on using voice thread …

voicethread2i really like the idea of using video with sound to allow students to become more aware of their presentation, speaking, and grammar skills.  i noticed it when i did the voicethread with Korn who didn’t realize how he really sounded until he heard it played back to him — “that’s me?”

i would like to use voicethread and/or some other video to have students present some of their papers or project in class to give them this awareness.  it seems that when kids read their papers aloud, they tend to find their corrections much more frequently than when read silently.  this skill is so important for my grade 11 english skills students who struggle with writing and grammar so much.


additionally, i think they need to develop their speaking/presentation skills and this could be done in a safe environment where they are able to view themselves privately on their computers or as a class so others can give feedback.

doodling just got quite expensive!

i like the article on the 23 points because it could a great starting point for a discussion on how to handle a classroom with every student having a notebook or tablet in front of them. we could start the convo with understanding that before laptops, some students would doodle when they got bored … now that doodling has turned into a 2,000 USD pencil/pen! :-)  this half-serious analogy is just an attempt to drive home the point that computers are not the CAUSE of distractions or lack of attention in the classroom — it’s simply another, albeit quite expensive, tool for them to relieve their boredom or just to chill out for awhile (point #2 from http://deangroom.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/23-things-about-classroom-laptops/) .

now on to the 23 points that i found most useful and/or striking …

#6 Search — to be honest, i have learned how to use some of the more “advanced” search features but i don’t find myself using them much at all.  but, then again, i’m not using my searches to find much academic, university related research.  supposedly, this will be a skill that students will need to have in university but i need to find out more before i want to spend class time to work on these more complicated searches.

#7 Sage on the stage — great point for some teachers who still insist on standing in front of the class.  i think good teachers move around and have students sit in circles or groups or something similar.  but i’m not sure how beneficial it is for teachers to be online as well unless it means to just show the students that you keep up with them and share online experiences, right?

#8 Learn to use “mass” collaboration tools and create learning spaces — my favorite one!  most students want to be social … many students come to school (beyond being forced by their parents) to socialize … so, let them share, talk, socialize in group but just direct their conversations with specific roles and topics.

#10 Use Diigo–everyday — i just started using diigo and so i’m still getting used to it … i realized that i needed to use because i kept going around trying to find past articles and then spending so much time trying to find the important points … now i’ve discovered highlighting in diigo! :)

#19 teacher will use the same strategies as students when the going gets tough — not sure how to handle this … i guess one way would be to just simply spend time with the more reluctant teachers and show them step-by-step how to do something online or on their computers.  i remember that i started two teachers on using google docs but i didn’t push them — i just kept suggesting to them that what they were doing would be more efficient if they used google docs.  it wasn’t until they finally months later that they asked me to help them set it up … but this was after being their friend and gaining trust.

future of education? prediction not necessary

it seems that futurists in education and other fields often try to come up with an entirely new way of how things will be in, say, 10 or 50 years from now.  it doesn’t seem necessary to try to predict what the future of education will be because it will come for our natural propensity to be connected, to be social, to collaborate, even though sometimes we might not enjoy the company of some in the group.  regardless, the future of education, without sounding very cliche-like, is here already in that we know what works: collaboration.

As the RSA video, Changing Education Paradigms, claims, “Great learning happens in groups … Collaboration is the stuff of growth”.  Here they are referring to not breaking them up into groups whereby they are separated and judged differently, creating some disjunction.  We see this in how we track students based on age, standardized tests, intellectual prowess, and language and math ability, or whatever allows for convenience.  as the video points out, how archaic is it to group students by age level?  can a 8-year-old learn something from a 6-year-old?  better yet, can a grade 9 child work collaboratively to solve a problem with a grade 7 student?  are the main reasons for tracking have to do with convenience and the management of students?  is it to also prepare them for the division of labor of the workforce?  if not, isn’t setting up diverse groups (i.e., different ages, intellectual abilities, styles, ideas, etc) more truly reflective of our adult society?

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to return to the title of this blog, it does not really matter what or how the future of education will look like because whatever it will be, it will involve collaboration, people socializing, connecting via face-to-face or via online.  we see evidence of this more and more in how we are desperately trying to stay connected with others and to share common interests around activities and ideas.


flippin’ out

” … education’s value-add is and will be in the coaching and troubleshooting when students are applying their learning, and in challenging students to apply their thinking to hands-on learning by doing and teaming:  so let’s have them do these things in class, not sit and listen.   We know that collaboration is a critical skill set which can’t be developed easily either on-line or at home alone– let’s have students learn it with us in our classrooms.   Let every classroom be a collaborative problem solving laboratory or studio.” (from http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/1534)


i love this quote above for many reasons but the reason that stands out for me the most is the last line because the idea of having students come together in some room to chat, share, discuss, argue, problem solve, evaluate, apply, etc is idealistically fantastic. :-)

there are 3 things that i like about the flipped classroom:

  1. having more time to work individually and collaboratively with my students during class time
  2. allows for differentiated instruction
  3. working on inquiry and problem solving during class instead of them doing this at home in isolation or with their friends because it is difficult for many of my students to do school work with their parents since dad/mom generally do not speak english

these are the things that i don’t like about the flipped classroom:

  1. having to make videos
  2. being the only one or one of a few teachers in the school doing this … thus, possibly getting resistance from the students
  3. for the less motivated and/or disciplined students, anticipating the resistance to watching videos at home … excuses coming from all fields … and, if so, how to work out their time during class when they don’t have the background knowledge

this is mostly theoretical for me because my current teaching position would make it quite difficult for me to do a flipped classroom given the population of students that i have (5 students with special needs for English Skills 11) and given that my other classes are Study Skills and in-class support (i.e., i attend the mainstream classes with some of my students to give them support).

computer applicationS vs. computer application

after reading David Warlick’s article, What Difference Might One “S” Make? (http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=1954), i started to agree more with the idea of learning both computer applications and computer application, with the latter being much more important and the former being necessary to get students going since we can’t assume that all students are so proficient and comfortable going off on their own to discover how a particular program works.  for instance, i still see some students struggling or trying to make sense of excel when they are asked by their math or science teachers to create a table and analyze some data with excel.  this might also be true for teachers who hardly ever use it so they too don’t feel comfortable assigning any project involved with excel.

another question came to mind after reading his article was how to control for plagiarism if schools set some standard or project that students must complete to show some level of technology proficiency before they move up a grade.  how or who would set the standards to be learned at each grade level and/or for graduation since we do not really know what an important 21st century skill looks like?  i would suspect that some or many students would not take it seriously and just try to gather up some project or answers from the internet and pass it off as their own.  this is what seems to be happening today in many of the classes that i’ve observed in which “real” learning is not taking place.  instead, i am seeing mediocre researching going on and no higher level evaluating/synthesizing of information.  this leads me to ask then, would doing a project-based, end of the year assessment really cause students to think critically?  or are we looking more for students’ ability to apply technology to solve and/or create?

in response to the above questions, i would say that for those who do take it seriously, and for those schools who also take this assessment seriously, it could be set up with grade-level teachers as a group evaluation and then have each student present their projects.  this way would not only put some pressure on the student to create a more polished product, but it would also allow the students to practice their presentation skills (without prior preparation, of course, given by faculty and/or peers).

Categorizing the Fluid …

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

When i initially came across these four bullet points above, i didn’t give them much thought until i went to the edutopia site that Prensky wrote.  now it has taken shape and meaning for me because it is so simple yet powerful.  breaking it down, in a sense, for us with four bullet points gives us (i.e., educators) the chance to see where we are in terms of using technology with our students because it has a built-in hierarchy, although it does take some time to thing about what he means by “old things” and “new things”.

it is interesting for me to think that i do have control over “how much” i use technology in my lessons.  in other words, as a teacher, i can either finds way to carry out my lessons in a new way that students might find more engaging or do it the old way but still be successful.  i mean “successful” here in that i could still get the same learning across (most of the time, right?) by not exposing or using any form of technology.  using technology in this instance would mean pushing myself to think of a new way to present a particular lesson to my students that would makes things easier for me and the students as well as have them learn some new way of doing things that they could possibly use in the future.

as for doing old things in new, creative ways, the first thing that comes to mind is using google docs because it has become a major player in many classrooms at my school.  the rewards of having students working together on one document, typing up their thoughts as they go along, saving it later to work it on at home, and having a record of who did what could not be done without technology.

but i don’t want to just expose students to cool or interesting new ways of using technology for certain tasks.  since i work with high school students, i try to constantly ask myself, will they (students) be using this in the future? and/or will they need this skill in college?  since we do not really know for sure which skills be more desirable in 5-10 years from now, i often catch myself just saying ‘maybe’ to many of these new or emphasized skills.  for instance, i love how easy (seamlessly) it is now to ask students to collaborate on a document and to share each other’s work because it’s all centralized within our class site.  now, will the students use or need this in university?  i would say yes because we are seeing students using it now when they are asked to complete a project even when the teacher did not specifically say to use it.


Can someone be visually illiterate?

At the most fundamental level, all this discussion and readings about the lack of benefits of more “traditional” ways of schooling that involved reading and then writing about the text, has made me question the very essence of my schooling and how I now teach my students.  The article in New Horizons for Learning, entitled “Visual Literacy and the Classroom”, captures the relevancy of our need as teachers to move away from traditional modes of teaching and/or somehow incorporate more lessons on visual literacy.

I found the following quotes from the article compelling:

(1) “Currently, in high schools across the country, many students are expected to present complex visual ideas using a variety of multimedia applications without serious direct instruction.”

(2) “As we move to an increasingly visually-dominated culture (Kress, 1998), where students are expected to code and decode complex messages in a variety of media, shouldn’t literacy instruction include visual media as well?”

(3) “Kress has demonstrated a shift in science textbooks revealing the switch from visuals that support text explanations to text that supports visual explanations. Kress argues that graphics hold more meaning and are central to the meaning of modern texts and meaning-making systems.”

For the first one, I’ve had firsthand experience dealing with this … I’ve tried to model what I expect from my students when I ask them to give me a presentation that requires some visual … but I’ve noticed that for other teachers in the high school, either it is just assumed that they know how to put together an appealing presentation already or they don’t put too much emphasis on the final product.

The second quote above makes me ask a follow-up question: who should be “responsible” for teaching visual/media literacy?  each core subject teacher?  or have a separate media/visual literacy class?  As for core subject teachers taking this on, I get the feeling that many are not trained to that or they are not sure how to conduct such a lesson … thus, leaving students out in the cold, so to speak.

I really like the third quote above because for me visuals carry more meaning but in a different way.  I’m not clear exactly how they work out for me in terms of meaning-making, but I do know that it is more interesting to take a few visuals or pictures and then ask students to talk and write about the photos/visuals.  I find this much more engaging because I’m a very visual person and art/photos/movies have always captured my attention more than listening.  However, I do find more meaning–more deeper meaning and understanding–when I read longer texts or hear a longer lecture such as a TED talk.


This blog is quite special to me because it’s about a student of mine who had a horrible accident in a taxi last year as he and a friend were returning from a party late in early morning hours.  The two boys were 11th graders at the time of the accident: Bank survived with major injuries but has recovered mostly, about 90% back to normal.  However, Korn, was in a coma and has had multiple surgeries and is now paralyzed on his left side.  Korn returned to school at the beginning of this semester and he has made steady progress using his left side of his body and with speech.  Korn went from being an athletic, funny, crazy, smart, popular boy to being in a wheelchair with no privacy: he needs full-time care and has two assistants (his “nanny” and an educational assistant) with him while at school.

Korn is on a special schedule at school and he is in my Study Skills and English Skills classes and I work with sometimes in Psychology.  So, as part of an assignment for Psychology, the students were asked to make a timeline of their lives and incorporate some of the major psychologists (Erik Erikson, Piaget, Freud) in terms of stages of development.  Since Korn has speech issues and can’t use his left hand, I thought it would be a good idea to use Voicethread to help him create his timeline (some students made picture books while others made digital books).  Of course, I didn’t expect it to be so time-consuming!

Some of the issues we had were with the school’s firewall that kept not playing the webcam recording or the voice recording that we attached/saved to each picture.  Since the whole point of using Voicethread was to have Korn create a timeline just using his voice and pics, and to practice his speech (understanding his speech is sometimes difficult), which would hopefully make him become aware of areas where he could improve, we had to practice repeatedly to make sure it was audible and understood by viewers.  Here, I asked our school’s speech therapist, who was working with him already, to assist him in articulation of certain words.

As you can see, the product came out well I think for the following reasons: (1) Korn had great pics from when he was a toddler to his middle school years to most recently, and (2) his great, fun attitude came across well using Voicethread.

Korn’s timeline for Psychology: http://voicethread.com/share/2499542/

Graph the info, please!

I have become a big fan of all these infographics that are popping up everywhere.  I love how they quickly give me the basic information to give me a sense of what is trying to be conveyed.  The succinctness of them makes for a great starting point for, say, a

particular lesson that I could look into deeper if I wanted to pursue it with my students, or it could be a good starting point for my students who wanted/needed a general history orexplanation of a particular topic or idea. And I love how they are sometimes beautifully arranged that captures my attention and want to stay with it for a long time.  To be honest, though, I haven’t used them with my students yet but I just realized that I could soon.

I guess the only limitation is that the students would get just a general understanding and not get much more from it.  However, I think this be should be made clear to the students at first, that a given infographic is just that: a graphic representation of particular information.  The students should also be made aware that infographics are not meant to

 be the final product on a topic, that there needs to be further, deeper investigation carried out to get at some of the whys and hows.  But as a starting point, infographics can be wonderful.  Take, for instance, the website called “good“, which has a whole section dedicated to infogs, and they sometimes or often have a social justice bent to them.  These could definitely be used in social science classrooms and possibly in English lit classes.

For me, I have found myself more interested in infographics that give me a perspective that I was unaware of or surprised me a bit.  Some infogs (pronounced “in-fogs” … my new word for infographics! haha) just seem silly or overdone and therefore either don’t give much information or confuse the reader/me.

Last year, I thought it would be a great idea to have the students do their own infogs but I quickly gave up that idea after I realized how much work and time would be involved in making an original infog.  I think the programs have become a bit easier to produce an original infog but still haven’t ventured there yet. :)  I know that I have downloaded some apps on my ipad2 (“chart soup” and “infographics”) that has a bank of infogs but I was hoping there would be one that helped me create one … no such luck (yet).

Ohhh, the power of sight …

I’m thinking of Michael Shaw’s quote in terms of how we need to understand and be critical of images and visuals including pictures and videos that we see everyday.  The quote is very relevant today because much of what we will receive visually will hopefully transfer over to our students by providing them with that critical, necessary eye.

For me, I’ve never really thought critically about images before university, only sometimes when they were disturbing or when they were different or disturbing.  If the slapped you in the face, so to speak, that’s when I started to step back and say to myself, what’s going on here, what’s happening, what is this thing trying to betray? I know I have been shocked by many images especially war images or images of death or images of sexuality or sex or

simply images that show too much skin, with “too much” being relative.  The only images and visuals that I learned about were from television as well as from magazines and newspapers but the some of the most disturbing images I remember still were from the Vietnam War.  I was born during the time this war was ending, but I still remember certain images of horror and death that really made an impact on me such as the little vietnamese girl running naked in utter terror after some bomb hit her village.

I remember only one university class with an instructor that asked us to look at images seriously and critically and to discuss them at length.  I can recall how wonderful the discussions were because they asked us two to just take one image and look at it from many different angles and have feedback from all the students.  This was a rare opportunity for most of us I think because it felt like most for most of us, it was this type of discussion was new.

For our/my students, I think that these critical thoughts must be examined or images must examined critically in the classroom because, obviously, we are being bombarded with more and more images daily.  And these images can make for a very rich discussion of what is happening in our world.  By simply putting two similar or completely divergent images side-by-side would give way for a complex discussion and enhance learning.
However, these images must be laid out in a way the student could understand, and they first must be given the necessary vocab before any discussion can move forward.