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When I first signed up for COETAIL
, no exaggeration: I freaked out. I was in distress wondering what I'd done. Blogging frightened me. Add-ons were confusing. I wasn't sure if I had twitted or tweeted. I added a gazillion categories before I realized I could've just used tags. I kept forgetting what the "R" was in SAMR
. And comments! Oh, comments... I was so afraid I'd get none or say too much.
Fast Forward 5 courses and here I am having tried things I never thought I would. It's been such an incredible journey and I know that #coetaileffect has me smitten. This is the most meaningful real-time PL I've ever been a part of in my 11 years of teaching.
For my final project, I focused on the use of two main technology tools for the students to showcase their learning: their Blogs and iMovie. My target audience was seniors whom I knew would suffer from Senioritis
by the time they hit second semester. I had to find a way to engage them with a topic of genuine interest as well as the tools right at their fingertips. Hence, I gave them two options to choose from: 1. Story of my Life or 2. Give a SHIrT
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As you can see in the project description, the first one challenges the students to be introspective, reflective, personal. For those that wanted to keep themselves more private, they were given the option to engage with a worldly problem that they wanted to bring to the forefront and convince us to care about that issue, too. They were to showcase the writing techniques they'd learned along with their understanding of various text types in solving the problem of their choice, whether it be themselves or the world. As Sir Ken Robinson argues in The Element
, the reflective nature allows for us to find our element, no matter what stage of life we're in. I couldn't agree more, and I wanted to give my seniors something that invited them to look at themselves more closely and purposefully.
This assignment was a risk, because quite frankly, my students could've decided to have none of it. There was no grade that hung in front of them like a carrot; we're a standards-based school, and I could assess their achievements just as well without this final project. We don't give zeros nor base assignments on a point system, so that wasn't a threat to their current grade, either. Their grade could have been given with just the last Paper 1 and 2 practice exams, truthfully speaking. And this is the love/hate relationship I have with seniors, because not doing my assignment would neither retract their rec. letters nor university acceptances.
In the end, I am so glad I took this risk, because my students met the challenge and gave me the most enjoyable task to assess out of this whole year. They had the choice to post privately so that they didn't have to share with the public if they didn't want to. One student chose this option. 17/19 seniors did the project. It wasn't 100%, but I jumped up and down for joy (just in my mind) when I got the most apathetic kid who never did anything above the bare minimum was one of the 17. I'll take it. Here's what they gave me
. Please do feel inclined to leave them a comment or two!
, online storyboarding tools (such as StoryboardThat
, for example - there are so many!), pen/paper, google docs, or any other note-taking, pre-writing tools could've been used to prep them for their movie. They each chose whatever worked for them. I kept a shared Class Evernote with them and in it I shared the lessons that were covered (handouts, keynotes, videos, Blendspace
links, etc.) so that they could always go back and review their learning at their own time and pace, a similar concept that Flipped Classrooms allow.
Along with preparing for them for writing critical essays, I taught the students the basics of mise-en-scene
such as camera distance, movement, angle as well as color and scoring. They also looked at various advertising techniques such as bandwagon effect, shock effect, testimonials, fear and humor. This was in relation to the IB English Language and Mass Communications unit. They watched films like Born Into Brothels
as well as various advertisements on Youtube that promoted social progress (thanks to the ideas of David McIntyre
). They also researched responses and updates to what they watched in order to astutely challenge or support the ideas that were being presented to them.
This was not something I taught. Some kids were better with this than others, but I wanted to challenge the students to use it since it's a great tool; some were naturally freaked out (like me at first!) and some, just comfortable enough. I asked them to be challenged in different and new ways so that in the end, you can be proud for having tried something new... and conquered it. As my saying always goes, "If I can do it, c'mon - you? Of course you can!" And they certainly did. Play time is important; let them play, as Tony Wagner
would argue, and learn to problem-solve with each other to make innovation happen!
This is something that has changed my teaching entirely. I connect with my students on so many levels with this. I teach them how to have a voice, I teach them how to be a gracious yet critical audience, I teach them how to connect in discussions with others around the world through this... it's been amazing.
My school always had the right idea: Let's use student blogs! However, we had done our students a disservice by making it something that was "Ugh" worthy: "Today is Reflective Learner Day. Please follow the questions that was sent in your email and reflect on your learning." Response: "Ugh." With my taking of COETAIL and the serendipitous timing of our then new eLearning director
, his vision, and the recruiting of incredibly competent eCoaches at our school, we've begun making a conscious effort to model what blogging is to our students. I started with the seniors as the senior class advisor and spent time having them read through competent bloggers' sites, how they targeted a specific audience, how they shared their genuine voice - you bet, I shared some fellow COETAILers' entries - teaching them the power of a title and intent. I shared with them my writings, too, and sure enough, they started to figure out how to have their own voices, not the robotic forced ones like, "Today in English class we did [this] and [that]."
I started to tweet out their work to engage the community. Our school hashtag, #SISROCKS
, has been so incredibly awesome. This got the kids engaged even more as they knew that they'd have an authentic audience who'd visit them. They're connecting with each other and the world, not just me alone.
Here's an example of rubric
that I completed for a student. This project allowed me to connect with my kids on a personal level and it was great to provide feedback to them in this way. There is also the public comment I posted on their blog of course, but that isn't quite the place for tips on improvements.
And lastly, here is my video reflection:
COETAIL, you didn't have me at hello but you definitely have me now. Thanks for this journey; it's truly been an amazing one and I honestly can't wait to continue it.