Course 5 Ideas

Here are some ideas I have for my Course 5 Final Projects with points to consider:

1) Poetry Unit

Each year we do a poetry writing unit. The students use mentor text to gain insight to a variety of poetry forms and compose their own poems to share at a Poetry Cafe with the parents.

In addition to the traditional poetry cafe I’d like to add a video element to this unit where the kids can display their poems in a more animated form as they narrate their work. They will work in groups of three and assist in the production of each other’s work.

a) Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

The students really get into this unit and are proud of their work. Not all of the parents are able to attend. Students would also enjoy sharing their work with relatives and friend overseas.

b) What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

One concern is getting it cleared by my administrators. As a grade level our expectations are that we offer all the kids in each class the sam experience. I might have to see if everyone on the team is willing to

Concern two as always, time. Will the students be able to create a quality product while learning various skills in the time we have allotted, or will I have to extend the unit a little longer.

c) What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

Well laid out time table for the students to see and follow. I would also like to use edmodo for my students to get new perspective from students outside of our class to comment on their videos once completed. I have a couple of friends in other countries that teach similar age levels and use edmodo.

D) What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Creativity. Quite a few of my students like to have everything already setup for them. They like to do and please. Letting them develop their own video and how they want to do that will require some coaching from me to motivate some and reel in others. Some students would also have to get comfortable with sharing their work with others outside of our class.

(I could also have my go getter students compile the poems and have them create a hardback book on Blurb for parents to purchase. The price could be inflated and the extra money can go to an organization my student have been interested in called the Smile Train foundation. We could title the book Poems to Make You Smile.)

 Some rights reserved by Ezalis

2. Wax Museum Project

As part of our non fiction reading unit the students read biographies about different influential people. The students then write a 1 – 3 minute speech that they perform as that person dressed in costume. The students stand behind a station and third grade students are invited to our floor. When they stop in front of a wax figure they are treated to a short informational performance.

I would also like to add a video slant to this unit. I feel this work could be shared and evaluated by a bigger audience. I want to have the kids record their performance in front of a green screen working in small groups and embed the video on their websites. I would also like to have them create a 30 sec elevator performance on their chosen person that could be recorded and housed so students can view them via QR codes on the back of books in the library. The videos can also be looped in the library on the flatscreen TV in the entranceway.

a) Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

It’s adding another dimension of learning and understanding to the project. It’s also widening the audience for their work.

b) What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

Again time and staying aligned with my colleagues.

c) What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

Letting them explore a techniques and ideas I don’t think will be successful and letting them learn from their errors while trying to stay within the time frame. Reminding myself that it’s the journey not the destination!

d) What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

Similar to above. Having the students open to the idea of putting themselves out there. This will be hard for a couple of my student particularly.

Either project will allow the students to be creative, collaborate with others and communicate their work to a larger audience than usual.

What’s in the Future for Education?

Some rights reserved<br />Request to license Andy Heather's photos via Getty Images

What’s in the future? Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. – Malcolm Little

I was watching a report about education institutes on the news the other day. It was comparing graduation rates across the US state to state. Iowa, my home state proud to say, had the highest graduation rate with 88% while the nation’s capital lurked around the bottom of the list at 59%.

As I watched it made me think of the questions posed for this blog posting:

– Will education as we know it change because of technology?                                    – Where and how will you be teaching in 5, 10, 15 years time?

This is my 19th year teaching. In that time I’ve seen huge advancements in technology within the educational setting. Has it influenced the way people teach? Sure it has. Has it always been for the better. No. Will it continue to influence education in the future? Without a doubt.

In the newscast it talked about the common trends of education institutions in America: public, charter, private and online schools.

Educational Institution Pros and Cons (Fox News)

I’ve known friends to teach in all of these different settings, but the online learning is where I see education growing more and more.

The ability to collaborate with someone overseas, deliver education to those that live in rural areas, or offer “at your own pace” classes is becoming more appealing to people’s busy lives.

With online resources like University of the People, GCF Learning, and Khan Academy more people are turning to technology for learning. I wonder if the graduation rates in the states with the lowest percentages would rise if students were given the opportunity to do more online learning.

According to Dan Pink one of our drives/ motivators in life because we naturally find that things are interesting. We want to learn. We want to be engaged and succeed. We want to be part of a community. If allowing kids to learn what they want to learn at their own pace apposes them dropping out of school, then why not provide them with the opportunity to further their education online.

Already I’ve seen my role in the classroom shift from presenter to coach over the past twenty years. I see this trend continuing into the future. Not everything will be like a flipped classroom, but I see teachers moving to working as a coach as students gain content from online resources.

The video below, by C. G. P. Grey, discusses the future of education through technology called Digital Aristotle. It discusses the concept of each person having a tailored education program online suited for their learning style and level. From the way I’ve seen education moving, it makes a lot of sense.

“Stole it? Nope, rEmiXeD it!”

Picture from Celeste Hutchins<br />Remixed by Joe Winston

M Lisa w/ Picaso


Whether it be music, literature or art, remixing is definitely NOT new. Beethoven payed “homage” to Mozart by incorporating elements of Wolfgang’s music into his own.
Grandmaster flash did it and Vanilla Ice sure as hell did it.

What’s the difference now?
From the article 7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College, they claim “The creative act is no longer about building something out of nothing but rather building something new out of cultural products that already exist.”
Created by Mogodore J Bivouac
With the variety of music and video editing tools available it’s hard to resist the urge to take something you see and put your own spin on it. Note the Halloween themed spoof of the classic painting by Grant Wood, American Gothic.

“Remix,” in the sense the competition intended, means a creative work that builds upon the creative work of others. That doesn’t mean simply grabbing or using the work of others. It means using the work of others in a way that is transformative, or critical.  -The “Imbecile” and “Moron” Responds: On the Freedoms of Remix Creators

Take a walk with this video series by Kirby Ferguson entitled “Everything is a Remix”. He explains how people have been remixing throughout time and how it’s become an important tool for people to express themselves.

By allowing students to mix and remix media that they find, they can explore an outlet to express something they want to share. They can change something to fit their emotion/ social needs and maybe use it to touch someone else that didn’t understand the original piece of work, but can better relate to this new adaptation.

Students should be given the opportunity to share their understanding through the various medians the experience life everyday. I let my class combine technologies to make something new, rewrite the words to songs to show their understanding of a chapter, redesign a cereal box to fit our social studies unit.

These concepts aren’t new. The tools we use to do it, an the avenues we use to share it have. Dioramas are still around, but there are other creative outlets that students today would want to have as an option. Letting them have the freedom to explore and create is key.

Show Them, Just Don’t Say It

Sink Infograph 1

I didn’t realize how much information around us is in the form of infographics. While learning about and looking through a wide variety of samples on line I started noticing the ones we have around school that you don’t even have to think about. Your brain quickly reads and translates them for you as you pass by in the hall or wash your hands at the sink.


Sink Infograph 2

One time as I went to the sink to wash my hands, I noticed a 3rd grade student standing in front of the double sink. He started to wash his hands at one sink then cut me off as Iapproached the other and stole it from me. Instead of pointing out what he did, I asked why he switched sinks. His reason? The “poster” above the second sink was more interesting to him and I thought so too.

Infographics, first and foremost, are about visualizations. – Blue Grass Blooger

I like the idea of having infograpics in my room to remind the students of daily procedures, displaying information they need to know, or persuade them to become a better student and person.

One of my school’s Student Learning Results involves service to others. This school does an outstanding job of meeting this goal. In the middle and high schoo students travel to orphanages, build habitats for humanity, dig wells, gather supplies, and purchase and deliver animals for those in need. These are only a few examples. In the lower and upper primary we do fun raisers that exceed monetary amounts that are more than anything I could ever imagine.

The one thing I like to see change about the way we fundraise in the lower grades is that the children are removed from the situation that’s being addressed. They are informed about what the money is going towards, but that’s about it. There’s no direct involvement with the people that benefit. They generally go home, ask for the money and bring it in.

infographic provided by Money Management International

How do you spend you money?

The kids at my school, for the most part, are quite well off and never have to worry about financial matters. I want to get my students more involved in the fundraising by making them more aware of the value of a dollar and their own spending habits.

I’ll use these two infographics to lead us into a discussion about how we get our money and what do we do with it. What’s the difference between a want and a need? What does it mean to give to a charity? Do you appreciate things more when you have to earn it?

info graphic provided by

My ultimate goal is to have the students set a goal of the amount of money our class wants to raise forthe Smile Train Foundation. They can do odd jobs around the house, sell items that they don’t use any more, babysit… something where they earn the money and not just ask for it.

Hopefully, with these hanging in the room they will continue to make my students think when they glance at them or see them out of the corner of their eye.


Guilty Your Honor

I promise to tell the truth…

My confession:

I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Your Honorable Garr ReynoldsI plead guilt.

I will admit that in the past I have committed crimes that apposed several categories from your Top Ten Slide Tips. I have been guilty of almost half of them in this one slide alone:

(Evidence A, Parent Night Keynote, circa 2008)

  1. Crime Committed: Didn’t keep it simple. I felt that I had to fill in all of the blank space with graphics and quotes.
  2. Crime Committed: Too many bullets and too much text. This slide could have been a handout while I had other slides to help guide my description of our writing process.
  3. Crime Committed: Did not always use high quality graphics. I can drop the picture of the computer, have less text, and photoshop the picture to soften it so it complements the slide and not draw all of the attention.
  4. Crime Committed: Used a pre-made template that people have seen over and over. Since this I have created a my own themed template, with my school’s logo, that I use for parent night.
  5. Crime Committed: The last crime committed on this slide I’m ashamed to admit. You can not see or hear it, but each bullet point flew in with a sound affect.
Besides reading your book Presentation Zen, I would like to also incorporate more of Daniel Pink’s six aptitudes of: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning into my presentations. These need to become more intentional. There needs to be a healthy blend of right and left brain thinking when creating and presenting.
There you have it. Over time I have been learning from the errors of my ways.
- I now want to have a limit of 10 or less words per slide.
- I’m not going to be afraid of blank spaces.
- I don’t need to jazz up my slides with sounds and animation!
As you said Your Honor,
“People came to hear you and be moved or informed (or both) by you and your message.”
Below is my revamped show. I used google presentation to show it, but the original is on Notebook software for SMARTBoards.
I made the show more interactive. As soon as the parents come in they have to slide their child’s name to the number of parents present that evening. Most parents have never used one before.
During the day I have each child’s name written on a chopstick that I can randomly draw to call upon. My third slide is a base page that I’ll return to again and again. I’ll draw a random student’s name and that parent get’s to pick the topic for discussion. I’ll do this until all the topics are covered. Each sub page has a link back to the base page.
Hopefully this will add a new dimension to the presentation.

More Than Words

I’ve always felt “iffy” about my class website’s look and feel, but now it’s official… I don’t like it. Is it easy to follow? What do people look at when they go to it? After reading the articles tied to this 3rd COETAIL course, I wondered how many people I have turned away through my mis-use of visual literacy.

The film God George Lucas has a page on edutopia entitled Life on the Screen: Visual Literacy in Education.  He describes the importance of teaching communication in the variety of ways our students are faced with in today’s media dominated society.

“If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?” – George Lucas

This is a strong valid point. We spend so much time teaching kids to decode a variety of reading genres, but spend no time teaching how to navigate a website, explore why certain chords and colors make you feel different emotions, or why certain business logos quickly catch your eye.

Brandon Jones’ article Understanding Visual Hierarchy in Web Design and Anne Aula and Kerry Rodden’ article Eye-tracking studies: more than meets the eye  talks about us as information gathers and how our brain looks for information.

 “…most people are inherently visual thinkers, not data processors.” – Brandon Jones

“…people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously.” -Aula and Rodden

Both of these quotes hinted to me the old phrase, “Less is more.” People want to be able to quickly get in, get what they want, and get out.

Now, back to my troubled class website. How user friendly was my site? Not.

My old class site home page had too much info with a lot of scrolling.


The my administration has decided that our class sites should be a little more uniform for each homeroom.

  • themes can vary
  • content in our side bar should have a similar format
  • create common links to the same curricular information across grade level

One of the things we discussed is to not have so many items in the side bar. We created general categories and nested other topics inside them. I teach chunking information to the class when reading non-fiction text, but never applied it to my own web design. Duh! This helped with keeping the page to a shorter size when opened and didn’t require the surfer to scroll for information.

My question to the admin was, “Who is our target audience? Kids or Parents?”.

The answer was, both. This is where I am struggling. Kids today don’t process information information the same way their parents do. Right now my site is a fusion of kid and adult friendly information and links, but feels to me to be some form of a media literacy Frankenstein.

Things I’d like to do:

  1. Make my current site more user friendly (quick navigation, aesthetically appealing, chunked information) and have a link for the students to use to get to another site that’s more kid friendly to locate their information and links or…
  2. Use an educational social networking site like Edmodo for a gathering place for my students to obtain the information they need. Quite a few of them (even though they’re under 13) are quite familiar with the design and functionality of facebook.

The new look: 4A3  New Class Site 

Please comment or leave any suggestions. I want my site to be more than a collection of words for people to wade through. They should be able to find what they need wether it’s a student or adult.






Would Good Fences Make Us Good Neighbors Online?

How safe is your privacy online?

Privacy. Is there really such a thing any more? How much do others know about you? How much can you find out about others?

I’ve recently watched a video online showing Arthur C. Clarke’s 1974 prediction about today’s internet. In it he describes a world where we can communicate with others around the world, search bank statements, and buy theatre tickets from our homes. The reporter from ABC then questions what impact will the future technology have on our social lives. I wonder if he was thinking about the impact technology would have on our relationships with others or was he seeing a possible stress on our privacy?

I have a sister that is deeply afraid of doing anything online that leaves a digital foot print. Her skin crawls when thinking the idea that someone in the world might have information out there online about her. She was freaked out that I was able to quickly pull up her and her husband’s address, phone number, and past residences in less than a minute. What made her really upset was when I showed her pictures of herself on facebook. She doesn’t have a facebook account, but her friends do. They have posted her picture without her knowledge. In the past people would print their pictures and have them in albums to share in their home. At home… not with thousands around the world.

Sharing photos online has become so easy. Wether your using FB, Instagram, or any other sharing platform, it’s just too easy. I have a friend that likes to post pictures to FB while were out. One time I got a  messages from a friend in the Middle East on my phone telling me to order the sweet and sour strawberry shrimp and realize my friend just tagged me in a photo as I came into the restaurant. That is a little weird to me having people on other continents know where I am and what I’m doing without me telling them. This is the spin off of being so connected though. There aren’t any fences high enough to keep what you put online totally private.

I read an article from Forbes titled “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did” online. In the article it talks about how shopping online or browsing someones site that you’ve created an account on is constantly feeding them consumer information about yourself. The store can use this information to make statistical predictions about you and send direct marketing lures tailored for just for you. Is this an invasion of your privacy? Is it more than looking in your cart at the store? To the father that didn’t know his daughter was pregnant, yes.

A colleague and I debated over this article and talked about being modern day consumer and maintaining your privacy. We both agreed that you have to be smart. In the interest in the case above we went online and started to register for a Target account. As you register, the box for “please send me Target offers and promotions”  is already checked. It even has a link telling you how it’s going to use your information. They tell you. There isn’t a surprise. People just need to be more educated on what to look for while signing up on line. The pregnant young lady had a choice to leave the box clicked or not.

Our daily web searches are being tailored to our interests as well as our music and videos too.  Combining sites one can probably create a collective picture of my favorite foods, colors, teams, vacations spots, restaurants, books, music, movies, and more by monitoring my online behavior. Even though we have an obligation to read the fine print while we conduct our daily lives online, do others have a moral responsibility as well to help us maintain our online privacy?


Digital Footprints: Don’t trip!

Some rights reserved by Rebecca LadDigitital

I’ve been having some really good discussions while doing a lot of online reading about the digital footprints we all leave behind. This has been an interesting topic for me for a few years. It started when I read an article about a teacher in the US being fired because she had a picture of herself online holding a glass of wine while on vacation in France. I’ve thought about my digital footprint and wondered, “What am I telling people about Me online? and, How might others interpret my digital footprints?”

We have all made mistakes in life. The difference with making one today is that it can be  put online and seen by many. Trip down the stairs or say the wrong thing in a blog or vlog posting and it can go viral. Ask the young lady who is now a former student at UCLA about her comments about others in the library in a vlog that was up for only up for a few minutes. Afterwards, she and her family were harassed causing her to drop out of school.

Teachers have always been held to high standards in the public’s eye. Here’s a list of rules for teacher from 1827 and 1900. In each list there are specifics relating to a teacher’s expectations in the public’s eye. How different is it today? I’ve found several sites that discuss teachers being fired over their Facebook accounts. The cases vary from being seen with alcohol, standing in a swimsuit, to dissing your class and school. The rules aren’t listed now, but… they’re there. I know several “high ups” from different companies here in Hong Kong that have no problem letting loose on the weekend and posting about it. If I had any pics or status updates like some of them, I’m sure I’d be going to a job fair next February. There’s a double standard for teachers.

Leaving a positive footprint is necessary. It’s necessary for getting new jobs, maintaining  professional relationships, obtaining and maintaing the trust of the parents and students we work with. Some people are able to juggle a professional trail and personal trail online. The trick is to make sure these paths stay separate and don’t cross. You don’t want your digital footprints to trip over each other.

Teaching students how to be positive digital citizens from an early age is important. Besides teaching them how to respect each other while posting comments and/or pics, we have to teach them how to respect themselves. They need to step back before they hit submit or send and think, “What does this say about others? What does it say about me?”

I have accepted several former students as friends on Facebook. My general rule is that they have to be out of high school for me to accept them. Only a few have had this rule waived by showing they’re highly responsible and mature. These students have limited access to my page, but I’m always amazed at how much they leave open to the world on their own sites.

I have intervened a couple of times when I felt the student had made a posting that was either highly damaging to someone else or to themselves. In one case it was a list of teachers from my school with various adjectives tied to each name. Another was a not so appropriate picture that was self posted with a lewd title.The last was a student informing ALL of Facebook that her cell phone was lost and her new number was ########.

More and more colleges are browsing social networks while accepting new applicants. It’s scary to think that the decisions you made online at 16 could affect your acceptance to the school of your choice. There’s a lesson for high school students to evaluate if they would hire themselves after looking at their digital footprints.

It’s not only schools though. I have a friend that works in the US as a HR director. He says that he is constantly looking on FB for any negative comments towards his company from any of it’s employees. He also automatically does a Google search of any applicant.  As soon as I found out that I was getting a new teammate next fall I Facebooked him. I discovered we had mutual friends. After a few minutes of instant chatting and research, I knew quite a bit about him and his family.

If we’re going to send kids out into a world that proactively searches for their digital footprints, we need to start educating them early on how to portray and maintain a positive online presence. If we don’t make it an aspect in the development of the whole child in school, where will they learn it?

Course 1 Final Project: Whatcha readin’?

Last blog for the first course. Wow! It’s only been a few weeks, but I feel my learning curve has definitely been broadened. I’ve gained a ton of new resources, techniques, perspectives, and professional relationships.

For my final project I tried to apply technology to something I’m already doing in the classroom. Every year I’ve been teaching I’ve had the students do book talks of some sort. I’ve seen this evolve over the past 18 years.

First years: Student reads book and regurgitates basic facts about the book, with little perspective or insight, on a piece of paper read by teacher and hung on classroom wall. Middle years: Students add more perspective and detail. Presentations are given and papers are typed and hung on wall. Recently: Students have been getting more in depth with their book talks by adding perspective of author’s message and writing style, characters, plot and setting. Book talk was presented to class and paper was posted on website for others to see.

So where would I like to take it now? From this course I’ve learned the importance of using the internet and technology as a way of communicating, creating and collaborating. Audience is a huge motivation for raising one’s self standards. When the students have to post something online, the quality of writing and effort put into it grows. So, I want to give them more audience.

I plan on combining our fantasy reading unit’s objectives of summarizing and noticing author’s writing style with iMovie, blogs, and QR codes. Each student will do a book talk on a self selected text on iMovie. After some editing it will be posted to their class blog. They will then make a QR code and place it on the back of the book in the library.
Students that are in the library hunting for a new read can ask for an itouch or ipad as they browse. If they come across a book with a QR code they can watch the book talk.
When they complete the book the student can return to the class blog and leave a comment on their view of the book.

While reading a blog from David Jakes, he quotes the author of The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell on the topic of those you connect with. Jakes says, “Gladwell argues that your close circle of friends think very similar to you; that’s why they’re close friends, and this results in a very strong tie-but they don’t push your thinking much-they think very similar to you. It is the people that you know that are not in your immediate and closest circle of friends that can have a dramatic impact on your learning-they think differently than you, and their thinking can be very divergent from yours.”

I have learned this more and more over the past few weeks. Fresh perspectives are invaluable.  Mark Wagner, Ph.D. give 10 tips for personal networks for educators.  He addresses the quality of feed back from joining and participating in these groups. “You’ll find that you’ll receive much higher quality answers and support by asking your network, than you will by simply searching online.” I have found this true through my own blog, twitter, and this Coetail group.

I want my students to experience the thrill of having someone comment on their blog, or being able to gain new perspectives from others outside their “known world”, and have a way to communicate, collaborate and create using technology.

Here are my plans for implementing the Book Talk Movies with QR Codes. Feel free to use and adapt and please comment.

Book Talk QR Codes Lesson




I Feel a Change Comin’ On

Like the popular Bob Dylan song suggests, not only do I feel a change a comin’, I see it happening all around me.

I just finished reading Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project. The biggest overall thought I get from the summary is, Things Are Different. My parents felt this way with me and I know I will do the same with my kids. For us it’s partly the fact that we’re the “digital immigrants.” I love that term. We’re the immigrants. We’ve watched the technology build up around us over time like a wave engulfing everything we thought we knew how to do; but yet, we’re the immigrants.

The report concludes that digital resources have changed the way today’s youth: hangout, socialize, date, communicate ideas and feelings, create social media, view others, develop interest and support groups, motivation for learning and sharing… In short, most things that we consider to be detrimental to development. What we (the digital immigrants) need to learn is different doesn’t = wrong. We teach this to kids everyday, but it’s hard for “Adults” to sit back and watch. I constantly hear phrases each year from the parents of my students saying, “That’s not how I learned it.”

Also addressed is getting parents more involved in the understanding of the “Digital Native’s” way of thinking. I fully support this. Parents (and teachers) need to be educated on the ins and outs of social networking and online groups and the psychology that goes along with it. It describes these online social sites as the new hangouts for kids instead of the mall, parks, and playgrounds. There is the importance for parents to have conversations with their kids to instill the values that they want them to have before they send them out into the digital world. This is something that is crucial. The article Problems With Lack of Family Communication points out the irony of the lack of communication in today’s families even though we have more ways of staying in touch with each other than ever before. This is why educating parents, about the differences their children are facing as they grow, can help them better understand these foreign lives their children lead. I have been a part of my school’s parent education evenings about the basics of social networking sites for the elementary students. These are usually well attended, so the desire to learn is there.

The other unmistakable area of change is in education. The Living and Learning with New Media report puts forth this question, “And rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, what would it mean to think of education as a process of guiding kids’ participation in public life more generally, a public life that includes social, recreational, and civic engagement?” Is this where we’re headed? Is education moving farther away from content and more towards process? Does the old “Traditional” form of education prepare today’s students for that? Hmm…, I smell a change a comin’.