As Don Morton wrote, “It’s a pity that CG tech teams are not eligible for Best Actor Oscars.” In the early days of Pixar, the technology was as interesting to watch as the early short films were. Now we can watch Avatar, Toy Story, and Harry Potter and become lost in the movies because technology supports the story. I have learned over the past eight weeks is that there are many new technologies that teachers can incorporate into their lessons and unit plans. I have also learned ways in which these tools can continue to be secondary to the content. Before I took this course, I was concerned that there was such momentum building to apply the software, hardware, and on-line sites that skills and content would lose priority. As a social studies teacher, I believe that learned skills are lifetime assets while content and projects are the means in which we contextualize the skills. During this course I have seen that many other teachers share the view that new technologies should continue to support learning goals and philosophies in innovative ways. The question was how would I use new media and technologies in class in ways that the content or skill are retained and new skills developed?
The first step is simply to try. A trusted colleague of mine shares the truism, ” It’s the people who show up who change the world.” She’s right. The Jacobins took the trouble to show up in 1789. Ordinary Germans came out one night to the Brandenburg Gate in 1989, expecting to cross to the West. We have to be enthusiastic and try new projects. Usually this means listening to hear what colleagues or students are working on in order to find inspiration. That is what I have enjoyed about COETAIL Tuesdays and weekends. It is amazing what other teachers are tying and at what grade levels. Speedgeeking was a great experience as was visiting with teachers at lunch and on breaks to hear what ideas they were developing. The blog posts are an incredible resource for understanding how the technologies can support learning in an everyday environment.
Trying includes the risk of failure. This morning I was teaching frame story as a narrative device to the sophomores so that they might use it to narrate their Family History Projects. I had wanted to use Youtube to show an early scene from Kung Fu Panda in which Po, and the viewer, are introduced to the world of kung fu. As in teaching, what worked in class on Tuesday would not stream on Thursday. I had to have patience, a sense of humor, and advice from students in order to try to make it work. In the end, I could not get the video clip to work effectively. I had my copy of Wizard of Oz as a quick back-up and used a scene in which Dorothy lands in Oz to teach the device. Take risks; prepare for the unexpected.
I also have to look for more opportunities to support others in finding new and unique ways of using the tools. I have been supporting students as they use the new digital media, for example. My students have been working on a Family History project this quarter in which they have practiced the steps and skills of authentic historical writing. It has meant that I have
encouraged them to find PDFs of old newspapers and documentaries on-line as well as applying Creative Commons, when applicable, for the work of others. I learned about Creative Commons and how to use it in a COETAIL session. It has made me more aware of emphasizing where images and videos are coming from when students write or create projects. It has reminded me of how often I use images from the Internet without proper attribution. Being respectful of the academic work of others is a skill and demonstrating the use of Creative Commons licensing is a way to help teach that skill. I have also learned to move away from the “audience of one” approach to student (and my own) writing. While still in development at my school, the hope is that when my students publish, they will be encouraged, as Yokohama International School colleagues suggested, to generate traffic to their sites. They will probably rely mostly on Facebook. We will see what other promotional forums they use and how useful each media appears to be in increasing interest in their research. In this way, I will be following them. The real-
world result should be that they will have some conversations with individuals outside the high school who will compliment and critique their research and conclusions. My students will be briefed in advance on the possibility of having hurt feelings when they invite academic feedback. I will share an American Historical Association journal article and a reply from a following issue to illustrate how can respond, both accurately and inaccurately, to the work of others. Then students who are interested in publishing will go forward. Using all of these tools will support all us in taking our work from standard research essays to published, engaging, interesting, and original history. I have enjoyed blogging and I look forward to writing for a real audience, as well.
This inherently includes encouraging students to explore what they are curious about. Michael Wesch claims that our “goal to re-inspire curiosity and imagination” will be key to
students using the new media to explore content in a “pull, pull” environment. The success of my Family History Project is based on asking the students to interview someone they wanted to know more about, perhaps a family member or family friend. Students then choose an element from the interview to learn more about through background research and devising a workable research question to answer. It has all been directed by what they wanted to learn. In this case, the technologies that we are using for research are becoming part of the background because the students’ individual focus should be on finding information to fill in research gaps and crafting the story as a mix of interview and background narrative.
For me this has meant working more closely with colleagues at my school and from Kanto schools. I have frequently used the AP United States and AP European History listserv to keep up with what other teachers were doing and working on. I have found journals form the American Historical Association and Organization of American Historians to be enlightening when trying to understand new directions the scholarly fields are taking, the projects professors have tried with new technologies, and valuable new books and articles. I am happy to add the group that I worked with on the final project. Each of us looked at the project, its design, and possibilities with different points of view. Because I respect each of them very much professionally, I realized how important it was for me to set aside my own ideas for the project and closely listen to what was being proposed and how feasible other approaches really were. By taking COETAIL, this may be what I have learned the most. I need to continue to set aside my views of things like Facebook and Twitter for professional and classroom use and be open to what reputable colleagues and course instructors have to say about their own experiences. I have to give it a try.
I have learned that there is a variety of new media that can be used as an efficient avenues to publishing student work. Now students will be invited to choose between making a video, digitizing their work, digitizing original manga, or recording a podcast. Following the advice of another trusted colleague, I want to leave the specific choice of tools open for the students to choose. This will help me to learn about new
applications as students work with projects using media that I have not heard of yet. The overarching goal, though, remains. The students will write an original research paper based on an oral interview and background research. They will then learn how to revise their research paper to make conform to the conventions of another media for publication. For example, students will learn how to write for a listening audience requires a different approach than if you are writing for a reading audience. The final objectives include the production of student work that is based on sound research and which can be shared with a wider audience for discussion and feedback. This is where history writing acquires its dynamism: in the exchange and testing of ideas and conclusions.
Publishing student work is only possible because I have such a great team at my school. I am blessed to have my high school principal, head of media technologies, and department head. They have all been enthusiastic supporters of this and other projects. We share a vision and its their support and collaboration which make it possible.
I think that if this project reaches the standards set this year, then the technologies used should quickly become secondary to the scholarly debate. Just as the lights and
microphones used in Le Boheme help to deliver the production, the value is in the opera and the performers. Writing in 1928, Alexei Gan said of film production, “The cinema is the aggregate of the optical and mechanical apparatus….The cinema must become the cultural and active [tool] of society. It is essential to master the scientific and technical methods of cinema in order to learn how to display reality…”1 Man with a Movie Camera is an example of early film becoming embedded as social communication. With practice we will learn how to embed the new technologies in our teaching and learning. There are some good ideas emerging already for how to do this.
With practice I will learn better how to incorporate new technologies into lessons so that the content and essential questions stay in the forefront and the new technologies are the vehicles of teaching.
Garry Leroy Baker
Rice Fields by Me
Path with Flowers by Me
Dragon Boat Scrimmage by Me
Flower by Me
Running Script by Me
Dramatic Technology by Me