anxious to let them get started as the clock was still ticking! Now time to incorporate technology!

Course 4

Setting Rules Giving Choices

After much consultation with my peers, viewing the provided video clips and CoETaIL readings I have to honestly say I have come to the conclusion that students will be students and classroom management will be classroom management. Even though the integration of laptops into our classroom and schools today provides us with new challenges in the end the ways in which we handle these challenges in the classroom is not all that different from the ways in which we managed them prior. We need to make sure our kids know the rules that we as teachers and school set and that we are consistent in enforcing them; actively engage our students with lessons of high interest for their age group in order to keep them from “daydreaming” and choices, choices, choices.

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Schools have put into place a set of guidelines to help safely steer our students in the use of the technologies provided including the Internet.  The Acceptable Use Policy was a great place to start when it came to making sure my kids were safe and on task. Making sure your kids not only know and clearly understand your schools AUP can really help nip any issues in the bud. When I have seen potential issues arise I have never hesitated to review the AUP with my class. They signed it and their parents signed it. It’s an agreement. A contract. No excuses. It’s not to say that kids won’t test boundaries, but when they do and there is consistency in the consequences they will more likely then not learn accept and respect those rules if they wish to continue partaking in the use of the schools laptops. I always try to role model these best practices as well whenever I can. When they see you doing it on a regular basis it becomes more obvious as to what the expectations are and truly how unreasonable it is to have them in place.

Keeping students actively engaged is vital to good classroom management with a laptop program. Lessons need to be created that are of high interest. Know your students well. No matter how much planning you put into a unit nothing ruins it more for say a middle school class if it is “uncool” or not practical. We have standards to teach and not everyone is interested in the same things, however with the abundant amount of resources and options out there today every student can find someway of making the dullest topic interesting to them. When I can I try to give my student the opportunity for exploration and let them ultimately make the decision for which tools they decide to use for the assignment. It is that comfort zone that keeps students feeling safe, focused and engaged.

I’ll admit that technology is not like any other tool we’ve had in schools before and the access to information that it provides at our and our students fingertips in almost immeasurable.  The temptation that this provides to stray is great, but it’s when that curiosity is harnessed and utilized that our students can really excel.

Course 4

In the year…

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What will education look like in 15 years and how will technology have played a role in the shaping of it? I wish I had a crystal ball, but since I don’t I’ve turned to my sons Magic 8 Ball for answers (mind you unlike technology the Magic 8 Ball has not changed since I was a small boy).  So without further ado…will technology play a major role in the reshaping of education? Shake…waiting for inky purple bubbles to clear…answer revealed…”Without A Doubt”! Unfortunately that is the extent of the Magic 8 Balls powers. It does not reveal how technology will change the face of education in 15 more years so I’ll have to take a swing.

Throughout the entire CoeTaIL program one common theme continue to resurface for me. It is the idea of networking. The future of education will depend upon social networking. Kids are already learning about things without our help. Our role will continue to grow as a facilitator. Upon completing our latest readings, watching vodcast and then setting out on my own in search of where the future of education lies I found that this idea of networking continued to resonate throughout. MOOCs or learning philosophies such as rhizomatic learning all require individuals to seek out and create networks.

Massive Open Online Course or MOOC’s have grown exponentially since it’s first course in 2008. The idea that education can not only be free, but also caters to the individuals interests and connects them with others who in turn share similar interests. It all revolves around creating a learning network through collaboration, participation, sharing and differs from a traditional educational format in the sense that the participant can determine where the learning takes place, what they learn and whom they learn with.

Education is already changing because of technology and will continue to do so at a staggering pace. However the disparity between “good” schools and “bad” schools will continue to grow. And by “good” schools I mean schools that can continue to grow and move forward with technology. Schools that have the leadership, vision and of course financial means to do so. Schools that cannot keep pace will suffer as will the level of education that it can offer to better prepare our students for a future immersed in technology. Teaching overseas in this sense most certainly has its advantages. Many international schools are on cutting edge with technology or have the desire and means to do so. As long as this is the case I expect to continue teaching in and growing alongside with them. These are the schools that I will seek out one it comes time to actively recruit. I’ll continue to lean on my established social networks in order to stay active and to stay current. Refining them as times and needs change. Doing what I can to see that as long as technology is relevant, which in 5, 10, even 15 years it will most certainly be, that my students are aware of its significance and necessity in the real world.

Course 4

Flipping Out!

The concept behind a flipped classrooms or reverse instruction is brand new to me and I’m not sure I have fully grasped the idea yet. I’m in the processing stages. Perhaps by the end of this post I’ll have done enough thinking out loud to come to a clear decision. Right now I am trying to figure out what big ideas really separates a flipped classroom today from a classroom 20, 30 years ago or more in which an ordinary instructional video or filmstrip was used by a teacher and viewed by students to introduce key educational concepts. A flipped classroom is an old idea done in new ways. New tools and technology has made it much more accessible than in the past and no longer is class time taken up watching the instructional video. Now every student has access to the video or vodcast at any time. The learning tasks can be done at home with a flipped classroom enabling students to apply what they’ve learned during “real” class time and as teachers we get to cut to the chase so to speak. Creating activities that challenge and extend the learning through individualized instruction and differentiation utilizing actual instructional time. Our role as a facilitator for students grows in this kind of classroom environment and can flourish because hypothetically we now have the time to do so better.

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Okay, so a flipped classroom is already looking better to me. Now how as an art teacher can I successfully implement a flipped classroom or reverse instruction. The website The Flipped Classroom Network has an abundance of resources available to teachers and covers many subjects. However, what it does not have a lot of ideas for is flipping the visual arts classroom.  An Internet search led me to very little additional information.  In one article I came across in School Construction News former art university art instructor, Marvin Bartel says that flipping the classroom in art programs throughout the United States may actually teach art more effectively and at a time where arts programs are suffering due to economic restraints be a way to lesson the monetary strain.

So what will reverse instruction look like in my classroom then? Most certainly I can see it assisting me in being able to develop students artistic skills outside of the classroom. Through vodcast at home students could really sit down and work through techniques until they felt comfortable and accomplished prior to returning to the art room. Being able to work without the stigma of “your artwork looks so much better than mine” would be huge for student entering upper elementary and middle school where students are beginning to search for personal identities through the arts, sports, and school in general. Working in this manner may also instill a passion and life long appreciation for the arts. Having the classroom time to then really just sit down and work individually with students, helping create a lesson that best works for them and that they can feel successful with would be extremely rewarding for me as a teacher. It looks like I’ll just have to take a stab at it and hope this is what it’s all about.

Course 4

Casting a Net over the NETs: Meeting the Standards

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The way in which technology integration manifests itself in the classroom is always changing. New tools arrive at a staggering pace and are constantly redefining the way in which we do things in the classroom. However the way in which technology integration itself works remains constant. Boni Hamilton describes integration in her 2007 book “IT’s Elementary!: Integrating Technology in the Primary Grades” as when “teachers use technology to introduce, reinforce, extend, enrich, assess, and remediate student mastery of curricular targets.” The key point that Hamilton makes is that in order to actually integrate technology we need to go way beyond simply using the tools that our schools provide but to actually use them in constructive ways while embedding them into the schools curriculum.

All of this cannot be done on a whim. It requires teachers and administration buy in. Inserting the NETs standards into curriculum mapping is a common start to “ensuring” that teachers are at the very least thinking about integrating them into the classroom. It doesn’t however mean that they are meeting them. In order to ensure that they are being taught teachers need to plan for their use. They need to take advantage of the vast resources already available to them in their schools and/or online in order to extend the learning that is already meant to be taking place in the classroom all the while actively engaging all students involved. Collaboration amongst colleagues across the curriculum and/or their network of experts on the Internet is also essential to guarantee a rich and far reaching experience that ensures that students are in constant contact with the technology standards regardless of subject area. In planning for the inclusion of NETs teachers are able to see how they align with their own subject standards or that of their collaborators. This would make assessment of the NETs simply part of a teachers regular assessment tools. Common assessments across the curriculum could also be established and used a certain number of times throughout the year. The school would then be able to self assess their level of success through the collection of data on a regular annual cycle. Appropriate adjustments could then be made to help solidify the successful integration of technology standards throughout the school.

Course 4

It’s Time to Grow Up and Taking Responsibility

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The expectation that a classroom teacher is solely going to be responsible for and able to successfully meet each NETs standard is highly unreasonable. The obligations already imposed upon classroom teachers or specialists are difficult enough to accomplish by school years end and the onus put upon them just continues to grow. On top of all that we also forget that not all teachers have jumped on the tech train yet, even at schools where technology is being embraced. Many are intimidated by technology or again feel inundated with other obligations to want to even bother spending the extra time to integrate technology into their planning.

So whose job is it to teach the NETs in our schools? In my mind it is still the teacher’s responsibility along with the support technology coordinator. It does take a real commitment of time, effort and perhaps most imperative a willingness to learn about these standards. Teachers need to take an active role in seeking out professional development opportunities that will assist in their quest for understanding the NETs. Rely upon others with more knowledge in the area such as the tech coordinator at school or even by participating in online social networks that share a similar desire to learn about integrating the NETs. ISTE has a great support group called Community Ning for teachers who are there to share and support ideas for integrating technology and all the while incorporating the NETs.

Having a better understanding of the NETs along with taking an active role in integrating the technology into the classroom through collaborative planning will help ensure that these standards are being taught. The administration must also support the processes. Requiring all teachers to link NETs into curriculum maps can effectively reinforce and further extended what is already being taught in the technology classrooms into their own classrooms and beyond!


Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!

My wife passed this on to me noting my habit of doodling during staff meetings. Great little video. So grab some paper, a pen, push play and doodle away! It’s okay!