Course 5, Final Project

 

Title:  “Alexander: A Man of His Time”                                                     Subject/Course:  Humanities 7, ACST

Topic: Alexander the Great   Grade: 7   Designers: Julie Bredy, Paul Welsh, Jason Roach

Stage 1:  Desired results

Standards/Goals:Language Arts/Writing

Standard 1: 

Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics of texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

7.a.  Introduce claim(s), acknowledge alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.
7.b.  Support claim(s) with logical reasoning and relevant evidence, using accurate, credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
7.c.  Use words, phrases, and clauses to create cohesion and clarify the relationships among claim(s), reasons, and evidence.
7.d.  Establish and maintain a formal style.
7.e.  Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.

Social Studies

Standard 1:  Time, Continuity, and Change

Students will understand patterns of change and continuity, relationships between people and events through time, and various interpretations of these relationships.

1.8.a  Apply key concepts such as chronology, causality, and conflict to identify patterns of historical change.

 

Standard 2:  Connections and Conflict

Students will understand causes and effects of interaction among societies, including trade, systems of international exchange, war, and diplomacy.

2.8.a  Explain forces that result in world interaction (such as those related to the environment, belief systems, economics, geography/land, ethnicity/race/gender, culture, and balance of power).

 

Standard 3:  Geography

Students will understand the interactions and relationship between human societies and their physical environment.

3.8.a  Use appropriate data sources and tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret geographic information such as the location of, size of, and distances between places.
3.8.e  Describe ways that human events have influenced, and been influenced by, physical and human geographic conditions in local, regional, national, and global settings.

 

Standard 4:  Culture

Students will understand cultural and intellectual developments and interactions among societies.

4.8.c  Analyze ways that people have maintained their traditions and resisted external challenges (e.g. wars, generations gaps, migration patterns, or globalization).
4.8.d  Explain the influence different cultural or ethnic groups, living in the same society, have had on one another.

Technology

Standard 1:  Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity

Teachers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

1.c  Promote student reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes

Standard 2:  Design and Develop Digital Age Learning Experiences and Assessments

Teachers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessment incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS.

2.a  Design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student learning and creativity.

Understandings:
Students will understand that  

  • Patterns of historical change can be explained in various ways (i.e. chronological order, causes, conflicts…)
  • Various forces have resulted in world interaction.
  • Data sources and tools can be used to generate, manipulate, and interpret geographic information (i.e. location of, size of, distances between places…)
  • People throughout history, and today, have maintained their traditions and resisted external challenges.
  • People of different cultural or ethnic groups living in the same society have had, and continue to have, an influence on one another.
Essential Questions:Can we judge the acts of people out of their time?

Can an empire be maintained?

What motivates people to follow leaders?

Students will know…

  • Content from the BBC film series: In the Footsteps of Alexander

  • Information from independent research                                             

Students will be able to…

  • Use Power Searching strategies for independent learning

  • Create infographics to explain comparative data

  • Use Google Earth for research and presentation of concepts

  • Develop a 5-point essay around a thesis statement

  • Deliver an effective oral presentation, working solely from images

 

 

Stage 2:  Assessment/Evidence

Performance Tasks:Following watching the BBC film series: In the Footsteps of Alexander,each student will develop a thesis statement, taking a stance on an opinion about Alexander the Great’s conquests.

Students will use Power Search skills to research, through the library database and on the Internet, support details for their thesis statements.

Students will adapt models of infographics to relay comparative data

Students will use Google Earth to conduct research and to provide support details for their thesis statements.

Students will prepare 6-slide presentations, using Zen presentation methods.

Students will present in a professional manner, using notes or memory to elaborate on the image concept.

 

Key Criteria Assessment rubric (see link)
Other Evidence

  • Time management
  • Willingness to attempt new skills
  • Evidence of independent learning
  • Polish of presentation slides
  • Professionalism of presentation

 

Stage 3:  Learning Plan

Learning Plan (Activities and Resources):

  1. Classroom teacher shows students the BBC series, In the Footsteps of Alexander, supporting with instruction on note-taking.
  2. Students individually develop a thesis statement, taking a stance on an issue of Alexander the Great’s conquests.
  3. Librarian presents students with instruction on using the library database, employing Power Search terminology and thinking
  4. Students use the database to gather supporting details for their thesis statements.
  5. Tech Integration Specialist presents students with instruction on employing Power Search terminology and thinking to searches on the Internet.
  6. Students use Internet searches to gathering supporting details for their thesis statements.
  7. Tech Integration Specialist presents students with instruction on developing infographics
  8. Students build infographics to show comparative data, supporting their thesis statements.
  9. Tech Integration Specialist presents students with instruction on using Google Earth.
  10. Students practice using Google Earth.
  11. Each student uses Google Earth to create an animated route, with voice-over, to illustrate a supporting detail or details toward his/her thesis statement.
  12. Classroom teacher teaches students about Zen presentation methods.
  13. Students use Zen presentation methods to create 6-slide presentations, using Keynote or Powerpoint.
  14. Students revise and edit presentations, using transitions to connect the flow of ideas.
  15. Students practice to be able to deliver professional quality presentations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skills behind Skills

I am working hard these days putting together my final project for Course 5.  I’ve got my tech tools and learning I am showcasing for my video project, but I am taking stock of the layers of skills I have learned in the past year and need to utilize to carry this out.

Photo Credit: Derek K. Miller via Compfight cc

First, there is photography.  This was a focus for a few weeks in Course 3, but I took the plunge to buy a new DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses, for the first time.  To take the simplest of photos, I have to still take out instruction manuals, run test shots, make changes, and hope I get some usable pictures.  I haven’t used it yet for video, but I realize I need it to get high quality final presentation footage, so I will be doing all of above for the rest of the weekend to get ready to shoot the film next week.

Because several teachers at our school are at the same learning juncture with our cameras, we have formed a photography club at school.  Each month, we have a challenge and some learning support, then we get together one evening after school and share what we were thinking and trying to do with our pictures.  It has been both motivating and supportive for me.  If you would like to take a look at our organization or some of our photos, you are welcome to visit our website.

Then, the making of the movie is also a learning challenge.  I did make a movie during Course 3, but that was my first one.  I also didn’t do voice overs then, so I didn’t have to write a script or fine tune the timing of the photos with the text.  I also didn’t have to listen to the sound of my own voice.  I am glad to have this skill base so I can coach students on making films, but it’s a stretch.

Finally, there is all of the uploading of the lesson plan and the video.  It’s all doable, but each step requires rereading information, rewatching a video, or asking help from a friend (thanks Gwen).

I’m actually pretty darn proud of myself for all I have learned through CoETaIL.  I’ve just got to keep putting together projects like this so I don’t lose my edge.

Final Project, Course 4

Technology professional development training at my school came along at just the right time for my decision about my final CoETaIL project for Course 5.  Our technology integration specialist and secondary school librarian just finished the Google Power Search program and immediately passed their learning on to the staff.  I could see that this is exactly what I need to learn and imbed in my modelling to my 7th grade humanities classes in everything we do.

But further, these are essential skills for my students who have been raised in the era of information abundance with no signs of slowdown in the exponential redoubling of available information in their lifetimes.  How could I not train them to filter information as a basic life skill?

My professional goal for the year is to develop a digital curriculum map for my newly designed humanities course.  I fully plan to connect NET standards to my year-long teaching plan.    My project for Course 5 will be to take this unit I have developed on Alexander the Great and imbed the competencies for standard 3.

3. Research and Information Fluency
Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. Students:
a. plan strategies to guide inquiry.
b. locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media.
c. evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.
d. process data and report results.

Managing Laptops

I am dying for the chance to manage the frustrations mentioned by teachers in some of the links to this session.  Honestly, rather than being inspired by those teachers, I have to say I was kind of grossed out.  Let’s go back to Daniel Pink and what he tells us motivates humans to learn and do work.  They are motivated by the following:

  • Autonomy- doing the work they want to do
  • Mastery- getting better at things
  • Purpose- being part of something bigger

The monitoring student work segment of the videos sounded like guards from a minimum security prison.

Here are their techniques?  Intimidating students through proximity to the teacher, watching eye-movement, walking around the room with a giant gradebook with a giant A+ on the cover, setting timers, watching the screen reflection in their glasses, checking for students who are enjoying themselves a little too much.  Ick!

 

 

 

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I think if I was a student in one of those classes, I would go to the negative reinforcement dark side.  I would just see if that teacher could catch me being off-task, because I can only imagine that would be more interesting than the assignment she was trying to force me to finish.

I teach 7th grade humanities.  I picture the integration of computers in my classroom to fit as naturally as the use and management of other resources.  I already use a reading/writing workshop model.  This means that I begin class with a mini-lesson as a focus for the day’s work and then students read or write a book or piece of writing they have selected and is at their own skill level.  My role is to come around to have small conferences asking “What are you trying to do now in your reading or writing?”  I look for ways to coach them at that moment and let them continue.  The integration of computers will work the same way.  There may be something more directed they are asked to do like watch a video or listen to a podcast, but their response will be individualized and I will confer with them in that process. Importantly, whether we are reading, writing or doing some other learning, there is planned social engagement at some point where students can vocalize what they have learned and done and learn from others, as well.

I already manage a classroom library with about 1,000 books.  Students help care for the shelving of the books and we have a simple checkout system that is working well.  Building a sense of pride and ownership in resources like books and computers is key.  I will use a numbering system like many teachers in the Voice Thread commented on.  This does help a teacher track back to a student who didn’t put the computer away correctly, but it also gives students a feeling of connection to that particular machine.  I remember reading in Course 1, Week 4 from the link to Living and Learning with New Media:  Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth  that having a sense of ownership to a particular computer is important to the way a student will invest himself in learning and expressing, using that tool.

I am not a bit nervous about managing a cart full of computers in my classroom.  In fact, I just got invited to join our tech team in a planning meeting for just this sort of thing, tomorrow, and I am happily anticipating a day when my students can use technology in our classroom in any way they need to.

Carrots and Sticks

Lots and lots of carrots, that’s what teachers are continually stockpiling. You can never have too many.  Of course, finding the right carrot-shaped motivator for individual students can be what is tricky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daniel Pink had some interesting reminders and surprising cautions about what exactly motivates and what, though intended to punish, also motivates.  We already knew this if we remember our Skinner from undergrad days, a negative reinforcement is still a reinforcement.  That is ugly human nature territory.

Considering human motivation in three areas can be applicable to life and to the classroom.  The older I get, the harder I am motivated to work and it is not because of monetary payout, it is because of the endorphin-producing value of these three domains.

  • Autonomy- doing the work you want to do
  • Mastery- getting better at things
  • Purpose- being part of something bigger

When I consider how I am allowing students to follow their own internal motivators, without over-orchestrating every choice, I think I can make some changes. Sometimes we button down most of the options for a couple of reasons.  1.  We don’t entirely trust students to make rigorous choices about their learning or 2.  We have an aversion to a classroom that is in-process.  We ourselves are uncomfortable with the idea of being questioned about what and how students are learning and not being able to immediately spout standard and benchmark, along with measurable outcome.  Now, I’m not suggesting we drop all accountability and I believe we can facilitate both student-designed activities along with a framework of learning expectations.  I liked this quote by George Siemens from his blog post Connectivism…  and I will try to be more comfortable with the “fuzziness”.

Constructivist principles acknowledge that real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which emulate the “fuzziness” of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning.

In my 7th grade class, we are involved in learning about the conquests of Alexander the Great.  Students are learning power searching techniques as they source out information both on our library data-base and on the internet, “Know-how and know-what being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).”  This research is taking each of my students on a separate learning journey.  I had originally set the class up in teams of regional conquest: Greece, Asia, Egypt, India, and Babylon for the end of his life.  As we are building our collective learning, however, I have been thinking  that those teams are too structured.  We are at the point where each student knows what part of that journey he or she has found to be most captivating.  I have decided to break up the teams, let students self-declare their interests, and then see if I can reform teams based on their research choices.

 

 

Student Ownership of Learning

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This is what we’re really talking about with the flipped classroom conversation.  Most teachers understand that they cannot and should not be the disseminators of all knowledge.  Most of us are grossed out when we find ourselves bottle-necking student learning.  I feel that way and I want to have a classroom that lets students get active with their own learning from the second they cross the threshold.

I also believe in Mastery Learning.  International teachers, in particular, have students with a wide spread of educational backgrounds and varying levels of English proficiency.  I believe in setting up a classroom where students can revisit instruction and modelling until they are able to meet the competencies of the course.

I just can’t say that I’m completely convinced that recording instructional lectures for students to watch at home is the best method.  Isn’t that substitution?  Students can be very passive learners while watching a teacher on a video screen.

Throughout this technology-free fall at our school, I have definitely tried to flip learning to the students do at home.  I haven’t recorded myself on any videos, however.  What I have tried to do is to find interesting interviews or short films that help us build a broader and more fertile background from which we can write and discuss when we are together in the classroom.

One assignment was for a planned home-school day when we anticipated some possible political unrest in Tunisia (it was all peaceful, by the way).  Students were asked to watch a documentary created by the BBC on the myth of Noah’s Ark.  At that time, we were studying creation tales and this was one almost all of my students knew from their backgrounds.  The documentary provides archaeological evidence for both the pro and con stances regarding the reality of Noah’s Ark, plus an additional theory that was surprising.  Students could choose any of the three positions they wanted to support, but then wrote a 5 paragraph defense of their stance, citing evidence from the film.  Over 90% of the class did the assignment and quite well.  Many later told me it was one of their favorite assignments.

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But how about the students who didn’t do it?  They had to catch up to us because this film would be an anchor piece of learning we would make many further references to.  I had to put them in an office with my one laptop and have them watch the film at school and make up the writing at home:  a traditional format.

Another home-learning assignment was part of a realistic fiction unit where we tried to put ourselves in the place of someone we didn’t understand very well and then write a short story about a small event in that person’s life.  I assigned them a radio interview from NPR about the elephant poachers in Tanzania.  The article did an great job of showing how the people who get involved in this enterprise are not all demons, but people who want to provide simple securities for their families like a home, food and school.

Tanzanian Elephant Poachers

I think of these kinds of activities as flipping.  Additionally, I try to find other voices for content delivery right in our class.  Sometimes I can find a high quality YouTube video on say, Verb Tense.  Students engage a little differently when I’m not in front pulling them along.  Another flip has been having the librarian occasionally do the front teaching on a genre study or recently, power searching and the library database.  In the next two weeks, our tech integration specialist will be doing some teaching on power searching on the internet, then students will use lab time while we help them exercise their search muscles.

Any time I step away from the front and center position in the classroom, my students have to use their own wills to listen actively and understand the delivery.  Maybe those examples aren’t exactly what is meant by classroom flipping, but I think they are all options along a spectrum of a goal which is to make students less reliant on the classroom teacher  and directly responsible to learn on their own.

Substitution or Modification?

Sometimes we choose a digital tool for students to use to learn and demonstrate their learning and we choose it because it looks like it will engage them and will accomplish the end result we are after.  It isn’t until we have gone through an entire learning cycle with the tool that we completely know if it developed the realms of higher level thinking we wanted or not.

We are studying Alexander the Great.  But of course, wrapped up in that epic topic are numerous social studies, reading and writing benchmarks.  We are covering some background learning together at school, but then I want students to develop some of the social studies and language arts work at home.

If you read my last post Get the Hook, you will know our story of having our school looted and partially burned in September.  We lost over 90% of our technology and won’t feasibly have student blocks of computers until second semester, however, most of my students have loads of technology available at home.

I am desperately trying to pass the responsibility for learning over to my students, which is hard while I have the only computer in the classroom.  I have chosen the application Museum Box to use for a group project because students can research and develop the sides of the presentation cubes at home, compiling them fairly quickly at school, using just enough computers as there are groups, which is 5.

 

Is Museum Box merely a replacement technology?  It is a take on the shadow box displays classrooms have used for decades.  In that sense, it looks like a digital replacement for a cardboard project.

Is Museum Box a modification?  Each of the six faces of the box can take all sorts of links:  images, film clips, sound, presentations etc…  If a student takes a stance on one of the intended benchmarks, he should be able to build an interesting and compelling sequence of thought through words and images.

 

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I think the key to the effectiveness of Museum Box will be how high I set the higher order thinking bar.  Some students might do a fairly simple paste of a few resources that are loosely connected.  I will try to coach those students otherwise, but it will possibly happen.  However, the potential exists for students to take off with this, creating a series of ideas that transition, one to the other, and culminate in a finely made point, while at the same time, exercising known tech skills and hopefully reaching for some new ones.

Museum Box is only available within a cohort of schools.  You have to apply and gain acceptance and then your student projects will be viewable by all of the other students in those schools.  That will at least give my students a sense of presenting to a larger audience than their classmates. At this point, I don’t know about receiving any feedback from other students, which would be an improvement.  If only there was also some outside expert to consult or moderate.

What do you think of Museum Box?  Do you know of another application that could be more effective for compiling group research?

 

Get the Hook

Two months down the road from the school attack where almost all of our computers were burned or looted, we are still waiting for that emergency replacement shipment to leave the East Coast (thanks Sandy).  Even if they get here within a couple of weeks, it’s going to take some time for our technicians to get them set up and in use.  I’ve faced it, we won’t have students on computers now until second semester.

When I determinedly declared that learning would go on after September 14th,  what I couldn’t see was how reliant my students would become on me to deliver content and to connect them to the world.  See, I have THE computer and one of the remaining document cameras and when I bring my own speakers from home, I can engage them in a pretty interesting show.  But ugh, I’m noticing them becoming more and more passive.  They know the computers are gone and we’re lucky just to be having school so they don’t even ask when they will be here.  They come in and sit down to see what I have prepared to put before them.  And I am so sick of myself.  I’m tap dancing all period taking them to websites, reading out loud to them from texts I don’t have multiple copies of because I had planned for them to diversify on topics and do their own research.  Someone needs to get out the hook and pull me off the stage.  Wait, don’t bother, I’m going.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am doing all I can to turn learning back onto them and keep them active, but this is an interesting time for me to observe the void.  Not surprisingly, Clint’s summary of the Redefinition Stage of the SAMR model resonated with me.

What are you doing with technology that you wouldn’t be able to do if you took that technology away?

It’s simply this:  I can’t let kids fly.  I can’t turn them loose to learn toward their diverse interests.  I can’t model and then coach them on the integration of tools to show their learning.

It’s already time to put in our orders for next year.  Going through this technology desertification period is prompting me to press some decisions from our administration team about facilitating a more 1-1 technology integration for next year.  I really can’t tolerate holding all of the cards anymore or “measuring it out in coffee spoons” as T.S Eliot said.  I want to hear the whoosh in my room of students’ learning igniting as they take up their own projects while I work from the side.

No Time for Moby Dick

Just yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in a middle/high school English department meeting trying to remain engaged and supportive, despite my growling stomach, while the IB English teachers shared about their internal struggles with their new curriculum.  It’s the information literacy standards that are putting them out of their comfort zones as they feel that two out of the four semesters they will have their students will be spent on those skills and not on the traditional analysis and interpretation of literature.   As one teacher mourned, “There is just so much great literature that we’re not going to teach them.”

Another said, “I don’t feel trained to teach them to evaluate film and art.  I need to go back to school to learn this.”

Moby Dick was specifically referenced as a teacher passionately expressed that it pained her to think of her students not knowing the significance of the line, “Call me Ishmael”.

At the time, I supported the idea of constant integration of critical thinking about information throughout the curriculum.  But reading 7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College, today, I can see that just weaving more critical thinking throughout a traditional curriculum won’t cover it.  Some overt instruction, and also time consuming planning, will have to be done to “fill in the gaps of their 20th Century education”. I sent that article to my English department colleagues.  I wonder if any discussion will come from it.

What will I do differently in the seventh grade?  Since I teach humanities, I do already have the luxury of integrating skills and knowledge.  My curriculum is all new this year and designed by me so I am going to put that list where I can see it often and press my planning toward those necessary literacies.  Especially once we get any computers back in our school.

Photo Credit:  Some rights reserved by Hyokano

My First Movie

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Here is my first attempt at digital storytelling.  There were a lot of sub skills to get in place; the time estimates were about right.  It’s an absorbing process, though, and after doing it myself, I feel the critical thinking workout involved.  I’m a convert.  I absolutely do need to know how to do this myself to help students learn to use if, efficiently and effectively so, thanks for the assignment.

By the way, this is our alter-life on Lummi Island in Washington State.  After so many sad videos lately of our school attack, it was nice to put some joyful thoughts into this project.