The Big Picture

The use of photos in my classroom has been significantly undervalued. Watching videos that are only a minute or two long but show a change over time can be in essence a story. Videos/photos can have a great impact on the viewer.

Having lived in Indonesia for almost 10 years, I often read about the deforestation of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Loggers are cutting down vast tracts of forest and as such global warming is being impacted around the world. As such, with the loss of forests, carbon sequestering is lost and difficult if not impossible to replace. (See: Indonesia aims to halt deforestation)

Our first unit for the year is a Gardening unit in which we naturally tie in photosynthesis, the carbon and oxygen cycle, and making, reading and interpreting graphs. I wanted to take this global  information and make it more local for all of us that live in Indonesia.

I started out creating a video that linked photos with the deforestation and animal’s loss of habitat. The photos on Compfight for this were limited. I also felt I needed to develop the lesson more and eventually decided to use: A Student’s Guide to Global Change by the EPA. I was able to create a worksheet to ask specific questions about the graphs that would show their ability to read a graph and in addition help the students sort through the information provided.

Using One True Media I created a visual representation of how deforestation changes the local environment-titled: Deforestation. Now I am curious to see if showing photos will stimulate more conversations about Indonesia and how are lifestyles impact global warming.




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Garden Project

I really didn’t know where to start with this assignment. I looked at all the possible sites, fussed with what I should do…worried about whether it would interesting, exciting, fun. Finally, I decided to stick with what I know and to do a topic of importance and interest to me and my students.

Once I got my head around those issues, I was able to go to school and take a bunch of photos from the students’ garden plots, download the photos into One True Media and voila the Garden Project was born. I then realized how fun and easy the project was…over in minutes. I could fuss with transitions, music and length of each slide to my heart’s content.

And I do see great benefits to this. Next year’s students will have a better understanding of what the expectations are, potential problems and solutions. They will also see the reward at the end.

This is a marvelous tool to not only document what students have done this year but also to then use the information to introduce students the following year to what they will be doing. In this case, most of my students had very limited garden experience. To know what steps were coming would have been helpful.

I have a new camera, I enjoy taking photos, this tool is so easy, I am pleased with the ease and results. Cheers!

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Seven Hours, Six Prezi’s Later

Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake, or just determined to make a decent product…but seven hours, at least six Prezi’s later, I have made a presentation about Photosynthesis. I am hopeful that it will be an interesting introduction or review of photosynthesis to my seventh grade students.

I have never used any presentation format besides Power Point. I have relied more on graphs and drawings than photos. With Prezi,there was a lot of practice on my part looking at spacing, colorful photos, and movement. What to use? What is effective? If I were to use Creative Commons photos, how would I site those in a Prezi? What that detract from the final product? Is that allowed?

It takes time and practice, especially when you are working alone, trial and error and no one to give you clues, just figure it out and try again. Granted it won’t be so hard the next time, and it almost qualifies for a Pecha Kucha. (20 slides in 20 seconds.) Maybe next time.




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Getting Ready to Plant



Photo by Kevin Dooley licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Slow on the uptake I am. I had done the dutiful reading…Creative Commons, Flickr, compfight, photos, blah, blah, blah…now I am beginning to get it, see the light if you will.

By using photos, reality sets in. I am not using diagrams to explain a concept, however useful, it’s not real. What does this photo say to me and hopefully students in my Garden and Plants Science class? Building on the question asked this week in their science journal…

Why do we irrigate? What is the purpose of “tilling” the land? What has the farmer done in this photo that you may be able to incorporate into your garden plot? How can this benefit your garden? What goes on the raised mounds? Is the soil easy to move or difficult? How is your garden like or different from this plot?

By raising questions and looking at a “real” farm or garden, students can incorporate these ideas into their own plot. Real situations teaching real situations.


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It’s Easier With Pictures

In my experience, visual literacy has not been addressed as a type of literacy. It seemingly is viewed as technology and I don’t hear conversations regarding the distinctions or parameters set up for visual literacy.  Erin Riesland states in her article Visual Literacy and the Classroom, “many students are expected to present complex visual ideas using a variety of multimedia applications without serious direct instruction.”  In the article, How Users Read the Web shows that when people are looking for information on the web, they are skimming and scanning, looking quickly for key words and ideas. They do not read every word in the article. In other words, this is not an analysis of Thoreau where phrases, word choice and literary techniques are appreciated and discussed. So, should students be taught how to change their writing style and presentation for different situations be it a blog, tweet, or Power Point?

Recently in my 7th grade advisory I used Taylor Swifts’ You Tube video Mean to prompt a discussion regarding bullying. Not all students had heard the song previously and as a testimony to the power of music it was the quietest four minutes of the session. The song prompted a nonthreatening conversation about bullies and what to do about them. For me, it was a lesson that I did not to have to “produce” a document for them to work on and yet still resulted in a meaningful session.

Summer in Michigan, 2011

Hmong Boy, Sapa, Vietnam 2011









As I read the articles it occurred to me that photos are used to share the tone of a period, time, mood, graphic information and to record history. The photos we choose to use teaching impart one or more of these. These two photos share how cultures are different around the world, but nonetheless children-caught in a photo.  Visual Literacy Across the Curriculum with guest  Elliot W. Eisner speaks to the power of photos.

The time spent selecting visual are well worth it, to yourself and your students.

It’s not only that you use a photo, it’s how you use it and why.


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Technology-Toy or Tool?

Technology Integration assumes all teachers have the same skill sets and the same understanding of what is “out-there” that can be used in the classroom.  We do not treat ‘Technology” as a skill with skill specific tasks. No one, subject area/department nor for that matter grade level seems to be “assigned” to be responsible to cover what has been selected as a basic skills sets.

For example, do math/science people teach graphing? (Yet recently, when my students were given a choice to make a pie graph by hand or using the computer, most of them chose to do so by hand.)

Basic key boarding skills (in our middle school) seem to be passe, yet how do students learn key board fluency without instruction?

In addition, teacher professional development is inconsistent. We are going 1:1 over the next three years. As such, I will expected to be 1:1 fluent next year. When should that instruction start? This year or next? My responsibility? Guidance? Help!

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Not Such a Big Deal

I met someone online this week. I know where he works and what he does professionally. I have never seen him and only corresponded with him via email. Yet we were able to complete a UbD together, literally together, working on a Google doc online regarding students and digital piracy.

When I finished I felt like I had a small glimpse of what students do everyday. They meet people online, play online games with them, share personal information about themselves and may even eventually meet the new person. They entire a dimension of unknown without hesitation (or seemingly less hesitation them myself).

When finished I appreciated and was grateful for my partner’s contribution to the UbD. It was easier working and completing the project than I anticipated. And, now that I have completed a project with a partner online, it doesn’t seem to be such a big deal. I have a better understanding why teens feel comfortable giving out or sharing information, after you do it the first time, it is not such a big deal.

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Looking for a recipe

Wayne Barry in his slide show The Generation Game discusses how generations are different. He also says that instead of using the stereotypical terms digital native and digital immigrant terms such as digital efficacy and digital literacy are more appropriate. The term digital efficacy gives me the power to change. Can I produce the desired result? I think so or at least I am making the effort.

Based on everything I have read, my previous internet use has been incredibly basic and old-fashioned in nature. I have not integrated technology in new ways. I have been looking for a recipe. The plan that will put everything in place. I have issues that need to be worked on…I print everything…I may reformat it to save paper, but I print it.

Have I made changes?-yes

Currently I am:

Reading  articles online

Writing and reading blogs

Establishing and using my RSS feeds

Thinking, thinking, thinking. About technology, children, and how all are changing

So I am becoming more literate as time progresses.

The good news is,  I am trying to integrate technology into my classroom.

Unfortunately my students do not have easy access to their own computer. We are not 1:1 until 2012. Subsequently the documents I create are very black and white without hyperlinks.

Based on what I have read though, I feel I have to change. Why?

The information highway is changing quickly and brain studies are showing neural pathways are changing to accommodate this new way of processing information as per Ian Jukes, Understanding the Digital Generation. Students today think differently than we do. Jukes feels we need to accommodate these changes, or we are going to lose students. We are trying to follow the same teaching structure that was put into place 100 years ago.

I will continue to create documents for science but they will be different. Here are some ideas:

Hyperlinks. Hyperlinks are meant to add information as needed…if you are new to a subject, background information is provided. If you are an old hand, than you can move on quickly. Hyperlinks include videos, vocabulary words, previous information, clarifying information, pictures, simulations and quizzes.

For example, we are currently studying Forces and Motion. Videos and images can be used to help my students understand Newton’s First Law. My students could be demonstrating and recording their own video tapes of Newton’s First Law and uploading them to You Tube.

Frankly, I am excited and I am beginning to understand where I need to go regarding technology. There isn’t a set plan or recipe. Talking to students and staying aware…21st Century if you will, will increase my digital literacy. This is something I am choosing to do and enjoying.





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Trash Talk

The article written by Danah Boyd clearly shows that what adults view as bullying and what youths view as bullying is two different conversations. Establishing “turf”, settling disputes regarding boyfriends, gossip and rumors were NOT viewed as bullying by teenage girls. The girls in Danah’s article defined bullying as picking on someone that didn’t deserve it.

We live in a civilized community in which we believe certain rules have been established for the safety and security of all. Historically rules were taught by parents, religious leaders and teachers. Today many people view their world as much larger than the local community, they view the world as their community. As such, what is considered normal behavior is looked at from a much larger window. Music, music videos and games can have racial slurs, derogatory remarks regarding gender, violence and/or a combination of offensive remarks. I am not suggesting that the music or games stop. I am suggesting that we need to be mindful of the ages of the students listening to music, watching videos and playing games.

If ethical leaders (parents, religious and teachers) are not aware of what their child is being exposed to and are not talking to them about appropriate and inappropriate behavior, how can students know how to behave on the net?

Whose job is it to teach the social skills needed when communicating around the world?

In an ideal world-parents would normally set appropriate behaviors based on their personal beliefs.

In the real world…it is probably going to be teachers. We have the closest day-to-day contact with large numbers of youth. In general we probably have more day-to-day exposure to technology and its uses.We see kids and know how they are using technology.

Conversations regarding Internet safety, appropriate behavior and the consequences of inappropriate behavior need to happen as soon as students enter school and are asked to use computers. There are schools where first and second graders have computer use but have not been taught to change their password. Many students continue to use the same password given to them on the first day. It is not difficult to use an innocent student’s email address to send inappropriate emails to the whole community.

If we are the responsible adults, we then have to teach tech safety. We also have to consider how they are using language on the computer and what sites they are visiting. If we use the tool in our classroom, we are responsible for the safety of the tool.

I know in our middle and high school cyber bullying and sex-ting are topics of conversation with counselors, teachers and students. In my advisory we have had discussions about bullying. Most of my students avoid students that are bullies. Subsequently they tell me they are not bullied. They stay in their own clique and no one usually bothers them from another clique. If bullying occurs parents and students are hesitant to let administration know as the child being bullied is then ridiculed for telling. I don’t know if we can change that attitude. We can make sure we are teaching kids what is appropriate and inappropriate in written and spoken language. We have to let them know that Hollywood is not where we set our standards of behavior. We have to let parents and students know that we will intervene when we know that there is a problem.

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It’s Complicated

I’m reading articles, watching videos, taking in terms…and have decided…it’s complicated.

How do I teach international copyright laws?

In general international copyright laws are not honored in my part of Asia.

Harsh words.

What do I mean? Walking distance from my house first run movies are available in video stores a week after the movie has opened.  Available for a couple of dollars. The same for books and Cd’s.

Regardless we are meant to teach and follow international copyright laws. How do I communicate copyright violation to my students?

I believe that our focus has to be personal in nature. We must deliver the message to students and parents that we value individual thinking skills. Both students and parents should know that we want to hear what their child has to say about a given topic-their own ideas. We must let the student AND parents know that memorization of a single idea is a lower order thinking skill. Students and parents need to know that teachers are vigilant. They should be aware that there are technological devices that help us to check whether material has been plagiarized.

We also have to model appropriate behavior. Bringing in locally purchased pirated videos and music Cd’s that are clearly copyright violated sends the message that you do not respect the intellectual property of individuals. If we want our students to respect school norms in regards to cheating/plagiarism, we have to show that we respect these international norms by not purchasing pirated materials.

New ideas, new information…

Larry Lessing suggests that we (USA/International Copyright laws) may be too uptight for the 21st Century.

He advocates for Creative Commons, remixing, and in essence a loosening of copyright regulations . He suggests that it is time for the  laws to be relaxed regarding the use of music and the creation of AMV-anime music videos. He reasons that as long as young people are creating products that are noncommercial in use, the work of other artists needs to be more available for creative remixing. He views AMV not as piracy but “re-creating other people’s technology.”

And though careful to respect the parameters of Ted Talks, Creative Commons (CC) is mentioned. CC is used for…

“Realizing the full potential of the internet — universal access to research, education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.”

Think about this…people are actively donating materials so that ALL members of the Internet community have equal access to intellect. So today for example, I downloaded Chapter 1 from a science book free of charge. I can use the whole book if I desire. Unbelievable.

Subsequently, what is our obligation as educators?

First and foremost our role is to help students understand that the rights of individual creators are being protected-that includes their intellectual property.

In addition after reading Fair Use of Copyrighted Materials it is evident that there is some leniency for educational purposes. Students, faculty and staff have rights of use within certain parameters.

We can share with students and other educators Creative Commons and let them explore the site. Though I did not find any materials that I thought would be appropriate in regards to student reading level, I would welcome their efforts in exploring the site. It is important to let them know that a site exists where people are looking at intellectual property differently.

We need to stay informed. We need to advocate for our students. Technology is the genre of learning for the younger members of our society. Their interest and ability in remixing new systems with old is exciting and entertaining. We need to consider the possible outcomes that can occur when people are given the opportunity to create something new and share it without the risk of “copyright violation”.

I think our final obligation is to be tolerant. We don’t want to advocate copyright violation, but at the same time, we want students to have self-expression and creativity. We want to support their intellect and creativity with technology and not drive their talents underground.








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